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Claude Orten

May 28, 2012

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

Claude Orten went to my church in New England and lived in our town.  He grew up in the poor rural south and took on its mannerisms and accent and rural common sense so that you knew where he was from the moment you met him.  Life often came hard to Claude.

He was not a simple man, though I think most people would have thought that about him.  He had a fourth grade education, but was not ignorant, nor stupid.  He grew up working hard and playing hard and he married a sturdy woman who had grown up the same way.  They were well suited to each other.  They loved each other and made up for each others faults as best as they could.  And they loved God as best as they could.  No doubt these loves kept them together through all the troubles of life.

Early in their married life Claude packed up the family and moved to Connecticut, a very different place from the poor south.  Not long after arriving he was burnt badly at work and spent many weeks in the hospital.  He almost died and never really recovered.  From that point on he began to spiral down in most every way.  Life became a bit of a chore for him, but he continued to work hard.  He even took correspondence courses and earned a diploma from Moody Bible Institute.

We met just two years before he passed away and I liked him instantly.  He reminded me of some of the older folks in my family that I knew when I was growing up, the generation before my parents.  He talked slow with a thick drawl, wore jeans and a t-shirt, smoked and drank, though not as much as he used to, and in his garage he had all the same tools my grandfather did.  His garage even smelled the same with the wood and metal and machinery and oil and dirt.  I love that smell.

In the summer we would sit on old rusty chairs in front of his garage and have a drink and talk.  It took Claude about thirty minutes to warm up, but once he did we would just talk about things, about life and God mostly, not too much about the past.  The past was painful for him so I didn’t press it.

When he was ready he would talk and I would marvel at the terrible things people can go through and yet still not be destroyed in body or spirit.  Claude had been beaten pretty badly by this age and its spirit and he had made some bad decisions, but he owned them and he was not bitter.  He only complained to get sympathy from his wife, who gave it to him anyway.

In the winter we would be inside the garage and talk around the kerosene heater.  Sometimes he would make things and I would help him with a project.  I have a shelf we made together.

One day he said he thought of me as a son, and I was happy for him because of it.  It was one of the few overt expressions of love I saw him make.  I was glad he said it and I loved him more for it and I told him so.  I thought of him as a favorite uncle, but I did not tell him that.  I did not want to be cruel.  It made him feel good and closer to me and I was happy for that and for him.

One day Claude’s wounds from life got the best of him and after a short stay in the hospital he was gathered to his God and his people.  He only wanted his wife, one of his daughters and me to visit him in the hospital.  When he died it was a relief, not only for Claude, but for the rest of us.  We were glad to see his years of suffering end and his eternity of peace and happiness begin.

He wanted to be buried back home in the south and he wanted me to speak at his funeral, but God had other ideas.  Three cancelled flights and one late plane later I ended up spending the day alone at a big airport three hours from the funeral.  We even tried to charter a helicopter, but that was broken down too.  It was a lousy, lousy day.

We had a memorial service back in Connecticut a week later and when I spoke I was sad and I missed Claude and I said so to all the people.  After the service some fools chastised me for being sad because Claude was no longer here but in heaven.  I was sad even though I knew he went on to glory where there is no more crying and all his injuries are healed.  I still miss him and I like to think about him and about where he is now and how he is doing, and about seeing him again and sitting down and having a good long talk.

Faith in Search of Understanding

May 25, 2012

I believe in God because, like most people before they invent reasons for disbelieving, I find it much more reasonable to believe than not to believe. This is the ancient order – faith in search of understanding. Authentic Christian apologetics does not pursue the goal of faith-compelling reasons for believing but frankly the aim of removing obstacles to listening to the Word and of encouraging the perseverance of believers. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God, not in response to arguments.

Robert Culver, ‘Systematic Theology’.

Knowledge + Success ≠ Maturity

May 21, 2012

This article was written by Paul Tripp and posted on The Gospel Coalition web site at;

This is excellent, it is so good I re-posted it along with providing a link to it.

Don’t Confuse Knowledge and Success with Maturity

By Paul Tripp (that’s him to the right)

I didn’t just give way to the temptation to let pastoral ministry become my identity. I fell into two other temptations as well.

I let biblical literacy and theological knowledge define my maturity. This is related to the identity temptation but requires its own attention. It is quite easy in ministry to give into a subtle but significant redefinition of what spiritual maturity is and does. This definition has its roots in how we think about what sin is and does. Many pastors carry a false definition of maturity that results from the academic enculturation of seminary.

Since seminary tends to academize the faith, making it a world of ideas to be mastered, students easily buy into the belief that biblical maturity is about precision of theological knowledge and biblical literacy. But spiritual maturity is not something you do with your mind (although that is an important element). Maturity is about how you live your life. It is possible to be theologically astute and immature. It is possible to be biblically literate and in need of significant spiritual growth.

I was an honors graduate of a seminary. I won academic awards. I assumed I was mature and felt misunderstood and misjudged by anyone who failed to share my assessment. In fact, I saw those moments of confrontation as persecution that anyone faces when he gives himself to gospel ministry. At root I misunderstood sin and grace. Sin is not first an intellectual problem. (But it does affect my intellect, as it does all parts of my functioning.) Sin is first a moral problem. It is about my rebellion against God and my quest to have, for myself, the glory due to him. Sin is not first about the breaking of an abstract set of rules. Sin is first and foremost about breaking relationship with God. Because I have broken this relationship, it is then easy and natural for me to rebel against God’s rules.

So it’s not just my mind that needs to renewed by sound biblical teaching, but my heart needs to be reclaimed by the powerful grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. The reclamation of my heart is both an event (justification) and a process (sanctification). Seminary, therefore, won’t solve my deepest problem—sin. It can contribute to the solution, but it may also blind me to my true condition by its tendency to redefine maturity. Biblical maturity is never just about what you know but always about how grace has employed what you have come to know to transform the way you live.

Think of Adam and Eve. They didn’t disobey God because they were intellectually ignorant of God’s commands. They knowingly stepped over God’s boundaries because they quested for God’s position. The spiritual war of Eden was fought on the turf of the heart’s desires. Consider David. He didn’t claim Bathsheba as his own and plot to get rid of her husband because he was ignorant of God’s prohibitions against adultery and murder. David acted because at some point he didn’t care what God wanted. He was going to have what his heart desired no matter what.

Or think what it means to be wise. There is a huge difference between knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge is an accurate understanding of truth. Wisdom is understanding and living in light of how that truth applies to the situations and relationships of your daily life. Knowledge is an exercise of your brain. Wisdom is the commitment of your heart that leads to life transformation.

Even though I didn’t know it, I walked into pastoral ministry with an unbiblical view of biblical maturity. In ways that now scare me, I thought I had arrived. So when my wife, Luella, would lovingly and faithfully confront me, it was not just that I was being defensive. By definition I thought she was wrong. And I became convinced she was the one with the problem. I used my biblical and theological knowledge to defend myself. I was a mess, and I had no idea.

Success Is Not Necessarily an Endorsement

I confused ministry success with God’s endorsement of my living. Pastoral ministry was exciting in many ways. The church was growing numerically, and people seemed to be growing spiritually. More and more people seemed to be committed to be part of a vibrant spiritual community, and we saw people win battles of the heart by God’s grace. We founded a Christian school that was growing and expanding its reputation and influence. We were beginning to identify and disciple leaders.

It wasn’t all rosy; there were painful and burdensome moments, but I started out my days with a deep sense of privilege that God had called me to do this ministry. I was leading a community of faith, and God was blessing our efforts. But I held these blessings in the wrong way. Without knowing that I was doing it, I took God’s faithfulness to me, to his people, to the work of his kingdom, to his plan of redemption, and to his church as an endorsement of me. My perspective said, “I’m one of the good guys, and God is behind me all the way.” In fact, I would say to Luella (this is embarrassing but important to admit), “If I’m such a bad guy, why is God blessing everything I put my hands to?”

God did not act because he endorsed my manner of living, but because of his zeal for his own glory and his faithfulness to his promises of grace for his people. God has the authority and power to use whatever instruments he chooses in whatever way he chooses. Ministry success is always more a statement about God than about the people he uses for his purpose. I had it all wrong. It took credit that I did not deserve for what I could not do. I made it about me, so I didn’t see myself as headed for disaster and in deep need for the rescue of God’s grace. I was a man in need of rescuing grace. Through Luella’s faithfulness and the surgical questions of my brother, Tedd, God did exactly that.

What about you? How do you view yourself? What do you regularly say to you about you? Are you different from those to whom you minister? Do you see yourself as a minister of grace in need of the same grace? Have you become comfortable with discontinuities between the gospel you preach and the way that you live? Are there disharmonies between your public ministry persona and the details of your private life? Do you encourage a level of community in your church that you do not give yourself to? Do you fall into believing that no one has a more accurate view of you than you? Do you use knowledge or experience to keep confrontation at bay?

You don’t have to be afraid of what is in your heart. You don’t have to fear being known. Because nothing in you could ever be exposed that hasn’t already been covered by the precious blood of your Savior King, Jesus.

Paul Tripp is the president of Paul Tripp Ministries , a nonprofit organization whose mission statement is “Connecting the transforming power of Jesus Christ to everyday life.” Tripp is also professor of pastoral life and care at Redeemer Seminary in Dallas, Texas, and executive director of the Center for Pastoral Life and Care in Fort Worth, Texas. Tripp has written many books on Christian living, including the forthcoming Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry. He has been married for many years to Luella, and they have four grown children.

The Pirate Stede Bonnet

May 14, 2012

The record of the trial and sentencing of this pirate is in an old book I picked up in a used book store. It is excellent. It contains some of the best theology you will find. As the Lord Chief Justice says ay the end, “having now discharged my duty to you as a Christian by giving you the best council I can, with respect to the salvation of your soul, I must now do my office as a judge . . .”



From Captain Charles Johnson’s

“A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the Most Notorious Pirates.” London, 1724.

On the 28th of October, 1718, a court of Vice Admiralty was held at Charleston, in South Carolina, and by several adjournments continued until Wednesday, the 12th of November following, for the trial of the Pirates taken in a sloop formerly called the Revenge, but afterwards the Royal James, before Nicholas Trot, Esq., Judge of the Vice Admiralty, and chief Justice of the said Province of South Carolina, and other assistant judges.

Here be the Lord Chief Justice’s Speech, upon his Pronouncing Sentence on Major Stede Bonnet.

“Major Stede Bonnet, you stand here convicted upon two indictments of piracy; one by the verdict of the jury, and the other by your own confession.

Although you were indicted but for two facts, yet you know that at your trial it was fully proved, even by an unwilling witness, that you piratically took and rifled no less than thirteen vessels since you sailed from North Carolina.

So that you might have been indicted and convicted on eleven more acts of piracy since you took the benefit of the King’s Act of Grace, and pretended to leave that wicked course of life.

Not to mention the many acts of piracy you committed before; for which, if your pardon from man was never so authentic, yet you must expect to answer for them before God.

You know that the crimes you have committed are evil in themselves, and contrary to the light and law of nature, as well as the law of God, by which you are commanded that you shall not steal (Exo. 20.15). And the Apostle St. Paul expressly affirms that thieves shall not inherit the Kingdom of God (I Cor. 6.10).

But to theft you have added a greater sin, which is murder. How many you may have killed of those that resisted you in the committing of your former piracies, I know not, but this we all know, that besides the wounded you killed no less than eighteen persons out of those that were sent by lawful authority to suppress you, and put a stop to those rapines that you daily acted.

And, however you might fancy that that was killing men fairly in open fight, yet this know, that the power of the sword not being committed into your hands by any lawful authority, you were not empowered to use any force, or fight anyone; and therefore those persons that fell in that action, in doing their duty to their King and Country, were murdered, and their blood now cries out for vengeance and justice against you. For it is the voice of Nature confirmed by the Law of God, that whosoever sheddeth man’s blood by man shall his blood be shed (Gen. 9.6).

And consider that Death is not the only punishment due to Murderers; for they are threatened to have their part in the lake witch burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second Death (Rev. 21. 8 See Chap. 22. 15). Words which carry that terror with them that considering your circumstances and your guilt, surely the sound of them must make you tremble, for who can dwell with everlasting burnings? (Isaiah 33.14).

As the testimony of your conscience must convince you of the great and many evils you have committed, by which you have highly offended God, and provoked most justly His wrath and indignation against you, so I suppose I need not tell you that the only way of obtaining pardon and remission of your sins from God is by a true and unfeigned repentance and faith in Christ, by whose meritorious Death and Passion you can only hope for salvation.

You being a gentleman that have had the advantage of a liberal education, and being generally esteemed a man of letters, I believe it will be needless for me to explain to you the nature of repentance and faith in Christ, they being so fully and often mentioned in the Scriptures that you cannot but know them. And therefore, perhaps, for that reason it might be thought by some improper for me to have said so much to you, as I have already upon this occasion. Neither should I have done it, but that considering the course of your life and actions, I have just reason to fear that the principles of religion that had been instilled into you by your education have been at least corrupted, if not entirely defaced, by the Scepticism and Infidelity of this wicked age; and that what time you allowed for study was rather applied to the Polite Literature and the vain philosophy of the times, than a serious search after the Law and Will of God, as revealed unto us in the Holy Scriptures. For had your delight been in the Law of the Lord and that you had meditated therein day and night (Psalm 1.2) you would have then found that God’s Word was a lamp unto your feet, and a light to your path (Psalm 119.105) and that you would account all other knowledge but loss in comparison of the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus (Phil. 3.8) who to them that are called is the power of God and the wisdom of God (I Cor. 1.24) even the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the world (Chap. 2.7).

You would then have esteemed the Scriptures as the Great charter of Heaven, and which delivered to us not only the most perfect laws and rules of life, but also discovered to us the Acts of Pardon from God, wherein they have offended those righteous laws. For in them only is to be found the great mystery of fallen man’s Redemption which the angels desire to look into (I Pet. 1.12).

And they would have taught you that Sin is the debasing of human nature as being a deviation from that Purity, Rectitude and Holiness in which God created us, and that Virtue and Religion and walking by the laws of God were altogether preferable to the ways of Sin and Satan, for that the ways of Virtue are ways of pleasantness, and all their paths are peace (Prov. 3.17).

But what you could not learn from God’s Word, by reason of your carelessly or but superficially considering the same, I hope the course of His Providence and the present afflictions that He hath laid upon you, hath now convinced you of the same. For however in your seeming prosperity you might make a mock at your sins (Prov. 14.9) yet know that you see God’s hand hath reached you, and brought you to public justice, I hope your present unhappy circumstances hath made you seriously reflect upon your past actions and course of life; and that you are now sensible of the greatness of your sins, and that you find the burden of them is intolerable.

And that therefore being thus labouring and heavy laden with sin (Matt. 11.28) you will esteem that as the most valuable knowledge, that can show you how you can be reconciled to that supreme God that you have so highly offended; and that can reveal to you Him who is not only the powerful Advocate with the Father for you (I John 2.1) but also who hath paid that debt that is due for your sins by His own Death upon the Cross for you; and thereby made full satisfaction for the justice of God. And this is to be found nowhere but in God’s Word, which discovers to us that Lamb of God which takes away the sins of the world (John 1. 29) which is Christ the Son of God; for this know and be assured, that there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby they must be saved (Acts 4.12) but only by the name of the Lord Jesus.

But then consider how He invites all sinners to come unto Him and that he will give them rest (Matt. 11.28) for He assure us that he came to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19.10; Matt. 18.11) and hath promised that he that cometh to him, he will in no wise cast out (John 6.37).

So that if you will now sincerely turn to Him, though late, even at the eleventh hour (Matt. 20.6, 9) He will receive you.

But surely I need not tell you that the terms of His mercy is Faith and Repentance.

And do not mistake the nature of repentance to be only a bare sorrow for your sins, arising from the consideration of the evil and punishment they have now brought upon you; but your sorrow must arise from the consideration of your having offended a gracious and merciful God.

But I shall not pretend to give you any particular directions as to the nature of repentance. I consider that I speak to a person whose offences have proceeded not so much from his not knowing, as to his slighting and neglecting his duty. Neither is it proper for me to give advice, out of the way of my own profession.

You may have that better delivered to you by those who have made Divinity their particular study and who, by their knowledge as well as their office, as being ambassadors of Christ (II Cor 5.20) are best qualified to give you instruction therein.

I only heartily wish that what, in compassion to your soul, I have now said to you upon this sad and solemn occasion, by exhorting you in general to faith and repentance, may have that due effect upon you that thereby you may become a true penitent.

And therefore, having now discharged my duty to you as a Christian by giving you the best council I can, with respect to the salvation of your soul, I must now do my office as a judge.

The sentence that the Law hath appointed to pass on you for your offences, and which this court doth therefore award is;

That you, the said Stede Bonnet, shall go from hence to the place from whence you came, and from thence to the place of execution, where you shall be hanged by the neck till you are dead.

And the God of Infinite Mercy be merciful to your soul.”

Near the end of November, 1718, The Pirate Major Stede Bonnet was executed between the tides at the White Point near Charleston, pursuant to his sentence.

The Lost Image of Mankind

May 7, 2012

If a human being were a mere sack of water with an interesting ‘variety of chemicals reacting with one another therein,’ as is claimed in current materialistic philosophy, then a book on physics and chemistry might explain us sufficiently, though no such being, in my judgment, could possibly either write or read such a book.

If we were ‘a fantastic piece of workmanship in bone, muscle, and nerve – a high point of evolution in the animal kingdom,’ then a biological approach might suffice.

If we be only ‘busy hedonists’ prowling for pleasure until jaded and exhausted we cover our disillusionment in the night of death, then something on psychology might help explain mankind.

If the Gnostic, New-Age self is a misplaced piece of divine mind, temporarily dislodged and longing for home back in the cosmic flux, then a dash of metaphysics is in order.

But, if we are as significant and magnificent as our aspirations (freedom, fulfillment, immortality) and ideals (goodness, beauty, truth) suggest, then the religious dimension must be brought to the Hebrew poet’s question – What is man that You are mindful of him?

Only the illogic of special interest, or of intellectual myopia, could lead one to accept any one of the partial views previously suggested. There is nothing to inspire hope or work or art, poetry and song in these current departures from belief in God and mankind’s greatness as His special creation. It should not be shocking that increasing numbers of all social classes and cultures have taken up a style of life commensurate with their Lost Image of Mankind.

Robert Culver, ‘Systematic Theology’.

My Gospel

April 4, 2012

There is only one God who is holy and totally without sin or wrongdoing. He always does what is right and is always fair.

We humans were created by this God, but we turned from God and disobeyed and all of us are caught up in doing all kinds of wrong and evil things. We are not holy and without sin like God is. This is a problem for us because God does not tolerate anyone who sins and one day He will judge, condemn and punish all who are not perfect and sinless.

And, no one can do anything to make up for the wrong they do and no one deserves to not be punished by God. This puts all of us in an impossibly bad situation with God that none of us can get out of by our own desire or effort.

But, God also loves all He has created, including us who sin against Him. Though God rightly finds us guilty and judges and condemns us for our sin, He has also made a way so that we will not be punished for our wrongdoing. Instead, we can gain peace and forgiveness and eternal happiness from God.

God has graciously and lovingly decided to fix our problem for us because we cannot fix our problem ourselves. God’s way of rescuing us from being punished for our sin is to punish someone else in our place for what we did wrong. And, this is fair because the One God punished was Himself.

God took our punishment by punishing His Son, Jesus Christ, in our place on the cross. Jesus was sinless and lived a life of perfect righteousness and perfect obedience to God, but not for His own benefit – for ours. He has done for us what we couldn’t possibly do for ourselves. He offered Himself as a perfect sinless sacrifice to satisfy the justice and the righteousness of God and to take our punishment on Himself.

God’s proof that all of this is true is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Jesus died on the cross to pay your penalty of sin, but He did not deserve to die, so He didn’t stay dead.

God will make His punishment of His Son count for His punishment of us, and therefore forgive us our sins – if – we believe what God says about Himself and ourselves and Jesus. We are forgiven and declared righteous not by our works, not by our efforts, not by our deeds, but by faith – and by faith alone in Jesus.

The only way you can receive the benefit of Christ’s life and death is by putting your trust in Him – and in Him alone. And, those who do this will live a new a different life. If you trust in Jesus to pay the penalty of your sin then God adopts you into His family and forgives all of your sins and you have begun your life with God for eternity.

God Wrote a Book (not in fish language)

April 4, 2012

God wrote a book.

This idea raises a lot of issues like; If God did write a book then it would probably be a good idea to find out what book He wrote and what is in it and if there is anything in it that I am supposed to know or do. And; What makes up God’s book? What is God’s book about? How can I understand God’s book? Is God’s book even understandable? Does God’s book contain truth or fact or suggestions or commands or what?

God did write a book and the answers to all these questions begin with this; God wrote a book and He did not write it in cat language. Nor did he write it in fish language. And whatever “language” God “thinks” in and communicates to Himself with – He did not write His book in that language either.

God wrote His book in human language. He did this so that humans could understand it. And, God used human language the same way humans use human language. If God wrote His book using human language the same way He, or a fish, use human language then humans could not understand it.

This means humans can understand God’s book. This also means there are no “secret” or “deeper” or “more spiritual” meanings in God’s book beyond the plain statements and normal understanding of the words in God’s book. But, this does not mean that God’s book is always easy to understand.

What this does mean is that the more you know about human language, and how humans use language and the language that God’s book was written in – then the better you can understand God’s book.  So, as God says in His book, study and rightly divide His book so you can know Him and know what He wants.