The Ashland City Counsel gave their initial approval to rob Americans this past week. The Ashland Source reported that the town is receiving $150,000 from the DEPARTMENT OF Housing and Urban Development, a federal program which gains its funds through unbiblical taxation. The stolen goods will be mainly used to pay for blacktop.
Recieving stolen goods is, we should remember, essentially the same as stealing the goods ourselves. It shows that we approve of the theft and are glad to have someone else's money without having worked for it or received the victims consent. The act of receiving it may be a worse crime, biblically speaking, because we use it for our own benefit and use a mediator to do the oppressing for us.
We Maust recognize that God outlines a specific role for civil magistrates. They are to "bear the sword" and be the avenger of God upon the evildoer (Rom.13:1-4). In sum, this role is one of justice, specifically the power to execute criminals who commit capital crimes.
The role of the sword does not permit governing officials to take money from its citizenry and redistribute it for pet projects. Thus, to use such funds for paving roads or renovating our neighborhoods is akin to robbing our next door neighbor to put in new flooring in our house. Worse yet, it is having Vinnie the Greek go rob our neighbor on our behalf.
Interestingly, the DHUD says the money is collected for "preventing blight." But the Bible says that blight is caused by unrighteousness and injustice. In Deuteronomy 28 we read of God's curses,
""But if you will not obey the voice of the LORD your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you...The LORD will strike you with wasting disease and with fever, inflammation and fiery heat, and with drought and with blight and with mildew. They shall pursue you until you perish." Deuteronomy 28:15, 22
If Ashland officials wish to improve the living conditions in our area, they should do as God says and reject the stolen money. God promises blessings to those who fear Him and obey. He says that obedience will produce the following,
"And the LORD will make you abound in prosperity, in the fruit of your womb and in the fruit of your livestock and in the fruit of your ground, within the land that the LORD swore to your fathers to give you. The LORD will open to you his good treasury, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hands. And you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow." - Deuteronomy 28:11-12
Here is what I've been thinking: OT Israel and early America didn't have strict border control. They invited people to come and work. That was part of the pathway to greatness.
Of course, rampant social programs mean this is not possible as people are coming for handouts. Thus, amnesty & crazed border control is just a symptom of a larger issue: the stupidity of the welfare state.
Moreover, guys with guns on the border not only can keep people out, they can keep people in. That means that when you do want to escape the clutches of tyranny you can't...at least not wiz out your papers!
In sum, big borders is still big government, and it is still dangerous.
Review of the Covenants to this Point
For the last several weeks we’ve been tracing the Covenant of Grace through the pages of Scripture. We’ve been emphasizing that each particular covenant we meet in Scripture enlarges and expands the original gracious covenant made in Genesis 3. Rather than introducing a change in God’s plan and a distinctly new epoch of history, we see fluid development God’s gracious plan of redemption.
Adam, having broken the first covenant (i.e. the Covenant of Works/Covenant of Life), was given a second chance. God entered into a second covenant, wherein he promised life and salvation through a Savior.
After the flood, God reaffirmed his covenant with Noah. God furthered this covenant by promising to never send another flood. God demonstrated his kindness by rescuing Noah & his family and by ensuring that the promised Messiah would come (i.e. all life would continue).
In time the earth seemed to have run amok again. It also appeared that God had given up on man by his dispersing the nations in his wrath. In that dark hour God appeared to Abraham & entered into a covenant with him. In this covenant we see with greater clarity to the scope of this covenant. God established this covenant with Abraham and his children.
To reiterate this, the Lord instituted circumcision. This rite had a twofold purpose: it served as a sign, pointing to our need for cleansing (life & salvation), and it served as a seal, confirming to each child & person the fact that they belonged to God.
The Covenant at Sinai & the Giving of the Law
A person standing at the foot of Mt. Sinai would have been amazed and grateful. They had been in bondage for a long time, and it might have seemed like God had given up on them. Now, they had witnessed some of the greatest miracles of all time. Millions of people had been freed, protected, and assured of God’s loving-kindness.
How should they respond to God’s kindness? How could they do to show their gratitude? God showed them exactly what would please Him most in the publication of His law.
It is important to recognize the continuity in the covenant that is established at Mt Sinai. For what happens here is a significant movement forward in the unfolding of God’s plan. The giving of the law is so significant that some have seen it as a break of God’s plan up to this point and an initiation of a new era whereby God’s people now gain salvation by keeping the law. This, however, is not true. The continuity with the overall plan of God is seen in a number of ways:
1) God’s promise to Abraham was that he would become a great nation, as numerous as the sand on the shore. The throngs camping out at the bottom of this mountain are a realization of this (or at least a partial one).
2) The people are standing on the very edge of the land which was promised to them through Abraham.
3) God had just graciously delivered the people out of Egypt solely because He had “remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, & Jacob.”
4) The requirements of the covenant were still the same: God required perfect obedience. To Abraham God said, “Walk before me and be blameless.” To Israel God gives his moral law and they respond by saying, “All that the Lord has said we will do.”
Instead of being a new era, the covenant at Sinai simply reiterates God’s promise to save His people and clarifies how the redeemed should live in light of it.
Why did God give the law?
Up until this time the rules that governed God’s covenant had been defined by the “eternal truths.” God was a spirit, so they were not to make images. God had rested on the Seventh day of creation, and set it as a pattern to be observed by the people. Man was made in God’s image, and the one who harms the image bearer was worthy of death because it is essentially an attack on the One whose image he bore.
Although the moral law of God had been set forth since the creation, they were easily blurred by the corruption of man. At Mt. Sinai God publishes his 10 words to specifically spell it out so that there could be no blurring of the line. (Note: The law is good, it still is applicable today--3 uses of the law)
A blood bath
At the foot of Sinai the people vow to follow God and the law God had given (Ex 24:3, 7). Immediately after a most gory ceremony commences. Moses sprays the people with blood drawn from the animals that had been sacrificed. Why does he do this? Think of it as a blood shower; they are, for all practical purposes, “washed in the blood.” God knows that their devotion will not measure up, but He has provided a covering of blood.
1. God gives both the law and sacrificial system at Mt Sinai.
2. There is a distinction between covenant failure & covenant rejection
3. God begins to “dwell” with his people after this covenant in the form of the tabernacle. The law facilitates the relationship.
The Davidic Covenant: The covenant of kingdom
The author of the book “The Lord of the Flies” was once given an interview about his classic work. During the interview he commented that his intention was to write a book that gave a real depiction of what kids would be like if they were left to themselves. His book depicts how a bunch of boys devolve into raw pagans who have no sense of civility. It is only when the captain from a rescue boat shows up that the children regain a sense of morality.
Anyone who has kids knows exactly what William Golding had in mind. If you leave the room for a few minutes, it will not be long before your children start fighting.
Both Golding’s book and your regular home life illustrate the need for a righteous authority figure. It also illustrates part of the reason why God raises up David and establishes His covenant with him. If the law given in the mosaic covenant was going to be obeyed, it requires a king would administer it (Davidic covenant).
Israel was “prone to wander” and “do what was right in their own eyes.” This was much owing to the fact that “there was no king in Israel.” So, get a king and all will be well, right? Nope. Israel wanted a king like the “other nations.” They chose for themselves a robust looking fellow named Saul. He was the very picture of military might. But, in the end, Saul turned out to be an evil tyrant who oppressed the people and became to them a source of agony. God gave them what they wanted, a king like the other nations.
The people of Israel needed a unique king: a righteous one. God rejected Samuel and raised up David, a man after His own heart. He would be the Shepherd of God’s people who would go on to usher in and establish the kingdom of God.
In 2 Sam. 7 we read how David wanted to build a house for God. But these plans are halted. Instead, God says he will build a house out of David. In sum, the Lord vows to enter into a special covenant with David, promising him that he shall have an eternal dynasty.
The king though, is not just one who ensures righteousness within his land. He also is one who fights. Thus, the king of Israel was one who subdued nations and fought God’s battles.
It is easy to see how the king then becomes a messianic figure. It is easy to see how the covenant of David finds its fulfilment in Christ. He is the only Son of David who ensures an eternal dominion of perpetual peace.
I was asked to participate in today's Election Day Prayer event that is being held downtown. It is put on by Southview Church and the Coalition, a conservative political group here in town. My segment of prayer is to focus on the topic of families. Here is what I plan to say...
As we bow our faces before you we acknowledge that a renewal in our country requires a renewal in our marriages and families. We know that we cannot have the former without first having repentance and reformation in the latter.
We confess that our nation is broken because our homes are broken. We suffer oppression from Pharaohs and Caesars because we have not first had godly mothers and fathers.
So we pray that you would grant us renewal at the grassroots level. May there be a reformation in our land, where we take to heart what it means to be united in the covenant of holy matrimony. May we begin to see that there is nothing more patriotic than the fidelity of a husband and his wife. May you grant us fathers and mothers who, instead of slaying their children, will instead love them and cherish them all their days. May these parents then take up their responsibility to train their children them in the fear of you and not further the decay of our country by handing them over to schools where atheism and relativism are the rule.
As we stand here today, we pray “God save the home.”
But yet, we know that as the king goes, so goes the nation. And for this reason we pray not just for a grassroots revival, but we also pray for our leaders and the policies that they make.
Lord, we ask that you would grant that those who would win out these elections would be restrained from instituting policies that further the destruction of marriage and family in our land. Instead, may they be made to do what is just and promote what is in accord with rule of King Jesus.
We pray that policies that strike against godliness would be revoked. You know how our nation permits (and even encourages) things like divorce, sodomy, and abortion. Moreover, our leaders continue to wrap the chains of debt around us. They oppress our families with heavy taxation. They rip apart families with their welfare programs. All this leads only to death at every level.
So we pray, like our forefather’s before us “God save the king.”
Finally, We pray “God save the church.” Where is the light to be found for our families? It is not in the pure preaching of your word and in the revelation of Biblical Truth. Father, we know that families will only rise out of the ashes when you unleash the gospel and unveil the fullness of its saving power. So we pray that you would raise up godly men to preach your word and send them throughout our nation as heralds of Your eternal kingdom.
All this we pray in the strong name of our King and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
The Nicene Creed was modified by the Latin Church, adding the word “Filioque” (i.e. and the Son). The Western Church wanted to be clear regarding the third person of the Trinity and His spiration. The Eastern Church, however, never accepted the term, and to this day continues to use the original form of the Nicene Creed. Thus, the controversy of the Spirit's procession
The Latin Church added the term because they thought it best represented the teaching of Scripture: The Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son.
The difference between the Western and Eastern Churches' understanding may be depicted like this:
You may ask, “What’s the big deal?” The difference is significant. The Eastern and Western churches have developed quite differently over the last 1000 years.
Before we get into more pragmatics, let’s examine the dynamics of filioque. The question comes down to this: How does one relate to the Father? In the Eastern church one is said to have communion with the Father by means of the Spirit only. In the Western church one relates to the Father by means of the Spirit and the Son. On the one hand, you have almost a direct access to the mind of God the Father. The Spirit brings it straight to you. One the other hand, the knowledge you may gain from the Spirit about God the Father includes the Incarnate Son (thus, this knowledge is mediated by means of what the Son reveals about the Father).
In sum, the Western Church will have both an incarnational aspect to it and it will be greatly influenced by the Word of Christ. In the Eastern Church, one does not necessarily have an incarnational aspect and may not need any relation to the Son to gain knowledge of God. For the Eastern Church then, the focus then tends to be on a mystical experience of God.
1. We can see some of the practical outworking of this through the writings of various people associated with the Eastern Orthodox Church (EOC). One Eastern writer sums up the Greek Church’s views well this way, “The premise of all mysticism is that experiential knowledge of God takes preference over doctrinal understanding of the character and being of God because of the transcendent nature of God.” (Italics added for emphasis).
Another Eastern writer says, “None of the mysteries of the most secret wisdom of God ought to appear alien or altogether transcendent to us, but in all humility we must apply our spirit to the contemplation of divine things.”
One more quote ought to suffice. This one from a contemporary youth who converted from Protestantism to the EOC, “This is how we worship, to stay concentrated in prayer. We believe that, during the service, God pours himself out. If you get quiet enough in your mind, you can feel, palpably, his presence.”
One can see how this radically differs from Western Christianity, especially Reformed Western Christianity. In the West we know God through the Bible alone and we admit that there are some things God has not chosen to reveal. Thus, for the West, “The secret things belong to the Lord” and we try not to pry curiously into them.
In the East, there are no secret things. All God's truth, even that which is not revealed in Scripture, is fair game because the Spirit grants us free and unhindered access to it.
To put it another way, in the West, we “experience God” by the Spirit’s illuminating our minds to the teaching of Christ in His word. In the East, one experiences God without this word and almost directly (save the mediation of the Spirit).
You might say that some of the Eastern Orthodox mysticism is parallel to some of the Pentecostal and charismatic churches today in that it seeks to have a definite, physical experience of God and gain knowledge of God without the Son. The Pentecostal inclination to seek mystical experiences of God apart from the Son and the truth He gives centers isan implicit denial of the filioque. Though Pentecostals might not openly reject the filioque clause, in practice they do.
2. Another practical expression of the filioque is highlighted by Bojidar Marinov. Marinov says that the Eastern countries do not have an adequate understanding of the “rule of law” as the western countries do. This is because their religious experience was framed by the Spirit’s direct interaction with the Father and had no incarnational aspect. Western Churches have fought tyranny because the word of Christ dealt with our physical, everyday life and not just our spiritual relationship with God. The law of God (i.e. the Bible) impacts both our relation to the world as well as our relation to God.
Eastern churches did not see this incarnational aspect. God only spoke (so it is said) to our spiritual lives. When it came to normal, everyday life another source of truth was needed. It became the state. Government leaders were the ones who gave law to direct the affairs of this world. So man was to be governed by two laws: one which was spiritual (life with the Father, mediated by the Spirit), and one which was physical/temporal (life on earth, mediated by bureaucrat).
3. Another expression of the practical implications of denying the filioque may be seen in the EOC’s focus on deification. The EOC says that the goal of human redemption is to be so united with God that one actually becomes divine.
For many Church Fathers, theosis [i.e. deification] goes beyond simply restoring people to their state before the Fall of Adam and Eve, teaching that because Christ united the human and divine natures in Jesus' person, it is now possible for someone to experience closer fellowship with God than Adam and Eve initially experienced in the Garden of Eden, and that people can become more like God than Adam and Eve were at that time. Some Orthodox theologians go so far as to say that Jesus would have become incarnate for this reason alone, even if Adam and Eve had never sinned.
In Western theology this is repudiated. The goal of Western theology is justification and being made right with God. This occurs through the atonement and the imputation of Christ's righteousness to us by the Spirit's application. In Eastern theology, there is essentially no need for atonement because union with the Father is not dependent upon the Son's activity.
Something of this is seen in the liberalism of the West. Liberalism says that God can be known apart from Christ, that there are “many roads to God,” and that all people will be saved (universalism). Such views say that the Spirit lives in us all and allows us to know God apart from Christ and the preaching of His word.
The phrase [filioque] in the creed can lead to a possible misunderstanding. It can threaten our understanding of the Spirit’s universality. It might suggest to the worshiper that Spirit is not the gift of the Father to creation universally but a gift confined to the sphere of the Son and even the sphere of the church. It could give the impression that the Spirit is not present in the whole world but limited to Christian territories. Though it need not, the filioque might threaten the principle of universality- the truth that the Spirit is universally present, implementing the universal salvific will of Father and Son. One could say that the filioque promotes Christomonism. -Clark Pinnock, Flame of Love, p. 196. (Underlining added for emphasis)
Pinnock's description is a clear renunciation of the fact that the Spirit is bound to “reveal the Son.” Instead, the Spirit is “universal” and “threatens…the universal salvific will of Father and Son.” In other words, Pinnock says that the way to God does not depend on the Spirit working in and through the word of God (which is the message of the Son, Rom. 10). Rather salvation is the working of the Spirit alone apart from God the Son & His word.
All this radically denies the Bible's plain teaching on the exclusivity of Christ for salvation.
 Understanding this is difficult. To say the least, it is not an ontological merge, where you become one with God physically. However, you are increasingly becoming god-like. The goal is not to become like Adam and Eve, as they were in the garden. But to become more than Adam & Eve were to the point where you are made divine.
"The point is that good law which affirms or mirrors the law and justice of God helps men to see their need for Christ. Bad law that contravenes and spurns the law and justice of God assists men in ignoring and/ or justifying their sin. Hence, the laws of a nation go to the very salvation of men’s souls."
- from The Doctrine of the Lesser Magistrates
The buzz on the local news feeds today focuses on Galion's public pool. Two homosexuals were denied a family pass because they did not fit the definition of a family as defined by the Galion city ordinance.
We need to keep in mind too that Galion likely forbids pedaphile rapists from wading in the kiddie pools. This is simply outrageous!
Seriously though. This is just another step our culture is taking to baptize perversion and normalize sexual deviance in our contemporary postmodern age. The cry of our day is that you can't put definitions on me and you can't say what is right and wrong.
The link above also shows the WMFD coverage of the city council meeting. In it a council member wears a big cross around his neck and claims to be a conservative Christian who has definite views regarding marriage. HOWEVER, he says, this issue is...wait for it..."about the children and their being able to use the pool."
With "Christians" like this in leadership is there any way the ruling will stand? Not hardly. The weak kneed man has no interest in standing for what is right. If he had any real concern for children he would remain faithful to the Scriptural command regarding marriage and family. He could easily say, "Homosexuals are free to use the pool, but we are not going to change our laws to acquiesce to their perversions."
My friend Caleb Davenport is currently running for the Ohio Senate. I want to take a second to encourage anyone in Wayne, Stark, and Summit Counties to back his campaign.
Caleb is a member of the congregation I serve and his Biblical convictions advance the priorities we hold dear. His decision to do so came as a result of the need to stand for life and liberty, something the current seat holder has not done.
At the top of his list is his support for the Ohio Heartbeat Bill, which could virtually wipe out abortions in Ohio. It would protect children in the womb as soon as their heartbeat can be detected, which typically occurs in the 3rd or 4th week. His opponent hands drip with blood because he has not backed this critical piece of legislation.
Davenport also has pledged to defend our freedom of conscience when it comes to our religious convictions. His opponent has introduced legislation that would mandate business owners to violate their conscience and require them to do business with homosexuals.
All of this goes under the false flag of "anti-discrimination." But what it amounts to is a huge infringement on one's first amendment liberties and, essentially, a state ordered religion.
The Biblical values also extends to the sphere of commerce and integrity in the marketplace. As an entrepreneur himself, Caleb already knows quite a bit about how government intrusion can take the life out of the economy. As a Christian he knows the results of making government the All Saving god.
If you value life and liberty, I want to encourage you to back Caleb's campaign. Visit his website and connect with his campaign Facebook page. You can help advance righteousness in the land.
One of the questions that I am often asked has to do with calamities and natural disasters. People wonder if these can be interpreted as signs of God's judgment upon America.
My answer to that is yes and no. On the one hand, we should acknowledge that we can never have an infallible understanding of God's providence. We are not prophets who can peer into the mind of God and determine whether or not God is using this event as a way of testing us (as in the case of Job) or if it is a direct expression of his wrath (as in the case of the Moabites attacking Israel during the time of the Judges).
However, that being said, every calamity ought to give us pause. If we treat it with a sort of atheistic complacence and never give a single thought to the sins of our community / nation / state / church, we may only be incurring more guilt. It is only right that such times of calamity would cause us to bow before the Lord to humbly petition his mercy.
It may be that such a catastrophe may have nothing to do with communal guilt. But it would be foolish not to take time to reflect as a corporate body and/or ask the Lord to reveal our misdeeds if there be any to which we are blind.
[For more on this, I would recommend James Henley Thornwell's famous sermon, "Judgments: A Call to Repentance."]
We might be more particular here and ask whether or not the recent hurricanes, wildfires, and attacks by enemies indications of God's wrath. To this I would respond, "Perhaps so." Yet this I can definitely say: God is not on America's side.
We do not need any specific national tragedy to assure us of this. The fact that we have gross and appalling deeds should be all the indication we need.
We are a nation that is embroiled in sin. We have a staggering amount of blood on our hands due to abortion, a debased currency coupled with debt proportions that are almost astronomical, and an all round attitude of giving God the finger every chance we can. These are just a few of our corporate offenses.
That we are not escaping the clutches of this downward spiral is judgment enough. God has said he would give people over to their sins, and this is what he seems to be doing.
It should be safe to say that America, though once a shining city on a hill, will no doubt go the way of all nations if Christ should tarry. And while God may very well send us warnings, it is safe to say that we are tightening the noose of our destruction quite well enough on our own.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.