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“It is Glory Enough”

This is a great poem about living boldly for truth. The call to rely “on only your soul” in the second stanza misses it, but replace “soul” there with “God” and this is it! So many compelling images pressed into service for calling us to stand for what is right regardless of public opinion or loss- wow. May it be true of me.

“It Is Glory Enough”

IT is glory enough to have shouted the name
Of the living God in the teeth of an army of foes;
To have thrown all prudence and fore thought away
And for once to have followed the call of the soul
Out into the danger of darkness, of ruin and death.
To have counselled with right, not success, for once,
Is glory enough for one day.

It is glory enough for one day
To have marched out alone before the seats of the scornful,
Their fingers all pointing your way;
To have felt and wholly forgotten the branding-iron of their eyes ;
To have stood up proud and reliant on only your soul
And go calmly on with your duty —
It is glory enough.

It is glory enough to have taken the perilous risk;
Instead of investing in stocks and paid-up insurance for one,
To have fitted a cruiser for right to adventure a sea full of shoals;
To sail without chart and with only the stars for a guide;
To have dared to lose with all the chances for losing
Is glory enough.

It is glory enough for one day
To have dreamed the bright dream of the reign of right;
To have fastened your faith like a flag to that immaterial staff
And have marched away, forgetting your base of supplies.
And while the worldly wise see nothing but shame and ignoble retreat,
And though far ahead the heart may faint and the flesh prove weak —
To have dreamed that bold dream is glory enough,
Is glory enough for one day.

- William Herbert Carruth

Preaching on Social Issues in a Gospel Manner

The Great Commandment, the Great Commission & the Current Refugee CrisisPreaching on the social issues of the day is often done poorly, and, thus, many conservative Bible preachers look askance at the practice. Too often preachers have left behind their mandate of preaching the Word for the mess of pottage which is cultural and political commentary. I imagine I am not the only one who has heard otherwise good preachers expound the Constitution rather than the Word of God. I am also reminded of Karl Barth’s story when as a pastor he decided to preach on the war and an elderly lady afterwards told him, “We hear about this every day in the newspaper. We came here today to hear from God.”

As a result of this, we can too easily swing the other way, so that one might wonder if our preaching was at all aware of the specific issues pressing on the world around us.

Well, here is a great example of speaking to a huge social issue of our day from a gospel basis. This past Sunday Justin Wainscott preached a message titled, “The Great Commandment, the Great Commission & the Current Refugee Crisis.” Justin laid out clearly before us the staggering realities of the humanitarian crisis, reminded us that Christ’s call to love our neighbors applies to this situation and pointed out the evangelistic opportunity of this situation as we reach out in compassion. I found myself convicted and saying, “Yes, this is how it ought to be done.” Shall we relegate to the news agencies the task of informing the church of the needs of the day? Shall we fail to call boldly upon the church to give sacrificially to people in such great need? Certainly not. And, Justin wisely did not presume to speak to the complex political issues involved. He simply called upon Christians to meet needs in the name of Christ. That much is clear. That much can be authoritatively declared.

So, preachers, I commend this to you as a helpful example. Fellow Christians, I commend this to you as a call to respond to a great need of the hour. Justin lists five concrete ways you can directly help including going to help, praying specifically, and giving to faithful ministries which are helping in Jesus name, like Baptist Global Response. We must not respond like the priest and Levite, just turning our head and passing by on the other side of the road. We must awake to the missionary opportunity before us if we will show the compassion of Christ.

Mission Training with To Every Tribe

I recently had the opportunity to teach New Testament Survey for missionary trainees at To Every Tribe, and I was very impressed with the organization. I deeply appreciate the vision and passion of David Sitton (founder and president of TET), and all those I met there. These people are training to go to dangerous and unreached areas for the sake of Christ.

Here is a video they produced of me describing briefly why New Testament Survey is important for missionaries. (Here is a print version)


“Shepherds in a Ranching Culture”

Hal Poe wrote a column with this title recently for our local paper, The Jackson Sun. It is well worth reading. Hal underscores the importance of pastoral oversight and care and the value of smaller congregations.

Here is a piece of his warning about inherent issues of large, mass meetings:

The mass meeting has always had certain advantages in dealing with people. A spirit of enthusiasm can be whipped up that is impossible in a smaller group where everyone knows each other. Inhibitions often limit us when people know us, but in a mass meeting, there is only the crowd and each person can cloak themselves in anonymity. Whether a football game, a rock concert, a political rally or a worship service, the mass gathering allows us to lose our individual identity as we participate in the emotional experience of the crowd. A few skilled leaders can move the collective and drive them like a herd of cattle. It does not really matter what the individual cares and concerns may be, because the point of the meeting is a successful meeting.

Rather than pursuing the “bigger is better” model of church, Hal encourages us to plant other churches maintaining a close knit community where people can know and be known, where pastors can shepherd their people.

Be Not Dismayed, Thou Little Flock

My poem of the week this week, is this bold hymn by Johann Michael Altenberg, 17th century German pastor. He wrote this hymn during the turbulent times of war which followed the Reformation, and they seem pertinent today.

Be Not Dismayed, Thou Little Flock

Be not dismayed, thou little flock,
Although the foe’s fierce battle shock,
Loud on all sides, assail thee.
Though o’er thy fall they laugh secure,
Their triumph cannot long endure;
Let not thy courage fail thee.

Thy cause is God’s–go at His call,
And to His hands commit thine all;
Fear thou no ill impending:
His Gid’on shall arise for thee,
God’s word and people manfully,
In God’s own time, defending.

Amen, Lord Jesus, hear our cry;
Stir up Thy power, come from on high,
Defend Thy congregation;
So shall Thy church, through endless days,
Give thanks to Thee and chant Thy praise
In joy and adoration.

Author: Michael AltenburgTranslator: Elizabeth Rundle Charles


Mockingbird & Bible Reading

We were just minding our own business discussing How to Kill a Mockingbird this morning when biblical theology reached up and grabbed us!

In school with my older boys, we’ve been reading and discussing Harper Lee’s classic novel. We have enjoyed so many humorous scenes, insights into a bygone era, and powerful portraits of humanity- and we’ve only just finished Part One! This morning, though, one of my sons made the comment that the story jumped around a lot, that, while enjoyable, the book seemed to be a collection of a lot of different stories. I acknowledged the fact, especially at this early stage in the book, but suggested that what we needed to do was ask what seemed to be the main story and then see how the other smaller stories contributed to it. They recognized that Boo Radley and the impending court case seemed the primary threads. I pointed out how the Mrs. Dubose story contributed to the narrative of the court case by demonstrating the county’s scorn and by defining courage in the face of almost certain defeat. Then, without having thought of it ahead of time, I said, “This is a lot like the Bible isn’t it. The Bible is a collection of stories, even spread out over a longer period of time. And many people fail to see any overall connection. But in the Bible, as in How to Kill a Mockingbird, we must ask what the central story is and then see how the other stories support and carry along the central story.”

We talk about the central storyline of Scripture a good bit, but I think this- unplanned- example helped bring it home. It also reminded me that reading the Bible this way is consistent with reading of good literature. It isn’t forced or unnatural. This is the way literature works.

I also decided to assign them Kevin DeYoung’s The Biggest Story in addition to the next couple of chapters of Harper Lee for tomorrow (see my review of this book here)! Reading good literature regularly sends me back to the Bible as a better reader.

Welcome to the New Barbarism

OK. I like humor, and I think most people around me would say I can take a joke without being too uptight. But this video is way over the line. Sadly, I think this is yet another example of the results of loosing the moorings to any moral order in our culture. Welcome to the rise of the new barbarism, cloaked in humor.

Any parent knows the challenges of child-rearing. But the need here is not chloroform for the kids but a swift kick in the butt for the parents.

The video starts off humorously but begins descending into creepiness. Tired of tantrums? Then step up and provide serious, controlled discipline. (I wonder how many of the people who find this funny recoil at the thought of spanking). It’s interesting that they specifically refer to “embarrassing” tantrums. The concern is for how you look to others, not the training of kids. With all the reports of child abuse are we going to joke about putting a child’s foot in a garbage disposal? Children are “wallet-draining crap factories”? Chloroforming a girl on an awkward blind date? Really? It seems the guy’s point is to get away, but with sex trafficking such an issue, is this something to play with?

How about the parents who regretted almost immediately having their first child because she cried so much. Is this portrait of narcissistic parents who have now unwittingly killed their child- and are just happy she’s quiet- is this funny? What we laugh at may tell us more about ourselves than anything else.

Then, a man punching his wife (or “partner”?) in the stomach to end a pregnancy since children are so bad? Maybe if he’s put his remote down, get off his rear end and help things would be different. Then the closing scene seems to show an adult woman’s body being shut up in a car trunk.

I can’t find this humorous. I find it disgusting. But if sexual activity is all about personal, individual fulfilment then children can be seen as an unfortunate byproduct. If they are an unfortunate byproduct, then this video can be seen differently. Which is another way of saying that barbarism isn’t surprising or offensive to barbarians.

Jesus received children and blessed them (Matt 19:13-15; click for a great exposition of this text). The people of Jesus must show another way. Parenting is work- hard, yet rewarding, work. You ought not engage in sexual activity unless you are prepared to enter the realm of parenting. Yes, we will be tired, and, yes, children will misbehave. And we might joke about this and laugh at ourselves. But never in a way which demeans life. Joy will be found not in selfishness but in loving and caring for one another, including the little ones God gives us.

Protection from the Pastorals

The recently published Fortress Commentary on the Bible: New Testament contains 22 pages of commentary, written by Deborah Krause, devoted to each of the Pastoral Epistles. With Fortress one expects a more critical direction from the commentary. The introduction to the whole volume makes this explicit with its endorsement of feminist, liberation and queer interpretation.

Krause begins with the assumption of non-Pauline authorship, and then most often explains why the exhortations found in these letters are not binding. She wrongly asserts that these are not proper letters but are simply vehicles for enforcing a certain church structure. These letters fit well within the models of letter writing in the first century (scholarship here has been clear). Furthermore, as the last several decades of scholarship has noted, these letters cannot be reduced to concerns about church structure.

After briefly laying out the perspective of non-Pauline authorship, Krause acknowledges, “it is important to remember that for the vast majority of the church’s history, 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus” were not seen as just one of various ways of appropriating the Pauline message. “Rather, the writings have been seen as authentic communication between Paul and his closest companions in ministry.” This is an important piece to remember, though it gives no pause to the author. She does acknowledge, though, that since the church has for so long believed these letters were actually from Paul, “these writings have been remarkably successful in achieving their original intent- to influence and direct the Pauline tradition as it has informed the life and ministry of the church” (590). Despite what we “know” now, Scripture has had its intended effect.

Of course, 1 Timothy 2 is of particular interest. While the prohibition on women teaching men “may sound antiquated, it is remarkable to see how broadly this text is cited as an authority in current manuals of church administration and polity” (595). What is remarkable to me is that one would think it remarkable for clear statements of Scripture (in keeping with the manner in which the Church has interpreted them through most of its history) to serve as authority in church polity. And, the apparent reason why this should amaze us is that this statement of Scripture sounds “antiquated.”

One might argue for a different interpretation of these letters in general and of 1 Timothy 2 in particular. But we ought not be surprised that Scripture serves as a norm for churches today no matter how “old” its teaching may sound. And we ought to be careful about so lightly and so completely disregarding the consistent witness of our forebears.

In the end, this commentary on the Pastorals seems to be concerned primarily with protecting readers from the actual message of these letters.

Are the Gospels Anonymous?

It is commonplace today to state that the four Gospels are technically anonymous since the author is not named in the text. I have made this statement myself.

Thus, the question of authorship is unclear. This statement from a recent commentary is typical:

“The Gospel does not explicitly name its author, and so it is necessary to engage in guesswork based upon evidence from the Gospel itself and from early Christian tradition.”

But is this actually true? Why should we be left to guesswork if all of the oldest manuscripts we have contain titles explicitly stating the authors? It is striking, in the typical comment just quoted, that these titles don’t even merit a mention. We are told that the titles are a later addition, but is this more than guesswork itself? I don’t see how we can know the titles are not original if they consistently are included in the manuscripts we have. One can choose to disregard the titles and to argue against their authenticity, but the documents are not anonymous. They have names attached. And, these titles, then, are significant, early witnesses.

I am not saying the case is scientifically proven, but that the evidence is actually clearer and stronger than typically stated. And, I do assert that “anonymous” is technically incorrect in reference to the Gospels. It is striking how easily these titles are dismissed and our conjectures are affirmed.

Great Deal on a Great Book

I saw this morning that Peter Hitchens’ book, The Rage Against God, is available on Kindle for $1.99 for a limited time. This is such a powerful, beautiful book on so many levels, and I fear many people have missed this book because they didn’t realize what it is. The marketers promoted it as a response to Hitchens famous brother, and it seems many people thought it was a simple argument against atheism. These assessments miss the book by far. This is a soul searching spiritual autobiography beautifully written with profound reflection humanity, the impact of the gospel on culture, the fragility of civilization, particularly as faith is eroded, all illustrated from the author’s experience in cultures around the world and in his own struggles of faith.

I have written previously about Hitchens’ comment sin this book about poetry and beauty as apologetics (with implications for art and worship) and have posted a list of my favorite quotes from the book. This book moved me and helped me see better the various ways the gospel impacts a culture. I saw more clearly how very fragile is this thing we call civilization (which we take so lightly and take for granted) as he described cultures he’d seen fall apart in Africa and Europe. Added to all that, Hitchens writing is truly beautiful. He reminded me of C. S. Lewis because the writing itself is enjoyable even beyond what he is saying.

This is a wonderful book and a great opportunity to get it at a steal.