Reflecting on the Day’s Events

Hello Friends,

How is your day going? You okay?

Nothing that happened today is surprising. It was predictable and predicted. When sinful humans rule over other sinful humans they can only come to sinful conclusions. They have no other option.

It was interesting reading the four dissenting opinions. It’s a rare thing when every dissenting judge writes an opinion. But they did. We have an attorney in our congregation and he sent out the PDF of the decision the moment it came down the pike.

Anyway, what might be missed in all the hoopla about homosexual marriage is that this was essentially a State’s Rights issue. And the four dissenting judges accused the majority of massive judicial over-reach. That’s what’s really at stake. And it’s why states like Texas are already fighting back. Remember, our nation is made up of “united states.” When the federal government or courts remove an individual state’s ability to operate in accordance with its own state constitution, that’s a very real issue.

In other words, this is one shot across the bow of a much larger issue. And that’s what the other four judges are so concerned about.

Meanwhile, I’m a Bible guy. So, I view these things through a spiritual lens.

We’ve been studying the books of Judges, 1&2 Samuel, and 1&2 Kings on Wednesday nights at GCA. Israel’s history is instructive. You may recall that they were initially a theocracy, ruled by the Law of Moses that codified them as a nation of chosen people. But that wasn’t good enough for them. They wanted a king so they could be like their surrounding neighbors. God gave them Saul, a ruinous king who took all the best of their horses, food, gold, and women … you know, the way politicians always do.

Then God gave them David, a man after His own heart. During the time of Solomon, David’s son, the kingdom was taken away from his posterity and Israel was divided.

The succession of kings in the North went from bad to worse. The kings in the South weren’t much better, although they had occasional rays of light. Whenever their enemies advanced on them or they suffered from famine or other disasters, Israel cried to God. And He would deliver them. Then they became comfortable, safe, well-fed … and they’d forget God and go chase after their foreign gods and their fleshly desires. The pattern is consistent.

That’s how humans are, by nature. When they’re in trouble or pain, they cry to God. When they’re fat and sassy, they feel self-assured and they do their own thing – which is usually sinful, given our sinful nature and proclivities.

At the moment, America is (mostly) safe and well-fed. We’re clothed, air-conditioned, and entertained into a stupor. We’re obsessed with celebrities and we think we can solve our problems by banning flags. And America has forgotten (and is erasing) her history.

Manifest destiny. The faith of the founding fathers. The importance of our Christian heritage. The necessity of theology in the well-rounded education. It’s all being erased.

I am reminded of what God told Abraham. When Abraham asked how he could know that the land he was promised would be his and belong to his (as yet unborn) offspring, God told Abe that his descendants would go into a land where they were not known and serve there for four hundred years.

But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.” (Gen. 15:16)

Think about that phrase. The Amorites were living in the land that God promised to the descendants of Abraham. God gave them 400 years to fill up their iniquity – their rebellion against Him. Meanwhile, God was growing the nation of Israel as slaves in Egypt. When they came out, they were more than a million strong. And they conquered the land, just as God said.

I am afraid that America is currently filling up her iniquity. Because there is no immediate price to pay, they think that God doesn’t care, or that judgment doesn’t exist. They think that power in numbers and political correctness trumps things like morality. So, killing babies? No big deal. Homosexual marriage? No sweat. Gender confusion? Only natural.

But, let a plane hit buildings in New York and suddenly the entire Senate is singing “God Bless America” on the Capitol steps.

Then the attacks stop. Now, where were we? Ah, yes … what are those pesky Kardashians up to?

Consider the warning of the iniquitous Amorites. Try to find an Amorite, a Jebusite, or a Hivite today. Tough job. They were enemies of God’s people and they’re all gone.

But, try to find a Jew. Ta-daa! Easy. Why? Because God’s faithful when He calls.

As I keep saying, the only thing we’ve learned from history is that we’ve learned nothing from history.

So, lift up your heads, Christians. God did not topple off the throne today. He’s not in terror of nine humans in black robes. I keep warning that it’s going to get worse before it gets better. This is just another step along the way.

And remember that God is faithful to His people. There are folk dancing in the streets today and celebrating because they think they’ve won something. That’s fine. Dance on. Death is imminent. And equal. Everyone gets one.

And then, the judgment. And that’s when this stuff will really matter.

Look, it’s simple. Either the Bible is true or it’s not. If it is (and I am convinced that it is because of the plethora of evidence), then we need to walk, talk, and live as though it’s true. And have confidence. This world is not our home.

Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:1-3)

And nothing the world can or will do can change that.

So, let the world celebrate the sinful fashion in which men rule men. It may not matter to them at this exact moment.

But, it will matter one day ….

and forever.

 

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“Comfort in Christ”

It has been my long-held contention that God gives His people gifts and talents so that they can better worship and glorify Him.  Our gifts are not for the purpose of self-glorification.  With that in mind, I am a fan of the poetry of Rebecca Gholson. And now she has released a compilation of her work in book form.

Comfort in Christ coverIt’s titled “Comfort in Christ,” and that’s a fitting title.  It’s a book of uplifting and comforting words that are both Christocentric and theologically sound.  Plus, she has a gift of writing in Old English prose without it sounding phony or puffed up.

Some of her works were inspired by sermons, but the pieces that impress me most are the ones drawn directly from Scripture.

“Comfort in Christ” is available via Amazon books and, as of this writing, the Kindle version is free.  So, move quickly!

 

 

 

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America Adrift

I posted a short comment and a link on the GCA Facebook page and then mentioned those comments in our most recent Wednesday night message.  I forget that not everyone who listens to the Salvation by Grace messages is in our Facebook group.  I was asked if I would post that information on my blog so that non-FB listeners could see to what I was referring.  And I’m happy to oblige.

It went like this —
_________________________

While I would normally refrain from posting a “news article” in the GCA group, this one is the exception. It’s from Breitbart.com and it states some basic truths that I’ve been saying for a long time. To wit: the church in America has abandoned the distinctives that make it truly Christian.

After citing some facts and figures, Thomas D. Williams PhD. writes:

Though it is impossible to establish a strict causal relationship between the two phenomena of moral liberalism and declining religiosity, the correlation between them is still striking.

What may not seem immediately apparent is why as Americans become increasingly progressive, they are abandoning liberal religious denominations in favor of conservative ones.

One theory, advanced by Arthur E. Farnsley II, a professor of religious studies at Indiana University, is that the more churches resemble society at large in terms of their moral teachings and understanding of the meaning of human existence, the less relevant they are. Why continue to attend church services to hear the same message you get from reigning culture? Religion only makes a difference when it offers an alternative account of reality, distinguishable from secular culture.

It is, in fact, the countercultural religious groups that are holding on to their membership.

Farnsley suggests, therefore, that the more liberal religious groups will continue to lose members and influence “because they are already on the modernist side, meaning many of their core values are expressed in other institutions, including government.”

Much of the decline in membership for mainstream Christianity seems to be the result of a loss of recognizable Christian identity in those churches.
_______________

Bingo. You got it. The church that has lost its savor is good for nothing.

Later, Williams writes:

A final trend among mainstream Christian churches has been a progressive lowering of the moral bar, seemingly out of fear of appearing “judgmental” or “hypocritical.” Confusing judgmentalism with the ability to tell right from wrong, many Christians have moved in the direction of withdrawing disapproval from all but the most egregious sins. The lower the bar, the fewer fail to get over it: “I’m okay. You’re okay.” Similarly, some have confused hypocrisy with a simple failure to live up to one’s moral ideals, and have embraced the facile solution of chucking their ideals. Hypocrisy, in fact, becomes impossible when one no longer endorses any moral standards.

That is genuinely insightful. I have long argued that there is a difference between being “judgmental” and practicing proper discernment (what Jesus calls, “proper judgment”). I like William’s differentiation. People confuse judgmentalism with the ability to tell right from wrong. We, as Christians, are expected to know the difference. Too much of modern Christianity has fallen for the world’s very specious argument that practicing biblical discernment is tantamount to being judgmental.

If you’re interested in reading the whole article, here’s the link:

http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2015/06/01/why-is-america-moving-left/

And if you’re interested in hearing the Wednesday night message from 2Kings that includes a reference to these comments, it’s here:

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Fifteen Years Ago ….

Commenting on his own lack of ordination, and the futility of most modern ordination practices, Charles Haddon Spurgeon once rather famously said —

“Now, it was no doubt the custom to lay on hands at the ordination of Christian ministers by the apostles, and there was an excellent reason for it, for gifts were thereby conveyed to the ordained, and when we can find anybody who can thereby confer some spiritual gift upon us, we shall be glad to have their hands laid on our heads; but empty hands we care not for. Rites cease when their meaning ceases. If practiced any longer they gender to superstition, and are fit instruments of priestcraft. The upholding of the hands of the eldership, when they give their vote to elect a man to the pastorate, is a sensible proceeding, and is, I suspect, all the apostle means when he speaks of the presbytery; but empty hands it seems to me are fitly laid on empty heads, and to submit to an empty ceremony is the idlest of all idle waste of time.” (The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit. 1872. Vol. XVIII)

Hands on HeadAnd this is one of those places where Charles and I disagree.  Ordination was important in the New Testament and it’s important today.  It’s part of the process of setting particular people apart for the work of the ministry — for prayer, study in the word, teaching, and shepherding the flock of God.  (Acts 6:4, 1Peter 5:2, Titus 1:5-8)

Personally, I believe that ordination is simply the church’s reaction to what God has already ordained and made obvious.  When He separates someone and places them in to His service, He gives them the gifts that are necessary for the work.  When the church recognizes that God has gifted someone with the abilities necessary for the work, ordination takes place.

Anyway … why is this on my mind today, of all days?  Well, it’s Cinco de Mayo — May 5 — the anniversary of my ordination into the ministry.  It was fifteen years ago today that Elders David Morris and D.J. Ward laid hands on my head, prayed over me, and charged me with the work I have been doing ever since.  And every year, on this calendar date, I watch the video of my ordination and remember the words that were said over me.

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 2.03.57 PMI have always held the concept of ordination in high esteem, ever since my early Lutheran days.  So much so that I turned down earlier ordination opportunities, waiting until I was convinced that it was the proper time and that I was being ordained by men with whom I had full agreement.  And, by God’s good providence, He introduced me to just such men.

Cert of Ordination

The year after I was ordained we got our building and GCA became a public church.  June 5 will be our 14th anniversary.  As the time has ticked by, we’ve seen God’s provision at every turn.  And today we are as healthy a church as I have ever known.

So, today I pause, reflect, and thank God for His remarkable faithfulness.  I could not have orchestrated the events of the last fifteen years.  They’ve been marked by great heights and crushing lows.  But, He has carried me, without fail, through them all.  And not a day passes that I am not reminded of the responsibility that comes with the title “ordained elder.”  But I am equally reminded of the strength and unerring love of the God who marked me out for this work.

To God — and God alone — belongs the kingdom, and the power, and glory forever and ever.  Amen.

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Let the Redeemed of the Lord Say What Exactly?

Some verses from the Bible are so embedded in our collective conscience that they take on a meaning of their own — often quite different from the meaning the original author intended.  And sometimes the solution to properly understanding a text is as simple as looking closely at the context.

Such is the case with Psalm 107:2 –

“Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the adversary”

This is a favorite verse of preachers who are looking to garner feedback from the congregation.  The assumption is that this verse is a complete thought that serves as a directive to the redeemed to say that they are indeed redeemed.  Are you redeemed?  Yes?  Well then, say so!

But the simple fact is that even the most basic exegesis and contextual interpretation leads to a completely different — and more important — conclusion.  Here’s what the text actually says —

Oh give thanks to the LORD, for He is good,
            For His lovingkindness is everlasting.

Let the redeemed of the LORD say so,
            Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the adversary

 And gathered from the lands,
            From the east and from the west,
            From the north and from the south.

  They wandered in the wilderness in a desert region;
            They did not find a way to an inhabited city.

     They were hungry and thirsty;
            Their soul fainted within them.

     Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble;
            He delivered them out of their distresses.

     He led them also by a straight way,
            To go to an inhabited city.

     Let them give thanks to the LORD for His lovingkindness,
            And for His wonders to the sons of men!  (Psalm 107:1-8)

So, based on the context, what exactly are the redeemed instructed to say?  That the Lord is good and that His lovingkindness is everlasting.

And what’s the evidence that this is true? He gathered His own — His redeemed — from from all corners of the world, delivering them from the hand of their enemy.

In the historic context, this has to do with God delivering Israel out of Egypt.  For 40 years they wandered in the wilderness, hungry and thirsty.  They cried to the Lord and He delivered them.  He led them to the Promised Land and ultimately to Jerusalem, the place where He placed His name.

So what is the proper reaction?  They should thank the Lord for His lovingkindness and for His wonders to the sons of men.  (That phrase is repeated in verses 15, 21, and 31.)

The Psalm concludes with these words —

Who is wise? Let him give heed to these things,
            And consider the lovingkindnesses of the LORD. (Psalm 107:43)

From start to finish, the theme of this Psalm is God’s goodness and  lovingkindness.  That’s what the redeemed of the Lord are supposed to announce.  This Psalm is not advancing a form of self-assurance or confident boasting in our redemption.  It is meant to be a reminder of the various ways that God delivered Israel.  He is to be glorified for His goodness and His merciful work.  The emphasis is on Him, not on the redeemed.  The redeemed’s only participation in this whole historical account of God’s redemptive work is to admit to His goodness.

And THAT’s what the redeemed are to “say so.”

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A nice note of encouragement

The digital world never ceases to amaze me.  People I might otherwise never meet show up in my email and make my day.

IsraelologySo, a little background.  Arnold Fruchtenbaum is the author of a book that I found very helpful and encouraging.  The somewhat daunting title of his book is: Israelology: The Missing Link in Systematic Theology.  According to the Ariel Ministries website, “This study was created from Dr. Fruchtenbaum’s landmark research for his doctoral thesis.”

What makes it so special?  Well, twenty years ago I was working to understand Israel’s place in God’s economy.  Israel permeates the Bible and the vast majority of the sacred text either refers directly to, or is influenced by, God’s promises to His chosen people, Israel.  I was tracing the “seed” promises at that time.  David Morris was encouraging me to write a book called “Seedology.”  It was this time of study and wrestling that eventually led to writing the book “Is the Church Israel?

Dr. Fruchtenbaum’s book landed in my lap at a providential moment and sewed together pieces I was wrestling to reconcile.  To be blunt, this is an area of study that is often lacking in general theology and especially in Reformed Theology. Hence, the title of his book.

What I especially appreciated in reading Dr. Fruchtenbaum’s material and listening to some of his lectures is that he approaches the New Testament from a Jewish perspective — you know, the way Jesus’ original followers would have.  And that perspective is missing in far too much of 21st Century Gentile teaching and preaching.  So, all in all, a very helpful book.

Cut to: three months ago.

I was culling through email, as I do pretty much every day — answering questions, steering folk toward resources, thanking people for their encouraging words — when I saw a return address that said “Arnold Fruchtenbaum.”

My first thought: No way.

But, sure enough.  It was a short note from the good doctor saying how much he enjoyed my book.  You could have knocked me over with a feather.  He said some very kind things and asked it I had any plans to publish it.  I told him that the book was free on our website as a pdf download (which I suppose would be the only format he could have read) and that we were working on a Kindle version.

Then I decided to be bold, since he had opened the door, and asked for a quote I could use to promote the book on Amazon.  It took a few months.  He’s a busy guy.  But this past week I received a very nice email and a quote he said I could use.  Coolness.  Absolute coolness.

So, I thought I’d share it with you all.  It’s not everyday that I get this sort of shot in the arm from someone I respect so highly.  Here’s what Dr. Fruchtenbaum wrote:

IsTheChurchIsrael_KindleCover“At a time when Replacement Theology is growing, at a time when more and more churches are turning against Israel, at a time when churches are losing interest in Jewish evangelism, Jim McClarty’s work makes an important contribution towards making believers understand God’s plan and program for Israel and provides valuable biblical tools to prove the church is not Israel, nor has the church taken over Israel’s covenantal promises and that God still intends to fulfill any promise He has made to Israel.” Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum.  President/Founder of Ariel Ministries.

I’ve added that endorsement to our Kindle page.  But, while we’re on the subject, allow me to remind you that we now have three books available on Amazon as Kindle downloads.  And you can get your copy of Is the Church Israel? via Amazon or via our website (under the “Read” link).

Thanks again to Dr. Fruchtenbaum for his kind words and for reaching out.

Arnold finished his email with this sign-off: “Yours for the salvation of Israel.”

I’m right there with you, brother.  I’m right there with you.

“Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation.”  (Romans 10:1)

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Pneumatology at the 2015 Embracing the Truth Conference

Each Spring I look forward to the annual Embracing the Truth Conference that convenes at Hamilton Chapel Church in Gladeville, TN.  I have attended a good many conferences through the years, but this one consistently distinguishes itself by acts of kindness, generosity of spirit, and the sort of grace you always hope to encounter when entering a room full of Christians.  Plus, I count every speaker, pastor, lecturer, and preacher who attended a friend.  Good camaraderie, good food, good fellowship, lots of joy and laughter … you can’t ask for more than that.

I “lectured on steroids” for three mornings on the topic of Pneumatology – The Holy Spirit.  Here are the recordings of those messages and a link to a PDF of my notes (for those who want to follow along, see I often I wandered off, or would like to use them for their own studies and teaching).

Lecture 1: Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Lecture 2: Thursday, March 12, 2015

Lecture 3: Friday, March 13, 2015

Notes for Pneumatology at ETT 2015 

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Embracing the Truth Conference 2015

ETT Banner

It’s hard to believe, but conference season is almost upon us again.  In early March I’ll be attending the Embracing the Truth Conference here in Middle Tennessee.  I like conferences where I get to sleep in my own bed.  Here’s the info and details.  This is one of my favorite conferences and I hope everyone in the vicinity (and out of the vicinity) will make plans to join us.

 ETT 2015 Schedule of Speakers

ETT 2015 Itinerary 

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So, Just How Big IS the GCA Archive

1,154.

That’s the number of mp3’s currently residing in the GCA archives.  And since they average an hour apiece, that’s 1154 hours of free recorded teaching available via the GCA website.

When those figures were conveyed to me this afternoon, I responded, “Well, people are going to have one of two reactions.  Either they’ll think: ‘Gosh, that’s a pretty impressive library.’  Or, they’ll think:  ‘Man, that guy talks a lot.'”

It might be a bit of both.

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