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

Wise, Discerning Discipline

SchwarzkopfFor the Lord’s Day, August 2, 2015

Dear Saints,

A blunt but discerning leadership and parenting nugget is mined from General H. Norman Schwarzkopf’s autobiography, It Doesn’t Take a HeroHe shares the following story during his time as second lieutenant in the United States Army with the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky:

In the summer of 1957 we had a huge influx of draftees, and we were working fifteen-hour days to get them properly trained and assimilated into the unit.  The worst soldier in the bunch was a guy from upstate New York.  He insisted that he’d been in a motorcycle accident and had sustained brain damage that caused him occasionally to become catatonic.  Given that he’d passed his draft physical, this seemed improbable, and we soon noticed a close correlation between this private’s catatonic fits and the prospect of hard work.  We’d be camped fifteen miles from the base, getting ready to march home, and the private would pass out.  Each time we’d carry him to the dispensary, but he always revived just before the doctor examined him.

The doctor was mystified; he couldn’t say what the problem was, but he also couldn’t say there was no problem.  Sergeants Montoya and Gonzales, Korean War veterans who supervised the recruits, did not think very much of this at all.  “Sir, that [guy] is getting over on us!”

I was concerned that if he did have a medical condition, the man could die: “Look, Sarge, he may be or he may not be.  We just don’t know and we can’t take a chance.”

So the sergeants improvised their own cure.  The troops lived on the second floor of the barracks, and every Friday night they had what was called a GI party–which entailed scrubbing the floor, waxing it, and buffing it to a high shine.  One Friday I heard screaming and raced upstairs and burst into the squad bay.  Montoya and Gonzales had the private hanging out the window upside down by his ankles.  He was in a panic, and Gonzales was yelling, “… It didn’t take you long to wake up this time!”  After that the private had no more catatonic fits, although the Army discharged him anyway, a few months later, as unfit for duty.

Sometimes you just have to get terribly and creatively direct to ferret out lazy, destructive, undermining, varmint-like tendencies.  Does this illustration seem extreme, non-pastoral, non-parental, and unscriptural?  Well passing over Hebrews 12:5-11 and Nehemiah 13:23-28, let us venture back in the Bible to consider King Solomon’s first wise and disciplinary tactic as a tough act to follow:

Then came there two women, that were harlots, unto the king, and stood before him. And the one woman said, O my lord, I and this woman dwell in one house; and I was delivered of a child with her in the house. And it came to pass the third day after that I was delivered, that this woman was delivered also: and we were together; there was no stranger with us in the house, save we two in the house. And this woman’s child died in the night; because she overlaid it. And she arose at midnight, and took my son from beside me, while thine handmaid slept, and laid it in her bosom, and laid her dead child in my bosom. And when I rose in the morning to give my child suck, behold, it was dead: but when I had considered it in the morning, behold, it was not my son, which I did bear. And the other woman said, Nay; but the living is my son, and the dead is thy son. And this said, No; but the dead is thy son, and the living is my son. Thus they spake before the king.

Then said the king, The one saith, This is my son that liveth, and thy son is the dead: and the other saith, Nay; but thy son is the dead, and my son is the living. And the king said, Bring me a sword. And they brought a sword before the king. And the king said, Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other. Then spake the woman whose the living child was unto the king, for her bowels yearned upon her son, and she said, O my lord, give her the living child, and in no wise slay it. But the other said, Let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it. Then the king answered and said, Give her the living child, and in no wise slay it: she is the mother thereof. And all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had judged; and they feared the king: for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him, to do judgment. (1 Kings 3:16-28)

Notice that this extremely shrewd yet incredibly bold getting at the truth was King Solomon’s first wise judgment after God granted him the gift of wisdom for which he asked earlier in the chapter.

Am I saying to dangle disrespectful, deceitful, defiant deviants over balconies or to threaten to slice someone’s infant down the middle?  Of course not.  But the illustrated principle remains: sometimes moronic, incompetent, inferior nonsense must be squelched by morally responsible and effectual superiors.

Discerning when such daring measures are called for by similarly deplorable times takes great insight, so let us ask God for wisdom in leadership and parenting noting that there is a time for everything under heaven (including breaking down, as Solomon wrote elsewhere).

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

The Need for Strong Church Leaders

For Lord’s Day, February 8, 2015

Dear Saints,

It’s another tough Scripture to look at tomorrow as we continue hearing about the terrible Golden Calf incident at the foot of Mount Sinai (Ex. 32:15-25).  We will see the need for “tough love” by strong men like Moses if the Church will survive God’s judgment for such things and avoid them in the future. And we will see how the church gets herself into such times of severe discipline and loss under “nice” but weak leaders such as Aaron.  Following are some thoughts from three different sources that together should help us prepare for the message, “You Need Strong Leaders”.

“Armed for the Fight Against Grave and Serious Error”, a sermon by John Calvin printed in The Trinity Review, October 2014:

… we all know how important it is to feel at peace with the world. (This is why many of us are blind to our faults, because the world flatters us.)

Too many people are continually on the prowl to see whether there is anything they can attack; their holiness amounts to nothing more than mocking one person or chiding another.

We must not fear anyone, for the zeal of God must rise up within us and overwhelm us. Even if it means that we acquire a bad reputation and become the object of all kinds of calumny and slander, nevertheless, we must enter into combat.

… even the greatest amongst us must bend his neck, realizing the devilish confusion that results when a man believes himself to be above reproof.

… when a sin is deepening and spreading because of silent acquiescence in it, we must deal with it. If we only respond when the illness is deep-rooted, we will be too late.

… if sin reigns we must deal with it at the appropriate time, for if we tolerate it, or make it a laughing matter, and then subsequently try to deal with it, we will be surprised to find that God has shut the door on us and that Satan has won. This is a just reward for our cowardice and coldness, if we are not prepared to heal the sicknesses which corrupt and infect the body of the church the moment we see them arise within her.

Little by little, the devil’s ways will become the order of the day and he will drag us along with him if he once takes hold of our loose reigns. If we see evil growing to this degree, each of us has a duty to stop its spread by showing that we prefer to go to war in the service of God than to have all the friends in the world and to please and gratify mortal creatures. Let us even make ourselves blind or remove an eye rather than offend God. May his truth and his glory be so precious to us that everything else is as nought in comparison.

“As Spiritual Mediator, [Pope] Francis Moves His Geopolotical Agenda Forward”, by Richard Bennett and Robert Nicholson, in The Trinity Review, September, 2014:

… any country’s civil order is based on the dominant religion of its people.

“The Line in the Sand”, in Solid Ground newsletter, Nov/Dec 2014, by Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason ministries:

As followers of Christ here in the West, our lives are not at risk . Far from it. We’re not faced with the ultimatum, ‘Recant or die.’ But sometimes in many small ways, I’m afraid we implicitly recant with much less incentive. We deny our Savior in the little things—the petty offense, the silent condescension, the hidden envy, the small bit of bitterness, the modest moment of pride.

The most important measure of our success as Christians is not our numbers or even our immediate impact, but our moment-by-moment faithfulness.

When ‘alien principles’ rule the church … ‘the church ceases to be the church.’ (Barmen Declaration)

My fear is that any Christian crossing the first line will cross the second for the same reasons: to be ‘tolerant,’ to be lauded as loving, to escape the brand, ‘bigot.’ Though not a fool, Paul was willing to be called one for fidelity’s sake, since the so-called ‘foolishness’ of the Gospel had the power to save those who believed (1 Cor. 1:18-24). Are you willing to wear the label ‘bigot’ for the same reason, even if it be libel?”

Let us ask God to expose the Golden Calves in our hearts tomorrow with such challenging words, that we would get rid of them and have no need to drink them and die by them.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant