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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

But you don't fight sin with good intentions, wishful thinking, or a blind eye.

Guardians of the Tent

October 27, 2010

10/27/10

Paul likened pastors to the Levites of ancient Israel (1 Cor. 9), who were guardians of the tent and testimony of the Lord (Num. 1.53). In what sense are pastors "guardians" in the household of faith today? Are we not called to guard the Gospel and the ministry of the Word against those who would minimize or distort it? And what about the worship of God? Paul's lengthy instructions to the Corinthians concerning worship indicate that this, too, must be carefully guarded. The work of disciple-making, by which the saints are equipped to do the work of ministry (Eph. 4.11, 12); the work of shepherding God's flock (1 Pt. 5.1-3); the ministry itself, against those unfit for such a calling (Acts 8.9-24); and our own souls and teaching (1 Tim. 4.16).

In all these areas the Scriptures and the heritage of the Church present a rich trove of holy things that ministers must daily labor to guard.

If we fail to guard the household of God in each of these areas, the influences of contemporary culture, the winds of false doctrine, and the self-serving designs of false teachers will corrupt and consume the flock, and the glory of the Lord will depart His Church as surely as it departed Israel in the days of Ezekiel.

Pastors, are we faithful guardians of the tent and testimony of the Lord?

T. M. Moore

To Suffer With

October 26, 2010
...all prescriptions of penance are to be accompanied with prayers and tears...

That arta do it

October 27, 2010

Do we really think American artists are the best good will ambassadors for the nation?

True Penance

October 26, 2010
I think Columbanus reflects the very best aspect of the whole penitential component.

Embody the Promises

October 25, 2010

How shall the people we love realize the promises of God?

The Christian faith orients us toward God and others. From God we seek blessings and glory; to others, we extend blessings, so that they might live for God and His glory. Central to this life of blessing and blessedness are the precious and very great promises God held out to our forebears and, through them, to us (2 Pet. 1.5).

Jesus confirmed the promises to Jews and Gentiles alike by serving according to the truth of God (Rom. 15.8, 9). He embodied the promises of God (2 Cor. 1.20) and, thus, through His words and works, drew people into the orbit of God's blessings and glory and empowered them to show that glory and be a blessing to others.

What was true for the Lord Jesus must be true for us as well. The more we embody the promises of God - "I will be your God and you will be My people" - the more, through service in love and truth, we will enable others to know them as well.

Service in love and truth: This is the way others can know the precious and very great promises of God.

Remedies of Salvation

October 25, 2010
Celtic Christians took sin seriously because they took holiness seriously.

Who Holds the Future?

October 25, 2010
A recent event at the White House sends a strong signal about the nation's priorities.

According to the Associated Press (10/18/10) the President hosted a science fair at the White House in which he positively "reveled."

Mr. Obama inspected all 11 projects on display in the State Dining Room and commented positively on the work of the young people who participated. He called them "impressive" and said that their work is "a testament to the potential that awaits" when we educate young people to take part in the scientific enterprise.

He went on to say that "in many ways, our future depends on what happens" in such science fairs as the President hosted, and he expressed hope that American students might make progress against other nations in science and math over the next decade.

That's all well and good; young people should be encouraged to learn math and science and to innovate new products and services for the public weal.

The President uses the White House to showcase aspects of American life that he regards as the best part of the American character and the brightest hope for our future. He has hosted pop singers, broadway acts, and a science fair, among others. Pop culture, education, science and technology, and politics - these, apparently, are the priorities the nation should pursue.

But to date, as far as I know, the President has not hosted an event encouraging young people or the nation as whole to take religion and morality more seriously and to explore ways, through the traditions of faith, of ensuring a safer, more decent, and more prosperous future for the nation. Is he afraid of being chastised for bursting the "wall of separation"? I doubt it. More likely, while the President accepts religion as a significant component of American life, he has little hope in it being able to help make us a better nation.

Is that his fault? No. It's not the President's fault that he doesn't think religion - particularly, his own Christian religion - can offer any hope for a better future. It's our fault, who profess Chrstianity yet who have not managed to demonstrate convincingly the power of the faith of Christ to renew, restore, and bring wholeness to our society.

This is a function of our too-small view of the Gospel and our failure to seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness in all things. And it's also another good reason why Christians need to seek the Lord for revival - of their own lives and their churches. The history of Christianity shows that nothing has been a more potent force for good in the world than sincere Christians following Jesus in every area of life. If we have not kept up that legacy in a convincing manner - and we have not - then the fault and need for repentance are ours, not Mr. Obama's.

Borrowers and Lenders

October 27, 2010

The Fourth Commandment 

Deuteronomy 15.1-6

At the end of every seven years you shall grant a release. And this is the manner of the release: every creditor shall release what he has lent to his neighbor. He shall not exact it of his neighbor, his brother, because the LORD’s release has been proclaimed. Of a foreigner you may exact it, but whatever of yours is with your brother your hand shall release. But there will be no poor among you; for the LORD will bless you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance to possess – if only you will strictly obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all this commandment that I command you today. For the LORD your God will bless you, as he promised you, and you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow, and you shall rule over many nations, but they shall not rule over you.”

Can we conclude from this text that the blessing of God does not rest on that nation which is deeply in debt to other nations? God promised to enrich His people, but He did not want them to become dependent on other nations. That way lies oppression. America’s national debt, trade deficits, and debt to nations such as China should suffice to show us the wisdom of God’s warning here.

In this series of In the Gates we present a detailed explanation of the Law of God, beginning with the Ten Commandments, and working through the statutes and rules that accompany each commandment. For a practical guide to the role of God’s Law in the practice of ethics, get The Ground for Christian Ethics from our bookstore.

No Poor?

October 26, 2010

The Fourth Commandment

Deuteronomy 15.1-6

At the end of every seven years you shall grant a release. And this is the manner of the release: every creditor shall release what he has lent to his neighbor. He shall not exact it of his neighbor, his brother, because the LORD’s release has been proclaimed. Of a foreigner you may exact it, but whatever of yours is with your brother your hand shall release. But there will be no poor among you; for the LORD will bless you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance to possess – if only you will strictly obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all this commandment that I command you today. For the LORD your God will bless you, as he promised you, and you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow, and you shall rule over many nations, but they shall not rule over you.”

God promised that there would be no poor in Israel – that is, if they would keep His statutes. There would of course always be poor people in Israel – as Jesus noted – but their poverty would be relieved by the faithful obedience of the rest of the community to the rules and statutes of the Lord. So even though they were poor, they would not be oppressed by their poverty but, instead, would know the loving care of their neighbors through the seven-year release, the three-year tithe, and the laws about gleaning.

The economy God designed for Israel was an economy of love for God and neighbors. Self-love would be moderated so that neighbor-love could abound.

In this series of In the Gates we present a detailed explanation of the Law of God, beginning with the Ten Commandments, and working through the statutes and rules that accompany each commandment. For a practical guide to the role of God’s Law in the practice of ethics, get The Ground for Christian Ethics from our bookstore.

The Year of Release

October 25, 2010

The Fourth Commandment

Deuteronomy 15.1-6

At the end of every seven years you shall grant a release. And this is the manner of the release: every creditor shall release what he has lent to his neighbor. He shall not exact it of his neighbor, his brother, because the LORD’s release has been proclaimed. Of a foreigner you may exact it, but whatever of yours is with your brother your hand shall release. But there will be no poor among you; for the LORD will bless you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance to possess – if only you will strictly obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all this commandment that I command you today. For the LORD your God will bless you, as he promised you, and you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow, and you shall rule over many nations, but they shall not rule over you.”

Acts 4.34, 35

It’s not hard to see how this statute would give greed a rest. People would be reluctant grant large loans to others, knowing that every seven years the debts would all be cancelled. This “release” would remind the people that God is Lord of all possessions and that we must not hold so tightly to things that we allow them to become the most important things in our lives.

The believers in Acts 4 demonstrated the kind of heart attitude God was seeking among His people here. Their possessions were a trust from the Lord, for the needs of their families and of the Body of Christ. Not having such a heart – or Spirit – in the Old Testament, formal external constraints would have to do. We’re not surprised to know that Israel never kept them.

In this series of In the Gates we present a detailed explanation of the Law of God, beginning with the Ten Commandments, and working through the statutes and rules that accompany each commandment. For a practical guide to the role of God’s Law in the practice of ethics, get The Ground for Christian Ethics from our bookstore.

Simple Justice?

October 20, 2010
Perhaps nowhere is the true nature of the American soul more in evidence than in criminal cases involving the death penalty.

Americans want justice against the perpetrators of violent crimes. But they also want to make sure we don't execute innocent people. This is why, as William Baude explains ("Last Chance on Death Row," The Wilson Quarterly, Autumn 2010), criminals convicted of capital offenses have so many routes they can travel along the road of appeal.

A criminal convicted of a capital offense by a jury of his peers can, first of all, appeal to higher federal courts for a reconsideration, up to and including the US Supreme Court. If that does not overturn his conviction he can take a second line of appeal in which he argues, against the decision of the original jury, that the evidence in the case was insufficient to convict. If this fails, he can appeal to higher state courts and, if necessary, to the US Supreme Court again. And if all that fails, he can appeal for a pardon.

Of course, all this takes time and an enormous amount of money, much of it from tax revenues. But we want to be sure, don't we? Yes, but how sure is sure? Right, right, but if we don't exhaust every line of appeal, we might execute an innocent person. I get that, but that's the price we pay for justice in a democracy, isn't it?

And so forth. I'm sympathetic with the appeal process, in general. I don't want innocent people to be executed, either. I think the time such appeals take may give those who are truly guilty some space to reflect more seriously on their crimes and, perhaps, come to some remorse and repentance before they take their last meal. There's grace in the appeal process. I'm not for outlawing the death penalty, which might cut down some of these appeals. However, I am for making sure, as sure as we can, before we take another person's life.

Do you feel the tension here? The schizophrenia the nation feels in such matters? Do you see how the nation's soul is strained between the demand for justice and the need to protect the innocent? Why is that? Why should we care for either of these? What makes us a people who know - inherently, it seems—that justice is right but that justice works both ways, for victims and for the accused?

If we needed any evidence that the works of God's Law are written on the hearts of all people, surely this is it. The Law teaches us that all life is significant and valuable; it also demands that societies maintain justice and order. Made in God's image, His Law written on our hearts, we cannot escape the affects of these on how we look on life and its many issues, no matter how officially and fervently we deny God and His Law a place in our public squares. It's that simple, really.

Why should we care? Try to get your unbelieving friend at the office to explain this conundrum on purely evolutionary and rational grounds.

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