You are currently browsing the monthly archive for January 2018.

Today former gymnast Rachael Denhollander had 40 minutes to address the court—and her abuser—during the sentencing hearing of Larry Nasser, the former Team USA gymnastics doctor who molested her 16 years ago at his Michigan State University clinic.

What she said directly to the man—who gratified himself off of her innocence and abused countless other girls in a malicious and manipulative way—is an incredible testimony to the grace and justice of Jesus Christ.

(At the 25:40, she addressed Nassar directly and powerfully spoke the gospel into his life. But the previous 25 minutes are essential background for her conclusion, and they contains lessons for all of us, inside and outside the church, to prevent and report sexual abuse.)

You can read the entire transcript at CNN. Here is an excerpt:

You have become a man ruled by selfish and perverted desires, a man defined by his daily choices repeatedly to feed that selfishness and perversion. You chose to pursue your wickedness no matter what it cost others and the opposite of what you have done is for me to choose to love sacrificially, no matter what it costs me.

In our early hearings. you brought your Bible into the courtroom and you have spoken of praying for forgiveness. And so it is on that basis that I appeal to you. If you have read the Bible you carry, you know the definition of sacrificial love portrayed is of God himself loving so sacrificially that he gave up everything to pay a penalty for the sin he did not commit. By his grace, I, too, choose to love this way.

You spoke of praying for forgiveness. But Larry, if you have read the Bible you carry, you know forgiveness does not come from doing good things, as if good deeds can erase what you have done. It comes from repentance which requires facing and acknowledging the truth about what you have done in all of its utter depravity and horror without mitigation, without excuse, without acting as if good deeds can erase what you have seen this courtroom today.

If the Bible you carry says it is better for a stone to be thrown around your neck and you throw into a lake than for you to make even one child stumble. And you have damaged hundreds.

The Bible you speak carries a final judgment where all of God’s wrath and eternal terror is poured out on men like you. Should you ever reach the point of truly facing what you have done, the guilt will be crushing. And that is what makes the gospel of Christ so sweet. Because it extends grace and hope and mercy where none should be found. And it will be there for you.

I pray you experience the soul crushing weight of guilt so you may someday experience true repentance and true forgiveness from God, which you need far more than forgiveness from me—though I extend that to you as well.

Throughout this process, I have clung to a quote by C.S. Lewis, where he says:

My argument against God was that the universe seems so cruel and unjust. But how did I get this idea of just, unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he first has some idea of straight. What was I comparing the universe to when I called it unjust?

Larry, I can call what you did evil and wicked because it was. And I know it was evil and wicked because the straight line exists. The straight line is not measured based on your perception or anyone else’s perception, and this means I can speak the truth about my abuse without minimization or mitigation. And I can call it evil because I know what goodness is. And this is why I pity you. Because when a person loses the ability to define good and evil, when they cannot define evil, they can no longer define and enjoy what is truly good.

When a person can harm another human being, especially a child, without true guilt, they have lost the ability to truly love. Larry, you have shut yourself off from every truly beautiful and good thing in this world that could have and should have brought you joy and fulfillment, and I pity you for it. You could have had everything you pretended to be. Every woman who stood up here truly loved you as an innocent child, real genuine love for you, and it did not satisfy.

I have experienced the soul satisfying joy of a marriage built on sacrificial love and safety and tenderness and care. I have experienced true intimacy in its deepest joys, and it is beautiful and sacred and glorious. And that is a joy you have cut yourself off from ever experiencing, and I pity you for it.

For the rest of the post…


What I Learned from Charles Spurgeon

Article by Alistair Begg

Pastor, Chagrin Falls, Ohio

On Sunday morning, August 5, 1855, 21-year-old Charles Haddon Spurgeon stepped behind the pulpit of New Park Street Chapel to challenge his congregation to follow the example of one of the saints who had inspired his ministry, the apostle Paul. “As a preacher of the word,” Spurgeon said of Paul, “he stands out pre-eminently as the prince of preachers and a preacher to kings.”

Young Spurgeon’s description of Paul was prophetic of his own future ministry. Within a few short years of that Sabbath morning, Spurgeon also earned the moniker “the prince of preachers” as he proclaimed God’s word to congregants from every stratum of society. The boy preacher from humble beginnings even became the “preacher to kings” as members of the British royal family filled his pews.

Lessons from the Prince of Preacher

I first heard the name “Spurgeon” as a young boy in Scotland. However, when I became a man, and began to read his sermons and writings, he endeared himself to me even more. Today, as a minister, I find in his work and life a wonderful example of what it means to be a preacher of the gospel.

1. Preach the Word

As Spurgeon stood before the congregation of New Park Street Chapel that same August Sunday to discuss what it means to preach the word, he pointed his listeners to the veracity and sufficiency of the Scriptures. “Am I to take God’s Bible and sever it and say, ‘This is husk and this is wheat?’” Spurgeon said, “Am I to cast away any one truth and say, ‘I dare not preach it’? No — God forbid!”

Throughout his ministry, Charles Spurgeon maintained an unwavering commitment to the word of God. Over time it became apparent that whether he was preaching in the Crystal Palace, before thousands in the Metropolitan Tabernacle, or with his students, Spurgeon was a man of integrity. His integrity, however, extended beyond his own personal life to encompass his concern for the gospel and theology. His preaching was forever crystal clear and Jesus-centered — qualities that have chased me down through the corridors of time to make me an unabashed fan of Spurgeon.

2. Cultivate the Heart of a Shepherd

Following the example of his Good Shepherd, Spurgeon was filled with compassion for sinners and longed to see them safely returned to the fold of God. Spurgeon firmly believed God loved saving the lost. It was a conviction that fueled his ministry. His tremendous longing to see men and women respond to the offer of the gospel was only matched by his intolerance for those who tainted the gospel of grace with the fallacy of good works.

“I find a great many preachers are preaching that kind of doctrine,” Spurgeon said. “They tell a poor convicted sinner, ‘You must go home and pray and read the Scriptures; you must attend the ministry.’ Works, works, works — instead of, ‘By grace are you saved through faith’” (see Ephesians 2:8).

“It is easier to spend five hours preparing for a sermon than to consecrate five minutes to prayer for our people.

Spurgeon was also committed to tenderly feed his flock.

For the rest of the post…

“When a person becomes alienated from a Christian community in which he has been placed and begins to raise complaints about it, he had better examine himself first to see whether the trouble is not due to his wish dream that be shattered by God; and if this be the case, let him thank God for leading him into this predicament. But if not, let him nevertheless guard against ever becoming an accuser of the congregation before God.” 

Dietrich BonhoefferLife Together29-30

“A pastor should not complain about his congregation, certainly never to other people, but also not to God. A congregation has not been entrusted to him in order that he should become its accuser before God and men” 

Dietrich BonhoefferLife Together29.

“If we do not give thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even where there is no great experience, no discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith, and difficulty; if on the contrary, we only keep complaining to God that everything is so paltry and petty, so far from what we expected, then we hinder God from letting our fellowship grow according to the measure and riches which are there for us all in Jesus Christ.” 

Dietrich BonhoefferLife Together29.

“Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. At the end all his disciples deserted him. On the cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers. For this cause he had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God. So the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the thick of foes.”

~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Providence Is No Excuse

Exposing a Reformed White Supremacist

Article by Daniel Kleven

It is essential to your own future that you shall learn the history of the past truly. –Robert Lewis Dabney

History teaches us that proper thought does not necessarily lead to proper action — even when those thoughts align with God’s. In numerous glaring instances, humans have been subjugated to brutal oppression by those who, by their own teachings and sermons, should have known better. Orthodoxy alone is not enough to ensure that we will live as God requires.

The history of racism in America is a clear example. Within some of our lifetimes, schools were segregated, African Americans denied full citizenship, and and many of those created in the image of God were repeatedly treated as less than human. In the midst of this moral failure, many Bible-believing Christian churches wanted nothing to do with their bleeding black brother lying on the other side of the road. Though we celebrate Dr. King’s work now, few orthodox Christian churches did then. In many cases, members of these Bible-believing churches were the first to scold his efforts.

Today we rightfully celebrate the social justice work of Dr. King; but for those of us who are white, Reformed, American Christians, eulogies to King sound hollow while the echoes of white supremacy still haunt our halls. Just because we embrace traditional Reformed orthodoxy does not mean we have not afflicted atrocious injustice on our fellow human beings.

A sobering reminder of this is a champion of Reformed theology who was a white supremacist and vehemently defended the cause of slavery — a man who can teach us that “good theology” and “sinful blind spots” cannot always be so easily disentangled.

Reformed White Supremacist

 In his time, Robert Lewis Dabney (1820–1898) was considered one of the greatest teachers of theology in the United States. Revered theologians such as Hodge, Shedd, Warfield, Bavinck, and Barth viewed him with appreciation and respect. Dabney was a thoroughly Reformed, five-point Calvinist who believed in the supremacy of God in all things. However, his view of God’s sovereignty, a true and beautiful doctrine, tragically became interwoven with his racism, as he consistently used the doctrine of “providence” to reinforce his white supremacy.

In his Systematic Theology (1879), Dabney includes the standard Reformed doctrines but also includes a lecture on “The Civil Magistrate” in which he considers in what sense “all men are by nature free and equal” (868). He asks, “Are all men naturally equal in strength, in virtue, in capacity, or in rights? The thought is preposterous.” Dabney believed that even “a general equality of nature will by no means produce a literal and universal equality of civil condition” (869). Then, lest he be misunderstood, he applies it specifically:

Thus, if the low grade of intelligence, virtue, and civilization of the African in America, disqualified him for being his own guardian, and if his own true welfare, and that of the community, would be plainly marred by this freedom; then the law decided correctly that the African here has no natural right to his self-control, as to his own labour and locomotion. (869)

Slavery as Providence?

In 1867, Dabney wrote a lengthy defense of slavery entitled A Defense of Virginia and the South. Here he directly applies his doctrine of providence to slavery: “for the African race, such as Providence has made it, and where he has placed it in America, slavery was the righteous, the best, yea, the only tolerable relation” (25).

After the Civil War, in the midst of reconstruction, Dabney fought hard against the changes taking place in his beloved Southern society. Among the things he opposed was universal education in a series of articles called “The State Free School System.” For Dabney, “this theory of universal education in letters by the State involves the absurd and impossible idea of the Leveller, as though it were possible for all men to have equal destinies in human society.” On the contrary, he insisted,

The system supposes and fosters a universal discontent with the allotments of Providence and the inevitable gradations of rank, possessions and privilege. It is too obvious to need many words, that this temper is anti-Christian; the Bible, in its whole tone inculcates the opposite spirit of modest contentment with our sphere, and directs the honorable aspiration of the good man to the faithful performance of its duties, rather than to the ambitious purpose to get out of it and above it. (247)

For Dabney, to attempt to “level the playing field” and to give everyone an “even start” in the race of life is “wicked, mischievous, and futile” (248). God himself has structured society in this way — “the utopian cannot unmake it” (249). Those who would attempt to teach “the Negro” to read were guilty of resisting God.

For the rest of the post…

On Thursday, Edgar Ray Killen died in prison at the age of 92. Killen, a former pastor and Ku Klux Klan leader, was the only person to face state murder charges in the killings of three civil-rights workers in 1964.

Here are nine things you should know about the case known as the “Mississippi Burning” murders.

1. The Mississippi Burning murders (also known as the Freedom Summer murders) involved three civil-rights activists—James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner—who were abducted and murdered in Neshoba County, Mississippi, in June 1964. Michael Schwerner and James Chaney worked for the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) in nearby Meridian, Mississippi, and, Andrew Goodman was a college student who volunteered to work on voter registration, education, and civil rights as part of the Mississippi Summer Project.

2. On Memorial Day 1964, Schwerner and Chaney spoke to the congregation at Mount Zion in rural Neshoba County about setting up a Freedom School, a type of alternative middle and high school that helped to organize African Americans for political and cultural engagement. State-level Klan leadership had previously decided to murder Schwerner, and so attacked and beat members of the church thinking he was there at a meeting. The Klan returned that night and burned the church in an attempt to lure the CORE activist back to the area.

3. On June 21, Schwerner, Chaney, and Goodman drove from Meridian to Neshoba County to talk to the church members at Mount Zion. As they were passing through Philadelphia, Mississippi, they were pulled over a deputy sheriff and arrested for speeding. They arrived at the jail at 4 p.m. and were released around 10 p.m. that night. The activists were followed by a lynch mob of at least nine men, including a deputy and a local police officer.

4. When the Klansmen caught up to Schwerner, Chaney, and Goodman, they forced the men into one of the mob’s vehicles and drove them to a secluded county road. Chaney a black man, was beaten with chains, castrated, and shot while Schwerner and Goodman, the two white activists, were forced to watch. When Schwerner cradled Chaney in his arms (see image below) a Klansman asked, “Are you that n***** lover?” When Schwener replied, “Sir, I understand your concern” he was shot in the heart. Goodman attempted to run and was also shot. The bodies were then taken to a farm pond where Herman Tucker was waiting. Tucker used a bulldozer on the property to cover the bodies with dirt. An autopsy revealed that Goodman was likely buried alive since there was red clay dirt in his lungs and in his grasped fists. Evidence at the burial site appears to show he was trying to dig his way out.

‘Murder in Mississippi,’ Norman Rockwell, 1965.

5. The next day the FBI began searching for the three men, and U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy ordered 150 federal agents to be sent from New Orleans to Mississippi. FBI agents found the remains of the car driven by the activists near a river in northeast Neshoba County. The car was abandoned and burned, which led the FBI to name the case “MIBURN,” for Mississippi Burning.

6. Fearing the men were dead, the federal government sent hundreds of sailors from a nearby naval air station to search the swamps for the bodies. Although they didn’t find the bodies of Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner, the Navy divers who dragged the river discovered two other young black activists, Henry Hezekiah Dee and Charles Eddie Moore; a 14-year-old named Herbert Oarsby, found wearing a CORE T-shirt; and five other black men who remained unidentified.

7. Acting on a tip from an informant, the FBI discovered the bodies in the earthen dam. The agents also arrested more than a dozen suspects, including Deputy Price and his boss, Sheriff Rainey. Three years later, seven of the 18 defendants were found guilty of conspiring to deprive the three activists of their civil rights.

For the rest of the post…

“May we be enabled to say ‘No’ to sin and ‘Yes’ to the sinner.”

~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

January 2018
« Dec   Feb »

Twitter Updates

Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.