Spit wads and Covenants

by: Roger Oliver

When I was in junior high school in the 7th grade my home room teacher was Mr. Oswald. He was a thin man with a mustache and usually dressed in professorial tweed. He was jovial but serious; at least we took him seriously. He was not to be trifled with. Our math teacher, on the other hand, was a young woman who was expecting her first child. She was young and inexperienced. We were a handful, too much for her. Between us and the pregnancy she often would disappear to the office to rest during class time.

On these occasions she would leave us with some assignment that we were to work on. One kid was not good at math but was a natural leader; maybe politician would be a better characterization. He would con the smart girls into a contest at the blackboard to see which could finish a problem fastest. Of course they were the problems he was supposed to be doing to learn math. He didn’t learn any math but did hone his skills as a conman.

On one of these occasions the place went crazy. Spit wads were flying everywhere like confetti. Once I turned my head to one side just in time to see a huge basketball size wad of paper flying right at me. I ducked. Some kid must have used up an entire notebook to make that thing. I sat there kind of stunned at the chaos wishing I were somewhere else. I was embarrassed. I don’t remember for sure but being totally depraved like the rest of my peers I probably went along and threw a couple of wads myself.

Such is public school. We didn’t sneak guns on campus in those days but everything that concerns us about public school today was already evident when I was a kid in the early 1960’s. When I was in the second grade we still started the day in public school with the Lord’s Prayer and the pledge of allegiance.

I used to wonder what happened and long for the good ole days to return when there was prayer in schools. Hoping against hope I let my kids attend public school. They turned out OK but I still regret that decision. You see, the deterioration of education and morals is a natural and inevitable result of taking education away from parents and the home. Education is not neutral, it is a religious activity. The very idea of public education is directly hostile to God’s command in Deuteronomy 6:4-9. So is the idea that education is salvation.

The quality of education has deteriorated with the relativistic morals taught in public school. I recently read about an 8th grade comprehensive test from around 1900 that would be pretty hard for most college students today to pass. This should not be a surprise either. All knowledge depends on the God who creates and sustains the universe. When we reject him, he turns us over to the consequences of our own desires. In a world based on chance that is without cause effect relationships there is no reason to trust in the uniformity of nature or in universals.

I was teaching math at a junior college in Dallas and before I started I visited a class taught by another professor to see what I was getting into. He actually said that 2 + 2 might not be 4 to everyone but that we’d stick with that for the purposes of his class. What nonsense! I always had a Bible with me when I taught, displayed it boldly. If your worldview is not based on the Bible you have to reason to believe that math is intelligible or related in any way to reality. I had lots of foreign students. One of them, a young lady from Eastern Europe, saw my Bible and asked me in her accented English, “Do you believe in the Holy Bible?”  You bet! It’s what makes math and science make sense.

In the Learning Center we keep a copy of the 10 commandments prominently displayed in the junior high/high school room. We repeat the 10 commandments at least twice a day by memory. One day the teachers showed me that someone or someones had peppered the display with spit wads. Brought back memories of that junior high nonsense I had experienced.

When the kids came back from their break we asked them one at a time if they had participated or if they knew who did. From their answers, apparently some student named, “Not Me” who we did not know attended the Learning Center did it. Worse, too many thought it was funny and were giggle about it, mocking the whole idea of teaching the Law. It troubled me that they would be that disrespectful of property that was not theirs; even more that they would mock God’s law. At least that’s the way we saw it.

One boy finally said he knew who did it but had promised not to tell. We confronted the kid who did it and he said he only did one, that the rest of the spit wads were not his fault and that he had not seen who did it. May seem silly but this is serious stuff, more important than their progress with math and science.

When it’s broke, fix it. The next morning after a great deal of prayer, I decided the whole bunch had lost the privilege to learn. Learning is a privilege, not a right. That’s a quote from a book, Lessons Learned, by a friend, Andrea Schwartz, who homeschooled her children. I took them all up to the main meeting room in the seminary and spent the morning studying the covenant and its community aspects. That is, if one guy sins, all suffer. Witness the case of Achan in Joshua  7 and 8.

Achan disobeyed the command not to take any spoils of war from Jericho. He hid some gold and silver and a Babylonian garment in the ground in his tent. Joshua sent a small contingent to conquer a little village, Ai, but they were beaten by the enemy. What should have been an easy fight turned into a route, 35 dead. The entire nation had its tail between its legs. Joshua cried out to God, “What’s going on? Why did you bring us here to be whipped? Soon all of the nations of Canaan will mobilize and destroy us completely!”

This is an interesting case study about prayer. Sometimes we know what to do and prayer is a delay tactic. Appears to be the case with Joshua’s prayer here and he was accompanied by the other national leaders. The Lord answers his prayer alright but not in the way one might expect.

“The Lord responded to Joshua, “Get up! Why are you lying there face down? Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenantal commandment! They have taken some of the riches; they have stolen them and deceitfully put them among their own possessions. The Israelites are unable to stand before their enemies; they retreat because they have become subject to annihilation. I will no longer be with you, unless you destroy what has contaminated you.” Joshua 7:10-12.

We all know the second greatest commandment, love your neighbor as yourself, but we don’t often consider the context that explains what that means. It’s in Leviticus 19:18. Yes that’s right, when Jesus says this in the Gospels (Matthew 19:19; 22:39; Mark 12:31, 33; Luke 10:27) he is not making a new law that nullifies the Law of the Old Testament.[1] He is quoting Leviticus 19:18 and I think assuming his audience is familiar with the entire passage, Leviticus 19:9-18. The previous verses explain concretely how to love your neighbor as yourself. Verses 17 and 18 are a summary:

“You must not hate your brother in your heart. You must surely reprove your fellow citizen so that you do not incur sin on account of him. You must not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the children of your people, but you must love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”

If one is guilty, the whole community suffers. If you do not reprove your brother when he sins, you participate in his sin and are also guilty. One young man thought it was totally unfair to punish the group for the sin of one. After making the point that he was in a covenant community I asked him if he was innocent himself. “Have you always obeyed all the rules in the Learning Center? Have you never lied or talked when you were supposed to be studying?” Of course not.

If you don’t accept the community aspect of the covenant you will never understand how we are all sinners in Adam. Further, you are rejecting your salvation in Christ. By the same covenant principle that united the entire human race to Adam in sin and death the elect are united to Christ, declared justified in Him and made new creatures.

We live in an age that defines liberty in terms individual rights so this is hard to grasp. Our modern talk of rights equates rights with desires and crowds our moral responsibility. In his book, 10 Books that Screwed up the World and Five More that Didn’t Help, Benjamin Wiker writes that this modern idea of rights comes from Thomas Hobbes outlined in Leviathan. “Hobbes is the father of the all too familiar belief that we have a right to whatever we want – however morally degraded, vile, or trivial it may be – and further, that it is the government’s job to protect such rights.”[2] “It is an enduring fiction becoming, more and more, the myth by which we live. Leviathan has become our Bible.”[3]

“In our Hobbesian world the statement, ‘I have a right to pornography’ is merely a restatement of ‘I have a desire to view pornography.’ ‘Mary has a right to marry Susan’ means ‘Mary has a desire to marry Susan.’ This can take more complicated and roundabout forms. ‘I have a right to control my own body’ is a veiled way of stating ‘I desire an abortion.’ ‘I have a right to privacy’ might really mean ‘I really want to do stuff that would nauseate my great-grandmother.’ ‘I have a right to free speech,’ which sounds noble and defensible as a right, could really be a more compact and disingenuous way to say ‘I have a desire to shock Christians and delight the artsy intelligentsia of New York by dropping a crucifix in urine.’[4]

So there you have it. Are modern societies exempt from the community curses of the covenant? We certainly expect the blessings. Is not the sorry state of the union these days God’s hand of judgment? Stephen Perks makes a good case from Romans 1:18-32 that the curse of homosexuality is the judgment of God more than it is the cause of judgment.[5]

It may seem like the end of the world but could it not be the end of an age, the harvest of 4 centuries of the humanism that the Enlightenment has wrought? Could it be that we have neglected teaching that the Bible is for all of life and are suffering the consequences as a society? Could this be why church discipline seems so anemic or when it is attempted looks more like one leader taking vengeance on another?

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:15) No more spit wads thrown at the Law of God, not on my watch anyway.

[1] The first greatest commandment, to love God with all your heart, mind and strength is quoted from Deuteronomy 6:4.
[2] Benjamin Wiker, 10 Books that Screwed up the World and Five More that Didn’t Help, Washington, DC: Regnary Publishing, 2008. p. 31 Kindle edition
[3] Ibid. p. 35.
[4] Ibid. p. 37
[5] Stephen Perks, Common Law Wives and Concubines, “The Church Effeminate” Taunton, Somerset, England, The Kuyper Foundation, 2003. p. 9

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Mexico. What’s a Missionary to Do?

April 2000 we crossed the border into Mexico for the first time as missionaries. It was an intimidating experience, partly because it was unfamiliar but even more because of the reputation of the border agents as corrupt, capricious and unpredictable. To make matters worse, it was raining, one of those occasional desert cloud bursts that flood the streets of Nuevo Laredo. We managed to find our way through town and find the main highway south, Highway 57. On the map, it appears an extension of I35.

Down the road a ways once again we had run the gauntlet at the infamous kilometer 26 customs inspection station. A missionary friend had warned me the Kilometer 26 was a den of thieves. “Get away from there as fast as you can and don’t look back,” he wrote in an email with border crossing tips.

We were looking over our shoulders all the way south to the heart of Mexico. We managed to make it all the way to Cuernavaca without further incident except that our little Ford Ranger broke down as the sun was going down in the middle of nowhere about 90 miles north of Mexico City. Dangerous place to find yourself even in those days. You might say we limped into Mexico City. It certainly wasn’t like making a drive from Dallas to the Grand Canyon in Arizona, a trip of about the same distance.

Thirteen years later the situation is worse. We don’t even think about driving to the border, it’s too dangerous. As we watched the situation in Mexico deteriorate we began to ask ourselves, what are we doing here? What difference are we making? Why isn’t the church in Mexico more salt and light? After all, during our time here the evangelical church has grown by some estimates to as high as 20% of the population.

How Roman Catholic is Mexico really?

Mexico is a Roman Catholic country, right? It’s a New World Catholicism that syncretized indigenous pagan religions with the medieval practices of worshiping saints and deifying the Virgin Mary but it is still a Roman Catholic country. Or is it?

The elite in Mexico who have control of the purse strings and the power are mostly secular humanist and socialist/Marxist. They love the French revolution and quote Rousseau, “The voice of the people is the voice of God.” They control the public education system that is definitely secular humanist. Modern Mexico is pagan secular humanist. Why do I think this is so?

First, Mexico is not a ubiquitous culture where everybody is a charro (cowboys from Guadalajara) and all the music is Mariachi. Not everybody speaks Spanish here either. In the state of Oaxaca alone there are two or three major language families, like our Indo-European language family. Customs and music is richly varied. Mexicans are of all colors too. The glue that holds them together is the worship of the Virgin of Guadalupe.

By: Roger Oliver

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Do You Know What Your Child is Reading?

Recently I discovered one of our junior high boys reading Albert Camus’, The Stranger. Camus was an existentialist although he claimed not to be and was surprised that people associated him with the existentialism of Sartre.

Look him up in Wikipedia. The article there says Camus contributed to a philosophy known as absurdism. Absurd is masterful understatement. The article says that in an essay titled “The Rebel” Camus wrote that he devoted his whole life to opposing nihilism while still delving deeply into individual and sexual freedom. That’s like spitting into the face of a hurricane. What Camus and Sartre have in common is trying to make sense out of life and reality apart from God. The Bible calls this foolishness (Psalm 14:1).

In case it isn’t clear in the Wikipedia article, Camus lived a sexually immoral life. This is freedom? He pits the order of the moral law against personal freedom. The Bible makes no such distinction. Within the structure of the covenant there is freedom. Outside the law there is slavery and death. Ask any addict in one of his lucid moments.[1]

The Stranger presents a moral dilemma assuming there are not absolute ethical standards. Morality is an inscrutable problem only for those who reject God and His Law. The effect is to leave the reader perplexed about discerning right from wrong. It teaches moral relativism and ambiguity about right and wrong.

I’m not in favor of burning other peoples’ books but sometimes the Holy Spirit motivates people to burn their own (Acts 19:18-20). Nevertheless, a junior high kid with a malformed worldview shouldn’t be reading Camus, at least not without adult supervision. How many of us parents are sufficiently free from the influence of humanism to supervise what our children are reading? After more than a century of public education in the US not many I’d guess. I told this young man he needs to develop a genuine Christian worldview before he reads that book. How do you do that? Read the Bible first.

I want to know if his parents are aware of what he is reading. I’d like to know where he got the book, who put him up to reading it, and why is he reading it.

How do I know about Camus? My son, Bud, read The Stranger in High School as an assignment for a humanities class. He told me about it years later when I came across the book. Bud was also captivated the by horror/fantasy fiction of Clive Barker because it spoke of other worlds and adventure. He confesses he would have been better off reading C.S. Lewis and Tolkien. He wrote, “Yes, I would say Clive Barker’s fiction is satanic and in many places pornographic. I had a couple of bad nights after reading some of his shorter fiction.”

How did I miss this? Why was I unable to adequately supervise what my son was reading? Simple, I’m a product of the same public education system. I was taught to believe in the myth of neutrality and in the trustworthiness of public education. Besides, I was paying property taxes to support it. It’s just what good citizens did. I was a Christian who thought like a humanist in most areas of life outside the church.

In high school in the first half of the 1960’s we were assigned The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, for English Lit. Oscar Wilde was a sodomite, not acceptable behavior at the time the book was published in 1890. The book was criticized for its decadence and homosexual allusions.[2] Of all the English literature one could read, why this book and in High School no less? We read Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, another uplifting piece of fiction. Any reference to the Bible was verboten except to study it as literature. Desperate for something from the Bible I took a college class titled, “The Bible as Literature.” Translated that means, “The Bible as anything but a supernatural revelation from God.”  

What does it take for us to see that there really is no neutral ground? One is either for Christ or against him. The public education system is against. It cannot be sanctified because the very idea of public education violates God’s directive to parents to educate their own children (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). Public education is based on a distrust of parents and is designed to take children away from their homes.

Praise God for his bountiful mercy to us, it’s never too late to learn. A good place to start is to study Pushing the Antithesis, the Apologetic Methodology of Greg L. Bahnsen. You can find it here Pushing the Antithesis in various electronic versions as well as printed. It’s also available at Amazon.com. Other good books that can help reform your worldview to a more consistent Christian perspective:

By R. J. Rushdoony (check out http://chalcedon.edu/)

Law and Liberty
The Institutes of Biblical Law
The Messianic Character of American Education
The Mythology of Science
Politics of Guilt and Pity
Intellectual Schizophrenia
Gary North, Unconditional Surrender (http://www.garynorth.com/)
David Chilton, Paradise Restored
Stephen Perks, The Christian Philosophy of Education Explained  (http://www.kuyper.org/)
Gary DeMar, Whoever Controls the Schools Rules the World (http://americanvision.org/)
Greg Bahnsen, By This Standard: The Authority of God’s Law Today
Joel McDurmon (http://americanvision.org)
Restoring American One County at a Time
Biblical Logic in Theory and Practice

Autor: Roger Oliver

[1] See James Jordan, The Law of the Covenant, an Exposition of Exodus 21-23, Tyler, TX, Institute of Christian Economics, 1984, p. 6. Available in pdf format here:  Law of the Covenant – Free Books.
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oscar_wilde


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Should you consider getting a Mexican Passport?

Recently I responded to a query on a subscription blog asking if anyone had a Mexican passport. This person was interested in options for overseas expat living. I responded as follows:

Roger and marcy oliverMy wife and I have lived in Puebla, Mexico for 13 years. We opted for a permanent resident visa. It gives us nearly all the rights of a citizen. You can’t vote and you have to ask permission from the state department to buy property. No big deal.

We’re retired but are here as missionaries. Three years ago we started a kind of home school coop we call the Learning Center. There are 87 students in the Learning Center from preschool to high school. Just last week we enrolled 4 students in the Ron Paul Curriculum. It’s a calling. We don’t plan to give it up until we can’t walk anymore.

We love Mexico and Mexicans. After 13 years we have roots here. As a military family we never lived in one place for so many years.

puebla_edoPuebla is a great place to live once you get used to the altitude, 7000 feet. The population is about 5 million but Puebla still has the feel of a colonial town. We’re about 2 hours from downtown Mexico City. When we feel like we need an “I love America” xenophobic moment we drop into one of the many US businesses here: Wal Mart, Sams, Costco, Chili’s, Tony Roma’s, McDonald’s, Burger King, Carl’s Jr., Papa John’s Pizza, Dominoes (yes they deliver), Pizza Hut and Starbucks. We grocery shop at Superama, owned by Wal Mart – like an upscale Wal Mart neighborhood market.

Living costs here are not that much less than in the US but medical care is very good and much less expensive than in the US. Puebla has a good reputation for medical care. Medical technology here is at most 3 years behind the US. Last summer I had a stent and a pacemaker installed for a total cost of about $20,000 US. My doctor in Dallas told me it would have cost $65,000 to $100,000 in Dallas.

The major industry here is the Volkswagen plant. It employs about 12,000 plus all the sub-contractor workers. When you see a new beetle, think Puebla. Last I heard it’s the only VW plant that manufactures them. They also manufacture most of the other VW models.

We feel as safe or safer in Puebla than we do in Dallas but we don’t drive to the border anymore. Not worth the risk. There is an expat community here but we don’t have much contact with our fellow US citizens. We probably see more Germans and Koreans than Americans.

Something to consider. I suspect a retired person will live longer wherever he or she ends up with a productive calling to keep you busy and engaged. It’s priceless.

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A Seven-year-old Evangelist

Why we love the Learning Center.

Alejandra is a young mom who teaches English in the Learning Center. Her son, Levi, is 7. She told me that Levi talks about the Learning Center constantly and all he is learning there. He’ll quote verses, tell stories from the Bible and repeat from memory what he has learning of the Westminster shorter catechism. He does this on the public transportation talking out loud to his mom. The adults around them turn their attention to hear what this little tyke is saying and seem quite taken with this little guy, amazed at what he knows. He said to his mom the other day, “Did you know that John (the apostle) was and evangelist? “No, I didn’t.” “What do I have to do to be an evangelist? I want to be an evangelist when I grow up.” Appears he already is.

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A Classic Bible Reading Plan

For the last four years, maybe more, I forget, Marcy and I have been reading through the Bible together each year. We had installed OliveTree Bible Reader on our cellphones which had a reading program. I learned that it helps me to check boxes so that’s what I did. When the next year came around Marcy suggested unchecking the same boxes and that worked as well. The phones were Windows Mobile phones and were soon outdated. They kind of gave out as cell phones are wont to do. The great thing about this reading program was that you could start on any day of the year. Sometimes we miss a day or two but always manage to catch up. The trick is not to always be reading to study. Read it to enjoy the most wonderful and influential ancient text in the history of mankind, the Holy Bible.

Next time around we tried Android phones which were great. We got hooked on the Android operating system and bought Android tablets. We use both the phones and the tablets all the time. Fortunately, OliveTree has a program for Android. Unfortunately it didn’t have the same Bible reading plan; at least we couldn’t find it. When we finally did find it you could not start on any day of the year, you had to start at the beginning. We didn’t want to do that as we were half way thorugh the year already.

I wanted to share the reading program with my Mexican friends so I went through the whole list, wrote down the passages and made up an Excel file with the reading program in Spanish. Eventually I even managed to convert it to a pdf file as a form with check blocks that can be saved and used again and again. In the process I discovered that this reading plan dates from the 19th century and was designed by a well-known Scottish Reformed pastor, Robert Murray M’Cheyne. From the OliveTree version comes this explanation:

Robert_Murray_McCheyneThis unique reading schedule created by Rev. Robert Murray M’Cheyne, a 19th Century Scottish minister, guides readers through the New Testament and Psalms twice a year, and through the rest of the Bible once each year. IN M’Cheyne’s reading schedule, four readings are offered each day. M’Cheyne considered the first two readings of the day to be “Family” readings, to be read aloud in family devotions, while the final two readings were labeled “Secret” or “Private” readings, intended to be read and meditated as part of one’s personal devotions.

We didn’t know it but had been reading through the New Testament and the Psalms twice a year plus the rest of the Old Testament once a year. I think I’ve learned as much about the Bible in the last few years just reading it as I did in seminary and for a lot less money! If you are not reading the Bible through at least once a year, may I suggest you try this? I guarantee you will not be disappointed, even when you have to read what seem to be interminable genealogies.

You can read a biography of M’Cheyne for free on your Kindle from Amazon.com. Find it here: The Biography of Robert Murray M’Cheyne by his close friend Andrew A. Bonar. What struck me about the biography was the following quote from the introduction:

“The Great Head had a purpose of blessing for the Church of Scotland. Eminent men of God appeared to plead the cause of Christ. The Cross was lifted up boldly in the midst of Church Courts which had long been ashamed of the gospel of Christ. More spirituality and deeper seriousness began a few years onward to prevail among the youth of our divinity halls. In the midst of such events, whereby the Lord was secretly preparing a rich blessing for souls in all our Borders, the subject of this Memoir was born.”

Two things caught my attention in this quote. First, that God had a purpose of blessing for the Church of Scotland, that is a purpose to make the church a blessing to the nation, “a rich blessing for souls in all our Borders.” Second, that it was a youth movement. Can we not pray for such a blessing for our homeland as well as for all the nations of the earth? This is God’s purpose in history and the purpose of this webpage, to glorify God and bless Mexico by building the intellectual foundations for the future Christian civilization in Mexico. Have we given up on this possibility for the United States? I hope not. Christ controls history and He will not be stopped.

Robert Murray M’Cheyne was born on May 21st, 1813 and died on 25 March 1843, a mere 29 years. He died during an epidemic of typhus. The book was first published in 1844. The English is typical of that age, a little romantic for our cold and crude ears. I figure reading it might civilize and gentle us a bit in an age of cynicism. It was reprinted in 116 English editions within 25 years and it was thought that by 1910 there were half a million copies in circulation including versions in other languages.[1] The story has been influential in the lives of many Christians over the years including Charles Spurgeon, John Stott, Luis Palau, and John Piper.

You can get a copy of the reading plan in English for your Kindle Reader here M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan for $2.99. Or you can download the pdf I made here for free. It is in Spanish but you can probably make out the names of the books. Download it Here

May God richly bless you through the reading of His Word.

[1] From Amazon.com introductory paragraph Memoir and Remains of R.M. M’Cheyne.


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