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broken_glassA brother and I were making our way through a street in our district some years back. We came up to a black fellow in his 30’s as he was standing outside his apartment complex. We struck up a conversation and spoke to him about God, the soul, and the judgment to come. Out of nowhere – or so it seemed to us – this fellow broke down and wept. He confessed a deep sense of his sin, especially his sinful and violent anger. It was very touching and a more hopeful sign that God was not done with this sinner and was striving with him by His Spirit then and there.

He was soon in church, under the preaching of the Word, law and Gospel. He came with his girlfriend (something of a common law wife?) and two special children. Around that time, our family visited them in their apartment. We opened God’s Word, spoke with them about the “one thing needful,” and prayed with them. I came back frequently, as their door was always open.

Charlene was very engaged, hopeful that we could be of help to Tyrone. She explained that he would be gentle as a lamb when sober and was a very hard worker. But when he drank, the storm broke loose. He could be abusive and had been in and out of jail. It became clear to me that Tyrone had had a very troubled childhood and tried to drown his painful memories in drink. During this time, he was holding down a construction job and seemed to manage well enough. But eventually the wheels came off. Charlene had to call the police on him in one drunken outburst, and he ran. He was caught and thrown in jail.

Eventually, Charlene had enough. She left with the children and went to New York. Tyrone drifted along. Occasionally I’d reach out to him, or he’d call me. Thankfully his number never dropped, or I might have lost him for good. I learned that he found another girlfriend and began living with her. She called me one day a few months ago to tell me that he was in jail again, so I went and visited him. I spoke frankly with him about his soul and His need to get right with God through Christ.

This last Saturday, he was released. I went to visit and pray with him that night, then took him to church in the morning. I decided to break with my series in Exodus that Lord’s day to deliver a message that would be clearer for him, so I preached on the Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl of Great Price. O that the Father would savingly draw this poor prodigal to His Son and begin to heal all the brokenness that sin and Satan have wrought!

More about RPM.

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old-door-knocker“Behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it” (Rev. 3:8).

I do door-to-door evangelism and actually believe in it – in 2018. In making that admission, I suppose I should feel like Sarah Sanders trying to tap-dance around a newly minted presidential tweet. But I simply don’t.

I’m not a JW or a Mormon. Nor am I a Fundamentalist Baptist. I’m a confessional Presbyterian, relatively well educated, and (somewhat) comfortably middle-class. So why embrace what many Reformed and evangelicals consider pointless at best and counterproductive at worst?

Since I was converted back in the early 90s, I’ve practiced a number of methods of evangelism. I do not consider any one of them ‘the’ silver-bullet, nor do I think that door-to-door is always and in every case the most ideal method. But for the last thirteen years, I’ve engaged in regular, door-to-door evangelism as key part of my overall outreach effort. I do not presume to have the final answer on all questions, nor can I boast impressive success. Do I do this perfectly? Not at all. I’m always going to be on a learning curve. And consequently, I’m open to other suggestions and critiques. But after these many years and after many, many discouragements, I still keep coming back. I still plod and hope.

Here are a number of reasons why I believe it’s worth a serious re-think.
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On Saturday, made some more progress in my S. Providence district. Hoping to get it finished before it gets too cold.

Balcom St. has a lot of history for me. It was there I met a Liberian who seemed like he was just waiting for a fisher of men to come after him. In the same building now is a refugee family of the Karen tribe from Southeast Asia. One of the young Liberians in our church had invited the daughter, a good friend of hers, to church some time back and came for a number of weeks. And a Congolese family that live next door, very dear Christian people, worshipped with us regularly for some nine months. They are living stones amid the rubble of sin and misery.

Prayer_in_Cairo_1865Saturday was no disappointment. Above our Congolese friends is a small Somali family. The young man, a Muslim, was very polite and listened to the Gospel of the “Lamb of God” who takes away the sin of the world. Above them we met a single Iraqi woman, also Muslim, complete with prayer carpet and ornately decorated Qu’ran lying out. She was clearly needy, in more ways than one. A lonely soul who needed friends, and of course, the Friend who sticks closer than a brother. We spoke of the story of Joseph (“Yousef” as she recalled from the Qu’ran), and how he was lonely and abandoned, yet not abandoned by God. And we shared that he was a picture of the Christ to come, who would be abandoned by his friends that He might die and redeem them. We got her contact information and hope to follow up with her on some practical levels – and hopefully she continues to be open to the Gospel.

Please pray for our new Muslim friends. Pray that God would open their hearts to Jesus, the True Asylum from those on the run.

Please also pray for a special evangelistic meeting we are holding within walking distance of their homes on Nov. 3. It will be held in English with Spanish translation.

More about RPM.

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Folks, I recently just made a new category for posts I’ve personally written over the years, interspersed among all the others that tend to be quotes from others (sometimes plus short commentary).  The tag is “Authored by Blogger.”  I sure hope those updates didn’t turn into a barrage of WP updates in your inbox.  If so, I humbly apologize!

If someone could let me know if that happens every time I update a post, I would welcome that.

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I am a conservative Christian. I also homeschool. I head to the range every month or so. Not only that, but I’m a Calvinist, a psalm-singer, and to boot, someone who believes that the state has an obligation to embrace and support Christianity. So really, I’m not your mainstream, happy-clappy evangelical. For most, I would be just to the right of Attila the Hun. I’m in a subculture of a subculture of a subculture.

And yet, I am increasingly concerned about how reactionary and polarizing folks like me can be. We often tend to be overly suspicious of anyone in government, education, or any institution that we feel encroaches on our freedoms. We can indulge in conspiratorialism, thinking that every government official or educator or doctor has made a self-conscious Faustian bargain with the Devil and is actively plotting our destruction. And then we respond accordingly.

I am concerned about all of this for two reasons. First, ethically, we have a responsibility to “honor all men” and make the Gospel we represent as winsome as possible. Our “light should so shine before men” that they might see our “good works and glorify our Father which is in heaven.” Yes, we must at times offend, but only if it is for “righteousness’ sake.” Yes, we must stand our ground when sacred truth is at stake. But we must do it only when necessary and in a manner that involves no personal offense. Otherwise, we should, “as far as it lies within us, be at peace with all men.”

Second, I have very practical concerns as well. The more we are hyper-suspicious, unreasonable, and just downright cantankerous, the more we court the overreaction of those in positions of power. Tit for tat. “Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall therein: and he that rolleth a stone, it will return upon him.” If we are proud and stubborn as Christians, how much more will the graceless respond in kind? If we want to preserve our freedoms, we should act worthy of them and not bait the enemy. “For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently?” You’re just reaping what you’ve sown, says Peter.

I think we need to re-tune our theology and ethics here, in order to re-tune our practice. The following points I think are worth bearing in mind.

First, total depravity has been checked – sometimes very significantly – by common grace. To be sure, “there is none righteous, no not one.” And “the carnal mind is enmity against God, and is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” But unconverted people can be restrained, sometimes greatly. There is a real sense in which we can speak about ‘good pagans.’ I know some really good pagans! They are decent people. Some of them are more decent than some Christians I know. Consequently, there are some decent liberal Democrats, some decent members of the National Education Association, some decent doctors, lawyers, psychiatrists and social workers. Many of them mean well and want to do good, at least on a human level. We ought to realize this and keep it in mind.

Second, the law of love dictates that we assume the best of people, including non-Christians. Love “beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.” Our ethical responsibility is not suspended the moment we leave the church. Our unconverted neighbors – including government officials, educators, and doctors – are innocent until proven guilty. Would we want them to treat us with suspicion upon no clear, justifiable grounds? Even so, let us do unto them as we would have them do unto us. And all the while, let us not forget simple courtesy. “Be ye courteous.”

Third, two wrongs do not make a right. If someone does us wrong – if they give us a hard time for our homeschooling curriculum or our decisions on immunizations – then let us be very careful not to “repay evil with evil.” Rather, our Master tells us, “Bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you.” We can all be tempted to get bitter and retaliate when we are mistreated. But it is not the will of our good and gracious Father, and it will usually only make matters worse.

Fourth, in God’s world, personal liberty must be counter-balanced with social responsibility. We owe it to our society (and yes, to our government!), to educate our children to the best of our abilities. They have a vested interest, as do we, in their academic success. If we turn out illiterates, this is not good for the economy or the tax revenues. It is just plain bad policy to say, let folks do what they will with their children. Now, mind you, I’m hardly advocating statism here. I really don’t want local school officials showing up on my doorstep to scour our textbooks and school records. Yet if they make reasonable requests – or even requirements – let us make sure that they are in fact unreasonable before we just tell them to take a hike.

And my doctor and the rest of society has a vested interest in my health. If I only eat fatty foods and exercise once every two decades, this is bad for me and for others. And if a whole demographic is just like me, then it bodes ill for all. If my mental health deteriorates and I become a risk to myself or others, yes, others have a vested interest in helping me before the unthinkable comes to pass.

Don’t misunderstand. I’m not promoting a lemming-like acceptance of conventional wisdom or the judgments of the establishment.  There’s a healthy place for critique.  Nor am I suggesting we roll over and play dead when someone oversteps their bounds. I’m all for insisting on personal rights, especially when it concerns the well being of my family. We can and may involve others to help protect those rights. But we must at once learn how to be actually in the world and yet not of it, as well as to be “angry and sin not.”

Let’s be careful to avoid the bunker mentality. Let’s remember that we represent God and Christ before a perishing world of lost and blinded sinners. Let’s remember that we were just like them, whistling down the broad path on the way to destruction. And let’s make very sure that if we cross them, we do it for the Lord’s sake and not for our own agendas. And then we can live with quiet conscience in peace or persecution. “And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good? But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; but sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.”

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The following is especially written for young men.  It’s advice I hope to give to my own son when he comes of age.  But of course, there are principles that carry over for females as well.

* * *

1. It is billus-08etter to marry than to burn. If you are not called to be celibate, be honest with yourself (Matt. 19:12, 1 Cor. 7:9). Then make three things your full-time job, in this order. First, become outwardly ready. If you’re miles away from financial readiness, don’t waste time and energy by toying with what you can’t yet have. Yet, don’t wait for a perfect readiness that may never come, or you may tempt yourself. Second, seriously begin finding a suitable partner. Finally, get married as soon as reasonably possible. Don’t prolong things unnecessarily. This is a recipe for trouble.

2. Do not be unequally yoked. This means that you ought to seek a sincere, orthodox Christian, above all (1 Cor. 7:39, 2 Cor. 6:14). Then after this non-negotiable, seek one of relatively the same spiritual maturity, of relatively the same confessional and practical convictions, and of relatively the same outward circumstances – age, appearance, socio-economic background, etc. Race, however, should not be a factor. As a rule, the better the match, the better the marriage. The more mismatched, the more occasions for problems down the road.

3. Keep perspective on attraction. Don’t discount attraction or feel unholy for desiring it – God made it (Gen. 24:16, Prov. 30:18, 19). But don’t let it override your better judgment, as the flesh can make it a snare (Judg. 14:3). Give greater weight to piety than to appearances (1 Sam. 16:7, Prov. 11:22, 31:10-31, 1 Pet. 3:3, 4). Also keep in mind that beauty is somewhat subjective. It is multi-faceted, and some aspects can take time to discover and appreciate. Marriage is but the beginning of a journey in discovering a partner’s beauty – and seeing beyond imperfections. Last, be aware of the influence of our culture’s paradigms on your remaining corruption. It wants to condition your ideals, and you must manfully resist it (Rom. 12:1, 2).

4. Navigate safely to shore. In terms of process, start with friendships in safe contexts. You can always make friends, but you should never break hearts if you can help it. Reserve your affections (as far as possible) for after engagement and your body for after marriage (1 Cor. 6:18, 2 Tim. 2:22).

5. Weigh the whole package. Look at pros and cons as impartially and prayerfully as you can. Be an intelligent reader of providence. Weigh such things as proximity, ‘availability,’ ‘attainability,’ personalities, the interest you sense or don’t sense, the in-law advantages and disadvantages, church situations, the prospect’s outlook on important life-issues, such as family, career, education, etc., and the time investment necessary in working through all this. Remember #1 and that time is ticking.

6. Ask advice and help from your parents and trusted friends – and pray. There is wisdom in a multitude of counselors. They will often give you helpful perspective – and perhaps help you make connections. But don’t ever forget to bring this all before the Lord. All answers are with Him (Jas. 1:5). “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he shall give you the desires of your heart.”

7. Never give your ‘all’ to anyone but Jesus, and love Him above anyone else. He is the best match, and will never disappoint. And remember that the married state is temporary, while heaven is for eternity (1 Cor. 7:29-31).

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It’s Christmas Eve, and we’re among the very precious few nowadays who aren’t doing anything special. Though we are committed Christians, we don’t observe this holiday – though we love and embrace all sincere Christians who celebrate the God who entered our world of sin and misery through a virgin’s womb. Yet, unlike the masses both of saints and seculars, for us this is just another Monday. And tomorrow is just another Tuesday.

Our main reason is quite simple. We believe that all religious devotion ought to be done when and only when God commands it. Standing in the great legacy of the Protestant Reformation, we confess that “the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by Himself, and so limited by His own revealed will, that He may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men …not prescribed in holy Scripture” (Westminster Confession of Faith 21.1). God has made Himself patently clear on this point. We may not invent our worship after our whim (Col. 2:23, Matt. 15:9). And we may certainly not take our cues from the darkened heathen (Deut. 12:29-31). Our watchword in worship is God’s Word. Full stop. “What thing soever I command I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it” (Deut. 12:32).

On all hands, Christmas fails the test. Nowhere in Scripture is it appointed. We don’t even know the day of our Lord’s birth. Baptism was appointed. The Lord’s Supper was appointed. And the Lord’s Day, the Christian Sabbath, was clearly appointed as well. But not the slightest hint of Christmas may be drawn from the sacred page. For this, we must turn to subsequent, post-apostolic history. To the invention of men. And dig far enough below the topsoil, and you’ll eventually hit the firm substratum of unmixed paganism. Read any historians, secular or sacred. The day, however lovely, romantic, or ostensibly ‘Christian,’ is “not of heaven, but of men.”

So that’s the Cliff Notes version of why we choose to be the odd-ducks. And while others we love and respect observe it civilly at home, we’ve elected just to bypass the whole thing. First, I think the ecclesiastical-civil distinction is too nuanced for my children to grasp. Kwissmiss is Kwissmiss. But further, I think false worship often gets into the church through the home. Folk religion has a nasty way of creeping in the back door (Gen. 31:30, 34; Gen. 35:1-4).  And from there to public worship.

But for me, there’s a more subjective reason. I know, I know.  Subjectivity, on my own view, is the very culprit.  It’s precisely because people dream of a white Christmas, precisely because they are entranced by visions of dancing sugar plums that the day is such a force to be reckoned with. Many won’t even consider arguments like the one above because sentiment so controls them. And I don’t say that as one who is immune from all the trappings. Christmas was a part of my very American boyhood. To this day, the decision not to celebrate is a decision to suppress my own feelings.

And yet at the same time, I have to admit that my opposition to Christmas is in part the fruit of my subjectivity.  Follow me here.

Jesus is everything to me. And yes, the Jesus of the manger. The Jesus who received the visit from the wise men. The Jesus of Luke 1 & 2. I am His and He is mine. And without Him, I am nothing.

And because Jesus is everything to me, Christianity – its doctrine and its worship – is everything to me as well. But I cannot believe that Jesus is everything or that Christianity is everything if it is in whole or in part the product of man.

If I should peel back the layers and find the unreal in my blessed Savior or in the dogma of His inspired apostles, I would come face to face with the unthinkable. I shudder even to type that sentence, to be frank. The hypothetical cannot even be hypothetical. I would sooner deny my own existence than deny the total authenticity of Jesus. If He is false, or the drama of redemptive history in which He played the main part, is compromised by myth, I am lost and undone!  “If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; and ye are yet in your sins” (1 Cor. 15:6, 7). No, I must stand with Peter on the petrine Rock. “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And “we have” most certainly “not followed cunningly devised fables” (2 Pet. 1:16).

Christmas, however, arises neither from our Lord nor His apostles. Try as one might, it lacks their sanction. Yet it presumes to be radically essential to the very existence of Christianity in the world. Can you, reader, imagine Christianity without Christmas? If you can, you’re an odd duck like me. But in all likelihood, you aren’t.

Yet if it is so radically essential and at the same time is on all hands the result of heathenism and churchly capitulation, then Christianity requires something un-Christian to be complete. And Jesus, then, requires something un-Christian to be complete. Why didn’t Jesus think of Christmas, if Christmas is so grand, and so very Christian? Jesus then becomes dependent on the mind of man. Man must contribute. Man must add. But what can He add to Truth but falsehood? What can He give to the Man who has everything? His sin, his misery, his vanity.

Maybe this strikes you as overly fine and needlessly complex. I will let the reader judge for himself. All I can do, though, is give my plain and honest testimony. As I see it – or rather, as I deeply feel it – Christmas is tells the world that Christianity is defective and needs supplementation. Or worse, it needs improvement or even rehabilitation.  From below.

I, for one, will stay on side of Paul. “What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols” (2 Cor. 6:14-16)?  I’ll stay there first because I am convinced it’s objectively right. But it’s also subjectively safe.

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