I’ve recently begun reading Baxter’s monumental “A Christian Directory, Or A Sum Of Practical Theology And Cases Of Consience.” In this post I provide a quotation of a brief section in which he next lays out the road map of spiritual growth. He describes the means God gives and we must use to progress spiritually. I hope it will be a help to you, and may the Lord provide you with each of these means and the grace of His Spirit to use them cheerfully and constantly!Read More
“...Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15-16
If you aren't the victim, you are the perpetrator. Or so they say.
What is it with kids (men, women, actual kids, and uniquely-self-identified individuals) these days? Well, sociologists Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning say that we are in the midst of a transition of moral cultures, from a society that used to be honor based, then was dignity based, to one which is victim based.
In an honor-based society, people were obligated to maintain their reputation through direct, forceful responses to insults or slights. Think duels and such. In a dignity based culture, people maintain their dignity by ignoring insults and slights, “rising above them” and then using the force of government or other authorities to step in if things get crazy. But in a victimhood culture, the first one to cross the victimhood finish line wins! Slights and insults are to be uncovered, their naked wickedness publicly exposed and then assaulted through “empowered victims” who “are given a voice” and “a seat at the table” where they can use power to eradicate “systemic injustices.”
The implications for educational environments are already being seen. During my first undergraduate and graduate studies (1993-2001), I did not experience this approach. I reentered the education environment in 2008 for graduate studies in nursing, and I’m working on my second nursing degree now (update: finished in 2016! Now I’m a nurse practitioner in family medicine—Whoop!). At both a major private university and two public universities, I have personally witnessed the massive inroads this way of thinking has made. “Safe spaces” are being created for the student who is “triggered” by an “uncomfortable discussion.” Special educational plans are being developed for students individually, so that their special specialness is never slighted and always celebrated. Aggrievement processes and sensitivity discussions occupy a large percentage of lecture content. And “I don’t feel safe” isn’t about being mugged or raped, it’s about being “attacked” verbally, which sometimes means simply overhearing something you don’t like.
As others have noted, a victimhood culture creates perpetual conflict: drama, inefficiency, perpetual discussion and litigation.
Where does this leave us as Christians? Here are a few modest proposals for navigating this new cultural morass.
As people around us (and we ourselves) are influenced by this way of thinking, notice it, discern when it is happening, and watch your step. Perpetual fighting, visits to HR, social media shaming, and lawsuits are in your future. So pay attention, think, be careful: “The wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way, but the folly of fools is deceiving.” Proverbs 14:8
Don’t let this nonsense infiltrate the church.
I have already begun to witness both within the churches and its governments the sad drift toward this approach. Is the aggrieved to be listened to more because he or she (or ze?) is more “hurt” than the one they accuse? Are we to parse the words of others to find hidden oppressive meanings and subtle “attacks” against us or whomever we are choosing to “give a voice?” Do we foster a “brokenness” culture in our churches where being a “beautiful mess” is lauded? Unless we see that this victimhood culture approach is a substitute for biblical living, we will begin to co-opt this foolish way in our lives and congregations.
Follow the Ten Commandments.
“The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul” Psalm 19:7 The way of wisdom is expressed perfectly in God’s law, and it is a light to our feet so we will sufficiently know how to live in this world. The days are evil, but the way of the righteous will prosper.
How do the Ten Commandments provide an alternative to the victimhood culture? Primarily they do this by rightly orienting all of our relationships under the saving kingship of the Triune God. Because He is our Savior in Christ, we now have the true and living God over us as our only “end game.” Our finish line is not dominance over others, by the means honor cultures, dignity cultures, or victimhood cultures offer. Our finish line is the full maturity of the complete man in Jesus Christ. The Ten Commandments lived out in faith, hope, and love point the way forward. If we believe this and are buoyed up in hope by God’s promises given to that way of life, we will navigate this cultural change just fine.
(originally posted at Torrey Gazette November 2015)
Over the past 15 years, I have seen various men and women leave Reformed churches. Sometimes they move to Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy. Other times they head for a more vanilla, antinomian, evangelical church. And sometimes they have left the faith altogether. Of course, this is anecdotal, but several things have stuck out about these conversionsRead More
You don't like where you live? What you have? How you look? Wishing you could have your best life now? God's surprising prescription is godliness with contentment.Read More
"A child of the covenant has died. The hearts of the parents are bleeding and bid fair to break. Their pastor seeks to console them. What shall he say?" - KuiperRead More
If Abraham diligently teaches his children the way of the Lord, then the Lord will bring upon Abraham and his descendants the things which he has promised them.Read More
Precious is the blood that healed us;
Perfect is the grace that sealed us;
Strong the hand stretched out to shield us;
All must be well.
--Mary Bowley PetersRead More
It’s not enough for the peoples of the earth to simply know the hand of the Lord is mighty. Each generation of the Church should ask “What do you mean by this service?” (Ex 12:26), and each member of the Church should live so that unbelievers will ask it as well. Through the memorials of our worship services, we pray all peoples will come to know that the hand of the Lord is mighty to save.Read More
If we are to glory in our weakness, as Paul says, let it be because this is our desire.Read More
"Church discipline is a warning of the end of the age before the end of the age." - Pastor Peter VanDoodewaardRead More
“The rich, equally with the poor, should remember that none of the things which they have will do them good, unless God grant them the use of them” - John CalvinRead More
Now we tack on "God's Promises are True" and the little sinners in our family smile.Read More
By sight, today seems like just another day, and so we imagine tomorrow is too. But faith in God's promise makes the heart long for tomorrow, the day of light and gladness.Read More
Numbers 13-14 contains the history of God’s people being given over to His fatherly judgement after turning away in unbelief from a difficult obedience. In my first post I pointed out that they had sadly failed the test before they started: the recon team failed to obey in faith Moses’ command to “be of good courage.” Their timidity and doubts spread rapidly among the congregation, and only Caleb had the faith to stand up and silence the revolt against God’s Word and His established church government.
In this post I’m hoping to dig deeper and press some applications to our consciences before we move on farther in the story.
We all know the temptation Israel fell under, and if honest, we know the experience of such a failure (known in the Bible as sin, wickedness, unbelief, and other non-PC things that offend the tenderhearted.) Like Israel, we cannot legitimately plead ignorance, instead we should admit to lacking courage and hope since we've not believed God's promises. We know what God’s word says: “Honor your father and mother.” “Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together.” “In everything give thanks.” “Obey your rulers.” “Forgive as you have been forgiven.” “Do not lose heart.” He's even promised to bless these things. And yet, looking the obedience in the face it often appears: too difficult (the people who dwell in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large), nice but not rewarding enough (it flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. However…), and not what we would have chosen (we came to the land to which you sent us.)
There is a lot more in the passage for us, but maybe this is a good place to camp out and let it soak in: when I know what is right to do, the following lies are the enemies of my soul that I need to identify and fight:
- This difficulty isn’t best for me. I know how my life should feel.
- The blessings of obedience are good, but not good enough to justify the sacrifice.
- I can’t do this. It is too hard.
Against these lies, the Word of God gives us many remedies. Here are some I have found:
Against: “This difficulty isn’t best for me. I know how my life should be.”
“You sent us here” the spies opine against Moses, and by extension, God. Isn’t this doubt in God’s goodness and sovereignty, which later in the passage comes to full display, behind so many of our “reasons” (otherwise known as excuses) for not doing what we know is right. We often dress this unbelief up in nicer words, but its essence is the same. God is either not good, we believe, or he is not in charge of what I am facing. But even when we do not believe God is good, he still is. Even when we think he has made a mistake in our life, he has not. When everything around us looks and feels differently, the promise of God’s sovereignty & goodness to his children is a rock underneath our lives that holds firm, sustains hope, and motivates obedience. It’s only a cliche when you do not believe it: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good…” Romans 8:28
Against: “The blessings of obedience are good, but not good enough to justify the sacrifice.”
The spies saw the good stuff in Canaan, it just wasn’t good enough. I hate to say it, but I have seen this a hundred times in church life: “Look, what you’re teaching is good and I can see how it’s biblical and would work well, but for me it’s just too [hard, confusing, boring, painful, scary, unnecessary, inconvenient, harsh, heady, simple, etc., etc. etc.]” In this situation the failure consists in not appreciating the reward of obedience, not valuing the pleasures of God above our temporal or personal concerns. In Matthew 6:18-23 Christ teaches a piety that is concerned about the secret sight of the Father and his delight in graciously rewarding what he sees us doing to please Him. This reward has temporal dimensions but in Matthew 6 is primarily a heavenly treasure that is stored up like an account and will certainly have its payday. There are temporary rewards to serving the here and now, to serving what we see and feel to be circumstantially beneficial, but Jesus calls this laying up treasure on earth. He assures us that all such benefits will soon be destroyed, our joy lost with it. If we don’t see clearly the immeasurable difference between the pleasures of God and the temporal pleasures of unbelief and its disobedience, how great is our darkness!
...that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! Matthew 6:18-23
Against: “I can’t do this. It is too hard.”
Colossians 1:10-12 contains the apostle’s prayer for us to know God’s will, to live in a way that pleases God, growing in our good works and good doctrine. Part of his prayer is that we would have strength that comes directly from God: “all power, according to his glorious might.”
...so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. Colossians 1:10-12
So pray, believing God is both able and willing to give us all the power we need for patience and endurance in doing his will more and more until the day of our inheritance in glory. That day is coming. Let’s not shrink back.
Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, "Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him." But we are not of those who shrink back but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. Hebrews 10:35-39
Over the next several posts, I hope to look at a scene from the life of Israel recorded in Numbers 13-14. If you can, open your Bible and read through these two chapters, reacquainting yourself with this well known story. The Lord has used this passage in my own life through the years to bring me repentance, to show me the way forward as a Christian, and to encourage other believers. It is the story of the people of Israel at the entrance to the promised land: spies were sent, grumbling ensues, few have faith, and many die in the wilderness under God’s judgement. It is, I believe, one of the saddest episodes in Israel’s life and demonstrates an important truth that must be firm in our hearts if we are to pass the test: “without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Hebrews 11:6)
In an act of strategic planning on God’s part, he commanded Moses, to send twelve spies to survey the future plunder of His people. Moses obeyed and commanded them to look carefully at the whole region for who lived there and how strong they were, what the land was like and what was its bounty. But alongside these instructions he gave an important command, one that would be disobeyed by ten of the spies and the mass of the people:
“Be of good courage” (vs. 20)
None could know from the reappearance of the spies back in the camp, loaded down with grapes, pomegranates, and figs that they had disobeyed this most important command, yet the fruits of that heart-disobedience among the spies and congregation ripened instantly. They and the whole congregation begin to grumble. Against this unified dismay, a righteous division emerges. A hopeful and powerful man, Caleb, silences the grumbling, submits to God’s government in Moses, and demonstrates that unlike the mass of the spies, he was of good courage:
“But Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said,’Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.’” (vs. 30) Let me stop here to note that such behavior is completely unacceptable in American Christianity: he made the aggrieved, the anxious, the reasonable, the deeply-convinced, the very-concerned, and all other forms of unbelieving congregants basically shut up. What a jerk! He quieted them under the command and commander given by God. What a patriarchal oppressor! He then turned them away from their doubts to the obedience of faith. What a legalist! As icing to the jerk-cake he could have added, “Turn in your Trinity Hymnals to selection 672, ‘Trust And Obey.’”
Imagine all the weak-hearted, unbelieving congregation! “He first tells us to be quiet; then he says ‘obey! God is with us!’ Then he has the nerve to choose that hymn? He doesn’t care how we feeeel! (BTW: I love Bible heroes who make me look winsome!)
Against the mob of worry and unbelief, this one voice of faith is the hero of this part of the story. He was the lone obedient, believing one. He had taken good courage in God’s promise and it gave him an entirely different perspective on the massive challenges ahead. Like the others, he knew this meant war. Unlike the others he knew that the roots of fear and unbelief would mean utter failure. Against the misery-wallowers of his time, through faith in God’s promise and power, he exclaimed, “We are well able to overcome it!”
Dear Christian, have you failed the test that you are facing from the outset? Did you forget that in order to survey the difficult obedience in front of you the right way you need to “be of good courage?” There is only one way forward in the Christian life: trust and obey! And without such trust it is impossible to please God.