Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Christian Blogger Needs Help!

Update:  There are actually two Christian bloggers you can vote for on the list.  The other one is the last one listed, Chelsea Long.  She is trying to win the award to pay for graduate school.

I just wanted to let everybody know that there is a contest going on for a scholarship for $10,000 and the winner is determined by popular vote.  There is actually a Christian blogger up for the award and I want people to spread the word and try to help this guy win.  I also hope that this might bring more people to read his blog and learn about Christ through this effort.  Anyways, click here and go vote for Mark Lamprecht.  You can also go visit his blog here.  Please spread the word to friends and family and let's help out a fellow brother in Christ.

Friday, November 11, 2011

God is Love

It is comforting to know that the Bible tells us that God is love.  And even more so when we consider the wealth of His grace and mercy that He showers us with.  But do we really understand what this love is?  Do we have any semblance of this type of love in our own lives?  To answer this question, we need to look at the relationship between God and man a little bit closer.  Specifically, we need to understand how and why we love others, how and why God loves His elect, and the implications of each of those.  Once we have examined this thoroughly, we will have a much better appreciation for just how much God truly loves us and how far short of this love we fall in our own lives.

We will start off by examining how and why we love others.  Let’s honestly ask ourselves who it is that we love…not who we should love, but who we actually love in thought and deed.  I’m just going to parse out thoughts from my own life and you can choose to apply them in your own lives where they are applicable.  I tend to love people who believe most of the same things that I do…people who share the same type of ethics, morals, and interests as me.  I do have friends that I disagree with on important issues, but I can easily say that they do not make up the majority of my friends (probably a 70-30 split).  And most of the 30% in the minority are people from work.  Let me be clear in saying that I am using a tight definition of the word friend here…these are people that I talk with on a somewhat regular basis about different issues.  The point I am making is that I tend to show love towards people who are more like me than unlike me.  I also tend to love people who are attractive to me either physically, mentally, or spiritually.  I love the way my wife looks, her sense of humor, and her strong stand for the Word of God.  I love my boys because they are funny, smart, sweet, and loving.  I love to talk to people who enjoy talking about sports, theology, and silly/funny stuff.  And the way that I show love is mainly by expressing appreciation in words, be it spoken or written.  Not that I mind doing things for people, but I tend to be more verbal…just something that I have noticed.  I am sure this is something that is different from person to person, so just look at your own life and see what you see.  Basically, I love people that I want to love in the way that I want to love them for the most part.  Now I will say that this has changed somewhat since God saved me, but it has not been a total transformation and won’t be until I am glorified in His presence.  I do see that I have a great affinity for other saints and find great joy in gathering with other believers, whether for fellowship or worship.  So this gives an idea of how and why I love others…you’ll have to determine whether this is true for yourselves or not.

Next let’s take a look at how and why God loves His elect.  Where we saw that I love others based upon things that I like, it is clear that this is not true of God.  Just read this and tell me what it is that God sees that causes Him to love any man:

“What then?  Are we better than they?  Not at all, for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are under sin;  as it is written, ‘There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one.’  ‘Their throat is an open grave, with their tongues they keep deceiving,’ ‘The poison of asps is under their lips’; ‘Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness’; ‘Their feet are swift to blood, destruction and misery are in their paths, and the path of peace they have not known.’  ‘There is no fear of God before their eyes.’” (Romans 3:9-18)

Clearly there is nothing that God can see in man that makes Him think we are great and wonderful and that He should love us.  In fact, we see that it is quite the opposite.  We are filthy, wretched sinners who have rebelled against Him and polluted His creation.  God loves us because He chooses to do so.  Yes, He has much mercy and grace, but He is also the righteous judge and has to judge and punish sin.  In His mercy, He has chosen to punish the sins of His elect through the atoning death of Jesus on the cross, where He (Jesus) also faced the wrath of God for the sins of the elect.  In His grace, He has imputed the righteous life of Jesus to our account so that we may enter into His presence in Heaven.  This also involved Jesus conquering death so that we may also be resurrected to perfect, glorified bodies suited for eternal life in the presence of God.  And all of this is the manifestation of God’s love for His elect that is done without us being attractive to God in any possible way…until He changes us.  And even after that change, we still have sin in our flesh.  So God loves us only because He chooses to and He does so sacrificially.  He does so in word, thought, and deed…perfectly. 

So, we have looked at the love of man and the love of God.  Now let’s take a little peek into the implications.  I’m sure that anybody who reads this will have other implications that come to mind, but I’m just going to put down a few that come to mind for me:

·         We are limited by the way that we love, but we are freed by the love of God.  We are limited because we tend to exclude ourselves from loving all people and gaining from the fellowship and counsel of other believers who probably can see some blind spots in our lives better than those who share some of our same predispositions.  We are freed by God’s love because He empowers us to get beyond those predispositions.  That takes a lot of prayer, meditation, and work, but as we become more disciplined in our practice, the more we will grow in this type of love. 
·         We need to be conformed more to the image of Christ.  “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren”. (Romans 8:29, emphasis mine)  We’re used to hearing this verse used to show the Biblical basis for predestination, but it is also demonstrates that the elect are predestined to be sanctified.  And our failure to love in the same fashion that God loves us shows that we need to be conformed to the image of Jesus even more.
·         We don’t fully understand the love of God.  I mean, if we really did would we love the way that we do?  Yeah, I know that we’re saddled by sin and that keeps us from loving that way, but doesn’t that also keep us from fully understanding His love towards us?  I long for the day when we’ll be glorified and in his presence so that we can have a better understanding and practice of this type of love.

So, to get back to the questions I posited, I think that we have a limited understanding of God’s love for His elect and that there is also some limited semblance of this love in our own lives.  However, we need to be growing in both the understanding and practice of this type of love.  Although we will never love exactly the same as God does, we should try to do better than we do now.  I pray that we may all see growth in this area.

Let me know what you think about this...and add some areas for me to work on...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Review of God's Wisdom in Proverbs, by Dan Phillips

GWIPI know that I have been posting chapter reviews of The World-Tilting Gospel, but when I received this book, also by Dan Phillips (who blogs here and here) I started reading it and could not put it down.  It has greatly impacted my life and I plan to go through it with my family soon.  My wife is probably tired of hearing me go on and on about what I have read from it every day and how challenged I have been by really examining my life in light of the truth of wisdom from Proverbs.  So without further ado, let me get to my review and tell you what I have found as I have read and digested what Dan has written in this book.

Obviously, this book is a study of Proverbs.  It is not a verse by verse study, but rather a study of the authorship, structure, language, and major themes of Proverbs.  He has done a great deal of research (as evidenced by his footnotes and bibliography) and puts it all to great use.  He doesn't lean on these resources excessively and makes a point to show where he agrees and disagrees with them on various points.  In fact, one of the main things I appreciate is how Dan goes back to the Biblical basis and pulls from the context of the various verses in order to defend his position instead of merely leaning upon the work of others.  He also masterfully employs many word pictures to bring to mind manifestations of both wisdom and folly and the different concepts that Solomon presents to the reader in Proverbs.

Speaking of Solomon, Dan makes a point to establish the authorship of Solomon for all of Proverbs, except for the last two chapters (where each chapter states the original source for itself).  He also provides us with background information about Solomon and the source of his wisdom, which is important to keep in mind since Proverbs is a book about wisdom. 

He then takes the time to explain the structure of the book (a seemingly difficult task) and to develop some of the intricacies of Hebrew poetry.  Here we gain some valuable insight into how we need to look at the Proverbs and read them.  I had never been exposed to any teaching about Hebrew poetry, so I have found this particularly helpful for my own study in the book of Proverbs.  Dan also makes the important point that "Proverbs by design lays out pointed observations, meant to be memorized and pondered, not always intended to be applied 'across the board' to every situation without qualification."  He also explains the major types of proverbs, which will help you in examining the proverbs and how each line builds upon the other.

So now that Dan has detailed the structure of Hebrew poetry for us and shown us some examples of the types of proverbs, he takes us through Proverbs 1:2-6 to show us what the self-claimed purpose of the book of wisdom is.  It is at this point where Dan really starts to break down the Hebrew language and gets us to examine exactly why and how we should be reading Proverbs.  He lists out the benefits and shows how the text goes beyond us just learning what is wise and foolish, but moving into practicing it.  His development of this point is crucial to how we grow in the fear of Yahweh.  He also shows how Proverbs clearly shows that believers of all levels of maturity can gain from the reading and application of Proverbs.  So no matter who you are, you should continually be looking to this book of wisdom for guidance and spiritual growth.

We are then taken to the bedrock of the book of Proverbs, and really the Christian life...Proverbs 1:7 - "The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of knowledge; Wisdom and discipline, dense people belittle." (this is Dan's translation, which he calls the DJP)  Dan goes to great length to explain what exactly the fear of Yahweh is and isn't so that we aren't confused by some of the misconceptions out there.  He also makes sure to let us know that "'fear of Yahweh' is where we must start, if we are ever to hope to gain wisdom and understanding" and that "The idea is more that of a foundation".  We don't just start and leave it behind, but we build upon it continually. 

After developing what the fear of Yahweh is, Dan shows us what the fear of Yahweh brings, as explained in the book of Proverbs.  These types of sections really make this an invaluable resource because Dan takes the time to search Proverbs and show the verses where we are shown what the fear of Yahweh brings to us.  And he follows that up by searching Proverbs to show us different verses showing what the opposites of the fear of Yahweh are.  So not only do we know what we need to look for, but we know what to avoid!

Dan then takes some time to explain just how it is we are to seek and to find the treasure of wisdom.  There is much here that we all need to pay attention to so that we don't miss out on wisdom.  He also delves into how it is that we are supposed to relate to God.  There is a good bit of explanation of what exactly it means to trust God and this is an area that is key for Christianity in our day and age.  I say that because it seems there are many misconceptions of what this means and how it really works.  Dan does a great job here of showing us the truth.

In the last three chapters of the book, Dan moves into the application of Proverbs with regards to our relationships with others.  The first regards godly relationships in general and contains a lot of good thoughts for all of us to keep in mind as we look for close friends.  The second deals with godly marriage and I can't imagine any married person who would not be greatly challenged (in a great way) by this chapter.  And the last chapter covers godly parenting...once again, who does not need to improve in this area?  He is faithful to Scripture in each of these chapters and I have found myself examining how I can improve in each of these areas since reading through them.  In fact, by the grace of God, I have seen improvement and have been encouraged to increase in wisdom by acting upon the teaching of Scripture that Dan has developed here.  These three chapters alone would make this a must-buy for any Christian!

Dan tops it off by explaining that Proverbs should point to the fact that we have all fallen short and that we all must count on Christ's perfect work.  I am glad that he brought it back around to the Gospel because both unbelievers and believers alike need to keep this in mind.  What a wonderful Savior we have and how thankful I am every day that He chose to save a sinner like me.

From there, we move into the appendices, where Dan takes on a few topics from the text in a bit more depth.  The first one covers the authorship of Proverbs.  I never knew that there were so many people who argued that there were other authors of the first 29 chapters of Proverbs, but Dan lays out the arguments and the commentators who put them forth for us to see.  Then he goes to quick work in refuting them.  I must say that he left me quite unimpressed with the arguments against Solomon's authorship.

In the second appendix, Dan breaks down the usage and meaning of the key words from Proverbs.  Dan does a great job of bringing out the true meaning from the original Hebrew text and breaking  it down to the level where a layman can easily follow.  He says that this appendix is mainly for the student of Hebrew, but I've never studied it and I found this section quite helpful and informative.

He moves from there to the meaning of Proverbs 22:6 and I would highly recommend that everybody read this appendix and take it to heart.  I must say that I feel that the English translations get this one wrong and I am quite thankful that Dan has taken the time to set the record straight.

And he finishes the book with the last appendix on teaching and preaching through the book of Proverbs.  I hope that many a pastor/teacher read this and decide to teach through the book.  It is certainly not covered in most churches and I would say that is to our detriment.  I have personally seen a much more determined effort in my own life since I have read this book and really gotten more depth from my study of Proverbs.  My hope and prayer is that many will read this book and see the same in their own lives.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Chapter 3 of The World-Tilting Gospel, by Dan Phillips

So now that Dan has shown us how Adam sinned and died spiritually, we need to look at how this affects us in the here and now.  After all, that was his isn't ours, right?  Dan points out how Scripture shows that in Genesis 5:3, we see that Adam had a son "in his own likeness, after his image."  In reading further, we can see the difference between Adam's image after the fall (Dan also shows how this term is not nearly strong enough) and God's image (remember that God created Adam in His image).  We also see that following down that line throughout early history (early meaning we look at Genesis 4), things got progressively worse.

This brings us to Dan's discussion of the meaning of sin.  He has shown some of its effects (a lot of death for sure - and Dan went through defining death in the last chapter), but we need to get a grasp on what sin itself is.  I think he does a great job of showing us that we must define sin by looking at the perfect standard of God in order to get a true meaning.  That means we have to look at God and then ourselves, not others.  He then takes us back to Scripture to answer the question "How far does it go?" with regards to the "natural addiction to lawlessness passed on through his (Adam's) children".  And the picture painted isn't very pretty. 

Dan walks us through the history of the Old Testament to show us that all of mankind is stained with sin.  Sadly, as Dan notes, "It is sometimes said that the notion of 'original sin' or 'total depravity' (i.e., that every part of us is warped by sin) was either invented by the apostle Paul, or was made up later by Christian theologians."  Dan shows how the Bible itself backs up the concepts of original sin and total depravity way back in the Old Testament.  He pulls from much of Old Testament Scripture to show that there is not one single good person...that not one person can say they've cleansed themselves from sin and has a pure heart.  This is seen in the lives of all the people that are thought of as great men of God in the Old Testament.

And then Dan references what I consider the strongest portion of Scripture regarding just how stained by sin all of mankind is...Isaiah 64:6: "We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.  We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away."  This verse doesn't talk about our sins, but our righteous deeds.  As Dan points out, "deeds done in religious service are tainted with self-love, self-seeking, self-worship."  He also gets to the depth of our sin by showing the true meaning of "a polluted garment" in the original Hebrew text.  I'm sure many of you know it already, but for those of you who don't, it isn't pretty.  That is another detail I will leave for you to read in the book.

So now that Dan has demonstrated that the Old Testament teaches of our depravity, he moves on to the New Testament.  Before even getting into the epistles, Dan reminds us that Jesus Himself affirmed the truthfulness and authority of the Old Testament.  Jesus says that we must repent and Dan shows that this indicates "a change of mind so fundamental, so root-to-branch, that the life changes as a consequence."  He then lays out the following as what is not "the premise of such a command":
  • Jesus wouldn't say this if we were right with God
  • Jesus wouldn't say this if we were OK and just needed to do more or do better
  • Jesus wouldn't say this if we just needed to fix a thing or two
Dan's humor shines a bit here and once again, I have left the details for you to read for yourself.  I have also left out the fundamental premise that Dan lays out for us.  Which I say is what every sinner must come to grips with before being saved.  I'm not saying they have to say the exact same words, but that the thought he describes will resonate with a person upon being quickened...or even upon rejection of the truth because somebody just doesn't want to deal with the implications of that thought.  Dan lays out part of those implications from the very words of Jesus regarding how man is defiled.

So now that we have seen how nasty and sinful we are, how do we deal with that?  Dan moves on to show us that "Jesus gives two extreme prescriptions, for what we need in the face of His teaching."  The first of which is "the cross".  There are many wrong ideas of what this involves, but Dan does a good job of explaining what it really means to carry our cross daily.  The second prescription is "new birth".  Dan also does a good job of explaining this from Scripture so that we have a good understanding of what it means to be born again.

We are then taken from the words of Jesus to the words of Peter.  And we shouldn't be surprised that Peter, like Jesus, said the people needed to repent.  This was his message at Pentecost, and it was also what he affirms in 1 Peter.  Dan also demonstrates that "Paul also confirmed and developed the teaching of Jesus".  He takes us to Romans, where Paul demonstrates that we are all guilty, that there is no good person seeking after God, and "sin came to hold us all in its vice-like grip".  Dan then takes us through Paul's comparison between Jesus and Adam and shows that Paul shows that Jesus is "head of a new subset of humanity" and "what He did affects all of those whom He represents."  He also lays out Paul's description of man's condition from Ephesians 2 and gives us some humorous concepts of what Paul does not say about us...concepts that (sadly) many seem to hold as being true.  He also goes through his own personal dealings with the "illusory" thoughts that he had about death and relates that to how many Christians have illusory thoughts about the concept of their spiritual state.  Again, he inserts a bit of humor to really give us an idea of how out of line we are with reality before salvation.  And he shows how Paul is in line with the same ideas that we saw in the Old Testament with regards to the sinful state of man.

So Dan has laid out the bad news for us.  He summarizes by laying out a few bullet points showing how "we have seen ourselves as God sees us".  He walks us through a summary of these first three chapters, which make up Part One of the book, and tells us that "We must deal with the fact: The Gospel is offensive to human pride.  If what we preach as "Gospel" is not offensive, we're doing it wrong."  This is important to keep in mind because, as Dan states, "the only Gospel that saves is the Gospel that offends."  He ends the chapter, and Part One, by saying "It is time we understood that offensive, saving Gospel."  And he does so in Part Two (Chapters 4-6).

Before closing out this chapter review, I want to say that I can not understate how well Dan uses word pictures and humor in this book.  He really brings to life the thoughts and concepts that he is trying to explain from the Bible.  And it is so readable that I can't think of anybody who would not be able to read through it easily.  I can't overstate how sorely this book is needed in the post-Christian culture today...I hope that it finds its way into many, many hands. 

Thanks for writing this book, Dan...I know that God is working through your efforts to spread the "offensive, saving Gospel".

Monday, October 10, 2011

Chapter 2 of The World-Tilting Gospel, by Dan Phillips

So now that we've seen some examples of bad or incorrect worldviews, Dan takes us back to the very beginning in Chapter 2.  "To assemble a worldview based on God's truth rather than the world's lies or our hearts' self-serving deceptions, we must begin at the beginning - as in, 'In the beginning.'"  We see that the first three chapters of Scripture "convey an intense concentration of foundational revelation that is breathtaking in its depth and scope.  It is here that we first encounter the truth of God, His nature, His word, His creation, and His plan for all the ages."  Sounds like pretty important stuff, huh?  I can't stress how important this is to understanding the truth of Who God is and who we are.  So many people have done damage to proper theology by not looking at Genesis 1-3 as being literal history and trying to say it is allegory.  As Dan states, if we get these verses "fundamentally wrong...we get everything else wrong." (emphasis mine)  He sets out to hit these three highlights from these three chapters:
  1. Man's preparation
  2. Man's probation
  3. Man's prostration
First, we have to understand why it is that God put us here.  As we read through the first chapter of Genesis, we see God building upon His creation day by day and the days have parallels that the text of this book works through.  Dan brings out the details of these parallels in order to work up to the "crowning act of creation", and then shows the importance of the creation of man in God's image.  We also see that God tells Adam and Eve to multiply and fill the earth and subdue it...God gives them dominion over all of the life on the earth as well.  And God has prepared man to follow God's command...all they have to do is obey.

That brings us to man's probation.  We've seen what God has told man to do - "Multiply, subdue, chow down."  And he could eat from any tree in the garden except for one.  Dan paints a picture of how good this fruit must have been because there were none of the after-effects of chemicals, no rotting, and I'm thinking that they were no throw-aways.  As for the one tree not to be eaten from, there have been many speculations as to what this tree was and Dan lays waste to a couple of popular ones.  Regardless of what the fruit itself was, it is true that eating of this tree is rebellion and "the tree represented autonomy, the illusion of self-rule."  The point is made that we will never really know what would have happened if Adam and Eve (and all of us) had chosen to listen to God.

And who do they (and we) decide to listen to instead?  The serpent!  We all know the conversation here, but Dan draws out a point from the original language that English just doesn't show us.  I'd tell you, but I want you to read the book and find out for yourself.  Needless to say, the Serpent knew the weak spot to go after and didn't face much resistance in his efforts.  Satan says God wasn't telling the truth and that man could be like God if they ate from the tree.  Dan makes a good point of how people tell this lie today in the following ways:
  • You aren't realizing your potential
  • You aren't fully actualized
  • You aren't authentic
  • You aren't having your best life now
  • You are trapped by legalistic myths about God
  • You should fulfill your destiny
Any of this sound familiar?  This is one of the reasons that I am glad Dan wrote this book...he takes on all of these types of sentiments and takes them back to their origin.  Too many people are unwilling to take a strong enough stand against the false teachers in the world today and so many are being led astray.  And they are facing the same punishment that God told Adam and Eve they would face for eating from the forbidden tree - eternal death.  Dan also takes the time to deal with the objections that it is not fair for God to mete out this punishment to us when we didn't choose Adam and Eve to represent us and we didn't get the chance to make the decision.  And I can't think of a better argument than he puts forth here.  So we see that man has disobeyed God and now is facing the punishment that God had already promised.

So man is supposed to die, right?  Then why are Adam and Eve still breathing?  What gives?  Well, it all depends on what is meant by dying.  The Bible speaks of both spiritual and physical life and death.  Dan pulls from Scripture and adds more depth to the definitions and helps us to see that Adam and Even did dies the moment they ate that fruit, but it just isn't the same picture of death that most of us have.  When you look at the spiritual ramifications, it is pretty grim.  Look at how Adam reacted when God appears in the garden...he hides from God...which is quite silly when you really think about it - you can't be hidden from God.  This is Adam's Creator, with Whom he had enjoyed fellowship and from Whom he received dominion over the rest of the world.  Also, Dan shows that offending God has become acceptable in the eyes of man and then lists the following implications (but in much better detail):
  • God no longer rules man
  • God's glory is not central, but self-preservation
  • Man's perception of God is inadequate
  • Man is evasive about sin
  • Adam blames God
So we see how man reacted...and then we see God's reaction in His response.  Amazingly, He shows grace and promises that He "will send a second Man, a las Adam, to win out where they so miserably failed."  God also lays out the curses on man and the earth for this sin and Adam and Eve are left to deal with the consequences, which we still face today. 

So we now see the wonder of creation and "have learned what the world does not know: what it means to be human."  We can also see how everything went wrong and how far man fell in that short instant of time.  So what about us?  How does this all affect us thousands of years later.  As Dan suggests, "Read on."

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Chapter 1 of The World-Tilting Gospel, by Dan Phillips

In the first chapter, we see that in order to have a "real, dynamic" relationship with God that is "going somewhere", we need to know who God is and who we are.  After putting forth a list of questions about God and another about ourselves, Dan asks the natural questions that come to mind, "But where do we start?  With knowledge of God, or of ourselves?"  And he does well to mention that even John Calvin struggled with this same thing when he states that "Calvin confesses that 'which one precedes and brings forth the other is not easy to discern.'"  Also included is a good excerpt from Institutes of the Christian Religion (which I also highly recommend) that gets a bit deeper into the issue and gets us to really think about how we should evaluate ourselves.  From there, we are taken to the thought of how self-awareness comes to us first and that babies don't really think about the glory of God (Dan adds some good humor here - he makes it really easy to read).  However, the point is made that "while self-awareness comes first in time, surely the knowledge of God comes first in importance."  And also of importance is how we view "ourselves as we stand before God" and that this "is inextricably interwoven with our view of God."  So Dan shows us how it is important to know ourselves and to know God and that we have to have a right view of ourselves before God to really have a right view of God.

Now Dan takes us through some of the "Wrong Answers and the Damage They Cause".  It is sections like these that really make me appreciate this book because Dan really takes on the philosophies of the modern church culture (that really just seep their way in from the world) and shows why they are problematic.  In particular, he covers the following unbiblical worldviews:
  1. God is "the Grand Rubber Stamp in the Sky".  Basically God loves us and wants for us what we want for us.  No talk of being saved from our sinful desires and the punishment from our sinfulness.
  2. Sin has not killed us, but has "disabled", "hurt", and "wounded" us.  The unredeemed sinner "still brings something positive to the equation."  And without the help of the unredeemed sinner, God's work is ineffective. 
  3. Sin has rendered us "spiritually helpless", but we have it in us to bring ourselves to Christ.  Sinners need to empty themselves and become "kind of like a living puppet" because we need to "wait for God to take control".
Dan uses some characters to develop these worldviews and show the implications of such thoughts.  Again, he makes it very easy to read, all the while working through the deep thoughts we need to when we consider differing worldviews.  This is important because we need to be able to see how these don't line up with Scripture and how this affects people with these worldviews.  We also need to be able to counter these worldviews and can not properly do so without working through them as Dan does here.

So now that Dan has laid out these three characters and their worldviews, he makes the point that they all "have something in common with the world.  The world insists that we must 'listen to our hearts'".  He shows what appeals this has to each of the characters and where this thinking directs them.  And then he blows that all apart by stating that "God's view is exactly opposed to the world's - and here starts the tilting."  The clear point is made from the Bible that our hearts can not be trusted and that we can't even know our own hearts (Jeremiah 17:9).  He also shows what the Bible means when it refers to the heart, which is also at odds with worldly thinking.  Dan does a great job of working through the exegesis of Jeremiah 17:9 and adds a couple of good graphics to show what our hearts are biblically and how they have been affected by sin and how "the heart sees what it wants to see...self-diagnosis is hopeless."  He even uses a wonderful (although scary) analogy of self-diagnosis from his own life and how if he had gone by his own diagnosis of his condition, "you'd not be reading this book." (Yikes!)

And to wrap up the chapter, Dan once again makes the point that we need "A Whole-Bible View".  He shows that we need to look at the fact that Jesus used all of Scripture during His ministry and even said that "not the smalles part of it could be nullified."  This is important because a lot of folks like to pretend that we only need to worry about the New Testament.  But Dan makes it clear that "to understand Jesus, we must begin where His thiking begins: not with John 3:16, but with Genesis 1:1, and on through all that follows."  To which I give a hearty amen. 

So Dan will be leading us to look back to the beginning in the next chapter so that we can see how everything started and how we got to where we are today.  I hope that you are all encouraged to read along through the book.  I'm trying to put just enough there to get you interested in the text because Dan did a wonderful job of putting together a book that is witty and conversational, while still deep and probing deep into ourselves and into Scripture.  It has made me laugh, think, and examine myself to see where my world needs some tilting.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Preface/Intro to The World-Tilting Gospel, by Dan Phillips

I am reading a wonderful book by blogger Dan Phillips (see his blog here) (also team-blogger here) and wanted to share my thoughts on it in hopes that others may read the book and pass it along or suggest it to others.  I originally intended to put all my thoughts together and write one review for the whole book, but I've been taking so many notes that I thought it might be best to just review sections of the book at a time.  The book is titled The World-Tilting Gospel, and in it Dan takes aim at the problems that exist in "today's church scene".  This is a book that I feel is long overdue to give some perspective from a biblical worldview and counter much of the pop culture stream of thought that is present in churches today.  So without further ado, let me get into reviewing the preface and introduction.

The preface starts with a mention of the inspiration for the book coming from a message that David Wells delivered at the Founder's Conference in June of 2007.  Wells basically made the point that God has laid out the truth in the Bible and that the biblical worldview "is the way God has taught us in his Word to view the world."  From there, Dan gets to the heart of the problem in the modern evangelical scene when he says, "Folks have signed on without any real grasp of the gospel in all its fullness and power."  He says that people see the gospel as the "ticket 'in'" and as "beginner's material".  We basically take that initial step and get our way in and "move on to something else."  I wholeheartedly agree with this assessment and really appreciate how he lays everything out here from the get-go.  In fact, reading the preface just made me want to tear right on through the book, but at a pace where I could really enjoy every little bit.  He even lays out an outline in bullet points in the preface to show the issues that he is going to cover in the book. These are things like who we are, who God is, what kind of world we live in...things that most people don't really understand, but that I believe all true Christians should have a good knowledge of.  So he has given us a good idea of what to expect as we slip through the pages...have your Bibles handy as you read, though, because Dan does a great job of referencing the Bible as he lays out the truths of the Gospel.

As he moves into the introduction, Dan lays out some key contrasts between the church scene today and the New Testament times.  In order to do so, he takes us back to Thessalonica in Acts 17 when Jason and some of his friends were dragged off in front of the city officials.  The charge against him was that he took in some people who "turned the world upside down".   Dan asks the question, "How did they do it?" and then lays out the contrasts for us to see.  They didn't have all of the tools that the church-growth movement utilizes, yet they were highly effective in their work.  So let's look at some of the areas of difference that Dan lays out:
  • The source of material for preaching
  • Why people became Christians
  • Knowledge of sin, what is needed, and what God has done.
  • The biblical worldview involved with the church 
  • The connection between obedience and belief
  • Making Jesus the issue
We then read of the barriers that exist as Dan lays out a section titled "Barrier Busting".  He makes a good point that "many people who regard themselves as Christians are utterly clueless about the most fundamental truths.  They don't understand what God says about the human condition."  The text also lays out some of the main problems that arise from the bad teaching that exists in today's church scene and makes the point that the Gospel truly does bring good news to people who have been adversely affected by bad teaching.  As we read further, we see that we need "A Whole-Bible Gospel" and not the empty calories that the modern church-growth movement offers.  Dan lays out the four parts of his presentation and the "crescendo" that he has titled "Culmination: Putting It All Together".  He gives a few notes for how to approach reading the book and recommends a few preparations (I would follow them so that you can be fully enriched by the reading of the book).

I will say that I have read through to the middle of the second part (I'm in Chapter 5) and going back and reading these notes from the Preface/Introduction and typing this have made me appreciate the book a bit more.  I like they way it is laid out and how Dan takes the time to lay the foundation and build carefully upon it each step of the way.  And as he does so, he keeps you interested as he develops ideas from Scripture and throws in some good humor along the way.  I highly recommend the book just based upon reading about half of it so fact, I'd say it would be a great book for nominal and immature Christians to get them thinking about what the Bible really says it means to be a Christian.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

God's Sovereignty on Display in Acts 12 - And in Our Lives

As I was reading through the middle of Acts last week, I got to Acts 12 and the account of Peter's arrest and deliverance from prison by an angel.  As we start reading in Chapter 12, we notice that "Herod the king laid hands on some who belonged to the church in order to mistreat them.  And he had James the brother of John put to death with a sword." (v. 1-2)  Herod Agrippa I was looking to gain favor with the Jews and these actions would have greatly pleased the Jewish community.  Seeing the results, he doubles down and arrests Peter as well.  We see, though, that "it was during the days of Unleavened Bread." (v.3)  So this is done during the holy days just after the Passover.  Thus, Herod decides he will keep Peter locked up until after all of the obervations of Passover and the Unleavened Bread are complete (v.4).  This allow time for the church to pray fervently for Peter (v.5) and God answers that prayer in magnificent fashion, delivering Peter on the very night that Herod intended to bring him out and kill him before the Jews (v.6-11).  After the iron city gate mysteriously opens by itself (this is the gate to keep bad people out!), Peter goes to a house where the believers are praying for him and they don't believe it is him at first...but eventually they let him in and he has to calm them down so they don't cause any commotion and bring attention to themselves (v. 12-17).  Clearly we see that God worked to deliver Peter from prison and display His glory.  I'm sure that most of you have read this story before...I have read it many times and have enjoyed it greatly...but when I read it this time, something stood out.

Maybe many of you have already made note of this, but the thing that really stood out in my mind was that this all happened during the time of Passover/Unleavened Bread.  Herod was no stranger to the religious activites of the Jews and surely understood the importance of this observance.  Just back in the gospel accounts, we read that the Jewish leaders did not want to kill Jesus during the Passover observance and also saw that they had to have the bodies removed before the Sabbath when they did crucify Him.  I personally believe that this is a wonderful demonstration of the sovereignty of God because I don't think Herod really wanted to wait to kill Peter...he surely didn't seem to hesitate in killing James.  And while God could have delivered Peter even if Harod had acted more quickly, this extra time allowed for the saints in the city to pray for Peter's release and see how God works to answer faithful prayer.  Surely these saints would have been bolstered to pray more fervently and know that God hears them when they saw God act in this instance. 

When I mentioned this to my sweet and wonderful wife, she reminded me of how often we overlook how God works everything out for the good of His elect.  The drought we're enduring here in Texas...He's working that out for my good and the good of other believers here.  All of the ungodly laws and the worldly society that we see around us today...God is working out all of that for our good.  The love we feel from our families every day when we wake up with them, come home to them, and go to bed...He works all of that out for our good.  First and foremost for His glory, but also for our good.  And it is all wrapped up in His holiness, which humbles me because I get to enjoy His holiness while still dealing with my sin. 

So let me encourage all of you to see God's sovereignty in everything.  Every time you read the Bible, look for it because it is there.  Just the fact that we are reading His Word and being edified by it shows His sovereignty in our lives.  Enjoy and relish the opportunity to realize and live in His holiness and glory on display...I guarantee it will bring you joy every day.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Loving Others As We Love Ourselves

I'm sure that you've heard people often talk about The Golden Rule - "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."  This comes from Luke 6:31, where Jesus said "Treat others the same way you want them to treat you." (NASB)  Of course, Jesus takes this even further when he says that the second great commandment is "'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Matthew 22:39, Mark 12:31...He also confirmed this in Luke 10:27-28)  And then He takes it even further when He says, "'This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.'" (John 15:12)  So I think it is pretty clear that we're supposed to love others just as much as we love ourselves and then we need to love other Christians in the same way that Christ loves us.  Of course, it is hard to say who is a Christian and who isn't, so a lot of discernment is required with that part.  Now, I am guessing that no Christian really has a problem with the concept of this type of love, but I'd say that the application part is pretty difficult (at least for me it is).  So what is it that keeps us from being able to love others as we love ourselves and how can we do a better job at it? 

I propose that the following would be a good start:
  • Focus on Jesus
  • Examine ourselves
  • Confess and repent
  • Focus on others
  • Serve
  • Pray and read Scripture
I am not suggesting that this is a complete list by any means, but I think that if we work through these as a cycle, we'll find that loving others will become more natural.  I've certainly found that to be true for me whenever I follow these steps.  So let's take a closer look and see what this looks like.

First, we need to focus on Jesus.  He is the perfect One and before we can really do a thorough self-examination, we need to look at the standard that we are measured against.  Jesus is God.  I mention this because to really understand how He loves us we need to think about the fact that He is self-existent.  That means that He has always been and does not depend upon anything or anyone for anything.  So He doesn't need anything from us...He made us, so how could He need anything from us?  Also, we need to think about the fact that He was worshipped in heaven by angels for thousands of years before He humbled Himself and became a baby, grew up to a full age without ever commiting a sin (even in thought), and then took on the wrath of God in our place so that our sins might be forgiven.  Our sovereign Lord experienced all of the following in order to serve us: exhaustion, hunger, thirst, pain, being spat upon, being ridiculed, beaten with a staff, scourged, crucified.  He even made a point of washing the disciples feet (the dirtiest, lowliest job in those times) before the Last Supper in order to provide an example of how they should serve each other and others.  I can't stress enough how we need to wrap our heads around the fact that Jesus created us...He rules over us...He sustains us.  So do you have all that in your mind?  Now keep all of that in your mind and then think about how He became one of us in every way except for our sin nature and how He endured so much derision and persecution (unto death) at the hands of those He created, rules over, and sustains.  I don't think that we have any better picture of what true love is than this.  Once we have this in mind, we have a solid foundation to build upon.

That foundation will do us no good, however, if we do not examine ourselves in light of the true love that Jesus shows towards us.  We can easily recognize that Jesus' love is amazing and wonderful. However, if we just take that and try to run with it without examining ourselves in light of Who Jesus is, we're going to find it quite difficult to reflect that kind of love towards others.  That is because we are sinful.  Sin is what separates man from God and we have to recognize that before we can accept that Jesus indeed did die for us on the cross.  This is the beauty of the Gospel...we have sinned against God and He came and paid the penalty for us so that we can be redeemed and spend eternity with Him.  There is no other way.  That sin nature we have doesn't go away when we're saved, either.  And so we still need to examine ourselves after being saved so that we can put off the old and put on the new (as Paul said in Ephesians 4).  If we don't do this, then it is likely that we'll be hindered (by our sin) from being able to love others as we love ourselves and as Jesus loved us.  Think about it...let's say that I'm having some problems with pride.  How hard is it going to be for me to serve another sinner with this type of love?  Won't my natural tendency be to look down upon their sin and feed my pride?  Similar problems could arise if I have problems with gossip, lust, jealousy, etc.  Any type of sin will take the focus off of loving others and bring it back to loving ourselves.  So we need to examine ourselves and also ask God to examine our hearts and point out areas where sin is causing probems for us before we can move forward towards loveing others as ourselves.

And to move forward from there, we then need to confess and repent of our sin.  Just identifying the sin won't do anything for us.  If I notice that I have to keep replacing the brake pads on my car because I tailgate and slam on my brakes, that is just one step towards fixing the problem.  If I don't stop tailgating and slamming on the brakes, do you think I've really made any progress?  No, because while I have identified the problem, I haven't dealt with it.  And I don't think that many people would sympathize with me about my problems with brake pads in this case.  Strangely though, many Christians like to talk about how hard it is to turn away from certain sins and sympathize with one another instead of encouraging one another to do so.  Don't get me wrong...we should share in each other's sorrows and not be walking around looking down at each other.  We do need to be mortifying our own sins and trying to build each other up to do so in their own lives as well, though.  In fact, I've found that God usually puts us in places to help others who are struggling with sins that we have had to repent of and mortify in our own lives so that we can help and encourage them to do so.  I mention this because that might mean that there are those that we are in contact with that can help and encourage us to repent of and mortify the particular sins we are struggling with.  And let's face it, we can use all the help that God provides us with to help us repent of our sins.

And once we have repented of our own sinfulness, it is so much easier to love ourselves in the same way that we love ourselves.  This is especially true when we realize that we love ourselves in spite of all the filthiness of the sin in our own hearts.  I mean, who sees our sin any more closely than we do?  And once we see that Jesus has forgiven us of all that filthiness, it makes it a whole lot easier to look at others and see the love of Jesus in their lives.  We should be looking at other people and seeing the grace of God working in their lives.  And we need to take the time to tell them that we see God working through them.  The more that we take the time to identify how God is working through others and tell them that we see it, the more this will become habitual for us.  We will just start looking at others and loving them instead of always looking to judge them.  (A brief side note: We must not forget that part of this love does involve correction when it is necessary, but it is correction from a fellow Christian trying to help and not looking down at others.  We can't fall into the trap of the love of the world that is more than happy to let people live in sin for the sake of "comfort".  This is really no more than self-love in that it prevents a person from having to deal with the reactions of friends who might be offended by the truth.)  And when we are reflecting the love of God towards others that enables us to be effective in ministering to each other.

Which leads us into serving.  We are each given a set of spiritual gifts when we are saved.  And the purpose of these gifts is to build each other up by serving one another.  We should be looking for ways that we are capable of serving others and to use the gifts which God has provided us with in order to serve.  That could range from bringing people to church who need a ride to cooking meals for people who are in need or who are sick to teaching children or adults in the church.  It might involve doing some work on the churc or helping do some work on other people's homes.  Maybe you can help to biblically counsel (with proper training) people at your church.  Older women are supposed to help teach the younger women about Christian living as a woman (Titus 2).  You can be a greeter, sing, play instruments, help clean up the church after services, or maybe just hold open the doors for others.  And we should all be welcoming to people as they visit church or a Bible study (just think about how you feel as the new person in any group).  These are all ways that we can serve and reflect the love of Jesus towards others.  Remember that He said that He came to serve and not to be served...and He is the standard that we are supposed to measure ourselves against.

Which brings me to my last point in how we can go about loving others as we do ourselves...reading Scripture and praying.  Now I know a lot of people will jump on me for putting this last on the list.  And I can't say that I'd blame anybody for doing so.  The reason I did, though, is because this will lead back into the beginning of the cycle of these steps and I think that is most important.  We need to be continually doing all of these things so that we don't wind up in the ditches on either side.  In fact, I'd suggest that we can't really focus on Jesus without prayerfully reading Scripture and meditating upon what we have read.  And the reason that we need to come back to this is because we are continually being perfected.  We can only do this by reading Scripture to get a better understanding of what God says through the Bible and how to apply it.  We need to be getting a better understanding of Jesus and examining ourselves for areas of sin to confess and repent of.  And then we can be equipped to love and serve others better and better over the course of our lives.  We can not do any of this by our own power, though, and that is why we must pray.  We need to pray and meditate upon what we read so that the Holy Spirit will interpret Scripture and equip us to apply it properly. 

I hope that we are all encouraged to do these things and to love one another as we do ourselves.  As we look to Jesus and see how great He is we will also see how short we fall.  Yet the beauty of the Gospel is that Jesus has already paid the price for our sins.  Once we see these sins, we need to confess them and repent of them so that we can look at how God is working in the lives of those around us instead of becoming self-righteous.  This will help us to  reflect the love of God towards others and serve them better.  And we need to be coming back to Scripture to renew our minds and help us focus again on the work of Jesus.  May God break us of our pride and help us to love and serve one another the way that Jesus has shown us his love and service.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Double Talk from Abortion Groups and Politicians

So, I saw this article this morning and thought to myself, "Hmmm, that's interesting.  The same people who don't want Planned Parenthood centers to be referred to as just abortion clinics wants pregnancy centers, specifically Christian ones, 'to make clear that the center does not perform abortions or make referrals for them.'" These are the words of Dennis Herrera, a lawyer from San Francisco, in a letter he wrote to the chief executive of a Christian pregnancy center there.  I wonder if he also would require Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers to come clean about their propaganda. 

I remember when the defunding of Planned Parenthood was such a big issue, that everybody was putting forth messages like this, where people are making all of these grand claims about how Planned Parenthood provides all of these great medical services for people.  They didn't really want to talk much about abortion, though.  And I'm sure that they don't want to get into talking about how much money they make from abortions and how that really levels out the precentages of the services they offer.  Here is a good article that outlines a bit of the truth behind the numbers.

And as for propaganda, I'm sure that the good people at Planned Parenthood explain all of the complications and repercussions of killing the baby inside of the mother.  I'm sure that they show the mothers the sonogram and explain the development and growth of the baby, as explained here.  Oh, yeah...that's right...they don't have to show the sonagram and all of that stuff.  In fact, here are some real stories about some women's experiences with Planned Parenthood.  Sounds like they give full disclosure to the women before they come in for services, doesn't it.

I wish that the people initiating this lawsuit would just come clean and say that they don't like that these pregnancy centers are Christian.  That is what this is all about...whether God owns us and makes all of the rules that we are supposed to abide by or we are independent agents with no responsibility to anybody but ourselves.  That is the same question that lies at the heart of abortion to begin with, isn't it?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Receiving/Accepting Jesus?

One of the most common things you might hear from people who claim the name of Christ is that they have received or accepted Jesus into their hearts.  Or you might hear people trying to evangelize by asking people to do so.  And while I think it is important that we must come to terms with Who Jesus is and we must acept Him for Who He is, I feel like saying what Inigo Montoya does here when I hear most people say this.  I'd say that many people who say they have received Jesus mean it in this sense.  And that type of thing is utter nonsense...I mean, the world has taken notice of that performance and it was even parodied on Glee.  I'd offer that if people think that Jesus just wants to be our friend and just wants a lot more friends, then they really don't accept Jesus for Who He least not from what I read in the Bible.  This puts more of an emphasis on how we Christians portray and defend the name of Jesus.  I can't lay out every way that this needs to and should be done, but I'd like to suggest three things that we need to do: 1) show Christ has changed our lives, 2) present the Gospel to people, and 3) defend the name of Jesus by confronting false notions of what it means to be a Christian.

The most important thing that Christians need to do is show fruit of bearing repentance of our sins.  Look, when the Holy Spirit regenerates a heart, it means that He creates a new heart with new desires.  That doesn't mean we don't still struggle with sinful desires of the flesh, but we should be working through the power of the Holy Spirit to mortify our sin.  If people can't look at our lives and see a difference between us and the world, then what are we telling them that it means to know Jesus and follow Him?  I don't want to sound legalistic, but we need to take an inventory of the things that we are participating in and see what kind of witness we are providing to both believers and unbelievers alike.  And let's remember that Scripture calls us to not love the world (1 John 2:15-17) or be friends with the world (James 4:4).  Let's be clear is not that we do not love the lost, but rather that we do not love the worldly system and the things of the world.  Jesus said that we must even deny ourselves before we can follow Him...and when you look at what the original text means, He is saying that we need to have nothing to do with our former selves.  As Paul writes in Ephesians 4:20-24, we are to lay aside the old self and put on the new self.  In fact if you read starting in verse 17 and go through to verse 32, you can get a sense of the difference between the old man and the new man.  There are many other passages about Christian living throughout the New Testament and we need to be reading and applying them more and more every day.  This is what we need to be doing in our own lives in order to really show Who Jesus is and how He has changed our lives.  And this will only serve to make us more effective when we actually go to tell others about Jesus.

Which brings us to the next area in which we can make a clear presentation of Who Jesus really is...presenting the Gospel to people.  A lot of people might say, "Well, duh", to this, but we can clearly see that many people who claim the name of Christ really don't know what the Gospel is.  A lot of people have been told to pray a prayer and receive Jesus into their hearts or receive Him as their Lord and Savior.  The problem is that nobody took the time to tell them what they needed to be saved from and what His Lordship entails.  Somebody might have made them think of how something was missing in their life or that they don't feel like things are going the right direction for them.  Both of these statments are true, but they don't get to the heart of the problem.  The problem is that man was created perfect by God, Who is perfect and holy...there is no sin in God and He created man to glorify Him and allowed man to live in communion with Him.  However, man sinned and we all carry this sin with us.  This sin separates us from God and because He is just and righteous, He must punish that sin.  And the punishment, just as He told Adam and Eve, is death.  Not just death in our human bodies, but an eternal death in the resurrected bodies that will last forever.  However, God has provided a way for us to be forgiven of our sins and accepted into His presence forever.  Jesus came down from Heaven, where He had been worshipped by angels since they were created, was born as a man and lived a perfect life (in thought and deed) even though He was tempted in every way that all mankind has ever been (and to an even greater degree).  Then He took on the wrath of both man and God and took the punishment that we deserve (and have earned) on the cross because only He could pay the price for us.  And in order to be brought back into a right relationship with God, we must put all of our faith in Jesus and His work to save us (not our works) and repent of our sins.  Repenting means that we must turn back from our sins and turn to God and follow Him.  This means that our lives will undergo some drastic changes.  Some people change quicker than others, but all Christians will bear the fruits of repentance.  This is the true Gospel that we need to be presenting to all people.  We need to stop assuming that people who claim the name of Christ have actually heard the Gospel.  And we need to also make sure that we never present some watered-down version that doesn't show how bad our sin is because then we are showing a fear of man instead of fear of the LORD.  Look at how the Apostles presented the Gospel in Acts.  Peter didn't hesitate to tell the people that the Messiah had come and that they killed Him.  Then he told them to repent and be baptized and many thousands were saved.  Who are we to present the Gospel in any other fashion?  There are many who will, but we don't need to follow them.

Instead, we need to defend the name of Jesus against such people.  There are some who will say that God loves you for who you are.  The problem with that is that we are sinful and God hates sin.  We should not let people go on believing that God loves us for our sinful ways...the truth is that God loves us in spite of who we are.  Then there are others who will say that God is love and thus, He can not punish good people in Hell forever.  The problem with that is, as we stated earlier, God is just and righteous and can not leave sin unpunished.  What would you think of a judge who let a murderer walk free because he was so loving that he couldn't bear to punish the convicted murderer?  This "god of love" is merely an idol that people have made up in their own minds do that they can cling to their sins.  There are still others who say that you can accept Jesus as Savior, but you don't have to accept Him as Lord.  In other words, you can put your faith in Jesus without changing your life to turn away from sin.  I don't see how that makes any sense, especially in light of what Jesus Himself said in Matthew 16:24-26.  How can we try to hang onto our sinful lifestyles and still follow Him?  It just doesn't work according to Jesus.  We have to lose our lives for His sake...we have to deny ourselves...and only then can we follow Him.  If we are unwilling to defend the truth against these types of false teaching, then I would say we are failing to show love to those who are following the false teachers.  In fact, we're really just loving ourselves and protecting ourselves from having people dislike us and/or persecute/ridicule us.  And then we're not sharing in the sufferings of Christ, as Scripture calls us to do.

So, dear Christian, let us please be living in a manner worthy of our calling.  Let us present the true Gospel to people and let God work through us as we do so.  And let us defend the name of Jesus and confront false teaching when we see/hear it.  Then we might really see more people receiving Jesus and accepting Him as He is presented in the Bible.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Biggest Threat for Blacks in America

Here is a good series of clips from The Radiance Foundation.  These highlight how the number one killer of blacks in America is abortion.  And many black political leaders have sold out their communities for a quick buck while promoting the efforts of certain groups to push for elimination of the poor black community.  This may be done under the guise of care for the needs of poor single mothers and such, but if that is really the issue there are much better ways to handle that than killing the babies. 

Here is an interview from NPR where Ryan Bomberger, from the Radiance Foundation, squares off with "Reverend" Carlton Veazey, from the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.  Don't miss the notes that Bomberger has added on screen to show what was edited out of the broadcast...nice to know that NPR really wants to tell us more, right?  It is always seemingly convenient how the mainstream media seems to stage these conversations where the people bringing the truth are always outnumbered (the host here is clearly set against Bomberger) and some of the strongest comments are edited out of the converstaion that is laid out for public viewing.

Here is a video showing some of the details of Mr. Bomberger's life and what I assume led him to be an advocate for the pro-life movement.  It certainly touched my heart to watch this.  And it saddened me to think of how many more Ryan Bomberger's there might be in this country if not for the efforts of groups like Planned Parenthood and the politicians, members of the broadcast media, and even religious leaders who have sold out the black community in order to support them. 

And just for good measure, here is one more video displaying what is lost due to abortion.  We have no idea what the future holds for us and the children of the next generation.  We do have the ability to lead children and teach them what is good and right, though.  And if we do that, the possibilities are endless.  We can't do any of that, though, if the children are murdered before they can take a single step or say a single word.

(h-t Dan Phillips)

Friday, July 8, 2011

Life is Fleeting

Have you ever stopped to consider that your life could end at any moment and that we have absolutely no control over when, where, or how we are going to die?  I think if more of us had an aprpeciation for this it would affect the way that we live each day...especially for Christians.  Of course, there is also the fact that we have no idea when Jesus will return.  People often say "What would you want Jesus to find you doing if He returned today?"  I don't hear much about what would we want to be doing just before we leave this world and go to Heaven, though.  It isn't like God doesn't see what we are doing just because He hasn't returned to the earth. 

The reason I bring this up is that I just heard about a man who died because he was trying to secure a souvenir for his son at a baseball game.  See story here. And here.  I can't imagine how his son, who was sitting next to him at the game, is feeling right now.  I certainly hope that his family is Christian and that they will be relying upon the strength and comfort of God during this time of grief.  That would also at least give a sense of peace in knowing that he is with Jesus now.  Please pray for them during this time of grief. 

I found it quite ironic that the man was a veteran fireman of 18 years...all of that time putting his life on the line to sacrifice for strangers in much more dire circumstances and he died reaching for a baseball for his son.  I have lost my father and I know that there is no real consolation from the circumstances, but for me it is very touching that he died trying to do something special for his son...not that it would be less moving if he died trying to rescue somebody from a fire, but as a father I just found it touching.  And even moreseo when you hear that all he was concerned about after falling was his son...he was asking many times for people to check on him.

I also can not begin to imagine how Josh Hamilton is feeling after all of this.  He claims the name of Christ, so I am hoping that he will count upon the Lord for strength and wisdom in dealing with this.  We need to be praying for him as well.  He has quite a strong testimony, but also needs a lot of prayer to keep him from falling back into some of his old habits and to keep him focused on Jesus.

So, let us keep in mind that our life is like a one moment, gone the next.  We need to stay focused on Jesus and following Him every moment we have in this life.  Shannon Stone spent the last moments of his life trying to put a smile on his son's face and then trying to ensure that he was OK.  Very selfless...and very touching to this father.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Where Do We Turn?

Almost everybody will be impacted by some sort of event that will have the potential to affect the rest of their life...death, terminal illness, war, etc.  The reaction to such an event is what really brings to light what we put our faith in.  I know one event that had a great impact on my own life.  I remember the day of April 23, 2005 very well.  It was a pretty quiet Saturday morning...I was having some serious sinus issues and went downstairs at about 8 and spent several hours on the couch watching ESPN as I coughed and snorted (a rather uneventful morning by all accounts...or so I thought).  It wasn't until about 1 in the afternoon until I figured out that I had left my phone upstairs and I figured I should get it in case somebody needed to get a hold of me.  When I opened it up (old school flip phone), I saw that my mom and my oldest sister had been trying to call me and left me a few messages.  I decided to check the messages mom left two messages and sounded pretty incoherent saying something about my Dad.  My sister left a pretty vague message saying that I needed to come home.  It was at this point that I knew something was wrong.  I had moved to Houston, TX for work and they were in Shreveport, LA, which is about a 4-5 hour drive from where I was it wasn't like I needed to come home for some random reason.  It was then that I called my mom's house and my sister picked up the phone and told me that my father had a heart attack and was dead.

All of this was quite surreal and I can't really explain what all was going through my head and it took a while for it to actually sink in.  I am sure anybody else who has lost a parent can relate to this.  Once it did hit me, though, I knew I had to find some comfort from somewhere.  I called a girl that I had been close to at the time and cried with her most of the drive home, but it didn't really help much.  I talked to family and friends...still nothing really made sense.  I was not saved at the time and being raised Catholic didn't really put an emphasis on Bible reading, so I didn't turn there.  I did listen to some Christian music with a fairly good emphasis on some things I needed to be thinking about, but it didn't  have an immediate effect on me.  The lyrics of one spoke of how the singer had a beautiful letdown in learning how the things of this world weren't for him and that he didn't belong here.  The other spoke about how his life had changed over 24 hours...I could definitely relate to that.  Still, all that did was to tell me that I needed to have a good relationship with God.  There is a lot I could expound upon here about God's providence and Romans 8:28, but I'll leave that for another day.  Right now, my focus is on the difference between how I reacted to tough circumstances then and how I handle them now.

So, let me ask what should be a simple question...where do we Christians turn whenever we are faced with such trying times?  We should be turning to Jesus Christ by reading our Bibles and crying out in prayer.  Yes, our family and fellow believers are of great support to us...both in just being there for us to share our sorrow and for turning us to the assurance that is found in Scripture.  And any mature Christian who is grounded in Scripture will undoubtedly turn to God during the greatest times of trial.

What about for the small  trials, though?  Do we turn to God when we encounter a problem at work?  What about when we're taking on small projects that require a little thought and planning?  Is there anything that is too small for us to take to God?  I guess to answer that I would ask another question - Is there any detail small enough that God isn't involved with it?  Or is God sovereign over all things?  I think we can all agree that God is sovereign over everything or else He isn't God.  So then why should we think that anything that we are concerned with is too small to take to Him for His help?  I think this is arrogant and prideful on our part, but I mjust confess that I do it all the time.  Sometimes, I realize my folly and take time to say a short prayer (especially if I grow frustrated with my own sad attempts) and find that it is quite effective, but I would say that I don't do that nearly enough.  Let us all take the time to pray for God's wisdom in handling everything that we encounter during our lives...even if it seems small enough for us to handle.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Why don't all churches and preachers understand (and teach) the truth of Scripture?

As I look at the world around me, I can not help but to notice that most people don't have a biblical worldview.  Perhaps the most frustrating thing about this is that there are many "churches" that claim to be Christian, yet promote a worldview that is anything but biblical.  Rick Warren thinks we should be working side by side with Muslims to solve various social issues and bring about world peace...although unless the Muslims they are working with are converted to Christianity, the peace they have isn't real.  Joel Osteen says that people can get everything they want if they have enough faith and that will help them have the best life that God wants for them (basically repackaging Schuller's message).  He is basically saying God wants you to have a great life with lots of money and friends and that if you don't have that stuff, your faith just isn't strong enough.  I don't remember that being part of what Jesus and the apostles taught, but I do remember that we are to share in the sufferings of Jesus (1 Peter 4:12-13) and that we are to consider our trials to be a joy (James 1:2).  Then there are those who claim that we can't have a strong conviction of what the Bible actually says because we can't understand it well enough to do so (think Brian McLaren and Rob Bell).  These guys have some of the largest congregations in the country, too, so it isn't like people don't follow them.  And there are many more just like them with sizable congregations.  So why is it that these guys and the people listening to them don't understand Scripture well enough to see the problems with the message they put forth?  The name of the blog gives the short answer that it is by grace alone that any of us understand the Scripture that we do know, but let's dig a little deeper.

Anybody can spend a number of hours studying various portions of Scripture and come up with various ways to apply what is stated there.  And I am going to give these pastors the benefit of the doubt and assume that they have studied Scripture during the week as they have prepared their messages...I feel this might be too generous, but they do use verses from Scripture and any pastor who holds Scripture in correct esteem would spend a good deal of time in Scripture before delivering a sermon.  So what separates these men from mature pastors and Christians around the world who have a correct understanding of Scripture?  Is it that they haven't heard the truth taught before?  Is it because they want to hang on to some lingering sin?  Is it because they feel that the God of the Bible just isn't fair enough?  These may be true, but when you get to the heart of it, all of us have had various reasons for not following God before we were saved.  The real difference between how they understand Scripture and how mature Christians understand Scripture is the Holy Spirit.  We wouldn't understand or apply any of Scripture if it were not for the Holy Spirit opening our eyes to the truth and helping us to apply what we learn.

The reason I bring this up is that it seems that many people take for granted the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christian.  Also, the more we keep this in mind, the less likely we will be to find ourselves trapped in the sin of self-righteousness.  I know that I have looked at others with contempt before because they don't understand that what they are saying is in total opposition to what the Bible really teaches.  It isn't that we shouldn't take the time to refute false teaching and try to present the truth, but we shouldn't act like we've figured out something special and that we're the superstars of the faith.  Instead we should have the attitude of Paul when he wrote this to the church in Corinth: "Now these things, brethren, I have applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, so that in us you may learn not to exceed what is written, so that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other.  For who regards you as superior?  What do you have that you did not receive?  And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?" (1 Corinthians 4:6-7, emphasis mine)

So, let us stand boldly and make a defense of our faith while we refute false teaching, but let us remember that we received our understanding of Scripture from the Holy Spirit.  This will help us to not become arrogant against others.  We need to speak the truth in love in hopes of bringing others to a better understanding of Scripture through the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives.