Who Cares if its Not Real, It’s Still a Cool Quote!

I ran across this quote yesterday by a guy named Alexander Tytler.  I looked it up online to find the context and discovered that its validity is questioned.  Here’s the quote, and after I’ll explain the doubts:

“A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship.

The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations from the beginning of history has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence:

  • From bondage to spiritual faith;
  • From spiritual faith to great courage;
  • From courage to liberty;
  • From liberty to abundance;
  • From abundance to complacency;
  • From complacency to apathy;
  • From apathy to dependence;
  • From dependence back into bondage.
It totally makes sense and here is the history.  Apparently it came to popularity after the 2000 election and is attributed to Alexander Tytler, who lived in the late 1700’s/early 1800’s.  From Wikipedia:
This passage actually comprises two quotations. The first paragraph being one and the second paragraph and list, commonly known as the “Tytler cycle”, or more anonymously as the “Fatal Sequence”, being the other. Both can be traced back to the 1950’s, and they began to appear together in the 1970’s. No original author can reliably be determined for either quotation.
Oh well, I thought it was a neat quote anyways, and it makes sense.  Either way, I think you can see where we would be on this scale…

George and Mary Mueller

This week, in our series of “Forces of Faith”, I’m going over the life of George Mueller.  One highlite that I thought I’d share was his relationship with his wife.  After being married for 40 years and ministering in the orphanages together, Mary passed away.

These are some of the words that George spoke at her funeral:

“Were we happy? Verily we were. With every year our happiness increased more and more. I never saw my beloved wife at any time, when I met her unexpectedly anywhere in Bristol, without being delighted so to do. I never met her even in the Orphan Houses, without my heart being delighted so to do. Day by day, as we met in our dressing room, at the Orphan Houses, to wash our hands before dinner and tea, I was delighted to meet her, and she was equally pleased to seem. Thousands of times I told her—“My darling, I never saw you at any time, since you became my wife, without my being delighted to see you.”

C.S. Lewis Quote

I know, I said I was going on vacation, but I found this quote and wanted to throw it up before I left.

“If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.”  C.S. Lewis

Ok, now I mean it.  I’m on vacation.

We’re All in This Struggle Together!

As I have written here before, we’ve been going through an inductive study of Colossians in our High School Sunday School class. I lay out the concordances, commentaries, and theologies on the tables, and we walk through the verses, step by step. The goal is to help the high schoolers read and understand the Bible, and study it for themselves. They are also getting familiar with the tools, and learning what question to ask.

Once in awhile, we really see the light come on in the heads of the kids, and this past week, we had another one of those moments. We were covering 2:1-5, and Paul begins the passage talking about how he wants the Colossians to know the great struggle that he has for them. Paul’s struggles and tribulations weren’t news to them, but he wanted them to know why he struggled, which he explains in 1:28-29, saying that he desires them to presented mature in Christ.

As a side note, it is interesting to note the use of a pronoun in verse 29. Paul isn’t trying to be noble and self-promoting, but says that he struggles with God’s energy, not his own. Paul says he is struggling, toiling, growing weary, while he is striving with HIS energy.

But WHY does Paul want them to know the struggle that he has? So that their hearts may be encouraged, like their hearts being knit together. He wants them to know that he is experiencing these trials, he is enduring them, why he struggling, so that they will be encouraged. When they are falling into trials and tribulations, they know that Paul endured great trials, but not because he was a great, strong guy, but because God’s power is working through him. Paul knows that trials lay ahead of them, if they are not already enduring them.

But there is some interesting language used at the end of the passage that brings it all together. Paul tells them that he rejoices to see their good order adn the firmness of their faith in Christ. Upon some study, one of the students was excited to see that these the first word was often used as a military term. “The word described the orderly line of soldiers, without ragged sections or breaks.” Then the second term, stability, “comes from a word that is used to describe something as firm, stiff, strong, or solid. It can depict a castle or bulwark.” (“Studies in Colossians and Philemon” by Homer A. Kent Jr.)

2004_1656.jpgPaul’s message seems to be clear. The trials and tribulations that he has faced was not a unique situation for a believer, and that those believers, too, would face opposition. The nearest opposition was this heresy that Paul continues to address. It is mostly assumed to be a form of gnosticism. But Paul is not worried about the well-fare of this small church. He knew they were standing strong, ready to face an opponent that would challenge its very foundation, Jesus Christ. Their faith would be tested through false teaching, but Paul knew that they were knit together in love, founded in true doctrine, and would stand as one unit, against the enemy.

“Culture Shift” by R. Albert Mohler Jr.

If you know anything about the men that I look up to in the current evangelical environment, you know that Al Mohler is one of my favorites. He always offers a keen, Biblical perspective on whatever is happing in our world or in our culture. In a time where people are more concerned with political correct speech, Mohler stands out with his Biblically-correct speech. That is why, when I found out he was finally putting out his first book, (that’s right, he’s never written a book before this) I was pretty pumped. Even though I figure I’d be getting the book for free at the Together for the Gospel Conference next month, I couldn’t help but buy the book immediately. As it turns out, Mohler still hasn’t written a book…

That isn’t to say that I didn’t thoroughly enjoy his first book, “Culture Shift: Engaging Current Issues with Timeless Truth”, it just isn’t really a book. It is closer to a collection of blog essays pumped up to be a collection of essays. The book is made up of essays dealing with a plethora of issues. Mohler addresses hot topics from abortion, public education, the separation of church and state, war, torture, freedom of speech, and recent disasters such as Katrina, the tsunami, and Hiroshima. With each topic, Mohler offers a succinct description of the debate, and how Christians have usually been approaching the subject unbiblically.

Mohler’s greatest concern isn’t necessarily trying to tell Christians how to think. You’ll notice that each chapter just offer a paragraph or two on what a Christian is to do. That is because Mohler isn’t trying to tell people how to think, more how not to. He is encouraging mainline, evangelical Christianity to stop reverting to the ‘christianese’ it has been speaking, and to search the Bible for a true, Christ-like perspective.

There are a few chapters that I absolutely loved. The first is one on how our society is raising a generation of wimps. Parents are following their children everywhere, saving them from any sort of pain, from rejection to the skinned knee. We are raising kids who can’t stand correction or admonition. They are getting to college and many don’t know how to swim in the currents of academic criticism. He points out how our schools are gradually giving out more A’s, and it isn’t because the the work is improving, but the standards are being lowered. Not every kid is going to be an outstanding student. Not every kid is going to excel on the fields. Not every kid is going to be the prom queen or king. It is a great chapter that every parent should read. I know I found it helpful and will be re-reading it as Micah grows older. (turning 1 this week!)

Another chapter that was fascinating was on the topic of abortion. Sonogram machines are being used to prevent abortions, and some of those that are pro-choice corner are saying it is unfair and basically brainwashing. Speaking of these places, one Planned Parenthood vice president had this to say: “From the time they walk into these centers, they are inundated with information that is propaganda and that has one goal in mind. And that is to have women continue in their pregnancies.” Now pick up your jaw off the floor. She says the ultrasound technology, “isn’t a matter of providing more knowledge, but an attempt to manipulate women.” So much for fighting for the woman’s right to choose. Now she’s fighting for the right to kill the child. The mother’s rights have largely been abandoned by many in the fight.

Mohler has another chapter on the changing perspective on abortion, mainly in the pro-choice corner. Many are beginning to come to out and say that they realize that abortion is a sick, depraved practice. He sights a debate that was had on slate.com between two pro-choice personalities. An interesting portion of the chapter was where the woman arguing that abortion wasn’t as bad said that she saw the time coming where unwanted pregnancies would “join obesity and smoking as unacceptable behavior in polite society.” Mohler, in reaction, wrote, “Taken by itself, this is a truly amazing comment. At the very least, it suggests that, in Katha Pollitt’s social circle, obesity and smoking are taken as genuine moral issues, while abortion- the killing of an unborn human- is not.”

Overall, the book was a very interesting read, and one that I would fully recommend. Being only 160 small pages, the reading doesn’t take long, and the topics are addressed thoroughly, but succinctly. But, Al, I’m still waiting for a book. I’d still love to have him sit down in one topic, flush it all out, and write the insightful masterpiece he is capable of.

What Does True Repentance Look Like?

This fall we’ve been going through the various areas of Soteriology (the study of salvation) in our High School Sunday School.  This Sunday we covered conversion/repentance.  One of the main books that I use as a source, and one that I full heartedly recommend is “The Cross and Salvation” by Bruce Demarest.  He provides three areas of true repentance.  They are as follows:

1.  An Intellectual Element- The first thing required in true conversion is to intellectually understand what it means.  You must first, understand the fact that God is a holy God, who is righteous and true altogether.  And that His holiness creates a deep displeasure and disdain towards sin.  The second thing you must know is that man is incredibly sinful.  You must be aware of your sin and guilt.  This leaves us living as ‘children of wrath’ (Eph 2:1-3), condemned before God.  Man must understand that their sin condemns them to Hell, separated from God.  Thirdly, man must understand that God is read to forgive sin entirely.

The interesting thing here is that the first step is often skipped, and the evangelist tends to go straight to the emotional element.  But the  emotional element is often understood.  When I was teaching, I spoke of how this is exactly what people like Joel Osteen does.  He doesn’t talk about sin because it is negative and not encouraging.  His message is, instead, that “God wants you to be wealthy, spiritually and physically.  God wants the best for you and He loves you very much.  Jesus died so you could know peace and joy.”  Unfortunately, the knowledge of sin is often left out.

2. An Emotional Element- The second element can be misunderstood, and often twisted.  This is more than being emotionally moved, but actually abhoring sin (Psalm 119:104) and knowing that it is against God that man has sinned (Psalm 51:4).  This is a truth driven emotion, not a baseless crying.  This isn’t being moved by music, or even a passionate preacher.  It is being emotionally moved over one’s sin.  It is understanding how God is grieved by our sin.

3. A Volitional Element- The third element is probably the most controversial.  This is that one must have a determination to forsake sin and amend one’s life.  Repentance is a literal turning from one’s sin towards the holiness of God.  Proverbs 28:13 says that it isn’t about concealing sin, but about confessing and renouncing our sinful nature.  This is where the Lordship Salvation debate enters.  Here area  few quotes I found on it:

“We take Him for what He is- the anointed anointed Savior and Lord who is King of kings and Lord of lords!  He would not be who He is if He saved us and called us and chose us without the understanding that He can also guide and control our lives.”   A.W. Tozer

“There is only one Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, and … anyone who beleives in a Savior who is not the Lord is not believing the true Christ and is not regenerate.  We call for commitment to Christ, the true Christ.”  James Boice

“The gospel Jesus preached was a call to discipleship, a call to follow him in submission obedienc, not just a plea to make a decision or pray a prayer.”  John MacArthur

“The only trust that saves is that practical trust which obeys Jesus Christ.  Faith that does not obey is dead faith, -nominal faith.  It is the outside of faith, the bark of faith, but it is not the vital core of faith.”  C.H. Spurgeon

“For conversion to be authentic and transforming, pre-Christians must make the Lord Jesus Christ the object of their exclusive loyalty.  This means that to the best of their knowledge penitents will forsake all known vice and cling to the Savior as their only hope of salvation. Genuine conversion thus will involve sincere repentance, total commitment to Christ, and submission to the Lord’s sovereign rule.”  Bruce Demarest

“One Thing: Developing a Passion for the Beauty of God” by Sam Storms

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I recently finished reading “One Thing: Developing a Passion for the Beauty of God” by Sam Storms and wanted to include some things from the book here. Storms would be considered a Christian Hedonist, in the same vein that John Piper. In fact, their messages are very similar and Storms uses Pipers tag line a few times in the book: “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”

The book, if you couldn’t get it from the title, is about pursuing the beauty of God over everything else. This is a message that really transformed the way I approached my growth in Christ when I was in college. If we are truly passionate for the beauty of God, then sin suddenly isn’t as satisfying or appealing. God doesn’t want a bunch of Christians who live life focused on not doing things, but focused on finding pleasure in Him.

Storms premise is that we all find pleasure in something. It is something we naturally do as human beings. He says we all passionately seek pleasure. So the appeal is for the believer to focus that passion on our Lord. His point is this: “that passionate and joyful admiration of God, and not merely intellectual apprehension, is the aim of our existence.” Like I said, very Piper-esque. He even frequently quotes Jonathan Edwards and has Piper’s recommendation on the cover of the book.

Storms does well to provide a Biblical context for his points and writing that “God is His own fan club.” God created creation in order to bring Himself more glory, and we being part of that creation were created to not only find pleasure in God, but enjoy His Creation, which is impart finding pleasure in God. He covers the truth that a Biblical self-denial actually brings more pleasure for the believer, but much of that pleasure, in comparison to what is received in the present, is reserved for eternity.

Storms also shares the testimonies of Edwards, Athanasius (one of my heroes), Augustine, and Handel, and how they were all driven by the idea of a total pursuit and pleasure in the beauty of God. He spends two chapters marveling at God’s creation, setting the earth in the perspective of the universes it is surrounded by. He spends almost 20 pages speaking of the grandeur of creation, and then follows that up with another chapter on breaking creation down to the atom and the amazing detail of God’s creation. The intent of this all is to blown away by the One who created it all.

He spends a chapter using the illustration of Ulysses, also known as Odysseus, and his battle with the Sirens. I’m not going to tell the whole story, but basically these Sirens were crying out from treacherous islands as ship sailed through. They sang beautiful melodies that would draw men in, only to make them crash on the rocks and savagely consume their flesh. They sounded beautiful, but were in reality horribly deadly creatures. Ulysses told his men to block their ears, but to tie him to the mast of his ship because he wanted to hear them. He told them to not listen to him, no matter what. One Siren took on the form of his lovely wife, who he had not been with in years. Storms says, “His ‘no’ was not the fruit of a spontaneous revulsion but the product of an external shackle.”

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Like Ulysses, many Christians accept their hearts panting for sin, but resist because “their hands have been shackled by the laws and rues imposed by an oppressive religious atmosphere.” Storms concludes, “Their obedience is not the glad product of a transformed nature, but a reluctant conformity born of fear and shame.”

He offers an opposing illustration of Jason, who also had a run in with the Sirens. With Jason on his voyage was Orpheus, who was an amazing musician, who played music that was more beautiful than anything else. When they came to the Sirens, he did not have his men plug their ears, but told Orpheus to play his most beautiful and alluring songs. Jason and his men were not inclined to give in to the Sirens because they found a more beautiful song to listen to.

The Christian parallel is obvious. The way to resist sin is not in shackling ourselves and forcing ourselves to resist, but to find something that is more pleasurable than the temptation. Something that actually provides a lasting pleasure. Storms says, “Ulysses may have survived the sounds of the Sirens. But only Jason triumphed s over them. Yes, both men ‘obeyed’ (in a manner of speaking). Neither succumbed. Neither indulged their desires. Both men escaped the danger at hand. But only one was changed.”

This is something that I have found my soul frustrated with. I don’t think I abhor sin as I should, and it troubles me that I’m not more insulted by immorality and what God hates. I’ll leave you with a list of challenges Storms lists. This is what you were created for. What would your life look like if the following things were true of you?

  • enchanted… enamored… engrossed with God
  • enthralled… enraptured… entranced with God
  • enravished… excited… enticed with God
  • astonished… amazed… awed with God
  • astounded… absorbed… agog with God
  • beguiled and bedazzled
  • startled and staggered
  • smitten and stunned
  • stupified and spellbound
  • charmed and consumed
  • thrilled and thunderstruck
  • obsessed and preoccupied
  • intrigued and impassioned
  • overwhelmed and overwrought
  • gripped and rapt
  • enthused and electrified
  • tantalzed, mesmerized, and monopolized
  • fascinated, captivated, intoxicated, infatuated, and exhilarated… with God!