Preach On Booze, Adultery, and Dancing!

Sometimes it’s tough to know where to draw the lines.

I’m talking about sin, of course. We live in the era of “If it makes you happy / it can’t be that bad” (see Sheryl Crow). Our culture has become so wishy-washy on areas of right and wrong, that nobody has the courage to say, “I think what you’re doing is wrong.” As Christians we need to stand firmly on what the Bible says is right and wrong, without caving to the culture.

But we need to make sure that what we’re standing for really is the truth. I think that most people have a sixth sense (I’m resisting the temptation to make a joke about seeing dead people) that lets them know when we are spouting our opinion on something, rather than proclaiming God’s word. If they think that we’re just pushing our opinion, they’re going to push back. After all, why is my opinion worth more than their opinion?

John R. Rice was one of the leaders of the fundamentalist movement in the 1930’s and 1940’s. This is what Andrew Himes says about Rice:

Rice was interested in cultivating and promoting a very specific type of preaching. It was preaching that pulled no punches. It was preaching that was sharp and clear, preaching that took a definite stand. It was preaching that could bring revival back to America. In 1940, one of his sermons titled “Evangelistic Preaching” appeared in The Sword of the Lord [Rice's newspaper]:

Preach on booze. Preach on the scarlet sin, adultery. Some cheeks will turn red with shame, and some won’t like it, but it will bring people to repentance. Preach on the dance, tell people it is rotten as sin. Tell people they dance because they enjoy the lust, the deliberate inflamement of passion of the dance. They do!

I would agree with a lot of what Rice says. We need preaching that has guts and spine and conviction. We need to preach against the sins clearly spelled out in the Bible. Rice said we should preach against booze. If he meant drunkenness, I’m all for that! He said that we should preach against adultery. Yes John, yes! He said we should preach against dance!

Wait, what? Dance?

I understand what he’s saying. There are many dances that are inappropriate, and I’m sure that many people do dance for the sake of lust. But to call dance “rotten as sin” goes beyond what the Bible says and forces you to draw all sorts of lines in the sand that are purely arbitrary. For example, is ballroom dancing wrong? What about tribal dancing? Was it wrong when David danced in the Bible? And are you sure that everyone who dances is dancing for the sake of lust?

We can tell people that lust is wrong. We can tell people that, if dancing causes them to lust, that’s wrong too. But we can’t flat out say that dancing is sinful.

When it comes to declarations of right and wrong, each of us face two temptations. The first temptation is to be too soft on sin, and not take a stand for what’s right. The second temptation is to swing too far the other way, and to draw lines where God never draws lines. People can smell our opinion from a mile away. And people can disagree with my opinion. But they can’t disagree with the word of God. So let’s stand on the word.

There’s Still Time To Register To Win

Autumn Mosaic by Mark Altrogge

A few days ago I invited anyone interested to enter to win a Giclée print on canvas or paper of one of my paintings.

There’s still time to enter if you’d like.  Here’s how you can win: Share this post or something about my painting site on Facebook, Twitter or some other way, and tell me you’d like to enter in the comment section below.  Or if you’d like, you don’t have to post on Twitter or Facebook,  just tell me you’d like to enter in the comments below.  This coming Sunday I’ll draw a name from all the entrants, and announce the winner.  Then I’ll contact you and you can pick the painting you’d like and I’ll send it to you.

Thanks to all who have entered so far and for your kind words of encouragement!

It Wasn’t Supposed To Be This Way

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

That’s what he told me.  I’d called him because I’d noticed that he and his family hadn’t been around for a few weeks.  “Chuck, is everything alright?  I haven’t seen you guys for a while.  You guys okay?”

“It wasn’t supposed to be this way,” he said.  “We did everything we were supposed to do.  We faithfully came to church and care group.  We read our Bibles and prayed.  We taught our children about the Lord.  We gave our money to God.  And now look what’s happened.  My son gets a girl pregnant and has to get married.  He’s not following the Lord.  I thought God promised to bless me if I followed him.”

Sadly, this man never came back to our church.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.  Though many of us wouldn’t say this, we often subtly believe it. If I follow God, he will bless me with a good life.  If I follow the Lord, all my children will be saved at young ages, marry attractive, godly spouses, and have perfect children themselves.  If I follow the Lord, I’ll have a great life.

But God doesn’t owe us our best life now.
He doesn’t owe us anything.  We owe God everything. Jesus doesn’t save us to fulfill our plans and purposes, but to fulfill his plans and purposes.  God’s plan is to glorify his name, not make us successful or give us long, healthy, trouble free lives.

If we believe it’s supposed to be a certain way if we do certain things, that makes God our debtor.

Then it’s not grace.  He owes us.  We earned it.  We deserve it.  But God doesn’t operate on a deserve it system.  His kingdom runs on grace, from beginning to end.  We don’t deserve to be saved; he saves us by grace.  We don’t deserve any blessings; God graciously pours out thousands of undeserved blessings on us by grace.

God’s plan is to not to give us our best life now, but to glorify his name by transforming us into the likeness of Christ.  And sometimes he does that through suffering.  Sometimes he makes us like Christ by withholding what we’d desire.

It is wrong expectations that get us into trouble.  Wrong expectations of God.  Or our church.  Or our spouse.  Or of life.  If we expect something and don’t get it, then we can become disillusioned, bitter and depressed.

We can have expectations of God, though.
We can expect to know God more and more through his Word and Spirit.  We can expect him to be faithful to us, to never leave nor forsake us.  We can expect God to supply us with all the grace we need to glorify him in any situation.  We can expect him to use every blessing and every trial in our lives to make us more like Jesus.  We can expect to someday see his face and worship him forever and enjoy our eternal inheritance in heaven.

I try to have no expectations from this fallen world.  I try to have no expectations from fallen human beings.  Even of those Christ has redeemed, my fellow sinner saints, I expect them to fail and at times even sin against me, though I believe they love Jesus and he will complete the good work he began in them, just as I will fail and sin against them, and Jesus will finish his transforming work in me.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.  Here’s how it was supposed to be – we all should be in hell, in darkness, despair and unimaginable pain.  Instead, if you’re a believer, we’re here, loved by our Father, saved by the Son, and filled with the Holy Spirit.  Adopted into God’s family.  Sons and daughters.  No, it wasn’t supposed to be this way.  It should have been worse.  So really, this is our best life now, no matter what we’re suffering.  But our true best life is yet to come.

Please Don’t Call Me Outdated!

There’s nothing worse than being called “outdated”. Actually, I can think of a lot of things that are worse, such as having to get a tetanus shot, or needing to have dental work of any sort done. But in our fast, modern, connected culture, it’s a pretty bad thing to be called “outdated”. The Walkman is outdated. Sleeveless denim shirts are outdated. America thrives on progress, and over the past 300 years we’ve made major progress in many areas, such as women’s rights, civil rights, technology, healthy living, and medicine. Progress is good. Most of the time.

I think we need to be very careful however, when we start jabbering about progress in our ideas of God. A few months back Rob Bell released a book called Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. Many people embraced the book, saying that it was time we moved past our old, tribal, outdated ideas about a fiery God who pours out wrath on sin and sends people to Hell. This argument of “moving past” old ideas has been repeated in regards to many other ideas about God and the Bible, such as sexuality, marriage, and the creation debate.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for reexamining our commonly held beliefs and making sure that they really are from the Bible. But I think we need to do slowly and very, very carefully. There are a couple of reasons for this.

First, do we really think that we are somehow spiritually superior to those who went before us? Do we really think that all the Christian men and women who went before us and held to a particular idea were spiritual morons who didn’t know what God was really like? That spiritual giants like Augustine, Calvin, Luther, Edwards, Spurgeon, and Lloyd-Jones somehow missed it when it came to their ideas about Hell, or sexuality, or the church, or the family, or creation? It’s not like God has changed since the times of these men. He’s still the same, and the men and women who went before us wrestled with the same Bible that we do. So let’s not be arrogant punks and think that somehow we’ve moved past the ideas of those before us.

Second, we’re just as much products of our culture as those who came before us. The argument usually goes something like this: Augustine (or Calvin, Luther, Edwards, etc.) was deeply embedded in a patriarchal (or misogynistic, medieval, Enlightenment, rationalistic, etc.), and therefore all his ideas were shaped by that culture. We are part of a superior culture that has moved past all those old ideas, and therefore our ideas are better. But that’s just a boatload of bologna. Our ideas are shaped by our post-modern culture just as much, if not more than those who went before us. Our ideas aren’t inherently better than earlier ideas.

Finally, the Bible talks about guarding the truth of Jesus Christ and not letting it be changed. For example, in 2 Timothy 1:13-14, it says, “Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.” We are primarily called to guard the faith entrusted to us. Not mess with it or change it or improve it. In light of this, we should be hesitant to dismiss ideas that have traditionally been held within the church.

We should always evaluate what we believe and what has traditionally been believed in light of scripture. The Reformation was built on the idea that everything must filter through scripture. My concern, however, is that in our modern culture we will be too quick to abandon ideas that have traditionally been held. That can be just as dangerous as holding on to “outdated” ideas. Maybe more dangerous.

New Paintings, Prints on Watercolor Paper and Win a Painting

257 No. 1 by Mark Altrogge

I’d like to give someone one of my paintings (that is, a beautiful Giclée duplication of one of my paintings).  Here’s how you can win: Share this post or something about my painting site on Facebook, Twitter or some other way, and tell me you’d like to enter in the comment section below.  Or if you’d like, you don’t have to post on Twitter or Facebook,  just tell me you’d like to enter in the comments below.  In one week, I’ll draw a name from all the entrants, and announce the winner.  Then I’ll contact you and you can pick the painting you’d like and I’ll send it to you.

I’ve also added 3 new paintings to my site, Mark Altrogge Paintings, and I’m now offering all of them both on acid free 100% cotton rag watercolor paper or on stretched canvas.  And I’ve LOWERED THE PRICES.

Thanks for checking out the site and for all the kind comments you’ve made since I opened it.

Examine The Bridge

How can we strengthen our faith?  When we look to our own pitifully small faith in the face of our challenges, we can feel like the man who said, “I believe, help my unbelief.”

The secret of developing strong faith is not to focus on our faith or our challenges, but to examine our Savior, to gaze on his mighty power, wisdom and love and meditate on his glorious work on the cross.  Some 35 years after the Civil War, the theologian Robert Lewis Dabney, blind and weak, knew his death was near and wrote his friend Clement Read Vaughan, wondering if his faith would be strong enough to face his death.  Vaughan wrote his friend back and asked what a traveler would do if he came to a chasm spanned by a bridge:

What does he do to breed confidence in the bridge?  He looks at the bridge; he gets down and examines it.  He doesn’t stand at the bridge-head and turn his thoughts curiously in on his own mind to see if he has confidence in the bridge.  If his examination of the bridge gives him a certain amount of confidence, and yet he wants more, how does he make his faith grow?  Why, in the same way; he still continues to examine the bridge.  Now, my dear old man, let your faith take care of itself for awhile, and you just think of what you are allowed to trust in.  Think of the Master’s power, think of his love; think how he is interested in the soul that searches for him, and will not be comforted until he finds him.  Think of what he has done, his work.  That blood of his is mightier than all the sins of of all the sinners that ever lived.  Don’t you think it will master your sin? . . .

May God give you grace, not to lay too much stress on your own faith, but to grasp the great ground of confidence, Christ, and all his work and all his personal fitness to be a sinners refuge.  Faith is only an eye to see him.  I have been praying that God would quiet your pains as you advance, and enable you to see the gladness of the gospel at every step.  Good-bye.  God be with you as he will.  Think of the Bridge!

Your brother, 
C. R. V. *

Here’s the key to building strong faith – “Examine the bridge.” Don’t look at the chasm you must cross.  Don’t examine your faith to see if it’s strong enough to get you across.  Focus on the mighty Bridge, Jesus.  He’s strong enough to hold you.  Put your confidence in him.

Don’t focus on the giants in the land, like the Israelites did on the edge of the promised land. Look at your all-powerful Savior.  Examine his love for you.  See his fierce commitment to his own glory in helping his people.  Meditate on his unfathomable wisdom.  Look upon the bedrock of his sovereignty.

Whatever you face this week, remember to do this one thing: Think of the Bridge.

*From Why Johnny Can’t Preach by T. David Gordon.  Thanks to Rob Saathoff for the quote.

photo by jms87

Dad Convinces His Kids That Ewoks Are Real

Yes, I think that it’s wrong that he lied to his kids. And no, I wouldn’t recommend doing this. But still, this is definitely better than telling your kids that Santa is real. Anthony Herrera says:

Being the Star Wars geek that I am (so is she), I told her that this is where the Ewoks live. She spent a good chuck of our time hiking keeping a lookout for any Ewoks. Coming home I can’t say that she wasn’t disappointed that we didn’t find any. I had to explain that they are extremely shy and hardly ever let anyone see them. After we got home, and after I had a little time alone with the photos, I told her I thought I saw something strange in a few pictures. We viewed them on the TV to get a larger image. You can imagine how surprised and excited she was when we discovered that we didn’t see any Ewoks, but they saw us, and had certainly taken an interest in her and her little brother. Maybe I’m a little wrong for lying to her and falsifying the pictures, but I don’t care. She’ll never forget the time she spent in the big woods with Ewoks.

Here’s one of the pictures he came up with.

(via Gizmodo)