Two Kingdoms

It saddens me to see so many Christians get wrapped up in politics. we have virtually no sense of history (the early days of what used to 26822be a representative republic were far wilder than the current election cycle) and seem to have lost sight of the two kingdoms in play. Augustine likened them to Two Cities.

The Bible is clear – God created three units of government for this age: the family, the state, and the church. We do not read of any of the apostles nor the Lord trying to overthrow the Roman government, although that is the charge brought against Jesus by the Jewish leaders.

We are not selecting a theologian-in-chief this year. We have not had a solid Christian man in the White House in the past 100 years; all of them have put politics above Truth for the most part. We play into the hands of the world when we try make this country into the mold we imagine for it. But no matter how much we desire a secure temporal future under a God-fearing government, that is not where our security lies.

The best thing for this country would be political leaders who cling to the Constitution, just as the best thing for our local churches are men who cling to the Scripture.

The political machinery in D.C. all works together to consolidate power at the national level (the Whig Party lives in the policies of both current parties). No matter if your favorite President was Woodrow Wilson, Ronald Reagan, GW Bush, or Bill Clinton (all professing Christians) – none of those men were able to put this country on the foundation of Scripture. That is not the job of the President.

If your view is that you must vote for a truly godly person as President, how is your position different from the Jews who clamored for a king like the pagan nations had, discontent with having YHWH as their King?

A President who will work against the status-quo and try to push the national government back to it charter document will do this country good, no matter what you or I think of his theology.

Truth or Tradition?

Tevye, Jewish patriarch in Fiddler on the Roof… truth or tradition

It’s a very busy, tedious, hard-scratch life in Anatevka. And how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word!             Tradition!

Because of our traditions, we’ve kept our balance for many, many years. Here in Anatevka, we have traditions for everything. How to sleep. How to eat. How to work. How to wear clothes. For instance, we always keep our heads covered, and always wear a little prayer shawl. This shows our constant devotion to God.

You may ask, how did this tradition get started? I’ll tell you. I don’t know.

But it’s a tradition. And because of our traditions, every one of us knows who he is and what God expects him to do. Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as,   As…  As a fiddler on the roof!

As his family responds to the various circumstances of life, they each tear apart Tevye’s sacred traditions bit by bit. His traditions were not transcendent; their foundation was uncertain.

What can we learn from this movie?

Most Baptists recognize that a major part of the errors embraced by Roman Catholicism are enshrined in extra-biblical traditions that are held up as church dogma. While it’s easy to see this in the Roman religion, do we carefully examine our own walk – as individuals and churches – to see if we are guilty as well? I am quite sure we all know the teaching of Scripture on this topic, as Christ quoted Isaiah in saying to the Jews, in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’  You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!” Are we Baptist excluded from this rebuke? My personal experience indicates otherwise. I pray these things are not true of you!

When I was first called as a deacon, it took 6 months of discussion to agree that tithing was not a requirement of that office. I was thankful the other deacons were willing to study this topic rather than merely throw me out. When I was in a seeker sensitive church I was ridiculed because I questioned this teaching, not seeing evangelism as inviting lost people to church, as I studied the Bible.

Baptists have traditions and, like Tevye, we often do not know or care where they came from.

While in a 1689 LBC church, I saw how traditions were to be supported without question, and I was looked down upon for not taking these positions on blind faith. The Decalogue is God’s moral law – why would anyone ask where that is taught in Scripture? The “Christian Sabbath” is binding on all people – why would anyone ask where in the Bible this is found?

In the two years since moving to SE Oklahoma, I’ve been exposed to several local Baptist churches and been intrigued by the extra-biblical traditions they embrace. Just as the other groups of Baptists, they are tenacious in the blind faith they have in their sacred traditions. It’s as if, as one church-man said about his “altar call” – “It’s the most important part of the worship service!” And it’s nowhere found in God’s Holy Word. What’s more, there is no altar in the New Covenant church other than the Lord Jesus Himself. Similar attachments are tied to children’s church (unsaved people have their own worship service!) and children parading through the gathered saints, begging for money to put in an offering plate, being applauded by the adults. I couldn’t help but think of Matthew 6:1-4:

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

In this passage we see that the praise of men is the only reward hypocrites have for their giving; it is not accepted by God as are the gifts from the saints on behalf of the saints (Philippians 4:14-18). The parading children played the part of the hypocrites in the passage cited above, with the adults playing the part of the “others” who praised the hypocrites. As with other acts of worship, giving as worship cannot be performed by those who are not clothed in the righteousness of Christ (Proverbs 21:27) and the money earned by sin should not be offered to God (Deuteronomy 23:18).

Celebration of birthdays and wedding anniversaries of all present in a worship service are the norm. Mothers and fathers are honored on those days so identified by the greeting card industry. Veterans and firemen, et al. are honored on Memorial Day as if these men are why we gather. I’ve seen the inside of a Baptist church building virtually clothed in American flags on July 4th weekend.

All of these practices displace the worship of God with lesser things, making man and his domain the focus of at least part of the time God’s people gather to supposedly worship Him.

The standard Baptist membership covenant from the 19th century requires members “abstain from the sale and use of intoxicating drinks as a beverage.” The Bible forbids getting drunk and warns about “strong wine” but does not prohibit the sale or use of alcohol for any but a few, such as Nazarites (Numbers 6:1-7). At the end of the time of his vow, the Nazarite was permitted to drink wine (Numbers 6:13-20).

Baptists call the church building “the house of God,” forgetting one lesson from John 4 – that in the New Covenant there are no sacred spaces and that the Bible clearly declares we are the house of God! The church building is not a sanctuary, it is, as an Anglican from New Zealand put it, a rain shelter. Our sanctuary is in heaven where our altar is – Christ Jesus is our all in all!

Baptist churches have sole “pastors,” “senior pastors,” “administrative pastors,” “executive pastors,” “worship pastors,” and the list goes on. All the while the Bible shows a plurality and equality of elders (“Pastor” not being a title found anywhere in Scripture).  Having two or more men who preach and teach provides several benefits, in addition to aligning with the examples and teachings from Scripture (Acts 11:27-30; 14:21-23; 20:7; Titus 1:5; James 5:14; et al.). Two or more men can sharpen one another and hold each other accountable, while the church sees the true Shepherd more clearly when they see Him work through more than one man. The church will see strengths and weaknesses in each man and those men will have the opportunity to be examples of how to serve in unity without letting egos derail the ministry. As they seek to identify others and train them for this service, more men will have opportunity to serve the saints in myriad ways. This is part of life in the body of Christ that is vital and often ignored or undervalued.

Each of these groups, and I pray, none of us, are what I call “white space theologians,” people who build their doctrine and practice on the white spaces in the Bible rather than the words God put there.

Many of these local churches have no statement of faith declaring to their members and interested saints what they believe; they accumulate their traditions along the way and new members find out by experience what’s important. This can be like walking through an unmarked minefield, and just as deadly.

We who are not of Rome tend to cling to our traditions as tightly as do the Roman Catholics. How can we defend this while rightly decrying their practice? Oh how I wish that Baptists would see the danger of our own traditions that are not based on Scripture and cry out for repentance! We were, once upon a time, called “people of the Book” for our tenacious grip on the Word of God. That name cannot, in good conscience, be applied to Baptists at large.

We protest, “Our traditions are not as bad as following Baal!” Yet search the Scriptures and see if you find any commendation for drifting away from God’s instruction in favor of any teaching of man.

My prayer is that each of us here would recognize the need we have to examine ourselves and our traditions – to see if there be any wicked ways therein. If we worship God according to our personal preferences rather than asking how does Scripture advise us to do so, we are in danger of drifting towards the black hole of Charles Finney.

D’Aubigne, in his History of the Reformation, observed, “Nothing terrifies the defenders of human traditions so much as the word of God.” He further recorded a scene in which a Cambridge professor named Bilney in the 16th century was tormented about his salvation and took the advice of Roman Catholic priests – abasing himself in myriad ways to make himself pleasing to God. He grew weak and wondered if the priests were more interested in themselves than in his salvation. He found a copy of the newly available Greek New Testament; he took it up and read 1 Tim 1:15 – The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. He realized that Christ saves sinners and he was a great sinner who needed salvation. With joy in his soul he rose up from the Book and declared that Christ had cleansed and redeemed him, eliminating all doubt and despair. “I see it all,” said Bilney; “my vigils, my fasts, my pilgrimages, my purchase of masses and indulgences were destroying instead of saving me. All these efforts were, as St. Augustine says, a hasty running out of the right way.”

This is what traditions do, if they are not of God and are pressed down on people as if they are required in order to please Him or build up His people. It’s as Paul said, the letter kills but the Spirit gives life! Unhealthy traditions are a burden that many know not they carry; but they weigh down on them more and more until they lose sight of Christ all together, so consumed in seeing to it their sacred traditions are upheld.

God help us so this may NOT be said of us! Let us remember our Lord’s words: Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.” (Jer 9:24 & 25)

The Absurdity of Rome

In all the discussions I’ve tried to have with papists, I can count on one finger those who were willing to discuss the issues rather than merely put up a defensive shield constructed of Romish fables. One thing I try to do us show them from friendly sources how bizarre some of their beliefs are. They cannot see the truth unless YHWH opens their eyes. May He use the foolishness of His gospel and the outrageous errors of Satan to do so.

There is no peace with God other than by grace alone by faith alone in Christ alone. For He has told us there is no other name under heaven or on earth that can save men and there is only ONE mediator between God and man – the God-man Jesus Christ! There is no room for you or me – or for Mary.

Even IF she could undo all the knots.

Here are their words from the web site Mary Undoer of Knots.

This Novena is known around the world…..and can change your life.

Why a Novena? Why nine days? novena-booklet

Mary stayed during nine days surrounded by the apostles in the cenacle, praying for the presence of the Holy Spirit.
In this persevering type prayer, She taught us the constancy and ardour of faith, so that we do not get discouraged when direct a petition to God. The Mother of God prayed and gave courage to the apostles to pray for the duration of nine days, in order to receive the most important and precious treasure for human life – The Holy Spirit.

We need to learn to persevere because it is written in Ecclesiasticus 2,15-16, “Woe to them that are fainthearted, who believe not God; Woe to them that have lost patience” and James says, “But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind; for the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord.”
( James 1,6-8).

Prayer is man’s strenght which shakes the heart of God because “nothing is more powerful than a man who prays” (St. John Chrisostomus) for they are participating in God’s power.
James tells us again, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly” (James 4,3) and St. Basil says, “If you have asked and did not receive, is because you have asked wrongly, with no faith or superficially or you asked something you did not need or because you have abandoned the prayer.”
“All graces we desire need to be asked through Mary, She provides everything we need” (St. Alphonsus Ligori). “All gifts, virtues and graces are dispensed by Her hands to whom She wants, when She wants and how She wants” (St. Bernardin of Siena).

Look at the picture of Mary Undoer of Knots!

In this angelic court, two angels stand out. One of them holds on to a ribbon, the ribbon of our life, which is full of knots big and small, loose and tight. They are the knots of our life, the knots of anguish and despair of separated couples, the dissolution of the family, the knots of a drug addict son or daughter, sick or separated from home or God, knots of alcoholism, the practice of abortion, depression, unemployment, fear, solitude, etc.

The good hearted angel looks to our Queen and holding onto the ribbon of our life, presents to Mary, the Undoer of Knots and says, “We trust you, Mother; You can help us. Undo, then, the knots of this life!”
Then, Mary takes our life into Her compassionate hands and with her long fingers of mercy goes on to undo each knot, one after the other. Look at Her. Feel the attention, love and tenderness with which She does this, hearing our plea, the supplication of a beloved child!
See what happens?
This ribbon becomes free of any type of knot, reflecting all the mercy and freeing power of the holy hands of Mary Undoer of Knots.
Another angel comes over, then, and taking the ribbon of our life, freed of all knots, looks at us and seems to say, “See what She did. Look at what Mary, through her intercession can do again. Trust Her, place your problems and afflictions in Her hands!”

The power of this Novena is the unlimited hope which through our faith we put in our Mother’s hands.
What kind of mother would be insensitive to the screaming pain of her son? This Novena opens Mary’s heart ( compassionate and sensitive) to Her sons, because She wants to reconcile them with Her Son.
“Who hath continued in his commandment, and hath been forsaken? or who hath called upon him, and he despised him? (Ecclesiasticus 2,12)
Because the constant increase in the number of devotees to the Novena, we are convinced more and more of the line in Saint Bernard’s prayer: “Never was it known that anyone who fled to Your protection, implored your help, or sought Your intercession was left unaided.” (St. Bernard).

“Nothing is more powerful than a man who prays” (St. John Crisostomus)

Back to reality. Note that last statement, amidst all the heresy? The one who prays is more powerful than the one to whom he prays.  If that clarify the nature of their god, I don’t know what will.

One Thing Atheists and Christians Can Agree On

One Thing Atheists and Christians Can Agree On


No doubt many have run into an atheist who is adamant about the non-existence of God (usually, in a more specific sense, the Judaeo-Christian God of the Bible). Whether it is all religions or just Christianity in general, they tend to reject what they believe is blind faith and fairy tales. Of course, they are entitled to their opinion. And there is no small shortage of satirical and philosophical rhetoric that some of them use to “refute” the existence of God. But, if you pay attention to the arguments they use to defame, blaspheme, and misalign God, there is one thing that Christians can agree with them on – the god they believe doesn’t exist really doesn’t.

A Strawman Argument is a logical fallacy that someone sets up as a misrepresentation, exaggeration, or complete fabrication of someone else’s position in order to make their own argument seem more reasonable. In this case, many atheists misrepresent their understanding of God/gods and portray them in such a way as to make their own argument seem reasonable, logical, and justified. But, in doing so, they not only set up a strawman, but they commit the most common and widely violated of all sins – idolatry. How? Well, it’s simple.

Anytime you hear an atheist speak, you will usually hear them mock God’s love in contrast to His justice (hell). Or misrepresent His “inability” to answer prayer. Or maybe you might hear how they don’t agree with Him creating intelligent human beings, yet require them to use “faith” to trust in Him (as if faith is absolutely blind). These are just a few of the many. But even if there is an answer to every misrepresentation they have about God, the most important thing is to reveal that although they don’t believe in God, they have inevitably made one up in their own mind! They have set up a divine strawman by which they can reason against over and over so that they can justify their suppression of the truth (Rom 1:8). So even though atheists may suppress the knowledge of God, and know that the true God of the Bible exists, in order for them to ease their conscience and justify their sin, they must create an image of god that suits themselves. A god that that they can deny, vilify, and reject by the approval of their own thoughts and imaginations. Most of their arguments do not work if they don’t do this. Whether you set up a idol to worship to go to war with, it is still idolatry.

Hopefully this strikes you as a much different approach then just providing scientific evidence for God’s existence. This is a mixed approach between revealing their sin and pressupostionally showing them another reason how and why they reject God. Next time you hear a false representation of God, you should disarm the atheist by telling them something like this, “Boy, I’m glad that the god that you are talking about doesn’t exist, because if he did, I would be an atheist too.” Because when you really get down to the nitty-gritty, what atheists do is exchange the truth of God for a lie (Rom 1:25) just like everyone else who does not know Him. And since eternal life is defined by knowing Christ intimately (John 17:3), other than the fact that the typical atheist is just suppressing the truth in unrighteousness, we must engage them by showing them that they are just like every other religion in the world (yes, atheism is a religion) that believes in false gods. Except theirs is just a deified punching bag that they can throw philosophical blows at in order to make themselves feel superior, more intelligent, and morally justified in their sin.

While other world religions offer sacrifice to their gods in order to appease them, atheists repeatedly sacrifice their false representation of God on the altar of reason, logic, and scientific method (systems of thinking our Lord Jesus Christ gave them) in order to appease themselves.  But hey, at least now when we speak to atheists, Christians can agree that the god they are talking about truly doesn’t exist. Because once they are introduced to the God of the Bible, Jesus Christ, and are regenerated by His Spirit, they will no longer speak defiantly, but devotedly; no longer with a heart of war, but of worship.

Let’s pray for the atheists that we witness to and bring the light of the gospel to them.

Below is an quick example on dealing with these kinds of atheists in conversation.

-Until we go home


Screen shot 2016-07-17 at 9.02.52 AM

Disclaimer: DefCon does not support Peter Kreeft. Only the quote used in the link window.

A lot to consider regarding our “little sins.”

The following article by Frank Powell gives us a lot to think about:

image9 Sins the Church Is Surprisingly OK With as Long as You Love Jesus

What if the big sins, you know the ones you try hardest to avoid, aren’t the greatest threat?

I was in an engineering class the first time I watched the tragic explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger. Even though I wasn’t alive when it happened, I caught a glimpse of the horror thousands must have felt as the events unfolded.

And, the first question everyone wanted to know was, “What happened?”

After months of investigation, here’s what the Rogers Commission (the group commissioned to investigate the explosion) discovered: An o-ring seal in the right solid rocket booster failed at take-off. I won’t bore you with the details, but an o-ring is a small device relative to the size of a space shuttle. Very small.

It wasn’t something huge, like a puncture in the rocket booster or a hole in the cabin, that caused this disaster. It was a small, seemingly insignificant, o-ring failure.

I think there’s a lesson here for the church. What if the big sins, you know the ones you try hardest to avoid, aren’t the greatest threat to your joy and the church’s mission?

Maybe it’s the sins lying underneath, the ones considered normal or acceptable, the ones going undetected, that are affecting the church the most. I want to address nine of these sins.

Continue reading here.

A Light View of Sin

Each week day I drive through a small town on my to and from work. For the past month or more, this sign has been in the yard of a church building. Even with good content, having a message board can be more of a burden than a benefit – it takes work and diligence to keep truth in a short message updated often enough so people notice. But when the message is wretched, one wonders why it is there at all.

Sin like a credit card

While it’s true that sin can seem enjoyable – what value would temptation be to Satan if the end product was rightly portrayed? – it is a biblical fact that we are to hate sin, not enjoy it. Paul addressed this in teaching how abundant God’s grace to towards His children, far greater than our sin, and then asking the rhetorical question:  Romans 6:1-2 (HCSB)  What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply?  Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it?

Does the apostle’s instruction seem more biblical than that of the church board in the picture? Again, the apostle –  2 Corinthians 5:21 (HCSB)  He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Knowing this, that Christ Jesus took our sin upon Himself, for them on the cross and was the object of God’s wrath that was due us, how can we abide a professing man of God who tells us to be cavalier towards sin?

Enjoy it now, pay for it later? It was PAID IN FULL on the cross! We add to the debt we owe Him every time we sin. It’s too often when we diligently seek to pursue Christ, how much more wretched would our track record be if we thought we were supposed to enjoy sin? Let the lyrics of this old hymn pierce your heart and mine. May we NO LONGER be at peace with our sin – or those who tell us to enjoy it! Let us not grow weary in well doing, but press on toward the prize that will not tarnish and be done with lesser things!

Stricken, smitten, and afflicted,
See Him dying on the tree!
’Tis the Christ by man rejected;
Yes, my soul, ’tis He, ’tis He!
’Tis the long expected prophet,
David’s Son, yet David’s Lord;
Proofs I see sufficient of it:
’Tis a true and faithful Word.

Tell me, ye who hear Him groaning,
Was there ever grief like His?
Friends through fear His cause disowning,
Foes insulting his distress:
Many hands were raised to wound Him,
None would interpose to save;
But the deepest stroke that pierced Him
Was the stroke that Justice gave.

Ye who think of sin but lightly,
Nor suppose the evil great,
Here may view its nature rightly,
Here its guilt may estimate.
Mark the Sacrifice appointed!
See Who bears the awful load!
’Tis the Word, the Lord’s Anointed,
Son of Man, and Son of God.

Here we have a firm foundation,
Here the refuge of the lost.
Christ the Rock of our salvation,
Christ the Name of which we boast.
Lamb of God for sinners wounded!
Sacrifice to cancel guilt!
None shall ever be confounded
Who on Him their hope have built.

Is Your Wife Your First Ministry?

Is Your Wife Your First Ministry?

At DefCon, we holistically support men who support their families. Men who make discipleship and love a priority for the home. The home is one of the central building blocks for a society, and the marriage is the sun by which everything in the home orbits. Having said this, there are many priorities that pastors, open air preachers, and everyday christian men have that may sometimes burden us. We can become anxious, stressed, and overwhelmed with the multiple obligations that we are to tend to. And yes, wives are included in this list of feelings. And the one thing that is not helpful are Christian cliches like, “Your wife is your first ministry.” It has a nice ring to it, and for the most part it is well meaning, but it does not properly convey the responsibilities and obligations a Christian may face on a day to day basis. It has also been abused by certain preachers that wish to exclude certain men from ministry.

I have attached a blogtalk episode that I and a pastor friend of mine recorded about this topic. My hope is that we would all take into consideration the biblical model of men not just in ministry, but just being men in general. All the material discussed in this episode may or may not reflect all the views of contributing bloggers here at DefCon. Here is the narrative and link of the episode below.

“On this exciting episode of G220 radio, George will be joined by Pastor Tom Shuck from Pilgrim Bible Church. Pastor Shuck is a graduate of Master’s Seminary and Columbia Evangelical Seminary and was a missionary to India for 12 years. He holds both a Masters of Divinity (MDiv.) and a Doctorate of Ministry (DMin.). He has been a pastor of Pilgrim Bible Church for 4 years and helped start a seminary in India as well as planted a church there. He enjoys sports, music, family trips, and George’s personal favorite, linguistics. He has evangelized in cities like Oakland, Orlando, Mumbai, Pune training believers how to evangelize, preach the gospel, and make disciples. His wife is Lisa Shuck and two children.”

“This episode we’ll explore the cliche “Your wife is your first ministry.” Is it Scriptural? Are there other primary biblical responsibilities? Can you make ministry your idol or mistress? What should a man who is called to preach do with this kind of cliche? What about missionaries and evangelists of old that we look up to that sacrificed much, even their marriages, for the gospel? What about Matthew 22:35-40, 1 Corinthians 7:32-34, Ephesians 5:22-33, and 1 Timothy 3:5?”

-Until we go home