Seek and Thank God for Strong Men in Family, Church (and State)

For Lord’s Day, June 13, 2021

Dear Saints,

Last week I said to one of our elders, “Thanks for being a real man.  A real elder. For doing the hard work on Session that most men fearfully serving in church office really don’t want to do and so they don’t.”  It’s hard to find such men these days who are willing to hold up the arms of the minister and lift up the hearts of the saints for spiritual battle within and without the camp.

The church needs strong men.  Indeed, meek like Moses and the Messiah, but with a meekness that fears God and not men and so when necessary brings strong correction even to the point of making a molten metal drink for those who make idols and call them Jehovah their Deliver or a whip to apply to those whose tables need to be overturned in the Temple.

I thought of the kind of men that we should pray God sustains as leaders in our families and Church family while reading, “John Knox — The Founder of Puritanism”, in, The Puritans: Their Origins and Successors, by D. M. Lloyd-Jones (a gem to treasure in our library).  Please allow me to share this string of quotes about Knox by Dr. Jones and pray that your husbands, fathers, and church officers would follow in this man’s intrepid footsteps:

“No man has ever been more maligned than John Knox.  This happened to Calvin also; but it is much more true of Knox … Inevitably in these days of ecumenicity a man like John Knox becomes the target of vitriolic attacks … 

“… He was a strong man, a rugged man … there was something that came into his eyes now and again that literally put the fear of God into people.  The most striking thing about him was his ability … his sense of discrimination … astounding energy … generally a characteristic of great preachers also … his shrewdness … Several times he saved the Reformation simply because of this shrewdness … his wisdom … He seemed to know exactly how far he could go at every stage, and he never tried to go beyond that point … 

“ … a model of moderation … his originality …his courage … His great characteristic as a preacher was vehemency.  Great preachers are generally vehement … it arises from the feeling of the power of the gospel.  Vehemence is, of course, characterized by power … 

“According to … Roman Catholics John Knox was more responsible for the abolition of the idolatry of ‘worshipping the host’ in the Communion Service than anyone else.  That illustrates the power of his preaching …

“… his originality of thought, his independence …

“He was a man for his age; a man for his times.  Special men are needed for special times; and God always produces such men.  A mild man would have been useless in the Scotland of the 16th century, and in many other parts of this country.  A strong man was needed, a stern man, a courageous man; and such a man was John Knox.  Martin Luther was of the same mould …  Different men are needed at different times.  In those times an heroic, rugged character was needed; and God produced the man.”

Note that just as with Moses and Jesus, stern strength is not incompatible with meekness as each occasion calls for different responses from godly men per their circumstances and context.  So Paul writes to the unruly Corinthians that they must choose how to be pastored by him at his arrival depending on how they respond to his imperative instructions to repent and discipline someone in the church in 1 Cor. 4:21: What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?

Lloyd-Jones continues with qualification to appropriately understand the varying strengths of John Knox:

“He was a most humble man.  The fact that a man stands boldly for the Truth, and does not yield, does not mean that he is not humble.  He is not standing for himself, he is standing for the Truth …

“ … in St Andrews … He would not preach, alleging, and these are his words, ‘that he would not run where God had not called him’ … A chaplain … turned to Knox on a certain day, and called on him to preach and not refuse the burden … the congregation called out that this was so.  Here was a whole congregation calling upon Knox to preach.  What was his response?  ‘At this Knox burst into tears and withdrew to his room.’  He remained in a state of deep depression and anxiety until the day of his first sermon came.  ‘Everyone could see how gloomy he was, for he never smiled, avoided company as much as possible, and spent all his time by himself.’ …

“What a contrast to men who are always ready to run up pulpit steps to preach!  This is true humility, and also the Puritan spirit.  It is ‘the fear of the Lord’, the dread of standing between God and man, and proclaiming ‘the unreachable riches of Christ.’ …

“Knox is generally regarded as being an arrogant man, and one who was rude in the presence of Mary, Queen of Scots.  But that is all based on the fallacy of what makes a man a ‘ladies man’.  It is based also on a misunderstanding of true womanhood, and what a true woman really likes … A true woman likes a strong man; and as you read the life of this man you find that many of his correspondents were women …

“When he was in Geneva two women took a dangerous journey over land and sea in order to be near him and to partake of his ministry.  His correspondence with his mother-in-law, Mrs Bowes, and also Mrs Ann Locke, over many years is proof positive that this man had a most tender spirit when you really got to know him, and when he knew he was dealing with a true and honest and genuine soul …”

Also on my mind thinking about our need for manly ministers, elders, deacons, husbands, fathers, and brothers is what one friend and visitor to our church recently wrote to us: 

“… men struggle to face the reality of their own incompetence when it comes to leadership and we often times, instead of repentance, abdicate our own role by giving our time to other things besides family. And that’s when satan steps in and the women step up and the men take a seat, so to speak. I can hardly point to an example of men over-exercising their authority … because society in general is just that weak and effeminate. Personally, my wife and I have to actively work against the world’s false idea of toxic masculinity even in our own lives because all we have ever known and have been taught was from a feministic egalitarian point of view.”

Recently, Rev. Benjamin Glazer’s article, “No Time for Weak Men”, came across my desktop and it further imports the importance of this devotion.  He is lamenting the influence of “gaslighting”, which he explains is:

“… the attempt to create a false reality which forces another person to accept or do something that they under normal psychological circumstances would never do … this is the way much discourse in the church and society at-large operates. Sometimes this shows up in passive aggressive attempts to motivate decision makers to move in the direction desired by the instigator, but usually it is a reactive action of a party trying to appease the ghosts of societal influence and boogie-men who neither care about nor desire appeasement. The hope is if one gives on this debatable point, which the gaslighted think is the actual lightning rod of grievance, that the gaslighters will then leave them alone to do whatever it is they have decided is more important … Many have thought that was enough, but the mollifiers were soon forced to give up even more. The people who engage in this kind of manipulative behavior really aren’t concerned about the particulars. That is not the goal or purpose of their behavior.

“They want power, and fearful men give it to them by their weakness.

“When it comes to the body of Christ and the mission given to her, the witness to these attempts at gaslighting are undeniably in the Book of Acts and they are the main tool of Satan and his minions throughout the book of Revelation. Whether it was Jewish or Roman authorities there are multiple attempts, either through bribery and threats or the enticements of men’s words, to move the disciples away from the hard edges of gospel truth into soft, weak accommodationists. This is of course the method of theological liberalism. Take away the mean words of Paul and Moses and leave the red words of Christ, yet the culture is not satisfied. We’ll take Jesus, but not too much. Just get rid of that supernatural stuff, or the Bible’s teaching on homosexuality, open-marriage, sexual intercourse at any time of life, etc… There is always an attempt by this line of thought to try and make Jesus safe for the world. If we only give in on this issue they will listen about Christianity. However, this is not possible.

“The Lion of Judah is voracious and powerful. There is no bargaining with Jehovah.

“Christ the Destroyer (1 Cor. 10:9-10) demands whole obedience unto Himself. There is no friendship with the world, nor can there be. The leaders of His church fool themselves if they believe one can have influence with those whose philosophies are founded in order to deny the sovereign and almighty power of God by playing games and cooperating with the world. Light and darkness have nothing in common. 

“The Church must stand convinced of the rightness of its work and the indefatigable nature of its call.

“In John 10 our Lord describes hirelings who run at the first sign of danger. As long as the pay is good and the trouble light, they are content and happy. When the wolf appears they skedaddle … The wolf wins and the sheep are dead, but the shepherd is safe to ply his trade in the midst of another flock. He writes to his friends about his near escape and wonders at the weakness of his ewes. All are complimentary of his temerity. But the sheep are still dead, the wolves received their pound of flesh, and are encouraged to continue wandering to and fro seeking the next gathering to devour.  [See Ezekiel 34:1-4, which he quotes].

“This is not a time for jobholders seeking peace and quietude, to be gaslighted into ever surrender.

“Ministers of the gospel in this age need to be ready and willing to lose their place in polite society to boldly proclaim the whole counsel of God and defend the witness of the church towards the good news of salvation in Christ Alone, and the biblical holiness without which no man will see the Lord. When the people of God cannot even stand up … and bring a defense for the sanctification of sinners one wonders as to why that reason is? The enemies of Christ are never going to be at comity with the purveyors of truth. They hate truth, and want to see it destroyed. 

“One cannot serve both God and mammon, the State, the popular culture, and the King of Kings …”

Thank God for your manly elders.  And pray for them, against the permeating leaven of the spirit of this age, to heed 1 Cor. 16:13: Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. [I remind you that the bolded words are actually one word in Greek that means, “act like a man”.]  For today, more and more, even the basic line between masculinity and femininity is being essentially and literally severed.

May you be thankful to have such strong men leading this subsection of the household of God.  And pray that the Lord sends us more of their kind that we would stand as the pillar and ground of the truth.  For such a time as this.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

Men Must Minister to Women

For Lord’s Day, June 5, 2016

Dear Saints,

Jennifer and I recently came across a video (shared below) that I mentioned to you in passing in last week’s evening sermon on the qualifications for elders. There I reminded us that the Hebrew word for “elders” is more literally “bearded ones” as an example that only men are allowed by God to be elders.  As in that sermon, we remember here that our men and elders must minister to our women in a way that men alone are particularly so designed by God.

The issue is not that girls or women are inferior (we are made equal in value, yet different in abilities and assigned tasks), but that there is a vital distinction between them and boys and men.  This philosophy is very controversial in our day of a growing demand for unisex bathrooms and no distinction between the sexes.  Can you imagine — if the logic of the wicked world prevails, mothers and fathers may one day be presented with a birth certificate at the hospital that reads for the sex of their newborn, “To be decided by the child at a later date”?  How that would set up a life of abusive confusion and neglect of duty.

To insist that we are made and maintained as either men or women without our say in the matter is to defend God’s right to create and rule over our souls and bodies and societies in advance and forever.  Further, such commitment to the truth of general and special revelation regarding what it is to be male or female (in anatomical and social functions) will charge our men to be manly in protecting and serving especially our women.  This verse of God’s holy, infallible Word particularly resonates at the moment and it continues to be true about the responsibility of men toward women:

Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered. (1 Peter 3:7)

Peter does not here degrade women and wives, but makes demands on men and husbands to protect them as precious vases of God’s glory.  Considering we just practiced male headship federal representative voting last Lord’s Day in the election of our next Elder, Mr. Malcolm Maxwell (to be ordained and installed in tomorrow’s morning service), and that it was emphasized that he had to be a man, it seems appropriate to again remember what it is to be a man in distinction and on behalf of our women and why it matters.

What’s more, it is also good timing to review God-given gender relations since we will submit to the preaching of the third antithesis in Matthew 5:31-32 tomorrow evening where Jesus corrects the Scribes and Pharisees on their teachings regarding divorce.  These religious leaders emphasized husbands being able to cast away their wives for nearly any reason so long as they went “by the book” with a Scriptural certificate that was actually meant to restrict and restrain divorce so as to preserve a man’s faithfulness to his wife and protect her from abandonment, scorn, and poverty (Deuteronomy 24:1-4).  We will see again how it is profoundly important to have our men know that they are men and what it means to be real covenant-keeping family men of God who lead their wives, daughters, and future men.

While the world will have us believe the fork-tongued lie that there is no difference between men and women, we will not be so deceived because it would prove to be the entire breakdown of marriage and family and church and state (just as it was at the Fall).  And it would mean husbands not showing up to serve their wives as serving their Lord as Christ did the Church per Ephesians 5 (just as was too often the case with the Patriarchs).

Thankfully, young boys instinctively know better before they are perverted by cowardly social patterns of abdication and abuse, as seen by this marvelous video below (in Italian, so read the subtitles).  Wait for the final section when the boys are introduced to a lovely young girl and  commanded (after being instructed to caress her and then make funny faces at her) to slap her.  The countenance of each boy immediately changes from innocent interest to harsh horrification.  Note the reason given by the last young boy for why he will not slap the girl: “Why? ‘Cause she’s a girl, I can’t do it … Why? ‘Cause I’m a man!”  So we see the innate knowledge of God’s design in the distinction between men and women, and how important it is to preserve it to protect everyone we should hold so dear.

Here’s the video:

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

PS: Another good reason one of the boys gives is “Because Jesus doesn’t want us to hit others”.  More on that when we get to Matthew 5:38-39.

Of Men and Manes and Identifying with the Messiah

mezzanine_541.jpg.crop.280x157For the Lord’s Day, January 17, 2016

Dear Saints,

What do you see in this picture: a lion or a lioness?

Ah, looks can be deceiving. If you thought this was a lion (meaning a male), you were wrong. This is a picture of a lioness! She and some other lionesses in the Mombo of Botswana’s Okavango Delta in Southern Africa have a rare birth defect. They are all still treated like lionesses in the pride, but they look like lions to other on-looking lions.

When my family learned of this oddity while watching the latest episode of the PBS Nature program this week, it sure jumped out in relation to what the Lion of Judah preached to us about hair and beards through Leviticus 19:27 last Lord’s Day morning!

You can watch the clip of this Nature episode entitled “Natural Born Hustlers” (showing how some animals survive by behaving or appearing like something they actually aren’t) here:

Watch Full Episodes Online of Nature on PBS | Maned Lioness Displays Both Male and Female Traits

You can read about this hairy situation at National Geographic here: http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2012/10/09/weird-wild-rare-maned-lionesses-explained/.

This manly mutation was called “evolution” in the video, but of course genetic mutation is a loss of information and thus only devolution—and naturally, confusion. It seems other male lions on the outside looking in are less likely to attack this unnatural pride because it looks like it is protected by more male lions than is actually the case: because some of the lionesses have beards, that is, manes, which are normally a natural attribute of masculinity in lions.

Is it not shocking to look at this lioness and learn it is not a male lion? Why did you think this was a male (I trust if I hadn’t asked about gender you never for a moment would have wondered if it could be female)? Because she has a mane (a beard, if you will, which naturally grows on male lions but corrupt mutations of creation due to the Fall can sometimes confuse the situation). A mane on a lion normally communicates, “male”; the lack of a mane naturally communicates, “female”. If male lions some how could remove their manes, would they not likely be mistaken for lionesses?

This illustration of naturally created gender distinctions if left to themselves to grow unaffected by sin’s mutations (or sinful motivations) makes me think of one of the quotes by the early church father, Clement of Alexandria (150-215 AD), that I accidentally skipped over in last week’s sermon on Leviticus 19:27. He also said, “The hairs of the beard have been numbered … To seek beauty in hairlessness is sheer effeminacy, if done by men.” What does effeminacy mean? It means men baring the physical traits of women (and often, their more natural behaviors).

Like Bruce Jenner parading as “Caitlyn” before the press. Though he preserves (at least for now) his manhood, yet he pretends to be a she. And how does he do this? By growing long hair, keeping a naked face, adding makeup, and wearing a dress. Because though the world more and more insists on androgyny as the new state of normal, everyone knows that women actually naturally have a look, and so do men.

This identity crisis in state (and church) continues to grow. Recently, the YMCA in Seattle Washington created a policy to allow transgender men who personally (although not biologically) identify themselves as women to shower with 15-year old girls, although backlash has slightly amended the policy. You can read about it here.

We need to recognize that these terrible sins are actually symptoms manifesting a more basic problem: Christians fighting what should be basic instinct, the naturally separate identification of men and women based upon a sacred identity with their Redeeming Creator and what He has to say about it. Identification with God is to not identify with the world and its statements through style and fashion (deliberately or naively).

Tomorrow, another text will further challenge us about how we must corporately identify conspicuously with Christ in counter-cultural behavior. Leviticus 19:28 will teach us that tattoos are taboo for the pure in heart.

Remember, Jesus says that Christians will be alienated from this world for they are obviously not of this world because neither is He nor His Kingdom (John 15:19; 17:14, 16; 18:26). Beloved, how we dress our heads, faces, bodies, and skin must communicate, “I am a Christian: I am not of this world.”

Though not speaking on the issue of hair, beards, nor tattoos, a running comment lately on RefNet.fm by RC Sproul is apropos here: “To be with it with the world is to be out of it with God.”

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant