The Man Behind the Billboards

If you have been driving down Interstate 10 between Beaumont and Orange over the last few months, I would assume that you have seen the billboards declaring that Judgment Day will take place on May 21, 2011. You may have wondered who is behind such a declaration since the Bible clearly states “concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” (Matthew 24:36) Well, wonder no more; W. Robert Godfrey, the President of Westminster Seminary California in Escondido, California has started a series of Blog posts detailing the life of Harold Camping, the man ultimately behind this aberrant teaching, entitled, The End of the World According to Harold Camping: Part 1.

HT: Heidelblog

“The Ordering of [Our] Common Affairs Beforehand”

 NAS The Jews therefore, because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. (John 19:31)

The preceding verse reminds us that the Jews spent the day before the Sabbath day getting ready for it (that is why they called Friday the “Day of Preparation”). There were many things that had to be done in order to prepare to “remember the Sabbath Day to keep it holy.” Things are not that much different for us as we prepare for the Lord’s Day (and I have no problem calling it the “Christian Sabbath”). For our family, we make sure to fill up our two vehicles (I usually need to get there before Dixie and the boys), get anything from the grocery store that might be needed, work diligently to get the boys in the shower on time in order that they can get to bed on time (and so can we), checking to make sure Sunday clothes are clean, and trying to take some time to prepare our hearts to worship the Lord with God’s people. We usually prepare “crock pot” meals so a large amount of time does not have to be spent cooking, cleaning up the kitchen, etc. and we are better able to focus on the Lord on His day.

Granted, every family is different, and it is not for me to add extra-Biblical laws for your lives, but I would encourage you to ask yourself, “What can I do on Saturday that will better prepare me to worship the living Lord on His special day?” The last two paragraphs of Chapter XXI of the Westminster Confession of Faith gives great direction concerning this issue:

As it is the law of nature, that, in general, a due proportion of time be set apart for the worship of God; so, in his Word, by a positive, moral, and perpetual commandment binding all men in all ages, he hath particularly appointed one day in seven, for a Sabbath, to be kept holy unto him: which, from the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ, was the last day of the week; and, from the resurrection of Christ, was changed into the first day of the week, which, in Scripture, is called the Lord’s day, and is to be continued to the end of the world, as the Christian Sabbath.

 This Sabbath is then kept holy unto the Lord, when men, after a due preparing of their hearts, and ordering of their common affairs beforehand, do not only observe an holy rest, all the day, from their own works, words, and thoughts about their worldly employments and recreations, but also are taken up, the whole time, in the public and private exercises of his worship, and in the duties of necessity and mercy.

Education = Instilling the Joy of Discovery in the Student

I am about two-thirds of the way through T. David Gordon’s book, Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns: How Pop Culture Rewrote the Hymnal, and came across a paragraph that really resonated with me. The book itself is not about education, but in his chapter on contemporaneity as a value, he touched on the unrelenting trumpeting of the latest technological “gadget de jour” which always is touted as the future of education. His comment, I believe, speaks to the key of all real teaching and learning:

Not one of these ingenious gewgaws addresses the fundamental reality that many educators since Socrates have recognized: namely, that the barrier to education is the student himself—his parochialism, his laziness, his resistance to disciplined intellectual effort, his complacent self-satisfaction with his present attainment and understanding. Nearly every capable educator in the history of the human race has realized that the least important thing we educators do is disseminate information, which is (especially now) widely available in less expensive formats. What capable educators have always attempted to do is to infect their students with a love of learning and a hatred of parochialism. The goal of every good educator is, and always has been, for our students to rediscover what they all knew intuitively as young children: the innocent and thrilling joy of discovery and understanding (a joy ordinarily crushed by compulsory education). At best, tools can assist those who already possess this love of learning, but no inanimate tool can or ever will infect a human with such love.

Other than reminding me once again that the answer to the educational dysfunction of our society is not to “throw more money at the problem,” it brought to my mind those teachers in my past who were able to “instill the joy of discovery” in me: Pinkie Reiss, my seventh grade Language Arts teacher who actually instilled a desire to use grammar correctly (those who read my blogs may say she failed miserably at her task, but I digress); Roy Parker, my ninth grade history teacher who fanned the dying embers of a love for history in a confused junior higher; Mr. Lambert, my world civilization and Russian history teacher at Lamar University who made me dig to understand “cause and effect” in history; Dr. Ralph Wooster, the nicest, classiest and most knowledgeable Civil War historian I have ever met (not that I have met a plethora of Civil War historians); and last, but not least, Dr. Winfred S. Emmons, the only literature professor since Mrs. Reiss that I both feared and respected. Sadly, as I think back on my seminary experience, other than Dr. Curtis Vaughn and Dr. Tom Nettles, none instilled that joy of learning in me (although I am sure that I was a difficult case).

I am grateful to God for those gifted teachers He providentially placed in my life down through the years, and I hope and pray, that as I teach God’s Word week in and week out, I can instill a love for the truth of the Scriptures in all of those who hear my voice. Thankfully, pastors have two advantages that school teachers do not have: the Spirit of God and the fact that “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

“He who marries the spirit of the age will soon find himself a widower.”

Terry Johnson, the pastor of the Independent Presbyterian Church (Yeah, I know, it is somewhat of an oxymoron) of Savannah, Georgia, has written an interesting article on the make-up of the 21st century church over at New Horizons entitled, “Our Collapsing Ecclesiology.” An example of the content provides us with food for thought early on this Friday morning:

Churches ought not to adopt the cultural preferences of any single demographic in the church. To do so is to give an unwarranted preference to one group and unnecessarily alienate everyone else. What should the church do? What did Protestant churches do for the last four hundred years? Or two hundred years? Or one hundred years prior to 1980? Their public ministry was catholic. They ministered and worshiped in the forms of their own ecclesiastical culture, founded on Scripture and tested by time. Their public ministry was historic—what the church, more or less, had always practiced. The word was read, preached, sung, and prayed, and the visible words, the sacraments, were administered. Even their music was that which had slowly evolved and gained universal acceptance. Their services were simple and plain. Their format, music, language, and furnishings and decorations belonged to no single group, and so their public worship and ministry belonged to every group.

A church that targets a specific demographic, be it the young or the old, cowboys or surfers, rockers or hip-hoppers, forfeits apostolicity. Why? Because the apostles did not target specific kinds of people. They cast their gospel nets widely, and their churches, as a consequence, were heterogeneous.

The church needs to heed the warning that is found at the end of the article, “He who marries the spirit of the age will soon find himself a widower.”

Read the rest of this thought provoking article here.

Tuesday Hymns: “My Times Are in Thy Hand”

William Freeman Lloyd was an Englishman who was known for his work with the Sunday School Union, and the Religious Tract Society in the early 19th century. His hymn, “My Times Are in Thy Hand,” is our Tuesday Hymn for this week. This hymn is based on the 31st Psalm and speaks of God’s loving care for His children through the difficult times of living in a fallen world. His most comforting line in the hymn is found in the 3rd verse where he reminds us that “My Father’s hand will never cause His child a needless tear,” reminding us of God’s purposes in both the sunshine and shadow of our lives.

It is normally sung to the tune, VIGIL, but Sunday we sang it to the more familiar tune, FESTAL SONG.

My times are in thy hand;
My God, I wish them there;
My life, my friends, my soul, I leave
Entirely to thy care.

My times are in thy hand;
Whatever they may be;
Pleasing or painful, dark or bright,
As best may seem to thee.

My times are in thy hand;
Why should I doubt or fear?
My Father’s hand will never cause
His child a needless tear.

My times are in thy hand;
Jesus the Crucified;
Those hands my cruel sins had pierced
Are now my guard and guide.

Happy Birthday to “The Rankin File” (okay, so I’m a few weeks late)

Two years ago (on February 27, 2009) I wrote the following as my first post on The Rankin File:

In a world satiated with blogs, why should I add another one? For starters, a friend has been encouraging me for a while to revive the old “Rankin File” (See, Brent, I do listen to you occasionally). Secondly, our pastor has started blogging again and nudged me tactfully to follow his example (See, Mark, I listen to you, also). Finally, if my feeble attempts to understand the glorious grace of God can be helpful to someone else, to God alone be the glory!

Since that day, there have been 258 blog posts on The Rankin File and there have been 11,848 views of this blog. I am not a computer geek, but even I know that those are very modest numbers. For example, The Justin Bieber Shrine Blog (yes, there really is a blog that bears that moniker) reports that his YouTube video has “averaged 3.38 million daily views while Lady Gaga has averaged 2.53 million.” Kanye West, on the other hand, has only averaged a paltry 271,000 daily views during the same time frame. I am sure they feel threatened by my average of 24 views a day during this calendar year. (Yeah, right.)

However, Deo Volente (Lord willing), I will keep up this modest venture, at least for the time being. I have enjoyed my trek into the Blogosphere so far, and since I am not a threat to Justin Bieber’s numbers and popularity, I need not fear hordes of middle school girls threatening to set my house afire, or picketing on the front porch of the church.

I close with this thought: Although, I do not consider myself of the same stature as John Newton, I can identify with the words written on his tombstone,

“John Newton, Clerk, once an infidel and libertine, a servant of slaves in Africa, was, by the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, preserved, restored, pardoned, and appointed to preach the faith he had long labored to destroy.”

May this pardoned sinner preach that same faith until the day he dies, or the day Christ returns in His glory!

“Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices” by Thomas Brooks III

The Puritan pastor, Thomas Brooks, in his book, Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, lists several of the “devices” or strategies that Satan uses to destroy the souls of men. He describes the third device in the following paragraph:

DEVICE 3. By extenuating and lessening of sin. Ah! saith Satan, it is but a little pride, a little worldliness, a little uncleanness, a little drunkenness, etc. As Lot said of Zoar, “It is but a little one, and my soul shall live” (Gen. 19.20). Alas! saith Satan, it is but a very little sin that you stick so at. You may commit it without any danger to your soul. It is but a little one; you may commit it, and yet your soul shall live.

Am I the only one who considers the sins of others as “serious” sins, but look upon my own as merely peccadilloes? I need to remember what I taught my boys when they were young and memorizing the Children’s Catechism:

Question: What does every sin deserve?
Answer: The wrath and curse of God.

May we flee to Christ, readily confessing our sins, and, seeking His sanctifying grace to enable us to “press toward the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”

“Hipness” and “Hell”: Like Oil and Water

Liam Goligher has posted an interesting article on Reformation 21 about how difficult it is to be a “culturally cool” pastor and talk about hell. His final paragraph sums up this dilemma for the “hip” 21st century pastor:

Ever since that pesky Jonathan Edwards preached that sermon in Northampton Mass. we’ve been feeling uncomfortable about the subject. After all, how does one make hell sound cool? What ubitquitous joke could possibly introduce a sermon on the subject? How does one write lyrics about eternal flames that fits the genre of soft rock (Eternal Flame by the Bangles doesn’t count)? So what have we done? We have simply muted it. Hell has become noted for its absence. We don’t tell people there is a hell to shun. Hence our people struggle to understand the ‘penal’ in penal substitution; they fail to grasp why God would need to be propitiated; the idea that we might be able to pass the final judgment on the basis of the whole life lived suddenly becomes a possibility, and consequently sin becomes less serious, less horrific, less something to be abhorred and avoided.

“Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices” by Thomas Brooks II

The Puritan pastor, Thomas Brooks, in his book, Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, lists several of the “devices” or strategies that Satan uses to destroy the souls of men. He describes the second device in the following paragraph:

DEVICE 2. By painting sin with virtue’s colours. Satan knows that if he should present sin in its own nature and dress, the soul would rather fly from it than yield to it; and therefore he presents it unto us, not in its own proper colours, but painted and gilded over with the name and show of virtue, that we may the more easily be overcome by it, and take the more pleasure in committing of it. Pride, he presents to the soul under the name and notion of neatness and cleanliness, and covetousness (which the apostle condemns for idolatry) to be but good husbandry [thrift]; and drunkenness to be good fellowship, and riotousness under the name and notion of liberality, and wantonness as a trick of youth.

The world, the flesh, and the devil will always provide us with a good reason (better word would be, “excuse”) to give in to the present temptation. Always follow Jesus’ direction to His disciples, “Keep watching and praying, that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Math. 26:41)

“Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices” by Thomas Brooks

The Puritan pastor, Thomas Brooks, in his book, Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices, lists several of the “devices” or strategies that Satan uses to destroy the souls of men. He describes the first device in the following paragraph:

Device I: To present the bait and hide the hook; to present the golden cup, and hide the poison; to present the sweet, the pleasure, and the profit that may flow in upon the soul by yielding to sin, and by hiding from the soul the wrath and misery that will certainly follow the committing of sin. By this device he took our first parents: “And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: for God doth know, that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened; and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” (Gen. 3. 4-5) Your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be as gods! Here is the bait, the sweet, the pleasure, the profit. Oh, but he hides the hook,–the shame, the wrath, and the loss that would certainly follow!

Satan is so adept at hiding the consequences of sin from those being tempted. We do not see the ruin that will come into our lives or the lives of the people we love because of our thoughts, words, or actions! As Vance Havner once said (at least I have seen this quote attributed to him), “Sin will always take you further than you ever planned to go, keep you longer than you ever planned to stay, and cost you more than you ever planned to pay.”

May we, as the people of God, say along with the Apostle Paul, “We are not ignorant of his [Satan’s] designs.” (2 Cor. 2:11)

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