October, 2005

A Basket of Figs

Dedicated to the idea that the decree makes the difference.  Jeremiah 24:2,3



He Makes Me So Mad!

Not Truly Reformed

It Says What It Says

A Good Way to Lose a Hand


“He Makes Me So Mad!”


“He knows how to reach out and hook your anger.”


The kid did it on purpose, of course.  In seeing the teacher lose his temper the child had won a sort of a victory.


It was the same in all his classes.  Every teacher had been a victim and had sent the boy to the office.  He spent a good bit of time sitting, waiting for the counselor to talk to him.  He would serve his in-school or out-of-school suspension, and would behave for a while, but the game was just too much fun for him.  The boy was really good at what he did and even some of the old, experienced teachers had taken the bait.


We had a meeting to try to find out what to do to do.  The school counselor was a wise and seasoned man, who had spent a life working with teen-agers.   It was he who said, “He knows how to reach out and hook your anger.”


Over the course of many years, I knew several students like that.  Some of them grew up to be men who still played the childish game.  Punishment did little to change their behavior, for punishment was just the price they paid for gaining a little victory over the teacher.   They had learned the game at home, of course, and often could play their parents like a fiddle.


The temptation, of course, was to blame the kid.  Some teachers did this and did not understand another very important principle, “No one can make you angry.  You give them permission to do so.”


This writer is not one who believes that anger in itself is evil, but like every other human trait it is more often than not used for evil.   “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:” (Eph 4:26 AV), is what the apostle said.  Anger is to be under control.  It is to be the servant of the soul, not it’s master.


“God is angry with the wicked every day” (Ps 7:11 AV), but He is never out of control.  In a classic passage in Isaiah 30 the wrath of God is compared to a wall that is swelling out and ready to fall upon the ungodly.  When it comes none will escape and all their devices will come to nothing {Isaiah 30:1-18),  He gives firm assurances that none of the ungodly will escape His wrath.


But God has other things to do besides punishing the ungodly.  He will not allow the ungodly to turn Him aside from His works of compassion and grace:  “And therefore will the LORD wait, that he may be gracious unto you, and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the LORD is a God of judgment: blessed are all they that wait for him.” (Isa 30:18 AV)


Patience is the greatest strength of all, for in patience we do not allow the frustration and temptations of life to turn us aside from the work of godliness which is glorifying God and enjoying Him forever.


How great is that wonderful power of God which gives Him power over Himself!  He does not throw a tizzy fit over every act of ungodliness and wickedness that He sees.  If He regarded iniquity, who would stand? [Ps. 130:l3].  The Day of Judgment will come; the ungodly will drink of His undiluted wrath in that day [Rev. 14:10], but until then He is saving those who believe on Christ, restraining evil, and working all things to the good of those who trust in Him.


God keeps Himself in control.  We should, too.



Not Truly Reformed


Sometimes the accusation is just.  Words are important and the word “Reformed” should carry as a minimum the great principles of the Reformation that have been set down in the great creeds of the Reformation.  People should should not be allowed to call themselves something they are not.  It is possible to deny these great truths by redefining and inserting alien doctrines that can pull down the whole edifice.  The wolf comes in sheep’s clothing and many people want to use the label “Reformed” in order to gain access to the flock for other purposes that feeding the flock.  They want to feed themselves.


But sometimes it is just silly.  It is the ultimate pejorative in some circles, and is meant to discredit enemies.  People are said to be unreformed for not having two services on Sunday or for not observing the Lord’s Supper according to some tradition.  In these cases being “unreformed” has nothing to do with the great creeds and their lofty doctrines, but with some tradition that has nothing biblical about it.


It Says What It Says


The Bible says what it says.  It doesn’t say what the church sometimes says it says.  It doesn’t say what the some preachers say it says.  It doesn’t even say what some seminary professors say it says.  It doesn’t say what many church councils have said it says.


At the Council of Worms, Luther said, “My conscience is bound to the word of God….” Most, if not all of the learned churchmen there would have agreed with him, for all believed that the ultimate authority was in the Scripture and the words of the Apostles.  Rome still feels compelled to quote Scripture for authority; they even use the Scriptures to try to prove that the traditions of the church are authoritative.  They just believed that the church alone had the right to tell Martin Luther what the Scripture meant.


The church, the councils, the preachers, the seminary professors—if they are faithful—say what the Bible says.  That is, they are confessors of what it says, but they are not the definers of its message.  Its message condemns the church, the councils, the preachers, and the seminary professors if they do not confess its message faithfully.  Men do not judge the Scriptures; the Scriptures judge the men.


Who is to decide whether the church, the councils, the preachers, the seminary professors are right in what they say the Bible says?  Ultimately each man in the pew must decide.  He must vote with his heart and his feet.  Many a denomination has gone down in unbelief and error because of the unwillingness of the man in the pew to hold his leaders accountable to the Scriptures.  The Bible does not belong to the officers alone.


Why is this important?  It is important because the Holy Spirit dwells in the heart of every true believer, and it is He who bears witness with their Spirit that they are sons of God.  If they do not have the Spirit of God, then they do not belong to God, no matter what external connection they have to the church or covenant.  This is clear from Romans 8:15-17. 


The personal indwelling of God’s Spirit is the foundation of the Reformational principle of the priesthood of the believer.  Every person who has faith in God is a temple of the Holy Spirit—a temple of God—and his heart is an altar upon which the sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving are offered unto God.  As such, he is a living stone, placed in the spiritual temple of God, which is the church of the living God.  [1 Peter 2:5 among others].


This means that Christians are to read and understand the Bible for themselves.  The fact that so few Christians read the Bible nowadays, and that so few of them are familiar with even the basic teachings of the Bible is a tragedy and a scandal.  They flock to churches that make them feel good, that have a beat in the music, and they raise their hands to heaven and roll their eyes in pretended devotion and passion, but they know so very little of the teachings of the Bible.


Bible translations are dumbed down so that pre-teen girls—who are very interested in spiritual things, as everyone knows—can connect with God.  Hymns are dumbed down—who knows what “Here I raise mine Ebenezer” means nowadays? What is a Christian’s panoply?  Who wants to think?


What does this matter?   It matters a great deal because if a kind of thinking prevails in the church, then it will also prevail in the state and society.  If individual Christians submit their understanding of Scripture to “experts,” then other “experts” will interpret for them their constitutional rights.   Jesus said that Christians are the salt of the earth.  What they think and do affects everything.


The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States.  As such, its words mean what they say.   The tragedy of the last century in the United States is that self-indulgent American citizens have lain supinely on their backs [there is no other way to lie supinely] and allowed nine people on the U. S. Supreme Court to tell them what their constitution says.  They have allowed Nine Corrupt Old Men and Old Women to change the very foundation of their country and change the very moral and spiritual foundation of the country.


Where does the Constitution say that religion is to be kept out of the government?  Where does it speak of abortion?  Where does it say that homosexuality is an o.k. lifestyle?  Where does it say that every man has a right for his opinion to be heard?  Free speech is a right, but no one has a right to make people listen to him.


But if the Bible does not say what it says, then how can men be expected to think that the laws say what they say.



A Good Way to Lose a Hand


“He that passeth by, and meddleth with strife belonging not to him, is like one that taketh a dog by the ears.” (Pr 26:17 AV)


The Bible says that we are not to be meddlers in other people’s affairs.  “It is an honor for a man to cease from strife: but every fool will be meddling.” (Pr 20:3 AV)


God has not sent Christians into the world to be Little Miss Fixits.  Most of us have enough to do to keep our ship above water without involving ourselves in meddling with others.


This is not to mean that we do not let our light shine.  That is another matter and involves the mercy and grace of God in Jesus Christ.  It is easy to get that mixed up with other things like tofu being better for you than red meat.  In fact, Jesus said that the children of the world are often wiser in their generations than the children of light.  It might be good for us to know what that means.


It might be a rather dangerous thing to take a dog by the ear.  One of my mother’s brothers lived as a mountain man in Southern Oregon.  He had a pack of hounds.  I suspect that it would not have been a good idea to grab one of them by the ear.  I know my uncle didn’t.  He still had both hands when he passed away some years ago.


A person shouldn’t boast in his “sufferings” if they come because of meddling.  “But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or [as] an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters.” (1Pe 4:15 AV)  It is a good thing to suffer for Christ’s sake, but that is not to be confused with criminal misconduct in interfering with the lives of others.  It is worthy to note that being a busybody is in the list with murder, thievery, and other evil.


Jesus set us a good example as always.  One time someone asked him, “Master, speak to my bother that he divide the inheritance with me.”


“Who made me a ruler and divider over you?” [Luke 12:13,14], was the response of the Lord.  He did not come to establish civil government.  There were and are many proper courts that lawsuits could be initiated to settle such matters.


If Jesus knew what the scope and limits of His mission was, It is good to remind ministers, elders, deacons, and schoolteachers that they are not to be meddlers in other people’s affairs.  Just as women are reminded not to be busybodies and run from house to house, neither is anyone else.  One of the problems of the modern day is that regular people are busy going to work, taking care of their families, repairing their houses and mowing their lawns.  Public service is left to people who don’t have any real work to do and so they become meddlers in peoples’ affairs.  They become protectors of bugs, grasses, and owls.  They do this from their penthouses in New York City or some other blue state, of course.


Matters involving crimes against the church or that would disrupt the order and peace of the church are legitimate causes for ministers, elders, and deacons.   Most Americans see the reason for these things, but they will tell the bishop to butt out if he becomes too intrusive.  In fact, they may tell him to butt out because he is bishop.  We fought a War for Independence because of this.


As far as school teachers go,  most of us endured “school-marms” in school.  Do they still have these?  We were told to sit down, be still, and what to do.  I, for one, got a good grade school education, for which I am grateful for people like Mrs. Burgess, Mrs. Thornton, and Mrs. Aftring.  But I gladly left them in grade school and don’t need them any more to tell me to sit down, be still, and what to do every day.  A grown up won’t tolerate it.


One of the complaints of the American colonies against King George III was this statement in the Declaration of Independence:  “He hath sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.”


I suspect it would be a good idea to post Proverbs 26:17 in the halls of Congress and in the state legislatures and perhaps in some synods.   Maybe we could slip it into Congress while they are arguing about the Ten Commandments.



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