"By wise counsel wage war." - Proverbs 20:18
American imperialism has grown by leaps and bounds over the past 40 years. From the muddy swamps of Vietnam to the ruins of Mogadishu, the United States has had its hand in almost every major (and many minor) conflict around the entire earth. Our military presence is felt on every inhabited continent and in most countries. Rivaled only by the late great empiricism of Britain, the American globalist’s military complex is the 21st century power to be reckoned with around the world.
So how are Christians to think about war? And in particular, how should we think about our own involvement in conflicts with our fellow man? The Proverbs say to wage war by wise counsel. So war is not always wrong, but it is also not always wise. In the 4th century, Augustine developed several ideas about Christians and conflict. These ideas have come to be known as the "Just War Theory". Below then are a few thoughts to consider as believers about all the wars taking place around us.
1. Is it a just cause?
War should be designed to protect the innocent, repel aggression and defeat evil. War should never be engaged in for purely personal or political gain. As Christians, we know God defines good and evil what is truly just and unjust. Therefore, unless we can clearly see a just cause to war, we must reject its premise.
2. Is there competent authority?
Biblically, only nations can go to war. A just war can only be initiated by those who posses rightful authority to declare war. National leaders have a right and responsibility to declare war against another nation when just cause exists. By "competent authority" then, we mean do the national leaders have the ability to discern and mete out justice both domestically at home, and in turn internationally with other countries? How leaders administer justice in their own nation will help define how they will abroad.
3. Is there reasonable expectation of success?
For a country to get bogged down in other intra-national conflicts where no real objectives or goals can be reasonably set or obtained is to compromise the idea of a just war. The "war on terror" is such an example. The 'war on terror' is an undefined open-ended conflict with no reasonable expectation of success simply because the limits, scope and objectives of this so-called war are in continued flux.
4. Finally, have all other means of peace been sought?
Armed war should always be the very last resort. As Christians, we are to do all we can do to live at peace with our fellow man. Unless war is thrust upon us, and unless we can discern a just cause to enter in war with others, then we should avoid it at all cost. The anticipated benefits of waging a war must be proportionate to its expected evils or harms.
As it stands today, I find no just cause, competent authority, reasonable expectation of success or any effort to exhaust all other means of peace in any of America's ongoing armed conflicts. At every step, ungodly military force is being pressed upon our fellow man around the world to accomplish ungodly ends. As Christians then, we should have no part in this. Let us simply pray God would grant is repentance, and let us remember the Lord’s words, "By wise counsel wage war".
"[H]e who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.” – Jesus
Jesus Christ was a staunch advocate of the 2nd Amendment. In fact, in the quote above taken from the Bible (Luke 22:36), Jesus, with a strong sense of urgency, tells His devoted followers to do whatever is necessary to arm themselves for their own safety. He even goes so far in stressing His point, that Jesus commands them saying, if you don’t own a sword, sell your clothes to buy one! These are certainly the words of someone who earnestly believes in the principle and right to keep and bear arms.
Yet, with the recent string of highly publicized shootings across the country by the mainline media, people have begun putting irrational passion over prudent principle. There is a rampant short-sightedness to the tragedies before us. We want to stop the killing of little children (and who doesn’t?) but we are willing to risk the future of our nation and its posterity to do so. One of the first lessons in firearms training is to never discharge a loaded weapon in a fit of passion or emotion. Why then, would we leave the fate of the 2nd Amendment in the hands of an overly charged emotionally loaded milieu?
Like the good hound dogs they are (no offense to hound dogs everywhere), the pundits and politicians in Washington have picked up on the scent of this passion and they are doing their very best to feed its fury. To them, the issue of gun control remains a matter of votes, power, and influence. To them, the issue is not about guns, it is about control! If they can be seen as the activists leading the way towards stricter gun control laws, then it means they remain “top dogs” in the eyes of an uninformed populace.
Samuel Adams once said the Constitution should, “… never be construed to authorize Congress to infringe the… rights of conscience; or to prevent the people of the United States, who are peaceable citizens, from keeping their own arms". Adams, in this quote regarding the liberty of men, was only reflecting the sentiments of our Lord Jesus Christ when He authorized His disciples to arm themselves for protection. The 2nd Amendment is a right of the American so that these exact kind of sentimental passions do not override sound principles during seasons of testing.
At the end of the day, what Jesus said 2000 years ago is still the best advice. If you don’t have a sword (gun, weapon, whatever!) do your best to arm yourself. It is your freedom to do so. It is your duty to do so. Your family and our future may depend on it. The 2nd Amendment was wisely introduced into the founding document of our country to ensure your abiding right to keep and bear arms would not be easily undone by the tide of time, emotion, circumstance and yes, even tragedy.
"And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” – Deut. 6:6-9
In our last article I considered the deplorable condition of America’s educational system. I pointed out that regardless of the motives or reasons behind its unacceptable situation, rational people, Christians in particular, need to look at other options for teaching and equipping their children. I ended the previous article with the suggestion of considering homeschooling as a viable alternative for this purpose.
What I’d like to propose in this edition is not only is homeschooling a ‘viable’ option for Christian families in educating their children, it is the very righteous, biblical and blessed option. But before I present the case for homeschooling based on biblical precedent, I need to first back up a little and speak to the matter of the family as a whole from a biblical perspective.
God created the family as the basic institution or building block of society. In Genesis 1, God created Adam and Eve, male and female, married them and told them to be fruitful and to multiply and fill the earth. In short, to start a family. So when we reflect on the family, we need to understand it as God’s vehicle for all time in establishing, maintaining and propagating the human race. In other words, the family (spouse to spouse, parent to child) is fundamental and prior to every other social relationship in the world.
It is by and through the family that truth, ideas, thoughts and information in general is best conveyed. This is seen in Deut. 6:6-9 posted above. God told fathers and mothers to teach all He commanded of them to their own children. They weren’t supposed to find someone else to do it for them (like a bureaucratic public educational system). This special and blessed task is not to be delegated. Rather it has been laid at the feet of the parents – the task of equipping and educating their own children. I would go as far as to suggest that part of the reason for the decline in learning in our culture today is because we (for the most part, though many Christian families are returning) have forsaken God, His Word and what He has to say about how children are to be nurtured, educated and trained within a given society.
There is a strong biblical precedent for homeschooling. Fathers are encouraged in the Bible to raise up (to educate) their children in respect of and in the instruction of the Lord (Eph. 6:1-3). Biblically, children are consistently admonished to heed the wisdom, counsel and teaching of their parents (Pr. 1:6-8). Children are to honor their parents. In short, the Bible gives Christian parents every reason to grasp hold of the wonderful responsibility of discipling and training up their own children unto the Lord. As we see more and more godly faithful homes filled with families fulfilling this important call, I believe we will begin to see the Lord’s blessings once more upon our land.
"My son, hear the instruction of your father, And do not forsake the law of your mother." - Pr. 1:8
If Christians are going to regain anything of a Biblical world and life view, then this verse is going to have to hit home. The Church is surrounded by a culture which not only encourages son (and daughters) to despise and reject the wisdom and instruction of their parents, but many elements in society today are trying to provide easier avenues for children to escape the discipline and instruction of their father and mother. Yet, the unintended consequences of such "escapism" results in also escaping from the geniune love, care and concern most parents seek to provide as a context for their raising their children.
Jonathan Edwards once wisely stated that every Christian home is like a little church. It is a place where the Holy Spirit dwells, Jesus Christ is praised and the work of God can flourish. The foolish son will reject the instruction of godly parents and denounce the work of God through his parents in bringing about his own personal spiritual and physical well-being. The Proverbs wisely instruct sons to hear the instruction of his father and to heed the law (the counsel) of his mother. God has placed them in your life for a purpose. Don't waste it.
Please turn in your Bibles to the Book of Ephesians. Our passage today will be Eph. 4:25-32. These are the Words of God...
25 Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor: for we are members one of another. 26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: 27 Neither give place to the devil. 28 Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. 29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. 30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.
In 1951 Christian theologian and ethicists Richard Niebuhr (knee-bur) released for publication his seminal book entitled "Christ and Culture". This work quickly became the standard in many circles for studying, understanding and applying Christian principles to the rapidly changing cultural revolution occurring in America in the late 1950s early 1960s. In the book, Niebuhr gives a history of how Christianity has responded to culture. In it he lists 4 different approaches we can take as Christians to the prevailing cultural influences around us.
1. Christ against Culture. In Christ against culture, the Church is viewed as an eternal antagonist to prevailing cultural influences. The people of God are constantly opposed to and complaining and criticizing the unrighteousness or ungodly aspects of the culture.
2. Christ of Culture. Here, the Church sees its role as adopting, as much as possible; the prevailing cultural influences in any given society. The art, language, music, dress and so on of a given culture is openly assimilated into the life of the Church. This is how the Roman Catholic Church has predominantly worked. The RCC moves into a culture with little or no impact on the people or their way of life; they simply assimilate it into the life of the Church. Much of modern American evangelicalism has adopted this position as well.
3. Christ above Culture. This view of Christ and culture sees a great divide between the spiritual and physical realm. The things of this life are seem as worldly transient and fleeting. While spiritual things are viewed as higher, loftier, and more abiding. In this view Christ has little to no influence on society. We sometimes call people to hold to this view those who are ‘too heavenly minded to do any earthly good’. They place Christ above or beyond the culture and attempts to influence culture irrelevant.
4. Christ Transforming Culture. Finally, and this is the position Niebuhr ultimately takes, is Jesus Christ and the mission and ministry of the Church, if faithfully done, transforms the prevailing culture for good and more into conformity with the will, purposes and design of God. In Niebuhr's own words he said of transforming culture, the church "focuses less on the action of God before time or life with God after time, and more on the presence of God in time. [It] is more concerned with the divine possibility of a present renewal than with conservation of what has been given in creation or preparing for what will be given in a final redemption."
My point in sharing this with you today is to say as I study Paul's letter to the Ephesians, as I look at what it written to them here in the 4th chapter, I see in the Apostle a clear sense of urgency for a transforming influence to sweep over these Christians. In other words, it is my opinion Paul was very much interested in Christ transforming the prevailing culture.
As we consider the passage before us today, Paul is setting forth a new Christian ethic. Verse 25 - stop your lying; speak only the truth to your neighbor. Control your temper, verse 26, and if you must get angry do not allow it to lead to sinful behavior. Remember the cultural climate of ancient Ephesus when Paul first wrote this letter. Here was a large pagan metropolitan city. A center of regional commerce, government and religion. One of the greatest ancient pagan idol temples, the Temple to Diana, stood overlooking the city. Immorality, lying, cheating, bribery, foul speech, all manner of wickedness prevailed among the people. The culture was debauched, corrupt and evil.
I think what Paul is saying here is our belief; the Christian faith is not merely a personal faith. I think the Bible makes the case it must begin there, true religion is born in the heart of man by the grace of God, but as the seed of faith begins to grow, what I suggest Paul is saying here, and what the bigger picture is, is that that the Gospel will have a transforming influence which goes beyond ourselves. And how could it not?
For example, in verse 29 Paul says no corrupt communication is to proceed out of our mouth. So negatively, Christians are not to speak as non-Christians. Our language, our tone and so on ought to be distinct, different. And positively what does Paul say about the speech of a Christian? We are to speak how? "Speak that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers." In other words, seek to transform, to influence, the thinking of others by speaking in such a way as it edifying and ministers God's grace to them. Christ Transforming Culture.
Looking back at verse 28 Christians are told to build things to the glory of God. "Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needs." We are to be culture builders, working with our hands to cultivate good and godly works that they may minister to others.
In verse 30 we have the well-known verse about grieving the Holy Spirit. But I think we sometimes misapply this important piece of Scripture. We think we grieve the Holy Spirit when we sin against God in some inward personal way. And I'm not saying we don't. I'm sure we do. But in this context, where Paul tells us not to grieve the Holy Spirit, the context speaks to our activities outside ourselves, in dealing with others, in our Christian conduct, in our attitudes in our actions, in transforming the culture. I believe it grieves God's Spirit, when we fail to life out our faith, when we fail to be the influence, the salt and the light we are commanded to be.
So we have to back up a moment and just say, if individual Christians are faithfully living for Christ, then as a Body, as the Church as we collectively apply the Christian faith, the Christian ethic in our lives we cannot help but be a transformative influence for Christ upon society. Look at verse 31. As we heed Paul, “letting all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you" and in turn, verse 32, "be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you". As we sincerely apply these principles, I can't help but believe God can use us to change things.
And our world desperately needs changing. Oh how desperately we need Christ to transform the culture of America. The great Christian philosopher and thinker Francis Schaeffer once said, "There is only one perspective we can have of the post-Christian world of our generation: an understanding that our culture and our country is under the wrath of God. Our country is under the wrath of God. Northern European culture is under the wrath of God. It will not do to say how great we once were... The last few generations have trampled the truth of the Reformation and all that those truths have brought forth."
I think of how God's Old Testament people, when they entered the Promised Land began to clean house. They did not tolerate the worship of false gods, they torn down the places of idol worship; they expected those who lived there to abide by the ethic and moral laws God Himself had given to rule over them. They did not sit idly by and complain about the culture. They refused, or at least at times, refused to assimilate with the pagan culture. They transformed the landscape. They labored and toiled with their hands at the work of God to spiritually create a new holy righteous and God-honoring land.
Here's my point to my message today and the just of what I believe the Apostle Paul is getting at here in chapter 4. The problems we face in this world are ultimately not educational, social, economic psychological or political - they are spiritual. We are spiritually dead. Our problems are spiritual and therefore our solution must be spiritual - though manifested physically - in the real world. In many ways the story of Christendom (a word we don't use very much anymore) is the story of incarnational truth. Just as the Word became flesh to bring redemption, the fruit of a vibrant, holy and passionate Church being fleshed out in the work of redeeming the culture. We might say Christian culture is the Gospel in bodily form. Christian culture is what occurs as we live out the Gospel by faith.
In the 8th century, when St. Boniface took the Gospel to the pagan Germanic tribes, he found they worshipped a sacred tree known as Thor's Oak. This sacred tree was widely venerated by the Germanic peoples. In order to show these people the power of Jesus Christ over their false gods Boniface famously chopped down Thor's Oak and used the wood to build a church. The people seeing Boniface was not struck down by their gods believed Christ was God and many came to the Faith
by his deed. Christ Transforming Culture.
The basis for all lasting change both in the individual and in society will always be rooted and grounded in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It was for Christ's sake that we are forgiven, redeemed and restored. And it must be for Christ sake we take that redemption to a lost and dying world and begin the work of cutting down the oaks once more. Amen.
“What you have as heritage, take now as task; for thus you will make it your own”. - Goethe
"Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways... and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls." - Jer. 6:16
Dear Fellow Christian Gentlemen,
We stand at the edge of a epoch-changing time in our history. The lot has been cast. It has fallen to us to be the generation of men upon which much, if not all, of our future will be written. As I pen these words, the very foundation of our society is crumbling to the ground around us. Rampant demagoguery, decadence, and degeneracy has befallen us and we find ourselves pressed sorely under the hard Providences of a holy and righteous God. The spiritual weaponry of Christ's and our enemies are being wielded this very moment. The tips of their spears and the edges of their swords have been shaped and sharpened; anxious to draw your blood (if only figuratively for the moment). No one remains safe. God's enemies are eagerly anticipating the death and destruction of the Christian man. They long to see an end to all that the Christian holds precious and dear. The enemy's joy and satisfaction, his glorious victory will only be realized as your faith, your convictions, the people and possessions you treasure most (and if needs be your life), along with the ideals you value and the principles upon which you stand united with your brothers in Christ are completely wiped from the face of the earth, stricken from history, and covered in the fullness of the wickedness and depravity of fallen man.
The gauntlet has been thrown down. A challenge has been given. The prince of the power of this world and his minions have rallied together on the field of battle and they are relentlessly determined to send you to your demise. Therefore it is here and it is now that we, as men standing firm upon our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, must answer the call to service in our Master's army. It is now that serious conviction must root out flaccid complacency. Righteous principle must triumph over godless apathy. Fear must flee in the face of a fierceness and determination like that of our once honorable forefathers. It is up to this generation of would-be-warriors to face our enemies on the battlefield, robed in the full armor of God, and prepared to live, or if needs be die, for the cause of Christ! What we, dear brethren, have as a rich and precious heritage, the faith handed down to us, we must now take as our calling and task. Only then do we make it our own. There is an old path, a better way. There is the grace of God and the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit to quicken and strengthen us for what lies ahead. Be it in our coveted churches, in our homes and by our firesides, or in the realm of public opinion, civil affairs and cultural controversy, may we be found fighting the good fight of the Faith once delivered to us by the beloved saints.
The hour is at hand. The time has come. Chose this day whom you will serve. May the men of God in my generation, those of this era, be found faithful in their calling. May history record of many great deeds done, of higher and more nobler victories won, and of the mighty advancement of God's kingdom accomplished at the hearts and hands of my fellow brothers. Yes, we may stand at the edge of an epoch-changing time. Yes, if we fail to act today, the heritage we leave for tomorrow's children may be one of dread, despair and shame. But there is hope! Greater is He that is in you, then he that is in the world. Arthur Hugh Clough (1819-1861) was an English writer, author and poet. One of his best known works was a rousing call to tired soldiers to keep up the good fight entitled, "Say not the struggle nought availeth". Be encouraged my brothers. Trust in God and you will find rest for your soul. I leave you with Mr. Clough's though-provoking poem. Will you join me?
"Say not the struggle nought availeth, the labor and the wounds are in vain,
the enemy faints not, nor faileth, and as things have been, things remain.
If hopes were dupes, fears may be liars; it may be, in yon smoke concealed,
your comrades chase e'en now the fliers, and, but for you, possess the field.
For while the tired waves, vainly breaking, seem here no painful inch to gain,
far back through creeks and inlets making, came silent, flooding in, the main.
And not by eastern windows only, when daylight comes, comes in the light,
in front the sun climbs slow, how slowly, but westward, look, the land is bright!"
Post tenebras lux,
"A faithful witness does not lie
" - Proverbs 14:5
Rahab lied when she led the king's men away from her house, after hiding the spies from them on her roof (Jos. 2:5-6
). Or did she? Was Rahab really lying? Never in Scripture is Rahab condemned for having acted deceitfully. In fact, in the New Testament, her works are praised as a demonstration of her faithfulness (Jas. 2:25
This leads us to the thorny question: What is a lie? And what determines if something should be condemned as lying or not? Now, I'm going to have to have to pick your brain for a minute. Consider Rahab. It wasn't what she said that determined whether she was lying or not. If we judge by that standard, Rahab clearly lied. But is it possible that if we are judging a lie what what a person says, we are judging the wrong thing?
Consider our Proverb - The faithful witness does not lie. What was it that justified Rahab's words? Her faithfulness. She was being faithful to God in her dealings between the king's men and the spies. She was not lying because her words while deceptive, were faithful.
This is the principle I believe is being taught in our Proverb. It isn't what we say, but from what heart we say it, that makes our words lies or not. The difference is not in our words, but in our faithfulness. Lying comes forth from a heart not given over to God - a heart that lacks faith. Our words do not lie, our hearts do. The emphasis is on the man, not his words. Therefore, as our Proverb states, "A faithful witness does not lie".
In 2 Timothy 4:7, Paul, coming to the end of his life, and just before his martyrdom wrote, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith". He saw his life in terms of a race. And if there's one thing we know about a race, it has a beginning and it has an end. As a young man, you are just beginning your race. Ahead of you lies the potential for great good or great bad. Down the road awaits many things - joy and suffering, times of ease and times of challenge, testing for your life, and rest for your soul. Therefore, as you set out on this race; allow me to impart to you three brief maxims, three principles which I pray will help guide you along your way.
Equip thyself with the Word of God. Psalm 119:11, "Your word I have hidden in my heart that I might not sin against You!" Dear son, light well the oil of the Scriptures that they might serve as a glowing lamp unto thy feet and a vivid light unto thy path all the days of your life. Freverently read your Bible, more earnestly and more deeply with each passing year coming to love its content. Hide its treasures in your heart so you do not sin against God. Remember its precepts, its teachings, and strive with all you have to life by it today and forevermore.
Endeavor to honor thy father and thy mother. Exodus 20:12, "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you". It has been said that no matter where life takes you, it begins and ends with family. God commands us to honor our parents. They have been given stewardship over you. As you mature under their provision and care, their love for you will come in many different forms, but always remember by honoring and loving your father and your mother; you are honoring and loving the Lord.
Exalt the Lord Jesus Christ. Col. 1:18 says we are to live so "that in all things Jesus may have the preeminence". Dear young man, if I might to leave with you one singular piece of advice, one precept with which to carry with you as if I were to never see you again, it would be to live with every breath to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ. Live each day as if it is a gift from Him, and seek to serve Him in respect and awe of who He is. If this one principle finds root in the recesses of your soul, and your heart is given completely over to the Lord Jesus, then you will find all other things in this world, no matter where God in His providence might take you, will we added unto you and you shall find the blessing of the Lord.
"Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise:" - Proverbs. 6:6
In a few months, we'll be back to the dog days of summer here in the deep south. Last year, we suffered through several days of over 100 degree temperatures. All you would want to do on these days is either stay still in the shade, or comfortably inside somewhere cool.
Respite from the heat and hard work is always a good thing and oftentimes needful. But as our Proverb speaks to us this week, rest does not need to turn into idleness nor slothfulness. As the people of God, we are called to be industrious and resourceful; using the most of our time, talents and treasures while on earth. The Geneva Bible (1599) commenting on Proverb 6:6 exhorts it's readers,
"If the word of God cannot instruct you, learn from the little ant to labour for yourself and not to burden others."
Our verse is often used to describe and defend the idea of the "Puritan Work Ethic". This principle teaches that God has called every person to certain work, and that He blesses the labors of a man's hands, as man uses his work to glorify God. Hard and even difficult work is good and should be a part of every believer's calling.
Yet each calling may differ. So diligently serve God where He has placed you. There is wisdom in following this Proverb. The Lord can use even the most simple or mundane work to fulfill His purposes and plans. Therefore, may we all seek to serve God by finding and fulfilling all the good works His prepared in advance for us to do (Eph. 2:10). Amen.