There is no finality to the Christian LIfe this side of eternity. Leonard Ravenhill

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Covenanters

Their is a fair sunshine piercing through the clouds
As a man rises up before the growing crowd.
Aye, and what a bonnie tune that stalwart trills
"Farewell sweet believing, now welcome Zion's hills".

Men hunted and harried chased 'cross the Scottish moors,
By 'Clavers and his demon host in holy war.
Spiritual claymores drawn they fought to the end,
They were no feckless cowards, their knees would not bend.

Their was Guthrie's raw stand for no compromise,
Rutherford's lovely grandeur in poetic lines,
Their was young Hugh Mackail and Miss Margaret too
Good youth who stood up for what they knew to be true.

Death was better than to be found compromised,
Scaffolds couldn't scare them for they'd already died.
Their life was hid with Christ in God, just like Paul,
They would wear the rope and into Heaven's arms fall.

Men on Christ dependent, fragile and not great,
Men like that we need them to step up to the plate.
Willing to lay all on the line, take the loss,
Follow Christ and carry that rugged, cruel cross.

For "Christ's Crown and Covenant" their banner read,
They marched into battle with Jesus at their head.
With great conviction and such unbending creed
A chosen generation and a holy breed.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Few The Brave The Covenanters

"...Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes." Nehemiah 4:14

The 17th century was an intriguing one hundred year period. In this century we were given the King James Bible and Bunyan's classic "Pilgrim's Progress". In the 1600's Jamestown was established in the colonies and just over a decade later the Pilgrims journeyed to America and established Plymouth colony. The Puritans and Winthrop also came and created their "city on a hill'. In the 17th century the Puritan movement grew in England and theological giant reigned in the pulpits. Shakespeare was still writing his plays and Milton was turning out his immortal poems. Oliver Cromwell and his Puritan stalwarts were marching to the beat of liberty from tyranny. It was truly an amazing century.

But I want to introduce to you another sturdy group of stalwarts living in the 17th century, not in England, not in America, but in the land of freedom, Scotland. These men and women hailed from one of this worlds greatest countries. Known for their bravery, and their courage, their intense hatred for all tyranny and their love for liberty, these tenacious Scots deserve to be honored today. Welcome the Scottish Covenanters.

In the mid-1600's their was much political and religious turmoil in the fair land of Scotland. Charles II, a tyrannical despot, was king and the Covenanters were adamantly opposed to his self-proclaimed brazen position as leader of the church. These brave Scottish Christians fought valiantly the tyranny of a corrupt king. Many of these men were turned out of their pulpits, forced to gather in the fields these saints met in the open air to worship God.

These men were not dissidents or anarchists. They had no disrespect for civil authority, but thoroughly despised the thought of the church being ruled by the government. These men believed that King Jesus was the only true Lord of the church, not some temporal monarch.

These Covenanters were willing to die for these truths. They realized that truth was far more important than even life. They would go to the scaffold jubilantly knowing they had done what was right. They would go to
their death's with a gritty resolve, eyes set on the goal, Jesus Christ. They were unafraid of kings and soldiers knowing they were accountable to a far greater authority. They lived and died with unprecedented bravery for the cause of true undefiled Christianity. They did not shrink from hardship, instead they united or covenanted together, creating a unique harmony between them. Within their ranks were valiant men, women, ad children all devoted to the cause of truth.

One was a man by the name of James Guthrie, known as "the short little man who could not bow". He boldly stood for the cause of Christ never compromising, even so that he would save his neck. Another in sort of a "Nathan Hale spirit" proclaimed, "If I had many worlds I would lay them all down, as now I do my life for Christ and His cause."  Their one desire was as the young Hugh Mackail expressed, to "witness a good confession". They wanted all to know their faith was in God, and torture, imprisonment, and even death could not rob them of that assurance. Some who were not killed were sent off to far away lands to be slaves. It can be assumed that these men and women sent to the West Indies, Barbados, and South Carolina shared the gospel with fellow slaves from Africa, introducing them to their Lord, planting Gospel seeds within their hearts.

These men often preaching from the scaffold would proudly proclaim that they were dedicated to Christ's cause and could not and would not be persuaded otherwise. These men and women were brave souls, "rebels so glorious."

In our day we too have battles to face and wars to wage. Years have come and gone but men have not changed. Truth still matters regardless of what the post-modernists say. Truth has no expiration date it is eternal.  Truth is timeless and it is applicable for all men and women everywhere for all of time. Truth does not change. Men come and go. Civilizations rise and fall. Theories are postulated and discarded. But amid all the ruins truth stands like a marble column. Unhurt by those who would abuse it. Unaffected  by the blows it has taken. Unconcerned with those who would ridicule it. It stands forever, For truth is immortal, because God is eternal.

Fight for truth though all the world hate you for it. Be faithful to the cause of Christ though all the world sneers with godless hate. This is not a war of flesh and blood but of spirits and powers and principalities. Live as Christ did devoted to His Fathers will. Live By the Word of God and no other. Let the "Goliath's" mock with clamorous banter, for we serve a God who is bigger than all of the "giants" that surround us. By His power we know that a small river stone will topple these monsters. Regardless of what anyone says, be assured "Truth is marching on!"

"The future doesn't belong to the fainthearted it belongs to the brave." Ronald Reagan

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Preeminent part 2

As a continuation of the last post I want to examine more lifestyle issues that Christ must be Lord of. This list is not exhaustive, I am sure that I am just scratching the surface.

Relationships: To all Christian young people I would say, Christ must be Lord of your relationships. Whether it is a friendship or a courtship Christ must be at the center of that relationship.

Make sure that all of your conversations are honoring to God. Be sure that your demeanor and actions, with male or female friends, bring glory to your Heavenly Father. You are part of a family, God is the Father, we are His children, let us honor one another. Is He Lord of your relationships?

Business: Business endeavors and your Christianity must never be separated. God must be the CEO of your business. Paul urges Christians to work "heartily as to the Lord." All of our business exchanges should be trustworthy, reliable, and thorough.

Are you a businessman first and then a Christian? Or are you a Christian first and foremost? The differences are staggering. Is He Lord of your business?

Entertainment: I know these can be murky waters to wade out into, but I'll risk the chance of being eaten by the alligators. Although it may not be popular to say this, Christ must be Lord of your entertainment choices. Thoughtfully consider if the things that you watch and listen to are bringing glory to God or dishonor to Him. I am not opposed to healthy, God-honoring entertainment, neither is the Word of God.

Do the things you watch bring honor or dishonor to God? Does the music you listen to brilliantly portray the beauty of God or the darkness of this world? We must give up all entertainment that is not honorable. Is He Lord of your entertainment?

Recreation: How do you spend your free time? Hobbies can be a good thing if kept in their rightful place. They cannot become Lord over you, instead Christ must be Lord of them.

Does your hobby take up to much of your time? Does it consume to much of your money? Does it consume your thoughts continually? Is He Lord of your recreation?

Goals: Vision is a very good thing. Looking into the future and formulating plans according to God's leading is a Biblical concept. But be sure that your goals have Christ as their Author and Originator. Are your goals Godly? Do they line up with the Word of God? Or are they worldly goals, defined by the society around you? Is He Lord of your goals?

Intellect: Their are many men and women in the world who think they are smart because they have a string of degrees after their name. While this may show a devotion to study and learning, in most cases they have been taught by the world, and gained  a superficial worldly schooling. Learning is not bad, it is actually very good, but it must be done correctly. We must begin with God's Word which explains that knowledge begins with the fear of God.

Do you fear God in all of your education? Do you realize that you could not even think if it were not for an all-wise benevolent God? Is your intellect governed more by worldly standards of academia? Is He Lord of your intellect?

Family: This is a huge issue and I am only going to look at the tip of the iceberg. God must be Lord of the home. We are told in the Scriptures, "unless the Lord builds the house they labor in vain who build it." As Christians we must begin to think rightly about family roles. What it is to be a father, mother, son, daughter, brother and sister. The Bible has guidelines on all of these issues. I believe we even need to examine what it is to be a man or woman of God, because our society has grossly blurred these lines of distinction. Is He Lord in your household?

I say these things not because I think myself better than anyone else, but because the Lord has laid these very issues on my heart for consideration and examination. I would say as the Apostle Paul did, "Not that I have already attained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Jesus Christ has made me His own. But one thing I do:forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."(Php. 3:12-14)

This is the message: Press on! Go forward do not go backwards! Go forward do not stand still! Fight the good fight! "Crown Him Lord of all"!

He is preeminent!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Preeminent: Crowning the Lord Jesus Christ as King Over Everything In Your Life

Imagine a vast and wealthy kingdom. This empire is filled with many vassals each pulling their own weight. Over this large and expansive domain reigns a firm but kind king. The king is over all and his law is supreme, for it is an extension of who he is. All who obey his law live in peace and contentment finding their joy in submission to their lord. All those who do not heed the king's law are punished severely for their insolent behavior.

Now for a moment imagine that a portion of the kingdom declared that they were no longer subject to the king's law. They choose to no longer be compliant, therefore establishing themselves as their own individual entity. They wanted freedom so they loosed themselves of the kings law. They gloried in their presumed fiefdom never stopping to realize that this was the king's land, they were the king's subjects, and they had no right to do such pernicious deeds.

But be assured their "freedom" will not remain unchallenged. With kind and gentle remonstrance the people will be asked to regain their senses and realize they are subordinates of a higher power. But when the foolish serfs ignore the warnings the just king will rise and with soldiers and horses, march and capture this land, and once again will be its rightful ruler.

In the first chapter of Colossians the Apostle Paul beautifully describes the lofty position that Christ holds over humanity and all of the world. He is Lord and their is no question about it. He will not be ousted, He cannot be overthrown. His throne will never be abdicated, their will be no coup de tat. The vote has been taken and their will be no recount, and His term never expires. 

Their have been many men who have conquered great lands and declared themselves supreme authority. But in the end they are small slavish servants of the true supreme authority. One day all of the kings and queens, emperors and dictators will fall on their knees before Jesus and proclaim that He alone is Lord.

In Colossians 1:18 Paul majestically speaks of Christ being preeminent in all things. Christ is the King, the supreme authority, He is to have first place in all things, this includes my personal life and yours. The Lord of the universe is supposed to invade every corner of your existence. Their is to be no area of your life where Christ does not sit on the throne and reign.

Often when I hear sermons on the Lordship of Jesus Christ they deal with character issues. Such as; Christ is to be Lord of your mouth, the things that you say, the way you say them. He is to be Lord of your temper, fleshly anger must not rule over you. He is to be Lord over your attitude, your faces, your actions, your tone of voice.

Now while I would give a hearty amen to everyone of these necessary exhortations, I must emphasise another aspect of Christ's Lordship. While Christ is most certainly to be Lord of my character content, I also just as strongly believe that He must become Lord of lifestyle.

What do I mean? Here are some examples.

Is He Lord of...

Time: How do I spend my time? Am I using every minute of my day to bring glory to God? Am I, to quote Kipling, filling "the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds worth of distance run?" Do I spend my time doing meaningless, purposeless endeavors? Am I using God's time wisely? Is Christ Lord of my time?

Food: Until recently this is one area I had very little concern about. I thought that food choices did not matter and had no connection with my Christianity. But I was terribly wrong. As a believer my body is the temple of the Lord, so of course it matters what I am filling it with.

Are the foods that I am eating nutritious, beneficial and helpful to my overall health? Or are they unhealthy, destructive and disease-causing? Is Christ Lord over what I eat?

Money: As Christians we are stewards of our money for God. Christians are to be responsible, trustworthy and sagacious in their use of money. The mad pursuit of money is wrong, be happy with what you have. The frivolous spending of money is equally as wrong. Are you spending your money like a wise man? Are you remembering that every dollar in your wallet is God's, and that you are accountable to Him for everything you spend? Is He Lord of your money?

Dress: Some Christians naively bifurcate their wardrobe selection and their Christianity. But from a Biblical perspective this cannot be done. God is as concerned about your clothing as He is your character, the two are actually indissolubly bonded together. This an issue for all who are saved, male and female.

Do your clothes speak of you or your Creator? Do they bring attention to you or your God? Is your clothing decent (nothing immoral or indiscreet), respectable (it does not bring dishonor to those around you, yourself or God), and humble (it isn't proud)? Is He Lord of your wardrobe?

Their are many other issues that I wish to examine, but for now we will end here. Think on these things, and come up with others. Remember to always be thinking. Ruminating is a lost art these days but we who are saved must revive it. Christians must not be mindless.

Keep on thinking!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Stonewall Soft Heart

I have recently been reading a rather lengthy volume about one of my heroes, Liet. General Thomas Jonathan Jackson. A man who is probably better known by his lofty sobriquet, Stonewall. In my room, near my desk where I can always see it, is an incredible picture my parents bought me for Christmas last year. It is a print of a Stonewall Jackson painting by Civil War artist, Mort Kunstler. It is special to me for I have long admired this noble man. In the picture he is seated on a stump head bowed, hands folded praying to the Lord. This sort of posture was characteristic of the man.

By many the life of Jackson is terribly misunderstood. Most who are ignorant of the real issues, facing him and others like him, draw careless conclusions. They judge them on the basis of tenuous arguments, not understanding the real issues. We need to come to grips with the fact that their was error on both sides of the fence. Men like Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee should not be bitterly condemned for fighting on the "wrong side". Likewise men like Abraham Lincoln should not be worshipped as the "savior" we have imagined him to be. But forgive the asides this is not supposed to be an analysis of the Civil War, or "The War Between the States", or as some have provocatively christened it, "The Second War for Independence."

Lets get back to Jackson.

I think that most men's lives can be summarized with one word. Although his accomplishments may be varied, their character is all-encompassing, and their abilities are vast, their is still that one thing that characterizes them. When you think of George Washington you think of humility, of Robert E. Lee duty, of Booker T. Washington industry. But when you consider the life of Stonewall Jackson you come face to face with stern but gentle discipline.

The life of Jackson is as historian George Grant said, "The legacy of a good man arising in terrible times." Jackson's life was not an easy cake-walk. He was a man who was well acquainted with hardship, struggle, and great loss. As a child he lost both of his parents, as a man he lost a wife and two children. He was a man whose health was rather delicate, was shot by his own men accidentally, had his left arm amputated, and then died of pneumonia. In the Mexican war he had been introduced to the stifling smell of the battle, here he proved himself bravely. Many years later in the Civil War he showed himself to be a brilliant commander overcoming great obstacles.

Jackson was a man who lived with a profound sense of conviction. He had a strong reverence for the Lord's day, so much so that he would not even send a letter out on Saturday, for this would compel someone to have to work on the Sabbath. It grieved him on one occasion when he was forced to fight a battle on Sunday. He was also a man who strongly believed in the gospel of punctuality, arriving never early nor late. He too was a man of devout gratitude to his Heavenly Father. He never raised even a cup of water to his lips without thanking his God for it. Likewise, he always attributed every victory on the battlefield not to his own brilliance, but to the kind hand of God.

Jackson also was a man of strict discipline over his body and mind, some would label him almost fanatical. He was a man of temperance and avoided drinking alcoholic beverages. He knew that these sort of addictions would in no way be a help to him, but only a drastic hindrance. Though at times he was mocked for his stance, he stood resolute, something like a "Stonewall".

Jackson was also a man eccentricities. Some people thought him to be a little weird. His taciturn demeanor and his ascetic ways didn't help public opinion much. He was criticised for his peculiar riding style, and his strict dietary habits. He also had the habit of growing rather weary in the church service, often dozing off in the middle of the message.But we all have peculiarities, so we can easily excuse Jackson's oddities. What one must admit is that his greatness far exceeds any of his eccentric habits.

Jackson was a man of paradoxes. On the battlefield he was fierce warrior; at home he was a loving, kind family man, who was tender and loving to his wife whom he greatly treasured. This indefatigable soldier also had a great love for children. On one occasion he made a friend in the form of a little girl who lived near his camp. He was very fond of her, often playing with her and bestowing on her little thoughtful gifts. He was sorely grieved when the little girl died shortly thereafter. When his wife gave birth to their daughter the stern Stonewall was ecstatic. Though he was off at war when she was born he wrote many tender letters to his dear wife and child. Jackson valued his small family and saw it as a wonderful blessing from God.

Jackson was a man of faith, the Christian faith. He encouraged the armies to observe the Sabbath and to go hear gospel preaching. He was a man of prayer, often found on his knees. He believed in the Providence of God in his own life and his countries. He encouraged virtue and morality in his soldiers.

I believe that Jackson was the quintessential example of a courageous warrior and tender Christian man. He
led his army doing difficult and seemingly impossible things, tasks which have made him a celebrated military hero even today. But yet he was an affectionate, compassionate husband and father. Though his enemies feared him small children adored him. On the war front he was the indomitable Stonewall, but at home he was soft and amiable.

I thank the Lord for the example of Thomas Jackson, a man of extreme discipline, faithful in all things. Men of the 21st century would do well to emulate this man.

"Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9