Saturday, November 29, 2008

Talking Turkey About Wrath, Justice, and Mercy

O Lord, how patient and merciful you are to us.

When I think upon our greed, selfishness, lack of pity, and stubbornness illustrated in this tragic trampling death, I reflect that God is just in his seething wrath against such sins, and merciful and longsuffering in calling people to repentance:

NEW YORK (AP) - Police were reviewing video from surveillance cameras in an attempt to identify who trampled to death a Wal-Mart worker after a crowd of post-Thanksgiving shoppers burst through the doors at a suburban store and knocked him down.

Criminal charges were possible, but identifying individual shoppers in Friday's video may prove difficult, said Detective Lt. Michael Fleming, a Nassau County police spokesman.

Other workers were trampled as they tried to rescue the man, and customers stepped over him and became irate when officials said the store was closing because of the death, police and witnesses said.

At least four other people, including a woman who was eight months pregnant, were taken to hospitals for observation or minor injuries. The store in Valley Stream on Long Island closed for several hours before reopening.

Police said about 2,000 people were gathered outside the Wal-Mart doors before its 5 a.m. opening at a mall about 20 miles east of Manhattan. The impatient crowd knocked the employee, identified by police as Jdimytai Damour, to the ground as he opened the doors, leaving a metal portion of the frame crumpled like an accordion.

"This crowd was out of control," Fleming said. He described the scene as "utter chaos," and said the store didn't have enough security.

Dozens of store employees trying to fight their way out to help Damour were also getting trampled by the crowd, Fleming said. Shoppers stepped over the man on the ground and streamed into the store.

Damour, 34, of Queens, was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead around 6 a.m., police said. The exact cause of death has not been determined.

A 28-year-old pregnant woman was taken to a hospital, where she and the baby were reported to be OK, said police Sgt. Anthony Repalone.

Kimberly Cribbs, who witnessed the stampede, said shoppers were acting like "savages."

"When they were saying they had to leave, that an employee got killed, people were yelling 'I've been on line since yesterday morning,'" she said. "They kept shopping."

Such selfish disregard for others, such manic obsession with material things. You and I might never stand in the cold hours before store opening on Black Friday, but the same disease grows in our hearts and manifests in other ways, provoking the just wrath of God, which he is storing up on the last day, when he shall be the one trampling the vintage of his foaming wrath against lawlessness and sin (Rev. 14):

And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10 he also will drink the wine of God's wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11 And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.”

12 Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus. [2]

13 And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”

The Harvest of the Earth

14 Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and seated on the cloud one like a son of man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand. 15 And another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle, and reap, for the hour to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.” 16 So he who sat on the cloud swung his sickle across the earth, and the earth was reaped.

17 Then another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. 18 And another angel came out from the altar, the angel who has authority over the fire, and he called with a loud voice to the one who had the sharp sickle, “Put in your sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, for its grapes are ripe.” 19 So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. 20 And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse's bridle, for 1,600 stadia.
Woe to us! We worship the beast everyday in American society. We worship wealth and influence, we worship sexual dominance and debauchery, we worship status and power. We worship the passing things of this world and the promise we can have it all and at falling prices too.

How it must grieve God on any day, but especially the day after we claim to celebrate thankfulness at His mercy and grace that we cram into stores and push and shove and clamor for the latest must-have thing to sate our flesh. We'll find it doesn't satisfy and yet we'll yearn next year for more of the same.

Father God, have mercy on us. May you bring us to repentance. I pray that in the midst of this trampling tragedy you help your ministers of the Word to preach Christ more boldly this Christmas season, to prophetically challenge people in pulpits across the land to trust not in earthly treasure, but in Heaven's greatest gift to man. Jesus Christ, our Immanuel, God with us.

Thank you Jesus, that you chose to step down from the glories of your heavenly throne to clothe yourself in frail human flesh, live the life we could not and would not live because of our moral deadness in sin. Jesus, you died the death we deserve, drinking in God's holy wrath. You died the death these tramplers deserve, being trampled by wave upon wave of the fierce white hot anger of God against sin. You died for these tramplers' sins. Lord, I pray that you show them your mercy. Awaken their hearts by the power of your Holy Spirit unto repentance. I pray each and every one of them may be preached the Gospel and that you may pierce their hearts through, burning their consciences with conviction and godly sorrow unto repentance and new life.

Lord, forgive me for any self-righteous judgment I've shown these tramplers. Forgive me for my selfishness, for my impudent demands to be god of my own mini universe. Forgive me for failing to hallow you in the holidays. May I always walk in humble repentance, recognizing that but for your grace I would still be dead in my sins, if not eternally lost in the burning wrath of your judgment in Hell.

Lord grant me your heart of compassion and mercy. While I long for justice, may my heart not be deafened to the pleas of mercy that you cause in the hearts of sinners you are regenerating by your saving grace.

Thank you Lord for your patience towards us. Thank you for not lashing out in your justified wrath but holding off in patient forebearance. I pray you help me do the same, Lord, and I pray your people in America and the world over would be imitators of you particularly in showing mercy.

In the name of your Son and my Savior Jesus I pray, Amen.

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Journalist Advises Obama to Join 'Nominally' Christian D.C. Church

Hailing the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., as only nominally Christian, Newsweek "On Religion" moderator Sally Quinn declared the Episcopal Church U.S.A. (ECUSA) facility a perfect house of worship for President-elect Obama and his family when in residence at the White House in her Nov. 22 Washington Post op-ed.

Sadly either Ms. Quinn misses the point of church attendance for the Christian or she concludes that the religious inclinations of the Obama family is far from the historic, orthodox faith centered on the exclusive messianic claims of Jesus Christ, and salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Him alone (John 3:16-21; 14:1-6).

Trumpeting the merits of the National Cathedral, Quinn admired the institution's "programs on interfaith dialogue" and concluded satisfied that the "most pluralistic of the places of worship" she'd been to would be a "wonderful" message to Americans that President Obama would weekly worship "at a place most likely to welcome all Americans and all people of the world alike."

I've no doubt that the decidedly liberal National Cathedral is very welcoming, both of warm bodies in worship and cold hard cash in its coffers, but it seems Ms. Quinn is confusing lack of theological spine with warmth of welcome.

Biblically orthodox churches warmly welcome all people of all nations and backgrounds, because the church is God's instrumental means of declaring the Gospel to sinners the world over, declaring God's just and holy wrath against sin and His one and only provision for mercy in the substitutionary death of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Granted, this warm welcome is one that challenges everyone to see themselves as the Bible shows them, not as our deceptive hearts distort us (Jer. 17:9). Granted, the pure, undiluted preaching of the Gospel is foolishness to those who reject its strong warnings, but the power of God unto salvation for those who believe (I Cor. 1:18-25). It's that salvation that opens the door to the greatest, warmest welcome, that of God the Father welcoming redeemed sinners into His presence because of the atoning death and glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Ms. Quinn should be lauded for hoping that President-elect Obama's choice of a church in D.C. would be an inspiration not only to Americans but people all over the world. I just submit that the greatest inspiration he could bring in this matter is by worshiping at a church that joins the heavenly chorus of saints in singing of the Lord Jesus Christ:

“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.” [Rev. 5:9-10]

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Monday, November 17, 2008

A New Church Family for the First Family

Christianity Today's Sarah Pulliam puts the question to CT readers, "What Church Should Obama Attend?"

Aside from my home church, I'd recommend either Capitol Hill Baptist in the city proper or Fourth Presbyterian (EPC) in Bethesda, Maryland. Both are biblically sound churches where the Word of God is held forth in solid expository preaching.

Indeed, were the President-elect to ask me, not that he would, I'd gladly point him to 9Marks for helpful criteria for finding a new church home:

1. Expositional Preaching
2. Biblical Theology
3. Biblical Understanding of the Good News
4. Biblical Understanding of Conversion
5. Biblical Understanding of Evangelism
6. Biblical Understanding of Membership
7. Biblical Church Discipline
8. Promotion of Christian Discipleship and Growth
9. Biblical Understanding of Leadership
Following those guidelines will prevent the first family from sitting beneath the pulpit of a congregation that is more screedal than creedal and more obsessional than confessional.

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