Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Army Briefing Labels Christians and Tea Party Members as Terror Threats?

Yesterday Todd Starnes posted a disturbing article at Townhall.com entitled Army Briefing Labels Tea Party, Christians as Terror Threats. Here is the first portion of the article outlining the charge:
Soldiers attending a pre-deployment briefing at Fort Hood say they were told that evangelical Christians and members of the Tea Party were a threat to the nation and that any soldier donating to those groups would be subjected to punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
A soldier who attended the Oct. 17th briefing told me the counter-intelligence agent in charge of the meeting spent nearly a half hour discussing how evangelical Christians and groups like the American Family Association were “tearing the country apart.” 
Michael Berry, an attorney with the Liberty Institute, is advising the soldier and has launched an investigation into the incident. 
“The American public should be outraged that the U.S. Army is teaching our troops that evangelical Christians and Tea Party members are enemies of America, and that they can be punished for supporting or participating in those groups,” said Berry, a former Marine Corps JAG officer.
“These statements about evangelicals being domestic enemies are a serious charge.”
The soldier told me he fears reprisals and asked not to be identified. He said there was a blanket statement that donating to any groups that were considered a threat to the military and government was punishable under military regulations. 
“My first concern was if I was going to be in trouble going to church,” the evangelical Christian soldier told me. “Can I tithe? Can I donate to Christian charities? What if I donate to a politician who is a part of the Tea Party movement?” 
Another soldier who attended the briefing alerted the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty. That individual’s recollections of the briefing matched the soldier who reached out to me. 
“I was very shocked and couldn't believe what I was hearing,” the soldier said. “I felt like my religious liberties, that I risk my life and sacrifice time away from family to fight for, were being taken away.”
One can only hope that these allegations turn out to be unfounded, although I doubt they will be given the current trend in the U.S. military under the Obama Administration.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

An Interesting Open Letter to Mark Driscoll

On Monday Darren Wiebe, a graduate of Moody Bible Institute and a current M.Div. student at The Master’s Seminary, posted My Open Letter to Mark Driscoll. In it he publicly confronted Mark Driscoll for having lied concerning what actually took place when Driscoll showed up at the Strange Fire Conference with James MacDonald to pass out copies of one of his books in the parking lot.

Darren was attending the conference and spoke with Driscoll in the parking lot and witnessed what actually took place when Driscoll was asked to leave by security. Here is the heart of Darren's post, which contains the charge against Driscoll:
Instead, by your own admission, you were met graciously by the Grace Community Church staff and security. You told the Christian Post that you thought it was “Gracious that they let me on campus at all.” Adding that, “they don’t owe me anything and I didn’t go through an official process. I wasn’t planning on it. I just happened to be in town.” Pastor Mark, this statement tells me two things:
    1. You were looking to pick a fight. By your own words you claim that you did not expect to have a good meeting when you arrived on campus. You came to cause a scene and maybe gain some status as a martyr in the promotion of your upcoming book, in which you ironically call for unity within the church and a ceasefire on what you’ve labeled as “tribalism.” Honestly, if your arrival had gone according to how you envisioned and anticipated, it would have been a perfect illustration. I have to wonder though, were you were seeking to start a civil war for promotional reasons?
    2. You schemed. Be honest Pastor Mark, you did not happen to be in town. You were in Long Beach… A trip of over 40 miles on one of America’s most congested freeways. You did not just happen to be in the neighborhood with a reporter and photographer. The only time I see scheming in the scriptures, it does not have positive connotations. Those that are associated with scheming are not ones with which we want to be aligning ourselves. But again, this is my interpretation of what was going on. Please correct me if I’m wrong. Maybe you always have a reporter and photographer with you.
So many people have asked me about the few minutes that we talked. I tell them about how nice you were…very cordial and gracious. It was a pleasant exchange about church planting, ministry and the last time you were in my homeland of Canada. While you were here, it was rather nice. There’s plenty that we do not agree upon, but that does not mean we have to throw away civility. When it was time for you to leave, I watched some of the staff of Grace Community Church walk back with you to your car, even offering to carry the box of books you brought. The box of books you returned to them, insisting they were a gift.  And I heard friendly conversation and even joking banter between you and the head of security.
Honestly, I and many others were impressed by how well you conducted yourself on campus, even though it seemed like you were pulling a Kanye West inspired move. That is why I was so shocked, when you drove off campus and immediately sent out this tweet:
Darren goes on to say:
I still am shocked at seeing my picture float around Facebook and the various Christian news outlets. I never realized my 15 minutes of fame would come with so much baggage attached. In all honesty, I walk away unscathed. I just have to put up with getting teased by friends and family over the fact that they’re seeing me everywhere online. However, I was not the brunt of a lie and I do hurt for my dear friend who you falsely accused in a public arena and presented in a way that is far from accurate. I cannot understand how you feel justified in presenting someone who was gracious to you, someone who offered to help you carry things, someone who treated you like a gentleman…as a villain. You threw this man under a bus as he was carrying your things.
Thankfully, his upright character is so well-known to those at Grace Community Church that most people were surprised to see him portrayed as such. This is a real man, one who acts like a man. He’s strong, noble and does his job as head of security with excellence. I have also watched him on numerous occasions, share the gospel passionately with those he is having to contain and discipline. I’ve seen him pleading with those he is working with, inviting them to come to church with him. More concerned for their souls, than for the harm they may inflict on the campus. Please, you have an opportunity to clear his name.
This is a pretty serious charge, but it certainly looks like a valid one from an eyewitness who clearly was not alone in what he observed.

For another interesting take on the actions of both Mark Driscoll and James MacDonald in showing up unannounced and uninvited to the Strange Fire Conference, Darren recommends this post.

Update 24 October 2013

Thanks to Marcia Wilwerding for posting a link to this video in the comments below:

That pretty much says it all.

Update 25 October 2013

In all fairness Mark Driscoll has responded to the above accusation in a post entitled See you in Seattle, Pastor John MacArthur? Here is the relevant portion:
The only difficult moments on my visit came during my interactions not with your pastoral staff, but with a few of the apparently staff security personnel. I had been handing out advance copies of my new book for free; the pastoral staff said I was welcome on campus. They were kind, and some of them even asked for photos and books, which I gave them and signed with a pen I borrowed from your son, Mark. He kindly lent it to me, we visited, and he too was very kind, very welcoming, and very gracious.However, there were two security guards who seemed to operate in a manner inconsistent with the permission I received from the pastoral staff. These two men took turns approaching me as I was talking with and praying for people, and things got confusing.
Security said I could not hand the books out, so I stopped. But people started helping themselves to the books that remained in the box, so security said the books had to be removed. One of the security guards said if I did not remove the books, he would “have to take it to the next level.” I asked him what that meant, curious, as his tone was different than the pastoral staff I had encountered. He admitted he did not know what the next level was. The other security guard then approached, saying the books had to be removed. He told me that they were taking them to put them in a Mustang, which they apparently thought was my vehicle. I did not know what Mustang they were referring to. In any case, it was obvious that my gift books were being removed.
It was at this point that I told the security guard that, since they were going to confiscate the books anyway, they could just keep them as a gift from me. Apparently, someone recorded the final words of this conversation on video, but nothing of the prior conversations that led up to it.
As Bible teachers, we both know that people often arrive at the wrong conclusion when they extract a line out of an ongoing discussion, ignoring the context, and then wrongly impugn someone’s character. I am guessing the security team and pastoral team were not entirely rowing in the same direction, and that security thought they were just doing their job.
This sounds reasonable at first glance, but then I again read Darren's eyewitness account and again watch the video footage, and it looks very clear to me that the security staff were not trying to "confiscate" Driscoll's books at all but were merely seeking to remove them in order to keep them from being handed out. And it was Driscoll himself who repeatedly insisted that they keep the books a as gift to the church. Why the repeated insistence unless he thought it wasn't their intention to keep the books? If Driscoll actually thought they were trying to confiscate the books, then why would there have been a need to repeatedly insist that they keep them? One only repeatedly insists that someone keep something as a gift if the person seems reluctant in some way to keep it, right? It just doesn't look good, does it?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Reminder - The Christmas Giveaway is Coming!

This is just a reminder to the blog's readers that, as I announced on September 23, this year the Reformed Baptist Blog would like to thank our readers by offering an opportunity to two of the blog's email subscribers to receive a free book for Christmas this year. Two of our readers will receive a free copy of Dr. Jeff Johnson's upcoming book The Kingdom of God: A Baptist Expression of Biblical and Covenant Theology when it becomes available, which we hope will be this December. We will keep you posted and let you know just as soon as possible. This book promises to be perhaps the definitive work to date on Covenant Theology from a Reformed Baptist perspective. You can read more about this publication here.

On December 15 I will draw from the addresses included in the email subscriber list from FeedBurner. So, if you want to have a chance to receive one of these books, then make sure you sign up as an email subscriber to the blog using the Subscribe in a reader link on the right panel of this page. And make sure you click the "Get Reformed Baptist Blog delivered by email" option. Current email subscribers are already in the running.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders (Matthew 7:24-27 Teaching Outline)

Introduction: The Sermon on the Mount, like most sermons today, has both an introduction and a conclusion. The introduction consists of the thought-provoking and heart-penetrating Beatitudes, but the conclusion consists of a simple illustration intended to drive home the crucial choice left to the hearers. And it shows us that we have been brought by Jesus to a potentially dangerous place as well. For we have become hearers of His teaching and – as hearers – we are now held responsible for what we have heard.

Puritan author Thomas Brooks, in his justly famous book entitled Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices, gives this warning in his preface “To the Reader”:
Know that it is not the knowing, nor the talking, nor the reading man – but the doing man, that at last will be found the happiest man. “If you know these things, blessed and happy are you if you DO them.” “Not everyone that says, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven – but he who DOES the will of my Father that is in heaven” (John 13:17, Matt. 7:21). Judas called Christ Lord, Lord; and yet betrayed him, and has gone to his place. Ah! how many Judases have we in these days, that kiss Christ, and yet betray Christ; that in their words profess him—but in their works deny him; that bow their knee to him, and yet in their hearts despise him; that call him Jesus, and yet will not obey him for their Lord.
Reader, if it is not strong upon your heart to practice what you read, to what end do you read? To increase your own condemnation? If your light and knowledge be not turned into practice, the more knowing a man you are, the more miserable a man you will be in the day of recompense; your light and knowledge will more torment you than all the devils in hell. Your knowledge will be that rod that will eternally lash you, and that scorpion that will forever bite you, and that worm that will everlastingly gnaw you; therefore read, and labor to know, that you may do – or else you are undone forever. 
Exposition – The Wise Builder: We will see in this passage that Jesus also gives us a grave warning, although – unlike Brooks – He chooses to end His discourse with a warning. And His warning comes in the form of a brief but poignant parable.
NKJ  Matthew 7:24-25 Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.
The word therefore points back in the context to the previous contrast between saying and doing and introduces the contrast here between hearing and doing. Just before and leading up to this parable, Jesus said:
NKJ  Matthew 7:20-23 Therefore by their fruits you will know them. 21 Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?” 23 And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!”
In these preceding instructions Jesus warned us about the danger of self-deception that makes us think that we can claim to believe yet have no corresponding fruit in our lives. Even so, in this parable Jesus is explaining that those who merely say that Jesus is Lord are self-deceived, but not due to the fact that they never heard the truth. They heard it alright, but it made no difference to them because they did not heed it!

When Jesus says that the man built his house on the rock and that his house was founded on the rock, He is implying and expecting His hearers to understand what He stated explicitly on another occasion when He used the same illustration:
NKJ  Luke 6:48 He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock.
So, when Jesus says the man built on the rock and that His house was founded on the rock, He is talking about the strong foundation of the house. And this foundation is deep in the ground. It is not immediately visible, and its depth and strength are not evident until it is battered by a storm and withstands it.

But what is the rock Jesus is talking about? What does it represent? The answer is found in verse 24, in Jesus' reference to “these sayings [words] of Mine.” The rock – the sure foundation – is the truth He brings. And Jesus intends a correspondence here between His own words and His reference to “the will of My Father” in verse 21:
NKJ  Matthew 7:21 Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.
So, those who say Jesus is Lord and do the Father's will are also those who hear Jesus' word and do it. And the Father's will and Jesus' words are revealed and preserved for us in the Bible. It is in the Bible where we find the source of truth upon which we must build our lives. It is in the Bible where we find Christ revealed. Thus the Lord Jesus ultimately directs us to the Scriptures as our sure foundation.

Exposition – The Foolish Builder: But the foolish man will not heed the words of our Lord Jesus, as He goes on to make clear in the second part of the parable:
NKJ Matthew 7:26-27 But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.
Again, a comparison with Jesus' use of this illustration elsewhere shows with certainty that the problem with this house is its lack of a proper foundation:
NKJ  Luke 6:49 But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently; and immediately it fell. And the ruin of that house was great.
Such a house has not been built upon the truth and will be destroyed when the storms come. This is true of those who encounter life's storms without this proper foundation, but it is especially true of those who encounter the ultimate storm of God's judgment. They shall fall … and great shall be their fall!

Application: This leads us to the application of the parable, and I would suggest that there are at least four ways in which we may apply this parable to our own lives:

1) Notice that the foundation is hidden until the storm comes. In fact, the two houses may even look the same in every way, but when the storm comes it will reveal the foundation ... and the foundation is all the difference!

Now, Jesus is speaking in a general way here, so He may have a broad application of the analogy in mind. In this case, the storm probably stands for difficulties, trials, or temptations that will come upon those who profess faith in Christ. In fact, the context would indicate temptations to follow false teachers as one possibility. If taken in this general way, this reminds me of another analogy Jesus used when He told the parable of the four kinds of soil. He described the three bad kinds of soil this way:
NKJ  Matthew 13:19-23 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside. 20 But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. 22 Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful.
When the storms of life hit you, what kind of soil do they reveal you to be? Or, to get back to the analogy in this passage, what kind of foundation do they reveal? When difficulties and temptations come our way, do we begin to collapse under the pressure, or do we withstand such storms?

2) Also, if understood in this more general way, it is important to notice that Christians are not spared from storms. They are only assured that they will withstand them because they have built their lives on a sure foundation. As the Lord Jesus taught on another occasion, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). And when we withstand the storms of life in this world, the foundation upon which we have built will be evident to all.

3) But there is another, more specific application Jesus may be thinking about in this parable, namely that the ultimate storm we will all face is that of God's judgment. Certainly the future judgment is on Jesus' mind in this passage (recall again verses 21-23). If so, it is not unusual that He would envision the future judgment as a storm, because this is a familiar Old Testament analogy. For example:
NKJ  Ezekiel 13:9-14 My hand will be against the prophets who envision futility and who divine lies; they shall not be in the assembly of My people, nor be written in the record of the house of Israel, nor shall they enter into the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord GOD. 10 Because, indeed, because they have seduced My people, saying, “Peace!” when there is no peace – and one builds a wall, and they plaster it with untempered mortar – 11 say to those who plaster it with untempered mortar, that it will fall. There will be flooding rain, and you, O great hailstones, shall fall; and a stormy wind shall tear it down. 12 Surely, when the wall has fallen, will it not be said to you, “Where is the mortar with which you plastered it?” 13 Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “I will cause a stormy wind to break forth in My fury; and there shall be a flooding rain in My anger, and great hailstones in fury to consume it. 14 So I will break down the wall you have plastered with untempered mortar, and bring it down to the ground, so that its foundation will be uncovered; it will fall, and you shall be consumed in the midst of it. Then you shall know that I am the LORD.”
When the ultimate storm of God's judgment comes upon you, what kind of foundation will be revealed? Will your life be seen to be built upon Christ through faith?

[Perhaps see also 1 Corinthians 3:9-15 about the future judgment for believers. Some Christians will be left with nothing but a foundation!]

4) In addition, the storms of this life as well as the ultimate storm of God's judgment will – as we have seen in the preceding context – expose the self-deception of those who call Jesus “Lord,” but who do not do the Lord's will. In the same way, these storms will reveal the self-deception of those who hear His word and do not do it. The Apostle James also wrote about such self-deception:
NKJ  James 1:22-25 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.
Jesus, and James after Him, are warning us about such storms ahead of time, so that we will be wise builders now and build our lives on the truth. And if it smarts … if it makes us uncomfortable … then perhaps we should each ask ourselves this question: Isn't it better to have our self-deception revealed now – even if by many terrible and difficult storms of life – than in the future judgment? After all, now is the time we can do something about it! There will be no second chance beyond this life. As the author of Hebrews says, “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27).

Conclusion: As John Stott has aptly reminded us concerning this parable:
In applying this teaching to ourselves, we need to consider that the Bible is a dangerous book to read, and that the church is a dangerous society to join. For in reading the Bible we hear the words of Christ, and in joining the church we say we believe in Christ. As a result, we belong to the company described by Jesus as both hearing his teaching and calling him Lord. Our membership therefore lays upon us the serious responsibility of ensuring that what we know and what we say is translated into what we do. (The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, p. 210, emphasis mine.]
Paul said to the Corinthians:
NKJ  1 Corinthians 3:11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
Is Christ the foundation of your life? If so, it will show in the way you live your life! It will show that you are trusting the Lord as the true builder of your house:
NKJ  Psalm 127:1a Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it ….
It is only by God's grace and through His power that we can build our lives on a solid foundation!