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MacExperience closing on Sundays...

We've found the local MacExperience shop cheerful and helpful with Mac repairs. Yesterday, they sent their customers this announcement and Joseph forwarded it to me with the comment, "Fascinating"...

Luther on the Gospel-grace of the Law...

(Tim) At times, it seems best to promote a discussion to the main page. Readers lose track of discussions in the comments under old posts. Here's one such discussion that I'm promoting for reasons I hope are obvious.

It's my conviction that the endless mantra of grace that permeates our Evangelical/Redeemer/Westminster/Campus Crusade/R2K/Covenant world leads to us knowing little of grace because we despise God's Law and repentance.

In the midst of a discussion bearing on this matter, the historian Darryl Hart asked me to clarify what I meant when I spoke of the grace of the Law--that to preach the Law is Gospel preaching and that the Law is our Gospel schoomaster or tutor? Here I respond:

Scripture says:

Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith" (Galatians 3:24).

This is the great failure of Gospel preaching in our time, and the reason for the absence of fruit within our churches. We fail to preach the Law, instead trying to save unregenerate sinners from the indignities of repentance. We preach grace without leading souls there through the Law. We repudiate the Schoolmaster. It's the habit of pastors only to address the regenerate within the Covenant Community while outside that Community we gag preachers, leaving Gospel proclamation and conversion to Campus Crusade...

A son of the church glorifying God...

Some of the greatest blessings God give us are daughters and sons of the covenant who live by faith, honoring God and His Word. What joy they bring to our lives as they pick up the baton and run!

Here's a front-page story from the Indianapolis Star about one of Church of the Good Shepherd's sons who has decided not to compete in the regional Scripps spelling bee this year because the bee, sponsored by Bloomington's local paper, the Herald Times, has been changed from Saturday to Sunday. The paper's publisher, E. Mayer Maloney Jr., has been intransigent in the matter, despite the willingness of his subordinates to do the work necessary to keep the bee on Saturday.

The significance of all this is that the son of our church, Elliot Huck, has won the last two competitions and gone to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C. each year, placing 45th this past year. Since then, Elliot's spent many hundreds of hours preparing for this year's competition, which would have been his last. Then, a couple weeks ago, the paper announced they were changing the day of the week the competition would be held, and E. Mayer Maloney Jr. has planted his feet...

The whole thing's sad and wonderful, at the same time. What faith!

Read Elliot's testimony. And if you want to write to commend Elliot for his witness and faith, just post comments here and he'll see them.

Incidentally, it's no accident that this story ran at the paper where well-known Christian journalist and World Journalism Institute instructor, Russ Pulliam, works.

Blue Laws Fall, Society Stumbles....

This from the November 2006 Atlantic Monthly reminds me of a non-Christian college friend regretting the collapse of Massachusetts' blue laws in the early 80s. My friend, now a district attorney in Maine, said that while he might find it hard to justify blue laws constitutionally, their departure would deprive his commonwealth of something uniquely gracious by turning Sunday into just another day of commercial activity.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

Churches may have God on their side, but they can easily lose parishioners to the lure of the shopping mall, the cubicle, or even demon rum, a new study suggests. Two economists examined the effect of repealing "blue laws"--regulations banning certain retail activity on Sundays--on church attendance in the sixteen states that have done away with such laws since 1955, and found that when the laws fall, so too do church attendance and church donations. The drop-off in church attendance was steepest among people who had previously attended weekly, while those who attended more than once a week were unaffected by the laws' repeal. States that repealed their blue laws also saw a noticeable increase in the consumption of alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine, and this spike was concentrated among precisely the people whose churchgoing had dropped off.

--"The Church vs. the Mall: What Happens When Religion Faces Increased Secular Competition?," Jonathan Gruber and Daniel M. Hungerman, National Bureau of Economic Research


Making a buck on Sunday...

Family Christians Stores (FCS) used to be called Zondervan Family Bookstores and its connections with Zondervan remain close. I'm told both companies share a building in Grand Rapids, Michigan. There's been a furor the past couple of weeks over FCS's decision to begin to do business on Sundays. Even National Public Radio has taken notice and put out a quite-good audio piece on the decision.

Without naming the man, some of the articles published on this matter cite a "well-respected evangelical theologian" as having been consulted by FCS's CEO and approving of the decision to open on the Lord's Day. Having heard indirectly that this theologian was, in fact, a friend of mine, I wrote and asked if he had, indeed, encouraged the Family Christian Stores to open on the Lord's Day?

He responded by explaining his counself with this rather terse statement, "I am not a sabbatarian."

To me, this misses the larger point. Regardless of one's position for or against the observance of the Lord's Day, there are pastoral issues at the heart of this decision and listening to the NPR piece makes them painfully obvious.

Here is the response I sent to my friend:

September 9, 2004

Dear (Brother),

Two of our congregation's three pastors are not sabbatarians, but having shepherded God's flock they know the importance of not allowing the idol of mammon to displace worship each week. And this was precisely the point that the most-famous-of-all non-sabbatarian pastor/theologians, John Calvin, also made:

First, under the repose of the seventh day the heavenly Lawgiver meant to represent to the people of Israel spiritual rest, in which believers ought to lay aside their own works to allow God to work in them. Secondly, he meant that there was to be a stated day for them to assemble to hear the law and perform the rites, or at least to devote it particularly to meditation upon his works, and thus through this remembrance to be trained in piety. Thirdly, he resolved to give a day of rest to servants and those who are under authority of others, in order that they should have some respite from toil." (Institutes, Book II, chapter 8, section 27. See also section 34.)

But there is no doubt that by the Lord Christ's coming the ceremonial part of this commandment was abolished. (Institutes, II, 8, 31.)

Although the Sabbath has been abrogated, there is still occasion for us: (1) to assemble on stated days for the hearing of the Word, the breaking of the mystical bread, and for public prayers; (2) to give surcease from labor to servants and workmen. (Institutes, II, 8, 32.)

Below you will find a link to a National Public Radio piece on this decision made by Family Christian Stores. A dear friend of mine ...brought this matter to my attention and sent me the material below, including the link to the NPR piece--which I listened to. (NPR mentioned your counsel without naming you.)

Have you listened to the piece?

It was so sad to hear the young female Bronx employee lament that being required to work on the Lord's Day now forces her to miss worship. Think of the impact this simple statement had on all those listening.

Following Calvin, FCS's CEO Browne should have been told that he ought not to place stumbling blocks in the paths of Christ's little ones, but rather to "give surcease from labor to (his)servants and workmen."


Tim Bayly