Larry Farlow

Commentary on Theology & Culture

August 20, 2016
by Larry Farlow
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The Importance of Meeting with God in His Word

The Importance of Meeting with God in His WordIn Exodus 19 an amazing thing happens to Moses. He’s called to the top of Mt. Sinai where he meets with the Lord and the Lord speaks with him and gives him instructions.

What if I told you, you could meet with the God of the Universe, the most powerful Being in existence and hear from Him any time you desired? That this same God who called Moses to speak with him desires to speak with you today?

The truth is we can meet with this God and we can get close to Him and we can know Him because we have a great high priest who is our mediator. Jesus Christ is the mediator for us, through His blood shed on the cross. He is the perfect sacrifice, paid once for all time. And so Hebrews 4:16 says:

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

And one of the ways, I’d say the primary way, God has graciously provided for us to “draw near” to Him is through His Word, the Bible. I would argue that hearing and especially reading the word of God is the most important thing we can do in our process of sanctification.

In John 17:17, in what we call Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer, he says:

…Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.

Jesus prays for our sanctification, the daily process of being made righteous and being conformed to His image. Jesus wants us to be like Him. And in this prayer He reveals how that happens – through interaction with the truth. But He doesn’t stop there; He also makes it clear what the source of truth is that sanctifies. It is the Word of God. The Bible is composed of sanctifying truth.

Back to the book of Hebrews:

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. – Hebrews 4:12

Sanctification is about heart change and nothing impacts the believer’s heart like the word of God. Neglecting the word of God is neglecting to expose our hearts to the thing that is most needed to change them.

Why would I say it is the most important thing? Why not attending church or praying or loving our neighbor or obeying Christ? Because regular reading and study of the word of God shows us the importance of all of those other things and leads us to them. We know we should pray and how to pray because the Bible tells us those things. We know we should not neglect attending church because the Bible tells us that. We know we should love our neighbor as our self because the Bible tells us so.

When, for example, my prayer life has become dry or infrequent it is almost always because I’ve stopped spending regular time in God’s word. When I become cold to the things of God and to His church, it’s because I’ve stopped spending time reading the word. When I’m impatient with my wife and children, it’s the same reason – I’m not reading and studying God’s Word like I should.

Psalm 119 is an extended a psalm of praise and a prayer to God from a man who places high value on God’s Word.

Psalm 119: 62 says:

At midnight I rise to praise you,
because of your righteous rules.

The psalmist praises God because of God’s law. Or, said another way, because of God’s word. One thing we find is that our praise of God and our desire to obey him are functions of the time we spend in the word and it’s a circular process:

We spend time in the word —> This leads us to praise God —> This leads us back to His word to learn more about him —> which leads us to praise God, etc.

So regular, I would say daily, intake of God’s word is essential for the Christian. It is the oxygen of our Christian life. Without it we suffocate and die.

July 18, 2016
by Larry Farlow
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A Time for Choosing

A Time for Choosing

 

In Jeremiah 26 we read an account of Jeremiah standing before the Temple preaching the word of the Lord to the people of Judah. He did this because the Lord commanded it so:

“Thus says the Lord: Stand in the court of the Lord’s house, and speak to all the cities of Judah that come to worship in the house of the Lord all the words that I command you to speak to them; do not hold back a word.” – Jeremiah 26:2

Notice the Lord’s command was not only to speak, but to speak everything – not to hold back a single word of God’s commands.

We never have the option of truncating or soft-selling God’s word. Our job is not to make it palatable but to make it clear. Unfortunately when you do that, people don’t like it.

In Jeremiah’s case, they wanted to kill him:

“When the officials of Judah heard these things, they came up from the king’s house to the house of the Lord and took their seat in the entry of the New Gate of the house of the Lord. Then the priests and the prophets said to the officials and to all the people, “This man deserves the sentence of death, because he has prophesied against this city, as you have heard with your own ears.” – Jeremiah 26:10-11

This will always be the result of sharing the truth of God’s word with a lost and dying world. They will not only not like you for it, they will in some cases actively seek to do you harm.

The problem with much of the church today is we can’t handle that. We want everyone to like us. We’ve confused loving people with making them feel good about themselves. And, as much as we say we do this out of a desire not to offend or to be loving, the reality is we do it for ourselves because we worship the idol of popularity and being liked. We are people pleasers (Galatians 1:10) rather than people lovers.

When we present God’s word and get the reaction Jeremiah got (or that Jesus got, for that matter), we think we’ve done something wrong when, in fact, we’ve done something right. We measure our effectiveness by people’s reactions rather than by our faithfulness to the message of scripture. We think by softening the edges or not speaking of things like sin or God’s wrath and judgment we will obtain a hearing for the gospel. But, with no understanding of sin or God’s wrath there can be no understanding of the gospel.

The irony is, the more we try to be inoffensive, the more we compromise with the world, the more they dislike us – because nothing short of complete capitulation will satisfy the wicked.

That’s the choice we have, complete capitulation or faithfulness to the word of God. If our goal is to be honored by the world, we must choose the first, if our goal is to honor God we must choose the second. There is no in between. We must either be cold or hot (Revelation 3:15).

The Christian life is difficult. That’s a promise from the Lord (John 16:33). If we seek to make it easy and non-confrontational, we will end up being unfaithful. But, if we stand firm in the face of opposition and are uncompromising on the truth of the gospel, the reward is great (Matthew 5:11-12).

The time has come for the church of Jesus Christ to choose this day whom they will serve.

 

Photo credit: Sebastian Anthony via Visual hunt / CC BY-ND

June 30, 2016
by Larry Farlow
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A Racist Under Every Snack

We live in interesting times. What was unthinkable even five years ago is now commonplace. I have A Racist Under Every Snackto do a double-take at least once each day when reading the news to be sure I’ve read something correctly, that it really did say what I thought it did. Such was the case yesterday when I read this article in National Review:

“Cops Called on My Third-Grade Son over Racism Concerns for Talking About Brownies”

Yes, that’s really what you just read. You did it too, right? That double-take thing.

Anyway, it seems the latest front in the war against racism is elementary school classrooms. Apparently, racism is so pervasive, so insidious that it can be found even in a discussion among third-graders about snack food:

According to the student’s mother, her nine-year-old son was participating in a conversation about the bakery treat during his end-of-the-year class party at William P. Tatem Elementary School on June 16 when another student remarked that his comment was racist. Rather than explain to the accusing student that the name of the baked good is a generally accepted term and not racially charged whatsoever, the school actually called the police.

While you can’t be a terrorist even if you want to be and announce ahead of time you are one, you can be a racist simply by being accused of such. Racism is always in the eye of the accuser.

All you race warriors out there here’s where your obsession has gotten us – not to a society where racism has ceased (which I don’t think you want anyway – it’s a job security thing) but a society where “racism” is used as the justification for sending the police to an elementary school to harass and frighten a third-grader.
 
If you are legitimately concerned about racism (not just using it as a wedge issue to garner more power), you better start putting as much effort into calling out people and situations like this as you do calling out racism because any legitimate concerns you have are going to be subsumed by the racism-is-everywhere folks who have thus far operated with impunity while sharing space under your umbrella.

 

Otherwise, when the wolf of racism really does show up, the people of the village are going to ignore your cries for help.

June 22, 2016
by Larry Farlow
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Betty and Gloria Survive A Not Terror Attack

Betty and Gloria Survive A Not Terror AttackBetty & Gloria were on the subway headed home from their weekly fight the patriarchy rally. As the train pulled into the next stop a man dressed in black boarded. As soon as the doors closed he pulled out a gun and began waving it around.

“Alluha Akbaaaaaarr.” He shouted

“Oh no, Betty,” Gloria screamed “it’s one of those fundamentalist Christians who hates gay people!”

“I know and he’s, he’s, he’s got one of those things!”

“What things?” said Gloria

“Those gun things. It could jump out of his hand at any moment and kill us all!”

“Listen infidels,” the man said “I’m a loyal soldier of ISIS here to inflict Allah’s justice on the decadent west.”

“What did he say?” asked Betty, who was cowering under the seat by now.

“That he’s from the NRA and he’s here to make sure ten year olds can buy fully automatic weapons at gun shows,” whispered Gloria.

“Oh no, we’re doomed. Those people are as crazy as it gets!”

“Shut up infidel spawns of Satan!” the man barked.

By the time the train pulled into the next station the platform was filled with police and SWAT. The man began threatening to shoot the passengers.

As he leveled his gun at Betty & Gloria, a shot rang out. The man dropped to the floor. The police rushed the car and in moments it was over thanks to a police sharpshooter.

Afterwards Betty & Gloria were interviewed by the police.

“Ma’am, what can you tell us about what happened?”

“Don’t you ma’am me you cisgender fascist,” said Betty.

“Oh, sorry, well, what did you ladi…um…I mean can you tell me what happened?”

“It’s all kind of a blur,” said Gloria. “The only thing I remember for sure is that he was waving a Confederate flag.”

Betty and Gloria walked along in silence as they headed home wondering how this could have happened. Finally Betty said:

“You know Gloria, it occurs to me that perhaps we’re wrong about this man.”

“How do you mean?”

“I bet he was just a self-loathing transgender man who had been oppressed his whole life by being forced to use the women’s restroom and he finally just had enough.”

“You could be right,” said Gloria. “And if that’s true, you can’t really blame him. I bet he’s even had people bully him by refusing to use his preferred pronoun.”

“Yes,” said Betty. “It’s sad. What a mixed up world we live in.”

“Indeed.” said Gloria.

 

 

 

 

May 25, 2016
by Larry Farlow
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Apple Pie Theology

Apple Pie TheologyOne of the questions that inevitably comes up when you study church history, especially the history of the Reformation, is whether the Roman Catholic Church should be considered Christian. On the one hand, they affirm the Nicene Creed which places them within the pale of historic Christianity along with Protestants and the Eastern Orthodox. On the other hand, they reject the notion of salvation by grace through faith alone. This puts them in the position of preaching a gospel other than the one affirmed by the apostles which, in turn, puts them under condemnation according to the Apostle Paul (Galatians 1:8-9).

So what are we to think about the Roman Catholic Church? Are they Christian because they are within the pale of Nicene orthodoxy or are they not Christian because they preach a false gospel? Additionally, how do we understand the difference between Nicene Roman Catholicism and something like Mormonism?

The answer lies in understanding the purpose of the creeds. The Nicene Creed in particular was not intended to be an exhaustive theological statement. It was formulated to address particular issues the church was facing at the time it was written – primarily the challenge to the divinity of Christ being put forth by the Arians. The Creed says nothing about the nature of the atonement, justification, etc. But, it does put up some boundaries beyond which a belief system cannot be Christian. So, from a historical and sociological perspective, religions within Nicene boundaries are considered Christian. But, this does not mean everyone who affirms Nicaea can be considered Christian from a theological perspective, as it is merely a starting point.

One way I’ve sorted this out is thinking of an apple pie. There are certain ingredients that must be present for a pie to be considered an apple pie. For argument’s sake, let’s say those ingredients are apples, sugar and nutmeg. Pies that contain apples, sugar and nutmeg can be classified as Apple Pies:

Nicene Apple Pie

Of course, we can add other things to the pie like rhubarb, for example, and it would still be an apple pie. But, are there things we can add that are so contrary to the pie’s purpose that, while technically still an apple pie, it becomes worthless as such? I think so:

A pie containing apples, sugar, nutmeg, sardines and garlic may be in the apple pie category technically but will not function as an apple pie in any meaningful sense.

Roman Catholicism is like an apple pie with sardines and garlic added – technically in the category of Christian but containing so many extra ingredients that are in conflict with the basics that it ceases to be Christian in reality.

For Mormonism and other anti-Nicene cults who call themselves Christian, the apple pie looks like this:

Mormon Apple Pie

They use peaches but call it an apple pie even though it is nothing of the kind and never has been. Mormonism began, not with Nicene orthodoxy from which they’ve strayed, but with heresy in which they’ve continued. They’re a peach pie masquerading as apple.

So while the Nicene Creed addresses essential beliefs it is not an exhaustive list of those essentials. The crux of Christianity is the gospel. If I affirm the divinity of Christ and the reality of the Trinity in sync with Nicaea but deny that the work of Christ alone is sufficient for my salvation, I have denied the gospel and forfeited the right to call myself a Christian. That is why, though we don’t place Roman Catholicism in the category of a cult like Mormonism, we must still place it outside the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo credit: WinstonWong* via Visual hunt / CC BY-NC-SA