Archives for October 2006

on the sermons of 10.29.06

Unlike the wave of Reformation Sunday postings I see from my friends (well, two of them [1, 2]… I guess that count’s as a wave…) I stuck with the Bible for our preaching this week! [joke, joke!!]

Today we moved from the Synoptic Gospels to the Acts of the Apostles. Our reading for this series will become much more straightforward now, no more two verses here, ten verses there, and back to another three verses in a third Gospel.

Our first message centered around The Day of Pentecost. Our proposition: The arrival of the Holy Spirit as the indwelling gift of God to every believer changed everything about obedient, scriptural religion. We talked about the paradigm shift of Pentecost, the ‘mother of all paradigm shifts’. Chapter 1 of Acts was treated as Pentecost in Anticipation, then the description of the arrival of the Spirit and the tongues that followed as Pentecost in Realization. Peter’s sermon is Pentecost in Explanation, and the last few verses of Acts 2 that describe the life of the incipient church is Pentecost in Application. Pentecost changed everything then, and it should change everything now. The change is what must most be seen.

The second message covered the Intensifying Opposition the church experienced in its first two years between Acts 3-5. I noted the crackdown on evangelical schools in Quebec last week in our introduction (see earlier post). The proposition was: The world’s opposition to the church centers on the extent to which the name of Christ is propagated by the church. This sermon only had two points: the central feature of apostolic work and ministry, Jesus the Messiah; the central focus of the antagonists to the work of Christ, Jesu the Messiah. I traced the references to the name of Jesus Christ as Peter healed the lame man, preached to the crowd, was arrested by the Sadducees, confronted the chief priests, was prohibited from speaking in ‘this name’, defied the prohibition with increasing numbers being added, the second arrest (of all twelve apostles) and Peter again confronting the priests with their guilt in slaying Christ, the beating they endured, and joy they experienced for suffering for the name of Christ. In all of this, Christ is central. If the apostles had been starting soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and so on, the name of Christ would have little offense. But since the apostles were preaching repentance and conversion in the name of Christ, it was a different story. It will be a different story for us today if we preach Christ as the grounds for repentance and conversion with the same force and conviction.

Last, we had a message that picked up little portraits of church life scattered through Acts 2-6, in a message entitled Infused with Joy. The proposition: The spirit that characterizes a healthy, living church is joy. First the last few verses of Acts 2 speak of the Joy of First Love. Part of this is the newness of it all, but more is the priority Christ plays in the life of the church, especially the devotion to the apostles teaching, to ‘the fellowship’ (article in the Greek), to the breaking of bread, and prayers. The main emphasis of the word ‘First’ in the point is to priority of place, not order of experience. The second vignette comes from 4.23-5.17 as the Joy of Effective Ministry (in spite of the negative example of Ananias and Sapphira). Except for one pair of frauds, the work progresses as the church exercises effective prayer, powerful personal testimony (Barnabas), fear in the face of discipline (A & S), and increasing numbers the result. Last, we looked at 5.41-6.7 as the Joy of Enduring Trials – this comes with the rejoicing after the beating and the wisdom of overcoming internal dissension by appointing deacons. Ac 6.7 summarizes the situation very well at this point: “And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.” Even Priests (mostly Sadducees!!) were believing! What a transformation! If our churches today are going to be healthy, we need this kind of joy in our assemblies.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

on the Lord’s use of invitations

In my studies through the Synoptic Gospels recently I noticed something the Lord did in his preaching with respect to invitations. On one occasion, he quite clearly gave an invitation at the end of his message, and on another he gives what could be construed as an invitation, although it is a bit more interpretive.

The clear example is in Mt 11.28-30 ‘Come unto me, all who labor and are heavy laden…” This passage comes at the end of a message begun by the visit of John’s disciples expressing their master’s worries about the Lord’s direction. The Lord is quite clearly inviting people to respond to him.

The second example is at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Mt 7.13-27. The invitation aspect is somewhat less clear, but these verses are clearly outside the main body of the message and they distinguish two ways of response (5.1-15 are somewhat introductory, then 5.16 and 7.12 form an inclusio around the main body of the message). The first means of distinguishing two ways of response is the wide gate and the narrow gate (7.13-14). The second means of distinguishing two ways of response is the contrast between false prophets and [implied] true – by good trees and bad trees and their fruit (7.15-20). The third way of distinguishing two ways of response is the contrast between those who do the will of the father and those who only say they do the will of the father (7.21-23). And last, the two houses are means of distinguishing response to the Lord and his words: the man who builds on the rock and the man who builds on the sand (7.24-27). While there is no clear call in these words, the Lord is building a case that there is a right response and a wrong response to his words.

What to make of all this? Well, the fact is that the Lord used invitations in his preaching. We cannot deny this. I don’t think the Lord was manipulative, as some are, or called people to make public professions (the sawdust trail style) or such like inventions, but the Lord did use invitations.

Having the Lord’s invitations as a precedent, we should perhaps study them and give a bit more thought to employing them in our preaching. I am not one for a ‘go forward’ type of invitation. I have never really liked them. But we do need to put that urgency into our preaching and expect a response. May God grant us wisdom to discern how to use biblical, Christ-like invitations.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

on the empty tomb – summary 10.25.06 message

We come to the end of the Synoptic Gospels with this message. The resurrection is the centre of Christian faith – without it, there is no Christianity. I remarked last night how I have heard preachers pontificate about what they will do in heaven, how they will sit down with one apostle or another, and get questions answered… (as if they will get right to the head of the line! At least we will have all eternity to stand in line!) What I would like to do is just sit and listen to their stories. I would like to hear the apostle John tell about the moment he saw the empty grave clothes and what was going on in his mind. I’d like to hear about what happened on the 27 unreported days of the resurrection period and some of those infallible proofs we don’t know anything about. Maybe the Lord will give us a couple thousand years for a Bible Conference with the twelve apostles (and Paul) as the speakers. I wouldn’t mind sitting and listening to all that.

“The resurrection message animates Christian living, witness, and hope. You must order your life by the reality of the resurrection.” In our message I reviewed the sequence of resurrection events as we have them from the various Gospels. One of the significant features of the resurrection events is that the apostles themselves, all of them, not just Thomas, had to be convinced by the actual appearance of the Lord to them. This fact teaches us how difficult it is to reach people who cannot see a risen Christ literally. It also teaches us how important it is for us to live the resurrection life so that people can see the truth of the resurrection in us. The second thing we covered in the message is a summary of resurrection teaching. What did the Lord talk about in the resurrection? Mainly the great commission. I didn’t realize this before, but the Great Commission was uttered by the Lord in various forms on separate occasions. Lk 24 on Resurrection Day. Mt 28 on a mountain somewhere in Galilee – couldn’t be the same day. Jn 21 by the sea of Galilee in the form of “feed my sheep” to Peter. Acts 1 on the Mount of Olives on the last day of the post-Resurrection period. Mk 16 seems to be a summary statement, summing up the main theme of the Lord’s teaching throughout the forty days. The Lord’s point in repeating all this is to teach us that this is the agenda of the post-Resurrection age. We are left here on earth to represent Christ, proclaim his gospel, make disciples of him, feed his sheep, until he comes. That’s it. No building mega-churches. Simply making disciples. We closed the message with a brief look at the disciples’ reaction to the Lord’s final leave taking – not sorrow and despondency, but obedience, prayer, and joy. They were anticipating the ministry the Lord promised them after the empowerment of the Spirit.

In the end, this ministry, the Lord’s ministry is what we should be all about. The Lord didn’t save us so “that you have life and you can now live that life to achieve worldly comfort, provide for your family and pay your bills and be happy.” The Lord saved you to serve, to live the resurrection life, and to preach the gospel.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

on religious liberty in Canada

In our ministry, we have discovered that it is best to leave politics aside. We are making disciples of Christ, not Milton Friedman (or any other political philosophy). But the politics of our nation do have a bearing on our mission.

We don’t expect much out of government. These expectations are often met! The one thing we do expect is to be left alone. The sphere of our activities really have nothing to do with the state and we would prefer that the state would stay out of our sphere of activities.

Thus, it is disturbing when news occurs that threatens religious freedom in any way. The same-sex marriage issue certainly has the potential for political interference on religious freedom, but so far has only had very limited effects. However, this story out of Quebec seems to have some chilling ramifications.

Last year, the director of a local school board filed a complaint regarding unregistered Christian schools in Quebec. The complaint was not about their unregistered status, apparently this is allowed in Quebec. Rather, the complaint was about the failure of these schools to teach Darwinian evolution and sex education. On Oct 12, the CBC reported that the Quebec government was apparently ignoring the schools.

Quebec has quietly tolerated evangelical schools that are not recognized by and do not have permits from the province’s Ministry of Education.

Today’s Family News, a Focus on the Family website, reported the same optimism on Oct 18.

Tuesday’s article in the National Post, linked above, dispells that optimism. The opening paragraph reveals that the independent schools must teach Darwin and sex education.

The Quebec Ministry of Education has told unlicensed Christian evangelical schools that they must teach Darwin’s theory of evolution and sex education or close their doors after a school board in the Outaouais region complained the provincial curriculum was not being followed.

One school offers this defense in response:

“We offer a curriculum based on a Christian world view rather than humanistic world view,” said Alan Buchanan, chairman of a committee that reorganized the school’s administration this past summer, as well as a former Quebec public school teacher.

Mr. Buchanan said Eglise Evangelique teaches evolution as well as intelligent design.

“We want the children to understand what they’re going to meet in the outside world, and also what’s wrong with the theory,” he said. “We also teach that a better theory — that God created the universe and so on.”

While the school doesn’t teach sex education, it does teach biology, he said.

“You have the Christian world view that says sex should only be in the marriage and a public school system that teaches kids about sexuality,” Mr. Buchanan said. “We believe students should be taught abstinence.”

He said the school met provincial guidelines during two reviews conducted in the 1990s, although they were asked to add a Canadian history course.

The state does have some interest in an educated populace, but wherever the state has power, it always reaches for more power. It is not just interested in having literate citizens, it is interested in controlling the thoughts of citizens, thus this insistence on evolution and sex education, clearly matters of philosophy and religion, not matters of literacy.

It appears that the schools in question have been open and reasonable. Compliance with a requirement to teach Canadian history is reasonable (would that the public schools actually taught Canadian history!) But this particular paragraph sounds extremely ominous:

Ministry spokeswoman Marie-France Boulay said yesterday the province will negotiate for several weeks with an unspecified number of evangelical schools to determine whether they can meet provincial standards that include the teaching of Darwin’s theory of evolution.

“We’re from the government, and we’re here to help you.” Chilling words. Education is one area where the state most quickly intrudes itself into the homes and church buildings of Christian people in North America. Quebec is one of the most secular governments in secular Canada, so I am not too optimistic about the outcome of these ‘negotiations’. Education is regulated at the province level in Canada, so these regulations do not have immediate effect on the rest of the country, but the philosophy of interference and usurping parental choice and parental authority is held by teacher’s unions and government bureaucrats across the country.

Each battle of this sort must of necessity be fought case by case. May the Lord grant some sympathetic elected representatives who believe in liberty and the will of the people in order to bring some restraint on the grasping theocrats. May God’s people be moved to pray! May the Christians of Canada turn from worldliness and plead for God’s grace! May the Lord Jesus come quickly!

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

on my Japanese Maple

Inspired by Greg Linscott’s pics of his fall in Maine, [more here] I thought I would give you a couple of pictures of our Japanese Maple in our front yard. Unfortunately I didn’t think of this when it was at its peak, but some of its beauty and brilliant reds can be seen in these pictures. It is really a breathtaking sight for about a week every fall.

And now for a close up of the leaves. I’ve got it on my computer now as the desktop background.

The earth is the LORD’S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.
Ps 24.1

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

on catching up with sermon summaries

The latter half of last week was overwhelming with work, hence no blogging. I still have things to say, but had no time to say them!

This post will give a condensed summary of the preaching for Week 8 in our Through the New Testament series, otherwise entitled “The Revelation of Jesus Christ“, since that is what I think the New Testament is from beginning to end.

Wednesday evening gave us “The Shock of Betrayal”, a message that covered the Lord’s shocking announcements of betrayal and denial at the last supper, the institution of communion, and the prayer in the Garden culminating in the actual betrayal. What is particularly interesting to me about these events is that the Lord was dealing with the disciples yet again about rivalry over place and position. Edersheim speculates that the dispute was over where the disciples would be seated at the table and gives a plausible suggestion as to how the seating ended up. John’s gospel reveals that the way the Lord taught them about this issue was with the footwashing, which Judas participated in. As the Lord is instituting something as momentous as Communion, he is also dealing with pride, rivalry and humility in teaching his disciples right to the end. The repeated lessons to the disciples on this subject (at least three separate occasions) point out to us the significance of the problem of pride and political rivalry among disciples and also point us to the Lord’s answer to it: service.

Sunday morning, we began with “The King on Trial“, a look at the Jewish trial of the Lord with its three hearings, then the Gentile trial of the Lord with its three hearings. In the Jewish hearings, the high priests are on a fishing expedition, first before Annas, the former high priest, then before Caiaphas (Annas’ son-in-law) the current high priest. In the second hearing, Caiaphas gets what he wants when he gets the Lord to respond to the question whether Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. The Lord replies in the affirmative, then ‘ups the ante’ by saying that the priests will see him seated at the right hand of power and coming in the clouds of heaven (shekinah glory). The priests have the evidence they need. A. B. Bruce gives four reasons why Jesus answered this question when he was silent before all the other accusations:

  1. “The whole ministry of Jesus had made the question inevitable
  2. “The high priest was the proper person to ask it
  3. “It is an important opportunity for giving expression to His Messianic self-consciousness
  4. “Silence would, in the circumstances, have amounted to denial.”

[A. B. Bruce, “The Synoptic Gospels”, Expositor’s Greek Testament, Vol. 1, p. 320.]

After a daylight hearing to make the charges and sentence against Christ legal, the priests send Jesus to Pilate to get Roman approval for the sentence of death. Pilate waffles, realizing the charges are ludicrous, but with the vehemence of the Jews, finds no way out. He attempts to get Herod to take the monkey off his back (second hearing) with no success. Then he finally gives in as the mob joins the priests in shouting for the Lord’s crucifixion.

I centered this message around 1 Cor 1.18-25, especially the phrase “the Jews seek a sign, the Greeks seek after wisdom” and the bit about Christ being a “stumblingblock to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks”. This is on display in the whole trial scene. But to us who are saved, “Christ the wisdom of God and Christ the power of God”. The proposition for this message was: Your eternal destiny depends on what you see in the humiliation of Christ.

The second message was “The Dying Saviour Speaks“, where I focused on the four sayings of Christ on the cross that are recorded in the Synoptics. (There are three more in John.) My theme was forgiveness and my proposition went this way: The purpose of God in the crucifixion of Christ was fully accomplished: wrath against sin is eternally satisfied, escape from wrath for sinners is eternally supplied. My main points were

  1. Prayer for temporal forgiveness – for sins of ignorance (Father, forgive them… Lk 23.32-38)
  2. Promise of personal forgiveness – to a penitent sinner (Today you shall be with me… Lk 23.39-43)
  3. Place of all forgiveness – wrath outpoured on the innocent Son(My God, My God… Mk 15.33-34, Lk 23.44-45)
  4. Pathway to forgiveness – blazed by the faith of the Son
  5. (Father into thy hand… Lk 23.46)

The Son entrusted his soul to the Father, and so must we, based on the work of the Son.

The last message focused on the burial and emphasized the witnesses to the fact that Jesus really died. The title was “Witnesses to His Death“. In this message, we reviewed the Lord’s repeated teachings to his disciples concerning his death, the witnesses to his death, including the centurion, the soldiers, the councillors (Joseph and Nicodemus), the women watching, and even the chief priests and Pharisees as they asked for a guard against false claims by the disciples about a resurrection. We really didn’t cover anything new in this message, but I pointed out that it took the disciples a long time to understand the Lord’s teaching on this matter. On one occasion, the Lord said to the disciples

Luke 9:44 Let these sayings sink down into your ears: for the Son of man shall be delivered into the hands of men.

In the same way we need to let the teaching of Scripture sink down into our hears, to meditate upon it, to contemplate it again and again so that we might more fully understand the implications for our spiritual lives as we ground our hope of eternal life in the real death of the infinite Son of God.

Well, now I am caught up on summaries. I’m off to clean the gutters on our house … it’s cleaning day and my wife has some needs that must be met. I’ll post more later.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

on Olasky and Compassion

The Tragedy of American Compassion – Marvin Olasky (Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, 1992), 233 pp.

A book review by Donald C S Johnson, pastor, Grace Baptist Church of Victoria, Victoria, BC.

Olasky sets out to do two things in this book. The first is to provide a survey of methods and means of distributing charitable care to the poorest of society throughout American history. The second is to argue for a return to methods of care long since abandoned in the welfare state. Olasky optimistically states ” The good news is that the impasse can be resolved. Many lives can be saved if we recapture the vision that changed lives up to a century ago, when our concept of compassion was not so corrupt.” [p.5]. The first goal appears to be reasonably well met and readers will find Olasky a helpful resource to understanding what has been done. Olasky certainly argues vigorously for the second goal, but whether he achieves his end or not is not entirely clear. It is not that he failed to convince this reader of the failure of universal governmental welfare statism, but whether his alternative is likely to succeed in the current climate is still open to question.

The history of social work in America begins at the local level, when America was a nation of townspeople and country folk where the poor were your neighbours and you knew their names. Those who were poor due to their own indigence were subject to local censure and shaming, those who were poor through calamity or hard times were given opportunities to get back on their feet and rejoin the productive majority. The philosophy of the times is a result of the biblical view of man as depraved, needing discipline and compassion. Olasky calls this approach the approach of ‘Social Calvinists’ [p. 10]. The poor person sat on a three legged stool of family, church, and neighborhood. As long as America was a nation of towns, the three legged stool remained steady.

As America grew into a nation of cities, managing the problems of the poor became more complex. Cities provide economic opportunity and anonymity. Vice increases in concert with anonymity. Charitable efforts are complicated by the increasing distance between those who give charity and those who receive it. In the early 1800s, the increasing complexity of city life led charitable institutions and organizations to call for many volunteers – amateur social workers – whose responsibility was to be involved in the lives of those being helped to discern need and ability for self-help. The charities learned that giving out gifts in kind (wood for heat, groceries, etc.) rather than simply dispensing cash was much more successful. One evaluation of government charity from that day evaluated the work of the city of Philadelphia: ” The Philadelphia committee worried that the City of Brotherly Love’s willingness (very unusual for the time) to support women with illegitimate children was ‘an encouragement to vice, and offers a premium for prostitution.'” [p. 46]. You get what you pay for, apparently.

In the 1840s a shift towards government involvement and an abandonment of means testing was championed by Horace Greeley, publisher of the New York Tribune (and author of the famous quote, “Go west, young man.”). Greeley was a Universalist who not surprisingly did not subscribe to the biblical notion of human depravity. His efforts championed a change in social work pre-Civil War toward more government involvement and more universalism in support, with no concern for ability of the poor to work or not. As a political conservative would expect, such governmental interference met with only in increased demand for charitable support rather than a reduction in poverty.

The Civil War abruptly changed the national focus and post war programs for the poor diverged in two directions. The largesse of universalism was discredited to be replaced with views of ‘Social Darwinism’ which essentially suggested that only the fittest should survive. Some advocates of these views expressed not compassion or aid, but eugenics. On the other hand, churches and Christian organizations emphasized the need for total personal reformation – reforming the whole man, not just filling the empty hole in his stomach.

“Christians observed that Jesus neither abandoned the needy nor fed them immediately — instead He taught them. (In Matthew 15, Jesus feeds thousands after they have listened to Him for three days. In Mark 6, Jesus first teaches — ‘He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd’ — and only late in the day multiplies five loaves and two fish, so all eat and are satisfied.)” [p. 71]

In the era between the Civil War and the Great Depression, poverty relief largely was the domain of religious organizations, both church based and broader efforts supported by multiple churches and individuals. These institutions insisted on seven principles of charity, or The Seven Marks of Compassion, as Olasky calls them:

  • Affiliation: restoring/repairing/rebuilding family ties [perhaps making dysfunctional families functional], or creating new social groups such as a ‘church family’
  • Bonding: for those truly alone, bonding with a new group – the charitable volunteers, or a church family
  • Categorizing: those asking for help must be evaluated, not everyone treated equally. Help differs depending on able-bodied or not, mentally competent or not, etc. Key: work tests – will he chop wood for an hour? etc.
  • Discernment: ‘benign suspicion’ from a theology of the depravity of man
  • Employment: the goal of charitable work is to enable long-term employment of the able-bodied; stresses the importance of work
  • Freedom: not ‘the opportunity to do anything with anyone at any time, but as the opportunity to work and worship without governmental restriction’ [p. 111] — i.e., you don’t have to bribe someone to get a job, or to start your own job
  • God: philanthropy must meet spiritual as well as physical needs – teach people to love God and godliness; hard work, frugality, self-restraint

The Great Depression changed everything. The need was so immense, private charities alone were soon outstripped in their ability to help. Franklin D. Roosevelt brought in major change to government involvement with his New Deal programs.

‘The great depression of the 1930s revolutionized social work,’ Frank Bruno wrote. ‘Instead of being the Cinderella that must be satisfied with the leavings, social work was placed by the depression among the primary functions of government.’ [Frank Bruno, Trends in Social Work, 1874-1956 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1948), p. 300, quoted in Olasky, p. 155].

The New Deal programs still emphasized working in return for aid, but the heavy involvement of government in the field of social work was here to stay. Social work increasingly became the province of professionals, volunteers and private charitable organizations were de-emphasized as time went on. By the 1960s and Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, the triumph of socialism ‘cornered the market’ for the government in social work, so to speak.

“Until the 1960s, the public dole was humiliation, but thereafter young men were told that shining shoes was demeaning, and that accepting government subsidy meant a person ‘could at least keep his dignity.’ This, then, was the key change of the 1960s — not so much benefit programs as a change in consciousness concerning established ones, with government officials approving and even advocating not only larger payouts but a war on shame. Underlying the change were the theologically liberal tendencies within social work (and related fields) that had been criticized by Niebuhr a generation earlier, and which were becoming more evident than ever.” [pp. 168-169]

Olasky’s survey brings us up to about 1990, sixteen years ago now. Recent trends in compassion are not discussed and a revision of the book discussing some of the current efforts like George W. Bush’s “Faith-Based Initiatives” would make the discussion current.

To sum up, there are three main views discussed in the book: the evangelical view of the depravity of man coupled with the Christian call for meaningful and productive compassion; the liberal/secular view of the essential goodness of man and the call for universal rights and wealth redistribution; and the hard-hearted social Darwinist view that argues for letting the poor weed themselves out of the system. It seems to me that there might also be a fourth view from a laissez-faire economists point of view that could resemble the social Darwinist in some ways, but also emphasize the value of work and insist on discipline and effort from each individual, without a real Christian ethos. Olasky doesn’t discuss this view, perhaps because it has never held significant sway in American history.

Olasky’s discussion provides some excellent insights, the chapter on the Seven Marks of Compassion is especially helpful and could provide some principles for guiding Christians and Christian churches in their social efforts.

Where Olasky’s book fails, in my view, is to come to grips with the massive problem facing modern welfare states. There is a tremendous amount of inertia created by fifty years of the dole and the dependency that it has created. Politically, a dramatic shift in policy seems impossible, and a shift in policy by incrementalism requires long term effort, dedication, and a wholesale change in government philosophy by the citizens. Incrementalism will likely prove to be too slow and is subject to reverse incrementalism as shifts in political fortunes favor one side or another. In addition, although I agree in the main with Olasky’s view of the general principles which compassionate work should follow, I don’t see how Olasky or anyone he cites has really grappled with the problem of mega-cities and the masses of people who are dependent on some kind of government subsidy. Surely there is a solution to these problems, but merely re-energizing faith-based organizations seems insufficient to me. How can these initiatives really compete with the government? As one director of a New York street mission complained,

“rescue missions are seen as just another welfare program. … The men who come to us confuse us with the welfare department. A man feels the mission … is not really doing its job unless he gets what he thinks he is supposed to get. Now this is the attitude of the ‘client’ and not the attitude of a man seeking love and friendship and spiritual help. The early mission did not have this to contend with — this feeling that ‘the world owes me a living.'” [Earl Vautin of the McAuley Mission, quoted in Arthur Bonner, Jerry McAuley and His Mission, (Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1967), p. 110, quoted in Olasky, p. 185]

The current climate seems not tremendously different from the climate of the sixties in which Vautin was making his comments.

Finally, some guidance for Christians in how to effectively give others a hand up rather than a hand out are outlined in this book. It is worth reading as a reference to what has gone before and for ideas on how to be effective in helping individuals today. The book does not argue from Scripture specifically, though it does allude to scriptural principles. The scriptural mandate for Christian involvement in charitable work must come elsewhere. This book provides some practical insights to guide whatever Christian involvement might result.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

on separation simply summed

One of the great difficulities in understanding separation is what to do with the brother who differs with me at some point but not every point. I am talking here about brethren who in the main are separatists. When brethren will separate with unbelief and apostasy and certain forms of disobedience, how are we to relate to them if they allow some forms of disobedience that I do not allow? What are they to do with me? [Of course, by disobedience, I mean disobedience as I understand it – our definitions here tend to be fairly subjective.]

For example, there are brethren who do not compromise themselves with apostasy but who will allow greater latitude in music than I will. At some points, some go so far in this area that I couldn’t support their gatherings, though I would not be uncomfortable with personal fellowship, or even with having such a man support my gatherings. [This is only an example, please don’t get sidetracked by the subject of the example!]

But there are other examples. Suppose a man wants to be a part of fundamentalist fellowship but is an active supporter of Samaritan’s Purse or other such causes? What then?

One of my sons was in a conversation with some fellows along these lines. In their defense, we must note that they are young, untrained, and not in a position of leadership. But there may come a point when their views matter, and decisions would have to be made concerning fellowship. That point is not now. But what was significant to me in the report of this conversation was an observation my son made to me:

“To be a fundamentalist doesn’t mean you have to be always on the same page, but you do have to at least be in the same book.”

I thought that summed it all up rather well. There is quite a diversity of applications of separation. Sometimes our separating brothers make us uncomfortable with what they do or don’t separate from. I am pretty sure that I make my separating brothers uncomfortable with what I do or don’t separate from. But we are separating brothers. We are fundamentalists in philosophy, whether we use the label or not.

Those who are fundamentalists might not all always be on the same page, or even in the same chapter, but they are in the same book.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

on the 10.15.06 sermon summaries

We are in the midst of the last week of the Lord’s life. The chronology of that week are somewhat of a controversy, depending on which day you think the Lord was crucified on. Thursday advocates point out that you have a ‘silent day’ in the week if the crucifixion is on Saturday and scoff at the notion that the three days and three nights in the tomg can be accounted for by the Jewish practice of counting part of a day as a whole day. Friday advocates will note, for example, that the women waiting to administer extra spices to the body of Jesus waited over the Sabbath singular, not the Sabbaths plural as is required by the Thursday view [instead of one Sabbath, the Thursday advocates say there are two Sabbaths, one a special occasion Sabbath due to the way the Passover works, etc.] The argument is all quite complicated and it is difficult for me to discern the significance.

I tend to support the Friday view and take the day of silence to be the Wednesday before Passover on Thursday evening, a sort of ‘self-imposed sabbath’ by the Lord in preparation for the trial that is to come.

All of that to say that the events we are looking at this Sunday occurred on the Tuesday of the Passion Week. The first event we covered is the Lord’s last public message, recorded most fully in Mt 23. The proposition of the message is: “The manner in which error is opposed depends on the spiritual condition of the people being addressed.” The first group addressed in the sermon is ‘the multitude’ and the disciples. The Lord teaches them to listen to the biblical teachings of the Pharisees, but warns them against following their practices. He contrasts the self-seeking practices of the Pharisees with the Christ serving practices of kingdom disciples. So the manner in which the Lord addresses the crowd is as a teacher. The second group addressed is the Pharisees – the Lord pronounces at least eight woes (curses meaning ‘you are as good as dead’) on the Pharisees. The point is that they have so twisted things that they themselves aren’t entering the kingdom and they are in fact preventing others from entering also. This part of the message is direct and pointed. The Lord minces no words in rebuking the Pharisees. So the manner in which false teachers are addressed is full of opposition, rebuke, and condemnation. [And we must beware lest in our zeal for the Lord we fall under the same condemnation.] The third part of the message is to the nation: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem”. The Lord acknowledges the nations wickedness but in compassion assures the nation that if she would turn, he would receive. But ‘ye would not.’ So the manner of addressing a sinning nation and a sinning world is the message of compassionate forgiveness to those who are willing to acknowledge their sin and turn to Christ.

The whole chapter is one of sober reflection, brought about by the Lord’s strong words against the Pharisees. It seems that this is the last provocation, and it brings about the crucifixion three days later.

The second message dealt with the Olivet Discourse in Mt 24. After leaving the temple area, the disciples remark on the beauty of the temple buildings. The Lord prophesies that not one stone will be left standing on another. The disciples are shocked, and, upon arriving on the mount of Olives outside the city (in the Garden of Gethsemane?) the Lord answers their questions concerning the end of the age. The proposition for this message is: “The Lord’s preparation of his people for the end of time provides assurance to saints who live in uncertain days.” The first point is that of reassurance to saints in a troubled church age (4-14). I realize that some dispensationalists do not see the church at all in this chapter, but in this section, the Lord describes general conditions that exist now, no signs, and states: “don’t be troubled … the end is not yet”. So I take this to be reassurance for the church age. The second point involves signs, and is II. revelation for saints in a time of great trouble (15-28). Here is the abomination of desolation and a lot of trouble and concern. Here Matthew tells the readers (not the hearers) to understand. Here the Lord clearly explains that the Second Coming will be unmistakable. The last point is this: relief for saints in the time of dire distress (29-51). The Lord gives these words to those who are in that time of great trouble to reassure them that he is coming and to warn them to be ready. We can apply this to us as well. We are in times of distress. We should not be discouraged, but we should be ready.

Our last message involved a few events recorded in Mk 14.1-16 (and elsewhere) that I called “Preparation for the Passover“. The chief priests and the scribes were preparing for murder, a preparation of malice. Mary (named in John’s Gospel) prepared the Lord for baptism (on the Saturday preceding) by anointing his head with spikenard, a preparation for burial. Judas was preparing the passover by joining the plot to deliver over his Master (did this occur on the ‘silent day’, Wednesday?), in a preparation for betrayal. And Peter and John (identified in Luke) were sent to prepare the passover in the upper room for the Lord and his disciples. I went through the steps of preparing the passover lambs found in Edersheim’s The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah for this section. This is a preparation of obedience. I didn’t really have a proposition for this message, but this is where I was going in the conclusion:

• The priests were preparing the passover – they wished to slaughter the Lamb of God.
• Mary prepared the passover – she wished to honour the Lamb of God.
• Judas prepared the passover – he wished to give away the Lamb of God.
• Peter and John prepared the passover – they wished to eat meat with the Lamb of God.

What do you wish to do with God’s Passover Lamb?

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

P.S. Sermon notes can be seen by clicking the links in the article.

more pics from our work day

I meant to add more pictures to that last post, but got confused at what blogger was doing. This one is a view of the back yard where we were fighting brush on the fence. The new fence and townhouses are in the back view. One of our guys, Edouard, from Russia, is working away on the brush.

This picture is at the end of the day, looking out from the parking lot to the road, with my trusty truck in the foreground. There used to be a fence there by the big fir tree (another object destined for destruction).

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3