Story of American Fundamentalism

Kevin Bauder, president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary, is in the midst of writing a series of articles about the formation of American Fundamentalism. I am finding it fascinating.

A recent article I read addresses sentimentalism and how it affected fundamentalism. I urge you to read this one and if you find it interesting check out the archive of articles and subscribe to the new ones. Good stuff. Here’s a sampling from the article on Sentimentalism?

“The new sentimentalism, however, completely changed the way that people saw God. God was no longer complicated. He was no longer terrible in His holiness. He was not a God who hid Himself or who left His children weeping in perplexity. Rather, His fundamental attribute became niceness. God was now thought to be the quintessence of fair-mindedness. Such a God would never barge into an unresponsive heart.”

Love Profits Me

Christians often define love as “self-sacrifice for the benefit of another with no desire for personal gain.” In general I don’t think this is bad, probably not heretical. At the same time, it might be wrong.

1 Corinthians 13 says things like “I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”

The implication is that only by loving others do we actually gain a profit! In other words, love is actually the only way your self can gain!

Does this not make love self-serving? If we love someone so we profit, isn’t this more like capitalism than selfless sacrifice?

Indeed. Who are you kidding? At one point have you ever done something for someone else with no thought of how this makes you look good, feel good, make friends, influence people, gain trust, etc?

Even Christ Himself did not sacrifice Himself on the Cross with no thought of personal gain. He endured the cross for the “joy set before Him!” It was because He was cast down at the cross that He was exalted on high for eternity.

A person who thinks they are loving someone else with no thought of personal gain is closer to being a Pharisee than being like Christ.

Profiting From Love

1 Corinthians 13 is pretty rough. You can be a martyr and if you don’t have love it profits nothing. Ouch.

In analyzing what I do, how often is pure love my motivation? At some point this exercise becomes nothing but insipid introspection, which, although Paul never said it, also seems to profit nothing.

At the same time, we should examine ourselves. There is a role in our neighborhood that my wife and I took on ourselves voluntarily and, I think, motivated by love, that has now become a burden.

You would be hard-pressed to convince us we were now doing this role out of love, but rather we do it out of having no alternative. Does this mean all we do for this dear, dear neighbor is now worthless?

Perhaps. But I also know we only started it because of love, it was the right thing to do. We also keep doing it because it’s the right thing to do even though love does not look or feel like it once did.

I think we are accountable to do the right thing, even if we have twisted motives. When we do good, evil is present with us, there will be bad motive at some point.

Waiting for purity before moving is a sure way to guarantee you will do nothing, which is also less than profitable. Ah yes, so it continues.

Think About God

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”

So says A. W. Tozer. I think I agree. Here is why:

1) The number one command of Scripture is to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul and mind.” These three words (heart, soul, mind) describe the inner-life of each of us. If our inner-self is not loving God we are in big heap trouble.

2) One of the primary areas of sanctification is the renewing of our minds. We are given a sound mind, not a fearing mind. We are made sober, circumspect, bringing every thought captive to Christ. Our thoughts are vital.

3) “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” Our thoughts determine who we are. If you think God is mad at you all the time, or keeping score, or not coming through, or always jovial and jolly, your actions will reflect your notion of God.

There are two main points then:

1) Take time to think about God. Now.
2) Take time to read Scripture that you may think right thoughts of God. Now.

Faith and Expectations

It is my contention that wrong expectations do more to hinder growth and endurance than anything else (Yes, yes, yes, other than sin itself).

The problem is that we put our expectations on God, expectations that our minds cooked up, not that the Bible presents.

* We give up on prayer because God doesn’t answer them the way we expected.
* We give up on fighting sin because God does not magically eliminate the sin the way nor as quickly as expected.
* We give up on evangelism because no one “gets saved” the way we expected.
* We give up on good works because God isn’t glorified nor are we appreciated like we expected.

In the end, we give up. We settle for nothing. We lower our expectations so God is no longer a loving Father who provides for His kids, but a busy Dad who doesn’t have time to do anything we expect. We blame it on God’s failings. He let us down.

The problem is that Scripture says we are to do what the Father tells us to do regardless of outcomes. The Bible is quite clear on this point. In fact, the worse the outcome, the greater opportunity for growth–tribulation works patience, etc.

God asks us to pray, fight sin, evangelize and do good works because it’s the right thing to do. Faithful obedience is what we’re asked to do. leave the results with Him. Never retreat into lethargy. Our God reigns.

Have biblical expectations and be faithful to your Father’s Word.

Love Brings Forgiveness

A woman comes to Jesus, dumps oil on him, cries all over and wipes it around with her hair. The disciples are amazed at this show of affection, somewhat offended.

Jesus corrects them-she loves Him, unlike Peter who just stands around. Jesus says that those who love Him a lot are the people who have the most sins forgiven, those who love Him a little have fewer sins forgiven.

That’s the application we hear anyway, except that’s not what Jesus said! Because this makes it sound like drug addict, porn star, serial killers would love Jesus more than a kid in a Christian home. In other words–sin becomes a virtue.

This application always bothered me and today I read Luke 7:47, the punchline of the story and notice what Jesus actually says:

“Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.”

Jesus does not say that because many sins were forgiven she loved Him much.

His exact words are “many sins are forgiven because she loved Him much.” Then, after pointing out the great show of love, Jesus then tells her that her sins are forgiven.

Here’s Jesus’ point, if I may be so bold–A person who loves Christ a lot sees more of their sin and acts in love knowing that they have all been taken care of. A person who loves Christ a little does not truly see all their sin and hence does not see the great love Christ offers because they don’t see their need.

Loving God is not a work that results in having sins forgiven, Jesus himself says a few verses later it was her faith that saved her. But love is the expression, every time, when a person sees forgiveness.

Jesus as CEO

Luke 5 shares the account of Jesus fishing out of Peter’s boat. Peter is told to let down the nets. He explains that there aren’t any fish there, but, OK. He gets a huge load of fish, almost sinking two boats trying to get back to land.

At this point American Christianity makes the point:

bring Jesus into your business. He will have you do things others don’t understand, nonsensical things we like to call ‘faith,’ hardy-hardy-har. But this is what you want, because if Jesus comes to your business you will succeed.

However, here’s what Luke 5 says:

And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.

They left all upon hitting shore. They didn’t even sell the fish, or make a deposit at the bank, they left all and followed.

Jesus is not something we add to our life to make it better; Jesus takes us from our life.

It’s amazing how hard it is to get this point across. Jesus did not suffer and die so you could live the American Dream, He didn’t even do it to heal your sniffles. He did it to call you to new life, to make us new creations.

He didn’t enter your life to reform the old, make the old better, paint over the old. He came to do away with the old and start you over.

Leave it all and start over–that’s the outcome of the Gospel. Drop your stinking fish and take hold of eternal life.

All Things For Good

If a man loves God and is called according to His purpose, then that man can know for a certainty that all things will work together for good.

A man who truly believes he loves God and is called by God should have a rock solid assurance in all he does. Fear of all things temporal should be eliminated. Confidence will override the system.

If this were true, this man’s life would be marked by risk-taking, abundant giving, and boundary pushing efforts.

The immediate response to this logic is that it’s testing God or arrogant, short-sighted and dangerous. If a normal guy does this, I would agree. But a man who loves God and is called according to His purpose?

I don’t think these concerns are the issue!

If you know for sure that you love God and you are called according to His purposes you will undertake a life of radical faith, obedience, service, ministry, and giving. A life that few live, for few have confidence in the One who calls.

Don’t apply this verse only to people who get cancer. Apply this verse in all areas of life. It’s high time to wake up, live in the day, in the Light of Him who has called you. This will result in a particular way of life not many have seen, let alone lived.

“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light”

A Truly Bad Day

Seriously, I don’t want to talk about that book I almost finished reading. I want to talk about words that give life.

Amos has another great verse, 8:11. Again the context is Israel violating all that God has said and yet pretending to still worship Him. He prophecies about a sad day coming:

“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.”

Although it may seem like a bad day when you don’t have food or water, a truly bad day is when you don’t hear God’s Word.

Jesus Himself spoke of God’s Word being what we live by, this is vital truth, truth that sustains. Yet how flippantly we cast it aside. I’m always amazed at hearing from long time believers that there is some part of the Bible they haven’t read.

We have Bibles all over our American houses.  This is what gives life, what makes people wise unto salvation, gives doctrine, correction, reproof and instruction. This is life.

O read the Word. Read it like your life depended on it. Read as regularly as you eat and drink. Desire the sincere milk of the word, and move on to the meat too. O read it. A day may come when you can’t.

Seek Good and Not Evil

I am still attempting to not discuss that outrageously blasphemous book I almost read all of. I don’t care how many guys you can quote to repeat your drivel, it’s still drivel. . .

Anyway, I will divert back to Amos.

Amos 5:14a, another great quote. In ignoring dumb book and quoting good book, I am attempting to live this verse even now. This quote sums up life in general. It may not seem like it at first, but it does.

“Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live”

Notice it’s more than doing good, it’s seeking it as a way of life. Seems sort of silly we have to be told not to seek evil, however. . .

The result of seeking good and not evil is that you will live. Evil has a way of killing people. I love simple, beautiful statements. Amos has some fine ones. Read it some time and not that other book I’m not going to talk about.

Be Prepared

This blog used to constantly rip on stuff. I have left off that path for a couple years now. I am really struggling right now though! I recently read a book, well, 3/4ths of a book, that sent my blood pressure through the roof.

However, instead of bashing that book, I will talk about a good book–the Book of Amos, not to be confused with The Book of Eli. The Book of Amos is in the Bible. Old Testament.

One verse that caught my eye was Amos 4:12. The context is God levelling judgment on Israel for their rebellion, He rescued them from judgment like Sodom got, yet they remained rebellious, and then says:

“Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel: and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel.”

Oh people!

There is a severity and a beauty in that statement. I love God. I do. I love His emotion-filled expressions. I love this.

At the same time, what a way to put a guy in His place. Are you prepared to meet your God?!

Concordance Christians

Concordance Christians is my new term for those in modern Christianity who often sound informed, as if they have a deep knowledge of God’s Word. They can rip off a fine Scripture quotation to make their point. And they have many points. Many, many points.

Unfortunately, their scriptures that “prove” their points are often ripped out of context. Concordances, at best, give you the phrase the word you are looking for is in, but they do not give anything close to context.

I have detailed many such phrases in the past. As an example, “Where there is no vision the people perish” flops out when churches are about to ask for money. However, the very next phrase says the vision is keeping God’s Law.

But if you are looking for a way to get your plan into action, you look up “vision” in your concordance. “Oh, hey, look at that, just what I needed. If people don’t have my vision they will all die. This will make a great sermon!”

I have a plan to write a concordance that includes context. This plan has one fatal flaw: it’s impossible.

Instead, I urge everyone to just go ahead and read the Bible. Know the context by knowing the Book inside and out. When you use a concordance, don’t stop with your handy phrase, look it up to make sure it actually means what it seems to say in that phrase.

Concordance Christians are an inch deep and a billion miles wide. Modern technology is handy, but also creates ignorance. Go deeper.

Rock Head Part 3

Continuing to discuss being a rock head. It’s not all bad. Allow me one more proof of its virtues.

God Himself is described as a rock, in fact, Psalms says that He is “the rock that is higher than I.” This not only shows that God is a rock but so to is the psalmist. God is a higher rock than him.

Furthermore, Jesus Christ is seen as a type in the rock that Moses struck to bring forth water. He is also the “rock of offense” that caused Israel to stumble.

If we let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, hey, we become like the Rock! A true rock head.

Rock Head Part 2

For some reason, I am attempting to redeem the term “rock head.” Yesterday I talked about how the Messiah would “set his face like a flint” to do what His Father desired.

I will now go so far as to say that if you are not a rock head you are in sin!

“And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.”

Some people are ineed dumber than a box of rocks. At least the rocks are doing what God made them to do and, if given the opportunity, would cry out to worship Christ.

Unfortunately, people struggle with pride, unlike rocks who remain, I guess, humble. Arrogant people do not give glory to God. Rocks do. Being a rock head is not all bad.

Rock Head

Being called a “rock head” is generally not a good thing. However, anything can be redeemed.

Isaiah has a part where the Messiah is prophetically talking in the future and says:

“For the Lord GOD will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed.”

Setting your face like a flint means to have a determined, unmoving tunnel vision. He knew what to do and that’s what He was going to do. No mater how bad it might look or who opposed Him, He was listening to His Father.

He was a rock head in the best sense of the word. Wouldn’t it be great to know the Word so well that we know just what to do? Wouldn’t it be great to know God so well that nothing could stop us from doing what He said?

This is what our Savior did on our behalf. Let us indeed follow in His steps.

Fearing a Good God

If God were just angry all the time I imagine we would lose our fear. We would probably move into avoidance. Why fear an angry God if there’s nothing you can do to make him not angry? You’d pathetically give up and  slouch into your fatalistic future.

If, however, God is also good, then we’re in trouble! We fear God because He alone can forgive.

God does not like sin, it makes Him angry, He wants to pour out His wrath on all unrighteousness and ungodliness. We are unrighteous so we deserve His wrath. This is not good.

But God is good! He has provided a way to escape His wrath. Now we are accountable to receive His goodness. We need His goodness. We are wholly dependent on Him! The result is fear.

You can believe my logic or you can take God’s Word for it.

“But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.”

God is Angry All The Time

There is a song about God being “good all the time” repeated ad nauseum. The song always bothers me. It doesn’t bother me that people think God is good all the time, He is. No argument.

It does bother me because He’s lots of other things all the time too. Things that might not jive with our notion of “goodness.”

“God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day.”

A day with the Lord is as a thousand years, etc. One could easily read this verse to say that God is angry all the time.

God is good all the time, but He’s also angry all the time. This is not a bad thing, unless you’re one of the folks He’s angry at, of course. Psalms contains a song about it, why don’t we sing this one ad nauseum?

If you do not love a God who is angry all the time, then you love a God who smiles warmly on things like child abuse, the Holocaust, and various other atrocities.

God is good all the time and sometimes He shows this goodness through anger. I have no problem with singing a song about God being good, let er rip. But balance is important in Theo-ology lest we create a skewed view of God. Give all attributes of God equal play.

Talking to Fools

Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.”

Proverbs recommends not talking to idiots. This is great news. Talk about a time saver! This prevents arguments of many kinds. Just ignore the foolish things you hear, don’t be brought down to their level.

I love verses like this. Cut and dry. No doubts, anytime I hear a fool I won’t talk to him.

Except then I kept reading and guess what the very next verse says?

Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.”

Aw, man. Bummer. Not so cut and dry anymore. I hate verses like that. They make that whole “faith thing” necessary trying to figure out what to do when. This is no good. What are the odds I’m going to pick the right fool to talk to?

Not good. Not good at all. I hate being accountable. The Bible is one annoying book.

Perhaps the resolution is that yes, you will be brought down to his level, although this may not be helpful for you, it might be for him. God wrote a whole book to us fools.

Asking For Money

Our church has been struggling financially lately. This has put me, the pastor, in a bit of a bind, not just a financial bind either. What do I do about this?

I have heard some people say that they never ask for money, they just go on faith and wait for God to provide. Is asking for money a lack of faith? Several reasoned answers.

1) It might be if it is done in a humanistic way: look how much WE can do if WE get so much money.

2) It might be if it changes your doctrine and compromises the truth and primarily feeds the belly of the church or its leaders.

3) Paul asked Corinth for money for some of his people. He guilts Corinthian church goers quite heavily to give money.

4) People who never ask for money but “simply trust God” seem to bring this up a lot, which is actually asking for money by drawing attention to the fact that you don’t ask for money.

5) I could go either way.

Since I’m bringing this up, I’ll cut the facade and go ahead and ask for money! As you consider your giving this year, remember a small church in Rhinelander, Wisconsin that faithfully preaches the Word.

Rhinelander Bible Church
PO 506
Rhinelander, WI 54501

Truth Not Opinion

In my opinion, starting an argument with “in my opinion” can be foolish.

“In my opinion” is the classic Dale Carnegie method of winning arguments and friends, supposedly. It softens the confrontation of ideas. It works quite well in many realms and I would recommend its strength properly applied.

Proper applications of this opening move work well when discussing politics, current events, top rated quarterbacks, whether beef is better than chicken and many other issues.

However, it is wrong to use this phrase when teaching Scriptural truth. Putting God’s Word on the level of opinion is blasphemy.

When preachers in the Bible wanted to confront people they did not start out  with “It is my opinion that the actions taking place amongst the residents of Sodom are not good.”

On the contrary, they began their statements with this very uncompromising statement “Thus says the Lord.” This is not opinion, this is Truth.

Let us not water down the facts of Scripture by making them mere opinions. Preach the word in season and out with all authority, because this is Truth.

Counted Righteous by Works? Part 2

So, was Phinehas counted righteous by works or faith?

Scripture is clear that men are made righteous by faith. Even James does.

The point of resolution is the FACT that justification always results in works that show the vitality of justification. James’ point on Abraham and us is that faith is accompanied by works, I show my faith by works.

In our view, we know a man is justified because of his works, “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified.”

And, I think this is what is said about Phinehas. “And that was counted unto him for righteousness unto all generations for evermore.”

Phinehas was given an eternal covenant priesthood because of this act. It was a reward for doing the right thing. It was approved by God before men and men would always remember his righteous deed.

Same thing with Abraham. No one can doubt his approval by God, everyone knew he was God’s friend. He’s the father of all believers. We know Abraham and Phinehas are justified because they did righteous deeds that God approved of.

Justification is by faith. Justification results in works that are pleasing to God. These works glorify our Father in heaven. We know we are justified because we are created in Christ Jesus and we do these good works.

It’s the whole point.

Counted Righteous by Works?

Believers are justified by faith. Everyone knows this (except for James).

Justification is when we are counted righteous by God. Abraham is the great example (except in James) of how Abraham “believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness.” That’s how it’s done.

Everyone who has every been counted righteous was counted righteous by faith.

Except Phinehas (and probably James). Phinehas? Who is Phinehas? Phinehas is the guy who speared adulterating Israelites in the act to stop a plague killing lots of Israelites.

“Then stood up Phinehas, and executed judgment: and so the plague was stayed. And that was counted unto him for righteousness unto all generations for evermore.”

This act was counted to Phinehas for righteousness. Was he saved by faith or is this some other sort of Old Testament works salvation? I’d enjoy hearing the mental gymnastics to make Scripture coherent on this one.

(By the way, I have a theory, a fine Biblical tumbling run)

When Listening Goes Wrong

Life is never as bad as it is when you’re talking to someone in private. Then weird emotions come forth, evil things are said, problems are exaggerated, rumors are started, bad attitudes are fed.

This is even worse when you are in private with a person who feeds this disposition. Sometimes listeners are the worst thing in the world. Listeners should stop sometimes.

Following God’s Word is not all that hard. it’s straight-forward stuff, it’s not hard to figure out what to do. The problem is when we talk about it. Soon, what seemed so easy, becomes difficult, maybe even impossible and stupid.

Wilderness Israel was to listen to God. He told them what to do, lead them with a pillar of fire. Easy.

Until they got home at night.

“they believed not his word: But murmured in their tents, and hearkened not unto the voice of the LORD.”

It was the talk in the tent that ruined their walk in public and brought them all down. O for discretion in what to hear and what to say.

United Hearts

Heart health is very important in Scripture and I aint talkin’ about cholesterol levels. We are to love the Lord with all our hearts. We are to sanctify the Lord in our hearts.

Psalm 86:11 is a request for God to “unite my heart to fear your name.”

If something must be united it seems to imply that it isn’t currently. There are various elements at odds in our hearts. We have no power to make our hearts otherwise, so we must request that God unite our heart.

Our heart can fear man, events and various other imposing forces, but what can man do to me? What can separate me from God’s love?

If the answer is nothing, then our heart should be united in fearing God and Him alone. It’s the path to blessing and peace. It is also essential for there to be unity in the Body of Christ.

If each individual’s heart is not united in fearing God, how can a group of disunited hearts hope to be united? Collective unity begins with individual unity. Unite your heart.

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