Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Only Jesus - One Wife's Wise Words
My friend Scott Lee shares a post in which he includes the mere doodle-thoughts of his wife which she jotted down during church (not that I encourage others to doodle or jot during church, of course!). These are wonderful words and I urge you to "click" over and read them here.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
When Belief Is Not Enough
The other night, we read about the “wise men” who came seeking the newborn king and their run-in with King Herod. You’ll remember that Herod then sent for his scholars to review the Messianic prophecies concerning where the Christ would be born. After reading that passage, my oldest son made the profound observation that Herod “believed” the Christ was born, even when so many others didn’t recognize who Jesus was.
That’s right. Herod, the bad guy, demonstrates more “faith” and “belief” than so many others. Yet, we know his heart and his demise, don’t we?
How ironic that Dan Phillips over at the Pyromaniacs chose to address this very same issue in today’s post. I encourage you to go and read that article because he addresses the issue so much more profoundly than I could. Here’s the link:
King Herod, the believer
It is a good reminder that “belief” isn’t always enough. We can believe the facts, even act on the facts, and still not embrace the truth they represent. Phillips does a wonderful job of pointing out how this applies to our understanding of what saving faith is. It’s not just belief, or action, or even understanding. There is still more.
During this season, many will admit to the “facts” of Christmas, or the “history” of the celebration, or whatever. Let’s be sure we are faithfully proclaiming the whole counsel of God’s Word so that we are leading folks to a true and genuine saving faith, not mere consent to “belief” in the facts.
Monday, December 22, 2008
Does Church Membership Mean Anything Anymore?
Part of that resolution also focuses on the need to practice church discipline. One of the “Whereas” and three of the “Resolved” statements touch on the idea:
WHEREAS, The Scriptures admonish us to exercise church discipline as we seek to restore any professed brother or sister in Christ who has strayed from the truth and is in sin (Matthew 18:15-35; Galatians 6:1);
RESOLVED, That we urge the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention to repent of the failure among us to live up to our professed commitment to regenerate church membership and any failure to obey Jesus Christ in the practice of lovingly correcting wayward church members (Matthew 18:15-18); and be it further
RESOLVED, That we humbly encourage denominational servants to support and encourage churches that seek to recover and implement our Savior’s teachings on church discipline, even if such efforts result in the reduction in the number of members that are reported in those churches, and be it finally
RESOLVED, That we humbly urge the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention and their pastors to implement a plan to minister to, counsel, and restore wayward church members based upon the commands and principles given in Scripture (Matthew 18:15-35; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15; Galatians 6:1; James 5:19-20).
Most recently, there is the story of a woman in Jacksonville, FL who is upset that her church, Grace Community, would dare to confront her over regularly engaging in sexual relations with her boyfriend. (Check out this excellent post from Dan Phillips of the Pyromaniacs). She says she’s worried that the public dealing with her sin will have a negative effect on her 18-20 year old daughters. Apparently she isn’t worried about how her unrepentant sin will affect them, only the church’s dealing with it.
Several years ago there was the story of a Dallas church being sued for addressing a situation of adultery within its ranks. The lawsuit stated the church was “invading the privacy” of those involved. I guess they could argue the same thing regarding the issue of “regenerate membership.” After all, it’s nobody’s business if I’m truly saved, right?
Before I arrived at our present church, the former pastor tried to work with a family considering a divorce, and it wasn’t well received. In fact, when I came, one of the first comments from an “outsider” about our church was, “Oh, you’re the church that hates divorced people.” How outrageous.
Oh, how far we’ve come. The great Reformers of days gone by once focused on three "marks by which the true church is known": the preaching of the pure doctrine of the gospel, the pure administration of the sacraments, and the exercise of church discipline to correct faults. At one time, the church knew that membership meant something. We were voluntarily submitting ourselves to one another in love. Because of that love, we held one another accountable regarding salvation as well as lives of holiness, etc. (Exactly as Scripture admonishes us to, I might add).
There are some encouraging signs. Mark Dever and the folks at 9Marks Ministries have done a good job of reminding us that discipline in the church is one of the essential ingredients for church health. And the SBC resolution is certainly a step in the right direction. But we have along way to go.
Here’s hoping and praying that the church will one day hold up membership to be something of value; that we will strive to maintain a truly regenerate membership; and that discipline will once again be seen as the loving way to reclaim a brother and not merely the “invasion of privacy.”
BTW: For a couple more good articles on the subject of discipline, read here and here.
Review: Word of Promise Next Generation - New Testament
The Word of Promise Next Generation - New Testament MP3 set is a “dramatized” audio Bible, which simply means that instead of one person reading the text, you have a variety of actors reading different parts, complete with musical accompaniment in the background. This particular project is meant as a children’s version of the previously released Word of Promise New Testament aimed at the adult crowd.
Since younger folks are the target, I had three of our children listen to portions as well. They are huge fans of radio dramas and dramatized readings, including Adventures in Odyssey and the dramatized versions of the Narnia books and Pilgrim’s Progress. I figured their input would be helpful.
In all, our evaluations were pretty much the same. The translation itself (I think the International Children’s Bible?) is a little over-simplified in places. I think people assume it’s easier to give a less than precise rendering of a word like “repentance” than to ask parents to sit and talk with their children about what those words truly mean. Anyway, that’s hardly the fault of this production team, so we overlooked that.
The quality of the production itself was very good. Most of the “teen idol” crowd picked to do the dramatization did a commendable job; and according the accompanying DVD interviews, most of them took the project very seriously. For children I’m sure that the various voices and music/limited sound effects would make this more “entertaining” to listen to. And after all, there are worse things that finding a way to have your children sit in their rooms listening to God’s Word.
The format might be a drawback for some. In an effort to make it less bulky and more affordable, there are three MP3 cd’s here (instead of the 20 or so regular cd’s it would have taken). This does reduce size and cost, but anyone with only a regular cd player (like our kids) would have to load them on the ol’ PC and then burn the aforementioned 20 or so cd’s. Not a big problem, though.
My biggest problem was the young man who recorded the part of Jesus. I know nothing of his acting resume, and it appears he was making his best effort to play this part with reverence. But like so many, he seems to think that to make Jesus come across as loving and kind, we have to make him sappy. He almost whispers most lines, even during confrontations with Pharisees and during His trial and crucifixion. Again, I’m sure his motive was to portray Christ with respect and honor, but meekness doesn’t mean mealy-mouthed. One can be loving and strong at the same time (which God is, and is in Christ as well).
The only other note I would make is that I would have preferred a little more “drama” in some of the dramatization as far as music and sound effects. What was there was great, but some places could have used more. Paul’s shipwreck in Acts, for example, had some wind and such in the background, but more could have been done with those kinds of things.
All in all, though, this is a good resource for younger children (if you don’t mind the translation weaknesses), and it’s obvious that all those involved were truly seeking to honor God with this project. In an age where kids are being dealt a heavy dose of garbage earlier and earlier, this certainly makes a fresh and beneficial alternative.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
But just so the two faithful followers of this blog will know that I’m still kickin’ I thought I would just give you a few links to some of the more interesting things I’ve read from others in the last couple weeks (at least they were interesting to me). Enjoy.
Saved by Him, and from Him
Sermon preparation of lesser and greater luminaries
Beware of Study Bibles
Reading the Bible in 2009
Should Conservatives Boycott Fox News? (Warning! Some graphic descriptions here)
End of an Era (the end of “conservative” Reagan-esque government)
Friday, December 5, 2008
Book Review: The Unseen (a novel)
And while I’ve read the odd “secular” book here and there, for the most part I’ve limited myself to the “Christian market.” Maybe it helps me feel less guilty to say I’m reading a “Christian” novel. Maybe it’s just because I can’t stand the garbage that’s usually added into the non-Christian stuff.
Anyway, I jumped at the chance to make my second review for Thomas Nelson a fiction review. After my less than glowing comments about the first book I looked at, I was hoping this would be a nice change. Well, I have some good news and some bad news.
First, the good news. T. L. Hines’ The Unseen is a good read. Hines’ self-described “noire bizarre” has already found success in two previous novels, and I think I enjoyed this one better than those first two (especially once you get past the “bizarre” part). In spite of his obvious flaws, I found myself sympathetic to the main character, Lucas. Many of his inner struggles are common to us all, and there is some good insight into the nature of temptation and the “Dark Vibrations” that pulsate within us.
At some points, the many twists and turns of the story get a little hard to follow; and one or two twists seem a bit too random. But for the most part things are tied up well in the end. As a lover of mystery/suspense, I can say that my interest was definitely held and it kept me turning the pages at a pretty quick pace. All in all, as I said, a good read.
Now for the bad. I’m drawn again to the question I had in reviewing The Truth About You. What is it that makes this a “Christian” book? There is the aforementioned delving into the depraved temptations we face, but there is no solution offered. There is nothing distinctly “Christian” about this book. There is a brief mention of Lucas being in danger of losing his soul, but again, there is no solution given. He seems to come back from that precipice, but there is no Christ, no God, no biblical means for him to do so. Maybe it’s just a little too subtle for me. Maybe it’s just about God fixing our “brokenness.” But it would have been nice to see that made more plain.
Again, I enjoyed the book. It was a good story, well written, well-crafted. And not everything under a “Christian” label has to be an in-your-face Evangelistic Tract. But if we feel the need to have Christian Publishers, it seems that the things produced there should have a more Christian flare. This book could just as easily have been published by any secular label.
So if you’re just looking for a good suspense novel, with a few very odd twists, grab up The Unseen and “waste” a few enjoyable hours. But if you’re hoping to find some real biblical hope in the midst of the “noire,” then you will be disappointed.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Seeking A Sign
Of course, it’s not just that this salsa stain supposedly looks like Mary, it’s the “message” we are to receive. According to the stain maker, it’s supposed to be a sign that "people need to start being good toward one another." (Oh, and her house smells like roses now too, whatever that's supposed to mean).
Now, I’m all for being kind to one another. But why do we need divine dip-art to tell us that? Scripture has clearly revealed the truth that we are love one another. And Scripture is sufficient. Not that we always listen to the Word of God as given to us; but there is no need for another source to add to that Word.
I’m reminded of a story Jesus shared in which a certain man was begging from the pit of hell for God to send someone back from the dead to warn his family of their pending doom. God’s response: “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.” In fact, God goes on to say (speaking through Abraham, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” (read Luke 16:19-31)
So why this constant search for signs. Why do we need visions of the Virgin Mary in salsa, or grilled cheese, or pancakes, or any of the other places she’s been reported to have shown up. Why do we think salsa speaks louder than Scripture? (Never mind the BIG question: how does a salsa stain mean we’re supposed to be nice to each other to begin with? I must need to buy a copy of the “Message in Your Meal Handbook.”)
The problem is really this. The enemy loves this sort of thing. On the one hand, for those who buy into it, he is able to lead them along with these ridiculous pseudo-spiritual, superstitious “signs” and keep them from seeking the greater truth of God in Christ as revealed in the Word. And on the other hand, this just gives folks another reason to laugh at “those Christians;” keeping them from any desire to seek Christ as well. (You should have heard all the snickering and mocking comments coming from our local news team as they reported the story). The enemy wins on both sides.
God has spoken: In various ways and at various times and finally through His Son (Hebrews 1). And it’s all recorded in His Divine Book. We need to preach that Word He has given. It is the power of the Word that will change hearts, thus leading to us “being kind” to one another. Here's all the "sign" you need: Jesus came, died as a substitutionary sacrifice for sin, and rose again to defeat death and hell forever.
So a little advice. Next time you make a mess in your kitchen, just get a wet rag, clean it up, eat your salsa, and then go READ YOUR BIBLE.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Give Ye Thanks
May all ye and ye’rs have a blessed day of Thanksgiving to the Almighty for His continued blessings.
To all ye Pilgrims:
In as much as the great Father has given us this year and abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat , peas, beans, squashes, and garden vegetable, and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as he has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience;
now I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and ye little ones, do gather at ye meeting house, on ye hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the daytime, on Thursday, November ye 29th, of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and twenty-three, and the third year since ye Pilgrims landed on ye Pilgrim Rock, there to listen to ye pastor and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all his blessings.
William Bradford, Ye Governor of Ye Colony
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
My own experience is something like this. I am progressing along the path of life in my ordinary contentedly fallen and godless condition, absorbed in a merry meeting with my friends for the morrow or a bit of work that tickles my vanity today, a holiday or a new book, when suddenly a stab of abdominalpain that threatens serious disease or a headline in the newspapers that threatensus all with destruction, send this whole pack of cards tumbling down. At first I am overwhelmed, and all my little happinesses look like broken toys. Then, slowly and reluctantly, bit by bit, I try to bring myself into the frame of mind that I should be in at all times. I remind myself that all these toys were never intended to possess my heart, that my true good is in another world and my only real treasures is Christ. And perhaps, by God’s grace, I succeed, and for a day or two become a creature consciously dependent on God and drawing its strength form the right sources.I came to identify with that description quite profoundly this week. Monday morning I was blessed with a trip to the emergency room with kidney stones. To those who have not had the pleasure, it is impossible to put into words the pain this involves. To say that a “stab of abdominal pain” will send your “pack of cards tumbling down” is an understatement!
Earlier in that book, Lewis makes the well known comment that “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” Now I understand that he is making somewhat philosophical arguments to deal with the “why do we suffer” issue. But I must say, God certainly got my attention Monday.
As to what He was trying to tell me, I’m not entirely sure. But let me say this. I am much more appreciative of my daily “normal” life without that kind of pain. I certainly did a lot of praying during that time. And I was never so thankful to know my future rests in the firm hands of Christ than during that time I literally felt like I was going to die (I know that sounds like an exaggeration, but folks, that is some kind of intense pain!).
Furthermore, I have gained a new appreciation for the suffering of others, knowing that as far as “disease” goes, there are much worse things than this. And my little “suffering” can’t compare with what others are going through. Hopefully I will be a much more compassionate person in the future.
On top of all that, it gave me a great sense of appreciation for my wife who, though suffering from a little flu bug herself, dragged herself out of bed and drove me 45 minutes (screaming and crying like a baby the whole way!) to the hospital and stayed with me the whole time. And further appreciation for the blessing of responsible children that we could leave at home to care for one another, without any concern.
And finally, it is indeed a not-so-subtle reminder that this life is not what it’s all about. Comfort and happiness in this life may be nice, but my “true good is in another world and my only real treasures is Christ.” So though I dread to ever endure anything like that again (though I’m told in all likelihood I will), I’m thankful to God that “for a day or two (I’ve) become a creature consciously dependent on God and drawing its strength form the right sources.” May God not have to use that megaphone too often!
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Voddie Baucham on the SBC & the "C" Word
Book Review: The Truth About You
English motivational speaker and author Marcus Buckingham’s The Truth About You, in my opinion, is the epitome of what is wrong with the Christian publishing market. It is a secular, humanistic, self-help, feel good approach to life and success that is in most cases in direct opposition to biblical principles. How’s that for an opening line?
Not that it’s all bad. This book is not just a book: it’s an experience. It comes complete with a 20 minute video, a separate “ReMemo” pad (for tracking “strengths” and “weaknesses”), and a variety of interactive exercises. Nice package. But the content is still more psycho-babble than anything.
The main themes center on finding your strengths, which are your interests, your ideas of what makes you feel good, fulfilling your needs, etc. To find those strengths, you are told to complete the statement, “I feel strong when…” The biblical response to that is…”when I am weak.”
For the Christian, it’s not about me, what makes me feel good, etc. It’s to be about Christ, growing in His image and likeness, serving for His glory, and allowing His strength to be seen in my weakness. This is the exact opposite of Buckingham’s statement that “as we grow, we become more and more of who we already are.” God tells us to die to self and become like Christ.
Don’t get me wrong. Buckingham has something in the idea of a group of folks all doing what they do best. But there is too much focus on self and self-reliance here. The biblical perspective on this is that this group is the result of God’s gifting, not forcing our own “strengths” on others.
I know this is longer than the 200 words Nelson asked for, but I’m trying to be as brief as possible. I realize this is a business text, not a theology text. But the point is that a “Christian” publisher ought to be focused on those things that are biblically based, regardless of the genre. If we want to write about success, we should be doing it from a biblical definition of success and so on.
Sadly, so much of Christian publishing these days is more focused on the feel-good psychology and self-centered individualism so prominent in our culture than on a solid biblical worldview. For all its nice packaging, this book is just the case in point for that problem.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Is It Time For Christians To Withdraw?
I never thought I would say this, having the respect I do for Mr. Thomas, but I think he’s missing the point. He has set up a false “either-or” path for the church in America. It’s not about faithfully proclaiming and living the Gospel message OR working within the political structure to make a stand for morality. In the unique structure of the American experiment it can and should be both.
He is right in saying that our hope is not in government. It never has been, it never will be. Only Christ can change lives and change behavior as a result. Our goals should be Kingdom goals, and that is where our efforts should be focused. Once people have transformed lives in Christ, their faithful Christian lives will have an impact on the world around them.
However, part of the faithful Christian life is to be a good citizen of the state (Romans 13). In this great land, being a good citizen means being involved in the political process. Not to the neglect of our Gospel mandate; but as part of it.
1 Peter 2:17 tells us, among other things, to “Fear God and Honor the King.” Honoring the king in a monarchy means one thing. Honoring the king in the US of A means something different. The President is not the king. In fact, the battle cry of the American Revolution was “No King but King Jesus” (Not that many remember or believe that anymore).
In our government established of the people, by the people and for the people, the “people” are “king.” To honor the king then simply means to be a good citizen of the republic in which we live, which means being an informed and involved voter and participant in the process.
I agree that too many have put too much hope in that process. We have put more money and time and effort into the political battles than we have into the spiritual battle. But the answer is not to withdraw.
While we may not be able to “legislate morality” in the sense of truly changing a person’s mind, attitude and behavior by legislation; we do still have a responsibility to be involved in seeing gross sin (i.e. abortion, homosexual “marriage”, etc.) legislated out of our midst. Why? Because we are accountable.
Just one example. Proverbs 24:11-12 says, “Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, ‘But we knew nothing about this,’ does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?”
If we stand by and watch our society decline into the abyss of sin while we had the opportunity to do something about it, both through Gospel preaching AND political involvement, then we will be held accountable before our Righteous Judge. Go back and read how many times the people of Israel were sentenced to judgment because they allowed injustice and immorality to occur. And how much more opportunity do we have as American citizens to influence our government and laws than did those Jewish folks?
So, Mr. Thomas is right. The way to truly change the culture is to see people changed one heart at a time through the power of the gospel. And we should devote ourselves to that end. Yet, at the same time, once those hearts are changed, they will understand that to live a godly life in this nation means to be a part of the process, to do what we can with our amazing rights and freedoms (a blessing from God) to see that that our children and their children will inherit a nation worth having.
To paraphrase Mr. Thomas’ column title: Rest in Christ’s peace and follow Him in humility; but don’t fail to do what’s right.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
How Do I Respond?
On the one hand, I simply cannot believe that Americans are dumb enough to put a child-hating, pro-death, anti-family, anti-2nd Amendment, in many ways anti-God man like this in office. My heart truly weeps.
On the other hand, I am reminded that God is still on His throne, still has a plan, and if he can give Israel the godless kings they often had, who are we to expect better.
Since I have no wise insights, I’ll simply pass on two links that define the essence of my struggle. I find myself in agreement with both of these articles, hence my battle.
Monday, November 3, 2008
Thursday, October 30, 2008
The Pro-Death Candidate: Addendum
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Another Challenging Message
Anyway, here is the clip. But be warned. It is highly challenging.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Signs of Salvation
The reason for both is that he unashamedly proclaims the truth of the Gospel. I don't even know who put this piece together, but this is a portion of his preaching set to music and with some great visuals. I'm not sure if Paul Washer approves of this or not, knowing his emphasis on bare bones gospel preaching, but I found it inspiring.
The heart of the message is on truly knowing if we are saved. Enjoy (or be challenged, or both).
Pro-life Petition from Mike Huckabee
I support and have always supported passage of a constitutional amendment to protect the right to life. My convictions regarding the sanctity of life have always been clear and consistent, without equivocation or wavering. I believe that Roe v. Wade should be over-turned. I know there are millions of Americans who believe as I do. All are concerned about the negative impact an Obama presidency and a Democrat controlled Congress will have on the Courts and the fight to overturn Roe v. Wade if they should win this Election Day. We cannot let that happen.
I have no doubt that the Democrats' ideas are totally wrong for America and many of their plans would take us the opposite direction from where America needs to go.
Led by Senator Obama, the Majority of the Democrat Party in the House and Senate support the most liberal and indefensible positions on abortion, including a refusal to support a ban on the most vile form of all, partial birth abortion. Led by Senator Obama these Democrats are actively pushing for what the anti-life forces euphemistically call "reproductive rights."
Against them, we must rally every American that seeks to protect and cherish life. I urge you to sign the Petition below and ask your friends and family to do the same.
As of this writing, there were 11, 461 signers to the petition. The folks at Huck PAC are shooting for 100,00. So what are you waiting for?
Monday, October 20, 2008
On The Lighter Side?
Anyway, one of my favorites is Mike Waters over at Joyful 'toon. I even signed up to have the latest emailed to me on a regular basis. And while this may seem like a venture into the "lighter side" of things, I found an amazing amount of insight in this most recent 'toon, especially regarding my recent posts regarding discernment over Obama's pro-death stands, lack of focus on the Word, etc. Here it is:
It seems to me that the reason there is so much garbage out there; the reason so many can be taken in by a political candidate's perceived charms; the reason we are willing to sell out the lives of countless children for the sake of the economy; all of this is simply due to the age old "garbage in, garbage out" process.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Obama: the Pro-Death Candidate
Barack Obama is the most extreme pro-abortion candidate ever to seek the office of President of the United States. He is the most extreme pro-abortion member of the United States Senate. Indeed, he is the most extreme pro-abortion legislator ever to serve in either house of the United States Congress.
What kind of America do we want our beloved nation to be? Barack Obama's America is one in which being human just isn't enough to warrant care and protection. It is an America where the unborn may legitimately be killed without legal restriction, even by the grisly practice of partial-birth abortion. It is an America where a baby who survives abortion is not even entitled to comfort care as she dies on a stainless steel table or in a soiled linen bin. It is a nation in which some members of the human family are regarded as inferior and others superior in fundamental dignity and rights. In Obama's America, public policy would make a mockery of the great constitutional principle of the equal protection of the law. In perhaps the most telling comment made by any candidate in either party in this election year, Senator Obama, when asked by Rick Warren when a baby gets human rights, replied: ''that question is above my pay grade.'' It was a profoundly disingenuous answer: For even at a state senator's pay grade, Obama presumed to answer that question with blind certainty. His unspoken answer then, as now, is chilling: human beings have no rights until infancy - and if they are unwanted survivors of attempted abortions, not even then.
I'm still not an all out McCain fan. But I do know this. If Obama is elected it will be on the scale of the judgment God sent on His people through kings like Manasseh who was guilty of sacrificing his own son to a pagan idol (2 Kings 21). God often gave His people the king they deserved, and maybe that's what will happen. But I pray with all my heart that people will see through this man and run the other way as fast as possible!
Monday, October 13, 2008
More Sleight of Hand from Casino Interests
In fact, this limit was originally an idea proposed by the casinos themselves as a safeguard against problem gambling. Even they recognized the benefit of trying to put at least some kind of limit on things. Not to mention how this serves as a deterrent for money laundering schemes in casinos, etc.
Anyway, the battle rages on. This year it’s called Proposition A. It’s not bad enough that the gambling interests now want to remove these limits so they can rake in the big bucks at the expense of problem gamblers and their families. Now they want us to think it’s a noble cause for our children.
The slick PR types are promoting this as “millions of dollars for our schools.” There are a couple of problems with that. Number one, the end result of this legislation will not actually add any monies to Missouri schools since the budget will just be altered to offset whatever revenue this might bring in (a standard “shell game” in Jefferson City). Number two, I think we’ve pretty much proven over the years that simply throwing more money at our schools doesn’t help that much anyway.
The real outcome of this legislation will simply be that people already struggling with gambling addiction will be allowed to lose their homes and families quicker, the casino owners will make a fortune, and the state will be given the burden of providing aid for those families devastated by the whole thing. And yes, the schools will get some money. But just like with the lottery promises, etc. the Jeff City shell game will just move things around so that the net increase for schools will be next to nothing.
For more information (and a more intelligent discussion of the issue than found here), check out these links.
Missouri Family Network
Vote No on A
I wish we didn’t have casinos at all. But I hope Missouri voters can at least see through this fancy trickery to see that no one will benefit in the end with Prop A except the casino folks.
Monday, September 29, 2008
On Being a Hypocrite
Jesus obviously had some nasty things to say about such folks. The word “hypocrite” was one applied repeatedly to the Pharisees; usually in conjunction with phrases like “whitewashed tombs” and “blind guide.” So it’s safe to say that most of us would not like to have this particular word applied to us. However, I find myself in that category.
I don’t know about other pastors, but there are many times when I stand before the church on a Sunday and say things about the Christian life and holiness and so on, and in my mind I’m thinking “what a hypocrite.” It’s not that I strive to hold others up to a higher standard than myself, it’s just that in proclaiming the “ideal” I often realize just how far I fall short myself.
This was especially true last night. We were dealing with 2nd Corinthians 12 where Paul is discussing his “thorn in the flesh.” I was focusing on some of the lessons Paul learned from this episode which helped him to find the confidence and contentment that we read in this text as well as in others. And I couldn’t help but realize that I was preaching to myself more than anyone. I, above all, need to learn these lessons. I could hear my heart screaming, “Hypocrite!”
Now I have to say that I never try to present truths such as these in a hypocritical fashion. I never say, “I’ve figured this out, so now you do it as well.” In fact, on occasions such as last night I make a point of confessing my weakness to our fellowship and let them know up front that these are issues God is dealing with me about in my life. Yet, I still feel like such a hypocrite.
I struggle with anxiety. I worry about things in direct violation of the Scriptural command to “not be anxious about anything.” I know it’s disobedience. I know it’s lack of faith. And yet I struggle. So where do I get the right to stand before our fellowship and talk about contentment in spite of circumstances, resting in the sufficiency of God’s grace, and so on. I believe those things with all my heart. I just struggle with actually living them out.
So I guess I’m writing this as some sort of cathartic confession. And I guess that an ulterior motive is to seek the prayers of as many friends and family as I can, asking you to petition the Lord on my behalf. Pray that I would be more faithful. Pray that I would trust fully in the sufficiency of God’s grace. Pray that I might be able to say with Paul, “imitate me as I imitate Christ,” instead of saying “this is how we ought to live even though I can’t seem to do it myself.” And above all, may God be glorified in all things.
Thanks for bearing with me in my catharsis. Hopefully the next entry will be a bit more useful.
Monday, September 22, 2008
A couple weeks ago Voddie Baucham was interviewed by CNN regarding the whole Gov. Palin issue, especially the issue of why Evangelicals would support her nomination for Vice President even though they wouldn’t allow her to preach in their pulpits. Dr. Baucham was quick with a comeback about most people supporting her simply because they fear the socialist regime that Obama will usher in. But I digress…
The discussion turned to the role of women in the culture vs. the “narrow view” some in the church have. To that, Voddie said: “We’re about the gospel. The culture doesn’t dictate truth. The gospel dictates truth. My job is not to be a political pundit or political activist. My job is to be a pastor and proclaim the truth of the gospel as clearly as I possibly can.” The Word was, is, and will be.
The other guest on the interview, a more liberal “evangelical” speaker began making comments about today’s “modern families,” and how the biblical idea of the of husband as the head, etc. doesn’t “translate into many working class families today.”
Again Voddie’s response: “You know my job is not to translate into working class families, my job is to be honest with the text, and the text says in Titus chapter 2 and verse 5 a woman is to be the keeper of the home. Now I will not violate the teaching of the text in order to somehow sound more appropriate for the culture. I am a herald of the truth of the gospel, and my job is to teach the gospel, according to what the authors have said, not according to what I think the culture wants to hear.” The Word was, is, and will be.
It seems this is a fading voice in contemporary American Christianity. The focus these days is on relevancy, not truth. However, Greer Boyce once stated in a Canadian Journal of Theology article that “faithfulness to the text is not to be sacrificed for the sake of what we presume to be relevancy.” And all God’s people said, “Amen.”
That quote was included in John MacArthur’s Rediscovering Expository Preaching. In that book, MacArthur also says that “God gave His true Word to be communicated exactly as He gave it. It is to be dispensed precisely as it was delivered, without altering the message.” The Word was, is, and will be.
I know that godly-minded individuals will occasionally disagree about this or that Bible passage. But it scares me when we are more concerned about “relevancy” and what “translates into modern families” than we are about faithfully communicating the text.
Let’s give God some credit. When He inspired the authors of the Sacred Text, He was well aware of what “modern families” would be going through. Because He makes “known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come,” (Is. 46:10) He knew what would be relevant both then and now. Let’s stop trying to “correct” and “update” God and let Him speak. He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb. 13:8) and the God who is unchanging has given us a Word which is unchanging as well. It’s time for the church to stop worrying about fitting in with modern culture and simply “preach the Word, in season and out of season.” (2 Tim. 4:2)
The Word was, the Word is, and the Word will be.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Was I Wrong About Palin?
The Evangelical Two-Step
Thursday, September 4, 2008
Palin For President
Last night was an exception. Readers of this blog (both of you) know that I was a staunch supporter of Mike Huckabee during the primary race. And quite honestly, I've never been real enthused about John McCain. But when I heard who he had chosen for a running mate, I found myself just a bit more encouraged. So to be sure, I tuned in last night to hear Gov. Sarah Palin's speech at the RNC. (In case you missed it, you can read a transcript here)
Actually, there was only one real point of disagreement all night (other than her glowing recommendations of McCain, who I still have reservations about). At the end of her speech, Sen. McCain came out holding a microphone. After greeting the whole Palin family who had come on stage, he turned to the crowd and said something like "Don't you think we made the right choice for the next Vice President of the United States?" To which my wife, ever the wise one in our home, replied, "No you didn't. She should be running as President instead of you!"
Monday, September 1, 2008
Finding Forgiveness on Fox News
However, based on one short set of comments heard tonight on Fox News’ Special Report with Brit Hume, I have become a huge Fred Barnes fan. I didn’t know this was something I would be writing about, so I didn’t tape it or record it in any way. So, I may not be quoting him exactly. But I will hopefully get at the core of his comments.
Everyone knows by now of the unfortunate situation with Republican VP Candidate Sarah Palin and her pregnant teenage daughter. The liberal media was quick to jump on anything negative they could find and they’ve made this a bigger headline than Hurricane Gustav.
The issue was brought up during the panel discussion segment on Special Report, and I will remember Fred Barnes’ response for a long, long time. He quoted from a Washington Post article which said that this situation would be “a hard one for the Republican family values crowd to swallow.” Barnes’ response to that inane comment was priceless.
In essence he said: Of course this won’t be hard to swallow. This is what the values crowd is all about…forgiveness. We know that we are all sinners. That’s why we’re Christians. That’s why we need Jesus Christ.
I admit that when I heard those words I jumped out of my recliner yelling and laughing. The whole family rushed to see what was “wrong” with dad. I just couldn’t believe I had heard the words “we need Jesus Christ” from a journalist on a news show, even if it was the more conservative Fox News channel.
Again, I know nothing of Mr. Barnes personal beliefs. But those few comments did my heart good. The liberal folks just don’t get it. Of course we hold to a higher standard. Of course we would be disappointed by a teenager getting pregnant outside of marriage. But that doesn’t mean that we would condemn the individual without mercy.
While it is wrong to look the other way and say as one of the other panelists did, “this is no big deal, it happens all the time;” we also congratulate the whole family for taking responsibility and “doing the right thing.” It’s refreshing to see the family standing by their daughter, pledging to raise the child with unconditional love, seeing the couple married, etc. That’s a far cry better than Obama’s comments earlier that he supports abortion because he wouldn’t want his daughter’s “punished with a child.” At least this family sees children as a blessing and is willing to protect the child’s life when the “politically expedient” thing to do would be to “make the problem go away.”
So a healthy dose of respect to the Palin family for standing up in a difficult situation. We should all pray for that girl and her child. And big time kudos to Fred Barnes for giving us a little lesson in forgiveness on the evening news. I already sent an email to Fox News thanking Mr. Barnes for his comments and I hope lots of others do as well.
We are indeed all sinners in need of Christ. Even the evening news said so!
Thursday, August 21, 2008
When You Care Enough...
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Making Sermons Fun
OK, so I'm wasting way too much time. But I thought it was fun (who thought sermons could be fun?), and the end result is almost worth framing, especially since God seems to have such a central place in it all (I was relieved to find that my sermons talk a lot about HIM!).
Saturday, August 9, 2008
Monday, August 4, 2008
Is it Bigger Than A Dead Jesus?
Now, I haven’t given up on the occasional joke altogether, but I have concentrated more on the content of the sermon than going for the comments on the sermon. I’m hoping we’ve moved from milk to meat.
I thought of that as I was looking back over my notes from the AiG Family Conference in Branson. I especially thought of it as I reflected on my notes on Voddie Baucham’s messages. Because while I took good notes and gained some very insightful truths, the things that stick out in my mind without checking those notes are the one-liners.
Things like his reference to a new Christian friend as “a new brother from another mother.” Or the admonition to “suck it up…don’t tell me about the pain, just show me the baby.” And my favorite, speaking of children and original sin: “No matter how cute that thing is, it’s still a viper in a diaper.”
Now, this isn’t to comment on the use of humor in preaching. After all, Charles Spurgeon wrote that “I must confess that I would rather hear people: laugh than I would see them asleep in the house of God . . . I do believe, in my heart, that there may be as much holiness in a laugh as in a cry.” And Baucham’s use is appropriate and minor in comparison to the amount of “meat” he offers. I guess it’s just human nature to focus on those zingers.
The point, I guess, is that sometimes the little one liners sticking in your brain can be more “meaty” than we might realize. The one line that keeps coming back to me was in a message Voddie brought on “The Person of Christ.” It was a wonderful exposition of 1 Corinthians 15 and Paul’s defense of the resurrection. And I do remember the solid meat of that message: Paul’s arguments from Authority, Evidence and Logic. I especially enjoyed bringing to the forefront the often overlooked truth that we have more written evidence for Christ’s resurrection than we do for the existence of Socrates, but no one ever calls the latter in to question.
But the one line that jumps out is this: Is It Bigger Than a Dead Jesus? After spending the bulk of the message defending the reality of the resurrection, the application was then made that regardless of the circumstances we find ourselves in, it can’t possible be a more “difficult” situation than a dead Christ. And if God can raise Christ, what are you afraid of? Could your problem possibly be bigger than a dead Jesus? Catchy phrase; powerful truth.
I have a tendency toward anxiety. I know it’s sinful. I know it’s a lack of faith. I know it’s outright disobedience. But I still struggle. I memorize verses like Philippians 4:6-7 which commands me outright to not be anxious about anything. I memorize helpful, encouraging words like Isaiah 41:13 which promises God’s upholding hand, along with another command not to fear. And God is working on this problem in me.
And please don’t hear me saying that a one liner from Voddie Baucham is more powerful, effective, etc. than the Word of God. After all, he’s just summarizing the truth of God’s Word, pointing to its promises and power. But I’ve found that line helpful: Is it Bigger Than A Dead Jesus? Obviously the answer is “no.”
So I say all that to say this. I just want to encourage anyone who might stop by out of boredom and read this. No matter what you might be facing, it’s certainly not bigger than a dead Christ. If Christ is raised, then what are you afraid of? If God can handle that situation, well…
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Neutrality is Not an Option: Acts 4 & the Culture War
I’m doing better, for the most part. But then guys like Voddie Baucham come along and I find myself bordering on hero worship again. At the recent family conference in Branson I nearly acted like a star-crazed fan in the presence of a rock star or something when I got the chance to shake hands with the man whose teaching has had a great impact on me in the last couple years.
It started after I watch a video of the message he delivered at a gathering of Baptists in Texas. It was a conference on Evangelism, I believe, and Voddie was actually a last minute replacement for (of all people) Tim Lahaye. Those folks never saw it coming. Baucham delivered a out-of-the-park message on the centrality of the home in the discipleship of the next generation. Amazing stuff! Follow that up with one of the best books I’ve read in recent years, Family Driven Faith, and here I go with the hero stuff again.
Anyway, all of that is not the point, I guess. Voddie’s first session at this recent conference was on the issue of the Culture War, and he based it on Acts chapter 4: Peter and John before the Sanhedrin. He showed how similar their situation is to the culture we find ourselves in today. They were called “unschooled, common” men, which is the same thing we are called today if we fail to acknowledge the “acceptable” doctrines of evolution, religious relativism, tolerance, and philosophical pluralism.
The key was the idea that “neutrality is not an option.” It wasn’t an option for the Jews of the day. They had to deal with these rebels who were stirring things up and risking the wrath of Rome. It was not an option for Peter and John, who when commanded not to speak the name of Jesus politely refused. And today, there is no room for neutrality either. The culture says we must accept those doctrines mentioned above. We must accept their worldview or be labeled intolerant, ignorant, etc.
Yet, according to Baucham, this is where the similarities between their story and ours end. Because while Peter and John replied “we can’t help but proclaim what we have seen and heard,” the church of today has said, “OK, maybe we will be quiet. We’ll just witness with our lifestyle, or we’ll just wait until we have more godly men elected to higher offices, etc.”
I loved the example he used. Basically, he said we act like we could just go about our business, mowing our lawn, and neighbor will be so moved by the way we mow our lawn that they will rush over to us and say, “I am so impressed with the way you mow your lawn, what must I do to be saved?”
Obviously that’s an exaggeration. Certainly we must live lives worthy of the Gospel, and it does have an influence on our witness. As far as that goes, it’s probably even good for us to mow our lawns well. But I digress…
The point is, we are too reluctant to open our mouths. We care too much about what the world thinks of us. We want to fit in. The early church cared nothing about fitting in. They would rather die than not speak of what they had seen and heard. In fact, in the face of their persecution they prayed not for the persecution to be lifted, but for boldness to open their mouths regardless of the consequences.
We, on the other hand expect not to be persecuted. We forget that persecution is promised to those who are faithful. We need to stop listening to the health and wealth, comfort and convenience gospel of our day and preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Neutrality is not an option. We need to be more bold, like Peter and John. As Dr. Baucham concluded, we must have faith in a Sovereign Lord, and ask Him for boldness to proclaim the truth of Christ . . . that will win the Culture War.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Voddie Baucham on Education
The Desert Island Challenge
I may not have gotten it word for word exactly like Doug Phillips of Vision Forum, but this was the question he asked during a session entitled A Family Vision of Victory. The point is quite simple, yet the truth of it hit me quite profoundly. If you had no other cultural ideas to infect your thinking, nothing but the Word of God, how would you shape your family and your life? Interesting idea, isn’t it?
For years now, people like Doug Phillips, and Voddie Baucham’s Family Driven Faith, and Tom Eldredge’s Safely Home and others have been calling into question how our families operate in today’s world. And the unanimous verdict is that we have given in to culture way more than we want to admit; in everything from the size of our families, to how we educate them, to how we disciple them, etc.
But what if we had nothing but God’s Word to guide us? Wouldn’t we see children as a blessing and desire a “quiver full” of them? Wouldn’t we realize that it is our responsibility as parents to disciple our children, not just the Sunday School teacher’s? And would we ever send them off to “fools” to be educated the way we do now?
Whoa! Harsh words. But think about it. We live in a culture that ridicules large families, not to mention the whole culture of death that wants to rid us of children all together. Though the idea of a Sunday School isn’t even found in the Bible, we’ve come to see that as the primary discipleship avenue for our families, neglecting our parental responsibility. And the secular humanistic government schools that we ship our kids off to every day have repeatedly shown us that they don’t want God to have any part in their curriculum. Since Scripture clearly says that only a fool says in his heart that there is no God (Ps. 14:1), this makes them the very fools I mention at the end of the preceding paragraph.
So the question again is: If we were alone on an island with nothing but God’s Word to guide us, would we be doing the things we’re doing? Have we been taken captive in our ideas from the God-hating culture around us? And shouldn’t we be living according the standard of God’s Word regardless of what the culture around us does?
In another session called Jerusalem and Athens: the Battle of Christian Culture, Doug Phillips builds on this idea of the Desert Island Challenge by comparing two ways of thinking: Biblical Hebraic thinking, or Jerusalem vs. Greco-Roman thinking, or Athens. And he points out that the American church is much more influenced by the later as our nation “de-volves” into paganism.
Again, sounds like harsh words. Unfortunately, they are also true. This idea first hit me after reading the aforementioned book by Tom Eldredge a few years ago. It was the first time I had ever thought in terms of Hebrew vs. Greek thinking in regard to family, education, etc. And yet when we read the New Testament, this is exactly the conflict we see confronting the early church. How much do we hold to our Jewish roots, and how much to we give in to the Hellenistic culture around us? And we are still facing the same battle today.
The early church father Tertullian wrote a piece called The Prescription Against Heretics. Chapter seven deals with “Pagan Philosophy The Parent Of Heresies. The Connection Between Deflections From Christian Faith And The Old Systems Of Pagan Philosophy.” (Got to love those old titles!) It was here that Tertullian asked the question from which Phillips derived his session title: What indeed has Athens to do with Jerusalem?
What indeed do they have to do with one another? What do the children of Jerusalem, God’s children, our children have to do with the pagan, humanistic, evolutionary worldview of this modern culture and education system. The answer should be: nothing!
Now I’m not advocating, as I’m sure Phillips was not, that we literally go out onto a desert island somewhere and ignore the rest of the world. We do have a missionary mandate, after all. But that missionary mandate does not include turning our children over to a godless school system; does not include abdicating the discipleship responsibility of parents, does not include seeing children as a burden rather than a blessing, and so on.
Phillips summarized it with this question: By What Standard? By what standard are we going to live? God’s or man’s? We ought to live “as if” we were on a desert island, with only God’s Word to guide us. Imagine how much different our families and our churches and our own lives would be if we simply lived according to the word and not the world.
Still more to come….
Monday, July 21, 2008
Ham Hit It On The Head
Anyway, one of the reasons we started this particular study is because of the foundational role Genesis plays in Scripture. Not only is it the first book, setting the stage for all the rest. Even more it contains the foundations of all our basic doctrines as God’s people. John MacArthur reminds us that in this book of Genesis, “Theological foundations are revealed which include God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, man, sin, redemption, covenant, promise, Satan and angels, kingdom, revelation, Israel, judgment, and blessing.” Name a concept, theme or doctrine, and chances are we find at least the seed of it in this first book of Moses.
I was reminded again during this past week’s family conference of the importance of this book. It would seem only natural that a conference sponsored by Answers in Genesis would place a heavy emphasis on that book. But it’s not so much that this ministry chooses to focus on this book, it’s that this book is the driving force behind this ministry.
Ken Ham, founder and director of AiG does a wonderful job of showing the vital nature of this book, and therefore why this book is the center of attack by our God-hating culture. Sure they can attack the Resurrection head on, but how much easier to go back and undermine the authority and authenticity of the very book that tells of the Resurrection. Christians will stand up and fight against a frontal attack on the cross, but we’ve largely rolled over and played dead when it comes to the attacks against Genesis; specifically, the six days of Creation.
The Southern Baptist Convention fought a battle in the recent past (some say we are still fighting it in some form) for the inerrancy of Scripture. At stake was not only the obvious issue, but also the authority, sufficiency, etc. of God’s Word. And, ironically, one of the key “sparks” that got it all going was not so much an attack from the world against the resurrection, the virgin birth, the deity of Christ, etc. It was a commentary, written by one of our own, on the book of Genesis.
Seminary Professor Ralph Elliott, influenced by the liberal theology that was rapidly growing all around us, wrote that “one must come to the place that he sees the parabolic and symbolic nature of much of the Old Testament Scriptures.” He then quotes Alan Richardson who says, “One must learn to think of the stories of Genesis – the Creation, the Fall, Noah’s Ark, the Tower of Babel…in the same way as we think of the parables of Jesus; they are profoundly symbolical stories, which aren’t to be taken as literally true…”
Therefore, Elliott concluded, Genesis 1-11 in particular is myth, not fact. Because we have been overrun with evolutionary thinking and a Secular Humanist worldview, many in the church saw no problem with this. After all, this allows us to claim the Bible and still give in to the “new” theories of science that said the earth was millions of years old, that man evolved from apes, and so on.
Much of what Ken Ham said during this past week focused on this same idea of dealing with the “millions of years.” Again, many people, blinded by bad science and un-founded theories, have bought into this idea and see no real problem trying to make the Bible “fit.” But, as Ham points out, the real issue is very basic: Is the Bible true? This is what our Convention was fighting over, and this is what we need to continue to fight for.
You see, once we throw out the creation narrative and the Noahic flood and so on, it becomes easier to then say: well, maybe Jonah wasn’t really swallowed by a big fish. Maybe David didn’t really kill a giant. Maybe Jesus wasn’t really virgin-born. Maybe he didn’t really do all those miracles. And maybe, the whole resurrection thing was just symbolic as well. Once the foundation is eroded, the whole building is at risk.
2 Corinthians 11:3 reminds us that our enemy will continue to use the same attacks that he’s always used. “…as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” And how did the serpent lead Eve astray? By simply saying, “Are you sure God said that? It’s not really true; you’ll not surely die if you eat the fruit.”
Today the serpent says, “Are you sure it was only six days of creation? Surely that can’t be true. The evidence says it was millions of years. Are you sure there was a real world-wide flood?” And so on.
The enemy is the same. The tactic is the same. Our response must be different. God’s Word is true. God’s Word is authoritative. God’s Word, from Genesis to “maps”, is sufficient for all things. 2 Peter 1:3 tells us that “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” Since our knowledge of him comes through the Word, we know that the Word supplies all we need.
I appreciate anew the ministry of Answers in Genesis. I encourage you to check out there website, view their materials, visit their creation museum. From a purely “scientific” standpoint it’s amazing to see some of the evidence that humanist science doesn’t want you to know about. We don’t need science to prove the Bible, but it’s nice to know that science does indeed confirm the Bible, not “disprove” it.
And the church needs to know this. We need to stand up and take notice. Ham hit it on the head: The attack on Genesis is an attack on God, and we can’t ignore it. Let’s be faithful in defending the faith from all attacks, and as the theme for the week reminds us, we should always be ready/prepared “to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” (1 Peter 3:15).
More conference reflections to come…..