Monday, August 31, 2009

Old Man Can't Walk!

Recently my wife and I took a day off after a busy weekend of speaking and driving. We stayed in Wenatchee, Washington, one day and walked the 11 mile Apple Capital Loop Trail. I was okay the first six miles, but the last 5 miles were very hard! I had to stop to catch my breath several times and my back, legs, and broken toe gave me problems.

This little episode reminded me again that our bodies become weaker with age but, “we do not lose heart … though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18, nasb).

Yes, we may have momentary light affliction, but this does not compare to the eternal weight of glory! To this we say, “Glory!” even with old bodies, sore backs, and broken toes!

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Decree of God

Source: "The Decree of God" by Derek W.H. Thomas, Tabletalk, August 2007, p. 31-34.

Joseph has just revealed his true identity to his astonished brothers. It had been a tearful moment (Gen. 46:2, 14; 42:24, 43:30). He is about to engage in a discourse on predestination and the divine decree (yes, really!), but this is no abstract theological exercise; it is theology engaging the harshest realities -- betrayal, false imprisonment, and injustice!

Joseph had, from one point of view, every right to think that life made no sense at all because there was no controlling power governing the course of events. He might have been tempted to think along the lines of "open theism," that there were certain events in his future that God did not know or had the power to control in a preconditioned way. True, things had improved for him in ways that must have caused him great joy. But the road to this point had been very hard. He had become the prime minister of Egypt, but he could still remember those days when, as a slave, he had languished in a rotting cell wrongly accused of rape. Joseph has been mediating upon divine providence, asking the hard questions about why things happen the way they do.

Joseph has grown in grace; the somewhat self-centered, pampered mother's teenager has now become the forgiving, theologically astute man that is revealed in the words he now utters to his brothers: "God sent me before you to preserve you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God" (Gen. 45:7-8). Several matters are worth reflecting upon.

The first clear feature of these words is the way in which Joseph views the entirety of his life as one that is in every way ordered by God. "God sent me ... it was not you who sent me here, but God." The clarity of this perspective is breathtaking clear: Joseph believes that God is in ultimate control of all that happens. Things happen because God orders them to happen. God is not lost in some numinous world, unreachable by us and impenetrable by him. This is no deistic belief in a divine watchmaker who has made the world and then allowed it simply to tick according to a set of identifiable scientific rules.

Secondly, Joseph asserts a divine predetermination. Things happen because God has ordered them to happen before they happen. God is not simply reacting to events as they happen; He has determined how the events themselves come to pass. There is a cause, and there is an effect. God orders and things happen.

Thirdly, and this where we hold our breath, Joseph asserts God's sovereignty in relation to bad things. The fact that they were in Egypt was due to the evil machinations of Joseph's brothers. They had done an evil thing for which they were entirely responsible and culpable. Part of Joseph's recent strategy in withholding his identity from his brothers and adding to their fear by the suggestion that they had not paid for the grain they had acquired was to bring them to own up to their sin. His tactic was designed to bring them to confess their sin and seek forgiveness. It had worked! But this does not prevent Joseph from asserting that even this evil thing that they had done was also a part of God's divine plan and purpose. The sovereignty of God is total.

This raises the perennial theological and philosophical issue of the relationship of God to evil. If God is sovereign, does this mean He is the author of sin? And if God is sovereign, does this not make our decision-making a fiction and not a reality? And does this not also imply that the universe is like a computer, carrying out the preprogramming of a sovereign software specialist with no real liberty of its own? To all three questions, the Westminster Confession of Faith responded with a negative: "God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established" (3.1). Of course, critics have responded to these words by saying that this doesn't answer any of the questions posed. And they are correct; it doesn't! It merely asserts that the alternatives are not true without explaining exactly how God can order events, including evil ones, without being the cause of them.

But a fourth lesson emerges, too. God orders events for the good of His people. Joseph's family will join him in Egypt in Genesis 46 and thereby survive the famine that will run its course for five years. They find themselves in Egypt because God intends to keep His promise to Abraham.

What we have here, then, is a cameo of Romans 8:28: "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose." Christian, even those who may deny these words on philosophical grounds have always clung to them for the comfort they provide in the midst of the most devastating events. We are always better on our knees before God, acknowledging His sovereignty and basking in its reassurance.

--Dr. Derek W. H. Thomas is the John E, Richards professor of systematic and practical theology at Reformed Theological Seminary and minister of teaching at First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, MS.

Source: "The Decree of God" by Derek W.H. Thomas, Tabletalk, August 2007, p. 31-34.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

If You Do Not Read, You Will Not Grow!

The Bible says that we are to “…walk as children of light …trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8,10, nasb). A missionary co-worker has discipled many women in the Philippines – younger, older, poor, rich, middle-class, educated and uneducated alike. She observed over the years of ministry that much growth in the Lord came about with much reading of the Word, good books, and obedience. She said, “If Christians do not read, they will not grow.” The Bible says “But grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18, nasb).

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

You Have the Audacity!

Several years ago, friends and supporters of ours asked us to write their son and encourage him to come with ACTION to serve as a writer with our ministry. I and explained what the father had said and encouraged him to prayerfully consider serving with ACTION in the Philippines, especially to serve in photo-journalism in our work with the extreme poor, street and underprivileged children, and prisoners.

His letter of response was quite shocking as his first words were, “You have the audacity to think that I would even consider such an offer. Why would I want to leave America to take my family to a place that is hot and unsafe?”

In contrast, let me share a letter to a mission board from a young man wanting to serve in Latin America:

"While I feel a general call to South America, I feel a special call to Brazil. I believe at present that we have no station in Brazil. I know too that the missionary funds are always insufficient to meet the demands. I am also aware that the opening up of new fields is always hard, slow, and sometime discouraging work. I realize too my woeful lack of experience; but I believe if you will give me a chance, that God will see me through. If you cannot send me to Brazil, and have some other place to which no one else cares to go, let me have that place. I am not looking for an easy place, but somewhere, some little corner of God’s great vineyard where I can spend my life for Him who gave Himself for me."

Yours to do or die for the Master,
Robert C. Ingram

“Sent Forth By The Holy Ghost (The Life of R.C. Ingram)” by Gideon B. Williamson

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


by David Livingstone

Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers an children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come, eternal life.-- Jesus speaking to his disciples in Mark 10:28-30 (ESV)

Is that a sacrifice which brings its own blest reward in healthful activity, the consciousness of doing good, peace of mind, and a bright hope of a glorious destiny hereafter? Away with the word in such a view, and with such a thought! It is emphatically no sacrifice. Say rather it is a privilege. Anxiety, sickness, suffering, or danger, now and then, with a foregoing of the common conveniences and charities of this life, may make us pause, and cause the spirit to waver, and the soul to sink; but let this only be for a moment. All these are nothing when compared with the glory which shall hereafter be revealed in and for us. I never made a sacrifice." -- David Livingstone speaking to students in Cambridge, 1857 (Quoted in William Garden Blaikie, Personal Life of David Livingstone, New York: 1895, pp. 243-4).

Friday, August 21, 2009

Visit to a Manila Squatter Village

by Pastor Steve Burchett, Christ Fellowship Kansis City, Missouri

Jeff Anderson along with Dave and Becky Majam (and others) are bringing food, hope, help, education, living skills, and Christ into various squatter villages (the poorest of the poor) around Manila ( The only way to get to one of the villages they are working with is across the San Juan River, which is full of trash and human feces. I’m thankful I did not fall in! Some have. In fact, there was a fire in the village in December and many had to jump in to save their lives. It was a joy meeting the people and taking pictures of the children. The living conditions are horrendous and not the way this life is supposed to be. I got to share with the children from the Bible for a few minutes, and I chose John 14:6 where Jesus says, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” After they hear from the various workers, they sing, and then they have a Bible lesson. To conclude, they are provided a free meal. What they are doing is much more than just providing a free meal. They are seeking to build relationships with the people of the community and help them in many different ways. These children are malnourished and a first step in helping them medically is to get them “de-wormed” (many run around in their bare feet). They are educating many of the children and teens in the community. Of course, they are faithfully proclaiming Christ to them.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Marvin, Ain't He Sweet

Recently at the bank, one of the young tellers asked if I worked with Marvin Graves, and happily I told her, “Yes.”

She then said, “Mr. Graves is the sweetest man in the whole world!”

Yep, she got that right about this 78-year-old godly man.

In describing Marvin people usually say something like, “What a nice man,” “What a wonderful person,” “Such a gentle and kind person,” “The kindest face,” “What a godly man,” and “He is the sweetest man.”

My friend Marvin lives out the words of Jesus who said in speaking to Christians, “You are the light of the world . . . let your light shine before others, so they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14, 16, esv).

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Reclaiming Board Effectiveness: Removing a board member can be a painful necessity

by Lisa Parro, Outcomes, Jun/Jul 2008

Fresh Start* was a thriving nonprofit helping the unemployed move off welfare and into the workforce. Yet 13 years after its founding, the community-based organization that provided job skills and connected able-bodied individuals with apprenticeships and other career opportunities seemed in need of a fresh start itself.

The group's executive director, who previously sat on Fresh Start's board of directors, brought on organizational expert Jim Brown to turn its dysfunctional board into a more cohesive group.

The problem stemmed from founder and board chairman Bill*, who decided Fresh Start had served its purpose and sought to take Fresh Start in a new direction. An entrepreneur at heart, he began meddling in the organization's daily operations in his attempt to steer the executive director toward his next pet project.

Instead of addressing its concerns with Bill, Fresh Start's board of directors preferred to focus on its stated mission. Board members didn't know how to confront Bill because, after all, the organization was his brainchild. Yet the more successful Fresh Start became, the more friction grew at the board level. For the good of the organization, something needed to be done.

In the turbulent process of removing a disruptive board member, Fresh Start's leaders learned three significant lessons:

1. Defy procrastination, and act now.
"Getting the right people on your board is critical and getting the wrong ones off—you've got to do it," says Fresh Start Executive Director Steve Charles*. "I think organizations rise and fall, quite frankly, with the quality of their board members."

As was the case with Fresh Start, board members often say they don't want to confront an unproductive board member because they don't want to hurt someone's feelings.

But really they're afraid of putting themselves in an uncomfortable position, says Brown, founding partner of Strive!, a leadership development firm based in Guelph, Ontario, and the author of The Imperfect Board Member.

"Our problem as Christians is that instead of speaking the truth in love, we think love means being nice," Brown says.

"That leads to a common mistake [in board dealings] of not removing the people who need removal. We say, 'Oh, there's only two more years left in his term. Let's wait it out.' That means you put up with dysfunction for two more years."
Since procrastination was not an option, Brown moved swiftly. With all members of the board gathered at the table for a meeting, Brown addressed Bill.

"I was wondering if sitting on this board is the right fit for you. Your role on this board is a distraction from where God has your heart these days."
Although Fresh Start is a secular organization, all of its board members come from a faith background. Gently but firmly, Brown advised Bill to consider resigning from the board.

During the conversation that ensued, Bill explained that he no longer wanted to serve on the board, but felt he was obliged to continue the work he started. Brown encouraged him to step down, explaining that no one would consider it abandonment.
They parted amicably. Fresh Start appointed a new board chairman and continued to thrive, says Charles, tripling the organization's gross revenue, diversifying its funding sources, doubling the size of its staff, and quadrupling the amount of square footage it leases.

2. Put your board roles and policies in writing.
Besides appreciating Brown's "act now" approach, the Fresh Start board learned they needed written governing policies that spelled out the roles and responsibilities of board membership. Although the board followed written operating policies detailing, for example, how many meeting absences would result in removal from the board, it lacked a document outlining the duties of board members.

A board's job is to, as Brown puts it, "direct and protect." The best advice Brown can give a board is to be clear of its duty to do just that. He estimates that most ministry organizations spend 80 percent of their board meetings talking about recent history or operational details, and very little time talking about goals and governance.

For example, says Brown, a typical church board might have an hour-long discussion on a Sunday school issue that came up two weeks earlier before moving on to real board business.

"That isn't a church board job. That's why they have staff," Brown says. "The board needs to do more about goal setting. They need to do more dreaming and praying about what's ahead and asking, 'What are the challenges and the risks and how are we prepared to manage them?'"

This realization leads to the Fresh Start board's third lesson:

3. Board membership is a responsibility, not a privilege.
Bill's history with the organization didn't automatically entitle him to a seat at the board table, says Brown. Leaders of organizations must realize everyone has different talents, gifts, and abilities, and some board members might be better off serving on committees or contributing to the ministry as a volunteer.

"Some people are not cut out to be board members," notes Brown. "People who love the nitty-gritty details are not good board members. You need to enjoy the big picture."

Brown often is contacted to respond to a surface-level problem when he discovers an issue that's more deeply seeded in the organization—for instance, for help firing a ministry's executive director. Once involved, he quickly learns that this is the second or third executive director the board has hired in a short period of time. In most of those cases, the problem isn't the executive director—it's the board.

"The problem that is the most visible is usually a symptom of the real problem," he says.

While the problem Fresh Start faced with Bill was his micromanagement of the organization, boards often deal with the opposite predicament: a complacent or negligent board member.

In some cases, successful board members facing personal issues might not know how to admit that they can no longer fulfill their board duties.

When several board members continually skip meetings, that can create a morale problem among the remaining board members who consistently show up, says Bob Andringa, president emeritus of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities.

"Most boards today expect attendance," says Andringa. "Most boards expect that their members would come to meetings prepared."

Before removing an unproductive board member, a board must examine its bylaws to determine if a board member can be terminated without cause by a majority or super majority vote, Andringa says.

The board should also be prepared to deal with possible negative effects on public and donor relations and its future relationship with that individual.

"There's got to be a discussion that says if we nudge this person off the board or vote this person off the board, are we committed to maintaining our social fellowship with this person?" says Andringa.

When a board goes through the process of removing an unproductive board member, it is quicker to respond to future problems.

The experience often teaches board members to communicate early and often, long before a problem becomes a crisis.

"Whatever the change is," says Brown, "the most exciting thing is the learning is so ingrained, it becomes part of their DNA."

Lisa Parro is a Chicago-area freelance journalist.
*Fresh Start, Bill and Steve Charles are pseudonyms.
Source: "Reclaiming Board Effectiveness: Removing a board member can be a painful necessity" by Lisa Parro | Outcomes, Jun/Jul 2008

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Slave Dying for His Faith in Christ

“From Sea to Shining Sea” by Peter Marshall and David Manuel, Page 256--257

Sarah Grimké recounts this incident, related to her by a close friend whose husband was a plantation owner on an adjacent plantation:

There was a slave of [well-known holiness]. A planter was one day dining with the owner of this slave, and in the course of conversation observed that all profession of religion among slaves was mere hypocrisy. [The master] asserted a contrary opinion, [saying], “I have a slave, who I believe would rather die than deny his Saviour.”

This was ridiculed, and the master was urged to prove his assertion. He accordingly sent for this man of God, and ordered him to deny his belief in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The slave [was shocked, and said he could not], constantly affirming that he would rather die than deny the Redeemer, whose blood was shed for him.

His master, after vainly trying to induce obedience by threats, had him terribly whipped. The fortitude of the [beaten and bleeding slave] was not to be shaken; he nobly rejected the offer of exemption from further [beating] at the expense of destroying his soul, and [so] this blessed martyr died [being beaten to death for the love of the Saviour].

As Lord Acton once observed to his friend Bishop Creighton, “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” It is hard to imagine power more absolute than that which a master wields over a slave. The hideous thing about absolute power is that the one possessing it remains unaware of the corrosive effect of it on his soul. The slaveholders whom the Grimk√© sisters have described would have been shocked at their (and our) reaction to them. For more than a few southern planters, the power they wielded dehumanized them, without their realizing it.

“From Sea to Shining Sea” by Peter Marshall and David Manuel, Page 256--257

Monday, August 17, 2009

Above Reproach

How does God expect us to treat our employees?
Ronald F. Smedley | Outcomes, Jun/Jul 2008

The problem was clear, the answer obvious. I had just completed a wage study and audit for a ministry, and several staff positions were conspicuously misclassified as exempt from overtime pay.

The CEO explained. "We can't afford to pay overtime," he said. "Besides, our people believe in this ministry. They don't mind working extra hours and have agreed to work for a set amount. God has called us to carry out our ministry, and I believe this calling supersedes the law. So what's the problem?"

Such poor reasoning is ethically bankrupt and far too prevalent among today's Christian leaders who don't realize the nonnegotiable role and responsibility of human resources management in today's ministry organizations.

As the relative truth of a postmodern "me first" world continues to infiltrate all aspects of life, churches and parachurch organizations find themselves thrust under the public microscope of doing what is right for their employees. Because most labor regulations apply to ministry as well as business, Christian ministries need to do more than merely manage human resources in accordance with established laws. A Christ-centered organization must go further and ask the real question: Above and beyond meeting our basic legal requirements, how does God expect us to treat the employees he has placed in our care?

For the answer, we need to look at how our Lord Jesus Christ treated people during his public ministry and what patterns of his character may be applied to today's ministry leaders.

Jesus treated every person with dignity, respect, compassion, and integrity no matter what their situation in life, their employment, or their social, political, or religious class. Whether it was a Jewish leader named Nicodemus, a Samaritan woman, or a blind beggar like Bartimaeus, he gave them equal attention and compassion. Why? Because he knew every person was created in the image of God and therefore had both value and worth.

How do we account for how he treated people differently? Why did he blast the Pharisees and not the disciples, for instance? Jesus treated people differently based on their talents and abilities and how they performed their respective responsibilities associated with those abilities. Abilities in this respect means the gifts and talents one brings to a vocation, whether as a CEO, administrator, janitor, or pastor.

Jesus differentiated his treatment of others based upon what they were doing with their talents, not who they were as human beings created in God's image. He served and ministered to others similarly on the basis of their intrinsic worth, even as he challenged, corrected, and led those who were equipped and assigned to carry out God-given roles and responsibilities.

Thus, the distinction: For Jesus, similar treatment was about servanthood and the inherent value of all people, while different treatment was about stewardship and leading people to employ their gifts and talents as intended by God. Servanthood invokes a picture of Jesus washing the disciples' feet. Stewardship brings to mind his admonishment of the Pharisees for not doing their "job."

Treating our employees as Christ treated others means knowing how and when to offer them the blessing of servanthood, and how and when to use the call and correction of stewardship. And if we, as leaders, are going to model ourselves after Jesus in how we treat our employees, we will need to be mindful of two central truths:

Our employees' abilities, talents, and position all create responsibility and, from the Lord's perspective, demand good stewardship. Jesus required that stewards be found faithful in who they are and in what and for whom they are responsible. As our Lord said in Luke 12:48, "From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked."

Jesus treated people differently based on their stewardship of the responsibilities with which they were entrusted.

Today, we could call these responsibilities a job description, company policies, and procedures. If people (employees) were faithful, they were rewarded and edified; if they were unfaithful, then they were counseled. They were all equally respected and similarly shown integrity and compassion (even the Pharisees), but they were treated differently depending on how they exercised their abilities.

Being faithful to these principles has five core ramifications for how we, as ministry leaders, treat our employees:

1. Leaders should seek to develop people, not use them. Christ showed compassion; he cared about people. In thinking Christianly on the job, a company objective is never more important than the lives of the people, who give the organization productivity and growth.

2. Employees should be measured by attitude on the job as well as productivity. To measure only by productivity is to "use" the employee as a tool rather than seeing him or her as a person. Obviously, productivity is important, but if a person is trying (especially at the beginning of a new work experience), then job performance to some degree should be measured by the commitment and passion the person has for the job.

3. Good stewardship of talents and abilities creates responsibilities, with greater potential for rewards and admonishments. In a work environment, some will be good stewards of the responsibilities given them and others will not. We live in a fallen world, and not everyone will work to their potential. Some will not carry out their job description. Those who do should be rewarded. Thus, management has a responsibility to treat employees fairly, to not show unjust favoritism or to exert undo influence in order to achieve a result. When stewardship of responsibilities is lacking, justice and loving discipline must then come into play.

4. Abilities and talents may vary, but worth in an organization is never solely measured by the amount or type of ability one has. In other words, the administrative assistant or janitor has, in one sense, just as much value to the ministry as the CEO, and should be made to feel that way. Secretaries are often viewed as more expendable and easier to replace than CEOs; however, Christianity does not treat individuals as commodities. From the Lord's perspective, the widow's mite was just as important to the kingdom and the cause of Christ as was the religious leader's large financial investment.

5. All levels of management in all types of ministry must be men and women of character. It is impossible to treat people with dignity, respect, and integrity unless you have those characteristics in your own life. In order to have employees move up through the ranks into leadership positions, they must see these characteristics modeled by their leaders. The words and actions of today's ministry leaders must always mesh.

In Philippians 2:15, Paul commands us to be "blameless and pure" beyond question. As ministry leaders, the ultimate measure of how we treat our employees rests with the courage to ask whether we will take seriously our calling to be above reproach in all we think, say, and do.

Will we go above and beyond the work of compliance, policies, and procedures to transform our ministry culture, relying on the example of Jesus to serve and steward every employee? For the sake of our Lord and the people he has entrusted to us to fulfill his kingdom work, the answer should be obvious and clear.
Ron Smedley is President of Synergistic Resource Associates and teaches organizational leadership at Biola University.

Source: "Above Reproach: How does God expect us to treat our employees?" Ronald F. Smedley | Outcomes, Jun/Jul 2008

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Place Called Peace

Source: Callaway, Phil, Family Squeeze, Multnomah Books, Colorado Springs, CO, 2008, p. 108-110.

"We are left with a choice. Store up for ourselves treasures on earth where they need fixing, storing, insuring, painting, maintaining, rustproofing, and constant attention. Or we can follow Jesus' advice in Matthew 6:20 and store up for ourselves 'treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal(NIV).'

Here are a few ideas to start us down the road to debt-free living and a place called Peace.

1. Take a child by the hand and go for a walk. Make sure it's your child.

2. If you are in debt: a)make a budget, b)pour lighter fluid on your credit cards, c)light them, and d) then use cash for all purchases. Ask older people about cash; they know what it is.

3. Buy bottled water every twenty-three years. At the corner store near us, you can buy 'a taste of paradise' water from Fiji on sale for $1.50 per bottle or $11.36 a gallon. We spend less than one-third of a cent per gallon for water that comes out of the tap twelve steps from our bed. If you buy two bottles of water a day, you can save $1,095 a year by taking along your own plastic bottle and filling it with tap water--water that most of the world would give just about anything to drink (by the way, Pepsi recently admitted that Aquafina comes from...are you ready?...a tap).

4. Boycott Starbucks. If you buy five lattes per week for a year, you will spend $1,040. Stop it. If you need caffeine $40 worth of beans at Safeway and suck on five a day. My boss does this, and I rarely catch him napping.

5. Get married and stay married. According to a report by the Journal of Sociology (get ready, big surprise ahead), marriage actually increases your emotional and financial health. 'Scrapping a marriage robs you of wealth,' claims the study. After surveying nine thousand people, they found that divorce reduces a people's wealth by 77 percent and that married people increased their wealth about 4 percent per year.

6. Avoid frugal-living books. I picked one up recently, and here is a sampling of the brilliant advice: Buy a goat for milk! (I kid you not--no pun intended.) Invite the grandparents to visit--they'll bring gifts for the kids! Don't take your children shopping! Cut open your toothpaste tube! Reuse your trash bags! The book was on sale for twenty bucks!

7. Support your church, missionaries you know, needy people, and organizations that are making a differences.

8. Leave the TV off during dinner. Don't hurry through dinner. If you do, it might hurry through you.

9. Teach your children that we need money to buy things. If you don't have money, we can't buy things.

10. Put memories ahead of money.

11. Meditate on Micah 6:8, Revised Materialist's Edition: 'What does the Lord require of you? That you act justly, that you mercy, and that you run, run, run like a gerbil.' No! That you 'walk numbly with your God.'"

Source: Callaway, Phil, Family Squeeze, Multnomah Books, Colorado Springs, CO, 2008, p. 108-110.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Wisdom from John Newton

Dr. Gary Rieben,, August 4, 2009

If you are looking for evidence of the transforming power of the grace and mercy of God, John Newton is a prime example. Once a despicable slave trader, by God's grace he was transformed into a humble servant of God and man. He became personal friends with such notables as John Wesley, William Wilberforce, William Carey, Henry Martyn and George Whitefield.

Enjoy the wisdom that flows from the pen of John Newton:

"My principal method of defeating heresy is by establishing truth. One proposes to fill a bushel with tares: now, if I can fill it first with wheat, I shall defy his attempts."

"The more subtle, bitter, and numerous the foes of truth are the more fearless and decided should its friends be. The life of truth is more important than the life of any man or any theories."

"And his faith upholds him under all trials, by assuring him that every dispensation is under the direction of his Lord; that chastisements are a token of his love; that the season, measure, and continuance of his sufferings, are appointed by infinite wisdom, and designed to work for his everlasting good; and that grace and strength shall be afforded him, according to his day."

"By faith the believer triumphs over the world's smiles and enticements: he sees that all that is in the world, suited to gratify the desires of the flesh or the eye, is not only to be avoided as sinful, but as incompatible with his best pleasures."

"When I hear a knock on my study door, I hear a message from God. It may be a lesson of instruction; perhaps a lesson of patience: but since it is his message, it must be interesting."

Dr. Gary Rieben,, August 4, 2009

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Face to Face

Servant Magazine, Issue Eighty-two, 2009, Page 8

Oprah Winfrey’s promotion of Eckhart Tolle’s book A New Earth has turned it into an international bestseller, influencing millions. In it Tolle asserts, “There is only one absolute Truth, and all other truths emanate from it....Yes, you are the Truth. If you look for it elsewhere, you will be deceived every time. The very Being that you are is Truth.

Jesus tried to convey that when he said, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life.’...Jesus speaks of the innermost I Am, the essence identity of every man and woman.”

Donald S. Whitney calls Tolle’s teaching “the oldest blasphemy in the world,” and the same old lie Satan told Eve in the Garden of Eden: “You will be like God.” “One of the quickest ways to expose a false teacher,” writes Whitney, “is to examine what he says about mankind, Jesus, and the Bible… uncovering one major heresy usually indicates the presence of many others. Tolle’s heretical deification of man means that our great problem is no longer separation from God due to sin, but separation from ourselves….Tolle does mention sin, but…for him it is not the transgression of or lack of obedience to the law of God, but ‘to live unskillfully.’ And the ‘salvation’we need is not the forgiveness of sin, but enlightenment.”

James Enns, History Professor at Prairie Bible College, calls Tolle’s message “just one more tired reiteration of New Age therapeutic psycho-babble.” Yet Enns is concerned about the widespread popularity of this teaching, believing that it reflects the basic human need for significance. “One of the most subtle effects of sin is the self-alienation we experience in our efforts to be our own god. Tolle’s solution is to proclaim the lie of our own divinity even louder. The writer of Proverbs reminds us that the fear of the Lord—not the worship of ourselves—is the beginning of truth and wisdom. It is only when we humbly confess that God in Christ is the way, truth and life, that we can truly be transformed, and discover that real meaning and significance are a gift God offers us in Jesus, not something we create.”

Servant Magazine, Issue Eighty-two, 2009, Page 8

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

All We Can Do

by Chuck Weinberg

Some of you know that I enjoy and am very much encouraged by listening to John Piper. I have listened to some of his sermons 1o times in a row before moving on to the next. Let's just say that sometimes I am easily distracted and before I move on I want to make sure I have picked up every kernel and put it into my bag.

I was listening to his sermon "A Fast for Waters that do not Fail" and was encouraged by the story of Doug Nichols. J.Piper is in Minnesota and he is talking about this Doug Nichols guy. I wanted to see if Doug was still alive, so I Googled him. To my amazement he is not only still alive but he lives about a half hour from me.

I started to read up on what he has been doing and looked at his schedule of appearances and was drawn to some of the things he has said. One thing that really stuck out to me was in answer to the question, "What can we do?"- His answer-"All we can do".

This is really short and seems almost like a sarcastic answer, but isn't this what God has called us to do? There is much to do everywhere around us, and God has NOT called us to every ministry, everywhere in the world. He has called us to do everything we can do, with all His strength, with all His wisdom provided, with His view of the harvest and that is all.

Isn't it awesome that God has not only planned all the work for us to do from eternity past, but He gives all we need to do every work that He has planned. He has knitted us together perfectly, so when we do follow His leading to the work, we will be perfectly suited to do it. He is not going to ask me to be John MacArthur, because He has not equipped me to be him.

So what does that mean to you and I today? We must be available and observant to God's leading, we must be humble in our expectation of where He might be choosing to use us, we must be learning and growing, because we don't know where that is going to be, and we must be willing and ready to do whatever that work is. That work might be to be the ALL that God would have you do as a home school mom and a wife with little time to minister in the local body except for being a great example of those things. It might also mean doing ALL that you can do in giving your entire life away as a missionary to China or Africa and He will have equipped you perfectly for that work as much as anything else.

The Body has many parts and none are less or more important than the next, but the little toe has to be as good of a little toe as it can be so that the head doesn't have to take the time to make sure the little toe is going to do its part. And the leg has to make sure it is not running the little toe into the coffee table all the time. A weak attempt at humor and illustration.

We need to go and do all we can where God leads us and be thankful that He is willing to use us anywhere, for anything that might be of benefit to His Work. We also need to rejoice and rest in the fact that He equips us to do everything. Don't get stressed out that you are not able to do this or that, just do what He has you doing as unto the Lord and He will take care of the rest.

by Chuck Weinberg

Monday, August 10, 2009

Should We Take A Step Back?

Many are concerned about the supposed financial crisis we are facing. However, it is in these times that we, as Christians, should continue to move forward in faith trusting God for funds needed, not only for personal needs, but also to meet the needs of our brothers and sisters.

There are no fewer orphans than before and no fewer street children on the streets. There are still millions of people without the Gospel. Do we only move forward when we have funds or do we trust God to meet needs of the Gospel and compassionate care that He has called us to trust Him for in spite of the times?

Yes, we need to be careful and not waste the limited funds He has given us, and at the same time, trust Him to use us to give to others with more urgent needs.

The Word of God says “He who watches the wind will not sow and he who looks at the clouds will not reap” (Ecclesiastes 11:4 , nasb).

Friday, August 7, 2009

African Mission Challenges -- Nigerian Examples!

"One in every four Africans is Nigerian. One in every five black people in the world is Nigerian. With a population of nearly 150 million, there is no doubt the Nigerian Church and nation are bound to have a significant impact on the African continent. The general perception of Nigeria is its failure to set a good example for the rest of Africa. Recently, I read a screaming headline in one of the Nigerian daily newspapers: “Nigeria Still Sinful Despite Many Churches.” This calls for sober reflection, genuine repentance, and a reorientation on the part of the Church. Here are several issues the Nigerian Church isfacing:

The creation of megastars. The “Man of God” syndrome is aptly described in the book Preachers of a Different Gospel, by Rev. Femi Adeleye. “Men of God” have become “stars and celebrities.” Preaching has become a skilful marketing art. Jesus is relegated to the background. Where is the humility of John the Baptist, who declared, “He must increase but I must decrease” (John 3:34)?

The existence of doctrinal distortions, pulpit abuse, falsehood, and the commercialization of the gospel. “Cash for Christ” is sometimes found in churches—the more cash you pay,the greater your chances of seeing a bigger miracle take place.

The commonness of the prosperity gospel. Nigerian churches have exported this to the rest of Africa. Today, this gospel of greed is a disturbing trend with appealing momentum.Capitalist desperados are masquerading as church planters. In his book Foxes in the Vineyard, Insights into the Nigerian Pentecostal Revival, Sean Akinrele quotes Bishop Mike Okonkwo, former president of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN):

This has degenerated to the extent that people now come to church primarily to get rich outside the richness in their souls. Pastors, too, have cashed in on the gullibility of unsuspecting members as symbolism in oil, mantle, honey, palm-leaves, sprinkling of blood, andother mediums are now evolved to build the faith of the people unto materialism.

The PFN leadership has discovered that money has sadly become the yardstick for success in the Church,especially the Pentecostals…. Prosperity messages have therefore taken centre stage of most preaching at the expense of full gospel messages.

The prominence of bossy leadership. In Christ, we learn a new and liberating model of leadership: servant leadership. The African continent, caught in the throes of conflict arising from tussles for power and resources, are desperate for this biblical leadership model. The current posture of spiritual grand-standing depreciates the gains of the Charismatic renewal movement across Africa and makes the tasks of evangelization less convincing in its genuine appeal.

The lack of making the cross central. Where is the cross in the way we live as Christ’s followers? Today,popular theology inspired by the prosperity gospel exponents, “He go butter my bread and sugar my tea. Me, I no go suffer.” This needs to be reviewed if we are to be faithful to the teaching of the one who hung
on the cross for the redemption of humankind. In The Chosen One—a Ghanaian home movie—a prostitute made an observation that resonates with the African Church: “Nowadays, pastors want to be like Jesus, but they are not ready to suffer like Jesus.”

Lausanne World Pulse - LAUSANNE REPORTS - Theological Trends in Africa:Implications for Missions and Evangelism. By Gideon Para-Mallam, March 2008(Gideon Para-Mallam is associate regional secretary of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES) in West Africa. He is also Lausanne international deputy director for Anglophone Africa.)

Thursday, August 6, 2009


by Nancy Leigh Demoss

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart,O God, thou wilt not despise. PS 51:17 (KJV)


Focus on the failures of others
A critical, fault-finding spirit, look at everyone else’s faults with a microscope, but their own with a telescope
Self-righteous look down on others
Independent, self-sufficient spirit
Have to prove that they are right
Claim rights; have a demanding spirit
Self-protective of their time, their rights,and their reputation
Desire to be served
Desire to be a success
Have a drive to be recognized and appreciated
Wounded when others are promoted and they are overlooked
Have a subconscious feeling “This ministry/church is privileged to have me and my gifts”, think of what they do for God
Feel Confident in how much they know
Keep others at arms’ length
Quick to blame others
Unapproachable or defensive when criticized
Concerned with being respectable, with what others think; work to protect their own image and reputation
Find it difficult to share their spiritual needs with others
Want to be sure that no one finds out when they have sinned; their instinct is to cover up
Have a hard time saying, “I was wrong: will you please forgive me?”
Tend to deal in generalities when confessing sin
Concerned about the consequences of their sin
Remorseful over their sin, sorry that they got found out or caught
Wait for others to come and ask forgiveness when there is a misunderstanding or conflict in a relationship
Compare themselves with others and feel worthy of honor
Blind to their true heart condition
Don’t think they have anything to repent of
Don’t think they need revival, but are sure that every one else does


Overwhelmed with a sensed of their own spiritual need
Compassionate; can forgive much because they know how much they have been forgiven
Esteem all others better then themselves
Have a dependent spirit; recognize their need for others
Willing to yield the right to be right
Yield their rights; have a meek spirit
Motivated to serve others
Motivated to be faithful and to make others a success
Desire to promote others
Have a sense of their own unworthiness; thrilled that God would use them all
Eager for others to get the credit; rejoice when others are lifted up
Heart attitude is “I don’t deserve to have a part in any ministry”, know that they have nothing to offer God except the life of Jesus flowing through their broken lives
Humbled by how very much they have to learn
Not concerned with self at all
Willing to risk getting close to others and to take risks of loving intimately
Accept personal responsibility and can see where they are wrong in a situation
Receive criticism with a humble open spirit.
Concerned with being real; what matters to them is not what others think but what God knows; are willing to die to their own reputation.
Willing to be open minded and transparent with others as God directs
Once broken, don’t care who knows or who finds out; are willing to be exposed because they have nothing to loss
Quick to admit failure and to seek forgiveness when necessary
Able to acknowledge specifics when confessing their sin
Grieved over the cause, the root of their sin
Truly, genuinely repentant over their sin, evidenced in the fact that they forsake sin
Take the initiative to be reconciled when there is misunderstanding or conflict in relationships; they race to the cross; they see if they can get there first, no matter how wrong the other might have been
Compare themselves to the holiness of God and feel a desperate need for his mercy
Walk in the light
Realize they have need of a continual heart attitude of repentance
Continually sense their need for a fresh encounter with God and for a fresh filling of his Holy Spirit

Source:Nancy Leigh DeMoss, with “Revive Our Hearts”, an outreach of Life Action Ministries, Box 31, Buchanan, MI 491007 Ph: 866-842-8381

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Movie Review: Fireproof - A Quick Critique

by Pastor Todd Braye, Sovereign Grace Baptist Church

As providence would have it, my wife and I watched the movie Fireproof last night on television. It is the story of a marriage on the rocks. The plot is simple: Husband Caleb (Kirk Cameron) receives a gift from his father. It's a book outlining 40 days of practical helps to woo his distant, hurt wife back to him (one "help" or word of counsel per day for 40 days). The movie is a two-hour emotional trip. Doubtless, many married couples will relate. The story ends happily ever after. Ultimately, it's the gospel that saves the marriage. Yes, only what was accomplished on the cross as Christ paid the penalty for sin and purchased the benefits of the New Covenant, that the heart of the matter is dealt with.

The movie and accompanying study material has been available at Christian bookstores for quite some time. Perhaps this is why I feel so compelled to offer a brief critique. To be sure, there are aspects of the movie that are commendable. It was inexpressibly amazing to hear the name of Jesus used in the context of salvation, to hear marriage expressed in terms of covenant (not contract), and to see Scripture on my TV screen. The movie may very well be a conversation starter. Soli Deo Gloria!

However, the gospel, while no echoes of "asking Jesus into your heart" could be heard, was definite "gospel light." The command for repentance towards God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ was missing (Acts 20:21). In its place was an appeal to needing forgiveness after a quick fatherly exposition of a few commandments (e.g. murder and adultery) and an implicit expression of God's unconditional, undeserving love. This is fine as far as it goes. But this is inadequate. Repentance from sin must be preached. The expressions "Give your life to Christ" or "Trust Him with your life" as a response is vague at best and a far cry from "Repent ..."

Furthermore, it isn't biblical to assume that the Gospel will automatically fix broken marriages. It might. But it might not. Read 1 Corinthians 7, for instance. The Gospel may even further estrange a couple - what fellowship has light with darkness (2 Cor. 6:14f)? The Gospel is not a miracle fix-it remedy, guaranteed to repair all our sorrows (not in this life). So, while Fireproof has a happy, almost fairy-tale ending, keep your Bible open and brain on. Fireproof, while I applaud its intentions, may give false hopes to many believers and unbelievers.

Go ahead and watch it. Check it out for yourself. I, for one, would like to get my hands on that book of 40 "helps." Not that my marriage is on the rocks. It isn't. But every marriage is worth working on. Besides, it's hard not to care for what you invest in. Christ invested His life in His bride. Should not godly men do the same with theirs?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

We've Won the Lottery—Now What? (The meaning of evangelical scandals—including our own)

by Mark Galli, senior managing editor of Christianity Today.

Why does the evangelical community end up with sinners like Governor Mark Sanford (adultery) and Ted Haggard (immorality) and CEO Kenneth Lay (fraud) and evangelist Jim Baker (licentiousness)—to take but a very few examples! A year doesn't go by that we aren't treated to another major scandal. Who will be next?

Unfortunately, history is a discomforting witness to the truth that church leaders and followers are all too easily mesmerized by money, sex, and power—or just plain sloth. In recent history, evangelical jeremiads were usually lamenting the sorry state of liberalism. Today, the jeremiads are self-directed, from The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind to The Scandal of Evangelical Politics to Pagan Christianity. It's now pretty much agreed that the evangelical church mirrors the dysfunctions of secular society, from premarital sex stats to divorce rates to buying habits. Much to our dismay, we are hardly a light to the world, nor an icon of the abundant, transformed life.

What has gone wrong? The first answer seems to be that we are not thinking right or doing enough. Some put their chips on redefining the gospel in social terms; they assume the problem is individualism. Others bet on spiritual formation; the problem is that we're lazy and spiritual disciplines point the way to a more godly future. Some say we need the dynamism of the Holy Spirit; the problem is formalism. Others plea for more accountability groups or more thoughtful worship music or more time in prayer or more of some other magic bullet. If we only do something more, things will improve.

We've tried all these, and tried them time and again. The lamentable conclusion seems to be that while the gates of Hades will never prevail against the church, the spirit of moral mediocrity has pretty much won the day. This is not to deny those wonderful moments when the church really acts like the church, when outsiders notice Jesus Christ as a result! Such moments are pure gifts, signs of the coming kingdom. But history suggests they are intermittent. The usual reality is that the church, from corrupt Corinth to amoral America, remains a sinful institution, full of sinful people.

Perhaps it's time we try a new approach, and do less.

To do less seems scandalous, because the very justification of Christianity is on the line. Jesus promises that we'll not only enjoy full life (John 10:10), but that we'll be salt and light to dying society (Mt. 5:13-16), and an example of love to a watching world (John 13:35). Paul says that in Christ we are a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17), that we are called to become like Jesus (Rom. 8:29). If we do not evidence a transformed life, the Christian faith will seem like a fraud. If our churches look no more vital than the Kiwanis' Club, what's the point?

No wonder we panic in the face of our own corruption—or when someone tells us that there may be something more important to do than reckless striving for righteousness.
The problem is not a new one. Many early churches were a mess—just read Paul's correspondence to the divisive, sexually libertine Corinthians. In fact, Paul, for all his ethical admonitions, admits that while he wants to do good, he often seems unable to do it (Rom. 7). Even at the end of his life, after decades of living for Christ, he thinks of himself only as the foremost of sinners (1 Tim. 1:16). This does not sound like the victorious life to me.

And yet Paul seems unfazed. He remains confident of his transformation in Christ. How can this be?

To begin with, he did not pin his hopes on himself, or a new theology, or an accountability group, or even on spiritual formation. After describing his moral condition as "wretched," he simply says, "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!"

Why? Because "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 7:25-8:1; all quotes from the ESV).

The primary issue for Paul was not striving for transformation but resting in forgiveness. That he continued to sin, and sin woefully, was not as important to him as the fact that no sin he could commit was beyond God's desire to forgive—nothing, not even his ongoing sinfulness, could separate him from the love of God in Christ! No wonder he lived in gratitude—doing less!

To be sure, all his letters assume that, in wonder and gratitude, we will "grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ" (Eph. 4:15), and he assumes that the Christian will show signs of that growth—of course! But Paul says that he is still "of the flesh, sold under sin," (Rom. 7:14), and that he lives by the promise that someday we will be set free and "obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God" (Rom. 8:21). While exhorting us always to let our gratitude for God's forgiveness overflow into works of love, he never imagines that our moral progress will be worth writing home about—our bodies are dead because of sin (Rom. 8:10)! Admiring our good works is like looking at our loved one, stretched out in a casket, commenting on how good he looks in that suit—for all the good it's going to do him!

Instead Paul sets his eyes on a promised transformation. "Behold! I tell you a mystery . . . we shall all be changed," he tells those immoral Corinthians. "For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed (1 Cor. 15:51-52). Though he is speaking specifically about our resurrected bodies, his entire theology points not to the present but to the future. It's a theology not of present signs and wonders but of promised glory.

Yes, Paul sometimes speaks as if change has already occurred: We are a new creation! But he talks like this because the One who died and rose for us will fulfill his promise to renew all of creation.

It's like this: We've won the lottery of life, and we hold the winning ticket. It's only a matter of getting to the lottery office to cash it in. We are full with child, and it's only a matter of time before a breathing baby comes forth. A down payment has been made on our ideal home, and it's only a matter of time before we can move in. We live in hope!

In the meantime, we're living in the meantime. And the meantime can, frankly, be a terrible time, full of selfishness and vanity, murder and greed, and subject to decay—as our bodies and souls know all too well.

As Martin Luther put it, the Christian is "at one and the same time a sinner and a righteous person. He is a sinner in fact, but a righteous person by the sure reckoning and promise of God that he will continue to deliver him from sin until he has completely cured him. And so he is totally healthy in hope, but a sinner in fact. He has the beginning of righteousness, and so always continues more and more to seek it, while realizing that he is always unrighteous."

If we live in this hope, we will not be puzzled or despondent when our public heroes fall or church disappoints or our own lives are as wretched as Paul's. Instead, we'll join him in saying, "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! There is therefore now no condemnation (not from God, not from ourselves!) for those who are in Christ Jesus."

Ah, but do I hear the anxious whisper or an astonished shout? "Can we then just go on sinning since our striving for holiness accomplishes relatively little, since we are called first and foremost to gratefully believe in the gospel?" (Rom. 6:15).

But why have we played the lottery in the first place? Because we were tired of living in the squalor of poverty. We were hoping against hope to someday enjoy a decent life, with a solid roof over our heads and attractive clothes on the body, with a car that will not break down and enough money in the bank to forestall a night at the homeless shelter. With the winning lottery ticket in hand, are we going to use our new credit rating to get liquored up or squander a few nights in Las Vegas? Or are we going to put a down payment on a home, and take a trip to Nordstrom's, and visit the Toyota dealership, and open a savings account at Chase?

It is precisely because we are guaranteed transformation that we, in gratefulness and a sure hope, can start to live as if we've already collected our winnings. And when done in gratefulness, instead of anxiety or striving, well, the yoke of Christ is easy, feeling less like doing and more like resting.

In the meantime, we remain in spiritual poverty. We're still desperate, needy, broken, sinful people. Blessed are those who know this, for they know the hope of the coming kingdom! Blessed are those who do not confuse the future with the present, the kingdom of heaven with the present age. Blessed—happy, joyful, thankful!—are those who live not by sight, but by faith in a sure promise.


Monday, August 3, 2009

Slavery & Christianity by John Robbins: A Review


In his briefest epistle, Paul writes to his friend Philemon and his house church, asking that he receive back his fugitive slave Onesimus as a free man and brother in Christ. In his reasoning and appeals to Philemon as a cherished Christian brother, Paul effectively defines both slavery and Christianity and demonstrates why they are incompatible.

Dr. Robbins’s book (Trinity Foundation, 2007) is both a commentary on Philemon and an exposition of slavery as unbiblical as practiced in the Roman Empire–and in the United States.

“Southern slavery was pretty good, and the Northern free labor market was evil–condemned, ironically, as ‘wage-slavery.’ Agrarianism is good, and industrialism is evil. Feudalism is good, and capitalism is evil. Legally enforced social (and perhaps racial) hierarchies are good; equality before the law is evil. In holding these views, Southern nationalists find common ground with both Romanists and Marxists, so it is not unusual or surprising to see Marxists and Romanists like Eugene Genovese and Thomas DiLorenzo defending the feudal, slaveholding South.”

It is possible that Dr. Robbins may overestimate the South’s enthusiasm for its own economic debilities and underestimate the North’s political oppression and economic tyranny, but we all have our biases. But nothing can change the fact that American slavery was unbiblical and unjust. Dr. Robbins’s treatment of American slavery is qualitatively a well documented sidebar in his exposition of the theme of Philemon.
God’s law supercedes man’s law, and the Roman fugitive slave law, Dr. Robbins observes, violated Deuteronomy 23:15-16:

Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant which is escaped from his master unto thee: He shall dwell with thee, even among you, in that place which he shall choose in one of thy gates, where it liketh him best: thou shalt not oppress him.

The same Scriptural reasoning applies to the Civil War fugitive slave laws, and to the Dred Scott decision. What many Southern defenders miss, and it must be willful blindness, is the obvious fact that, while slavery existed in the Bible, it was by right of conqueror over the conquered, and was never considered a just treatment of either fellow Israelites or strangers (Exodus 22:21). Slavery as practiced in the United States violated the Biblical injunction against manstealing (Exodus 21:16).

Dr. Robbins proceeds topically with his exposition of Philemon. He deals with “Race and Christianity,” demonstrating the Gospel’s abrogation of racial distinctions. He highlights Paul’s referral to himself as a prisoner, both of the Roman Empire and of Christ Jesus, and appeals to Philemon’s compassion as much as to his fraternity. Paul appeals to Philemon as a fellow worker, not as to an adversary who needs to shape up. Dr. Robbins emphasizes Paul’s reverance toward Philemon as a cherished brother. He examines the respective roles of church and state, the providence of God, and the theme of substitution and imputation in his own promise to make good any debt Onesimus has left unpaid to Philemon. And, as debt is inconsistent with grace, Paul appeals to Philemon that slavery is inconsistent with Christian love and brotherhood.

“…what makes these Gentiles beloved to Paul, and now Onesimus beloved to both Paul and Philemon, is their common doctrine: Truth is the basis, the foundation, for Christian love. Biblical love is not a warm feeling in the stomach, but the exercise of a good will toward another. That good will does not exist apart from a knowledge of the truth.”



A book I finished reading like last night…
This is why I recommend this super-short booklet.

In the history of the United States, there is no war that is bloodier for America, than the American Civil War from 1861-1865. One of many issues and controversy surrounding this conflict was the issue of Slavery. Today, the issue of Christianity and slavery is still bought up, and usually done in light of slavery that existed in the South. From both sides, arguments were given that attempted to justify their position by appealing to the Bible. For anyone interested in the subject, host of books can be recommended. Indispensable to this, is John Robbin’s latest work, Slavery and Christianity.

Slavery and Christianity is actually a commentary on the Book of Philemon, in the New Testament. One of Paul’s shortest epistles, this book in the Bible has always been referenced as having a dramatic impact for the abolition movement. John Robbins pointed out early in his commentary of how people often misjudge something that is short as being insignificant. Interestingly enough, Slavery and Christianity is also short, coming in at 49 pages, yet it is powerful. Having read several commentaries on Philemon, in my estimation Slavery and Christianity was the best one among them. Many people are cautious with the works of John Robbins in controversy today, but the quality of Slavery and Christianity is what you would expect from a Reformed and Presuppositional teacher of the Word of God: logically sharp, fascinating insight from the Biblical text, lay-man friendly and more importantly, spiritually edifying.

Slavery and Christianity commentary on Philemon draws out the social and political ramification of God’s Word, specifically as it touches on the institution on slavery. There is no doubt, that this new book would cause a stir among some pro-Southern Slavery theologians existing even today. For those who have always heard that Philemon advances the abolition’s cause but would like to see exactly how the argument from Biblical references goes, Slavery and Christianity is highly recommended.
–Jimmy Li

**POSTSCRIPT: As I read this and was writing this, I know there are those out there from a theonomic perspective, that supports and defend the Southern conception of Slavery who read this xanga from time to time, feel free to respond, but I want to let you know that I think its a hard position to defend. Also, I”m going to try to find Dabney’s book articulating your perspective. I don’t think that by being Theonomic you have to buy into Southern Slavery by the way. Southern Slavery undermind free-market economics as well, a defining plank in Christian Reconstructionism***