Friday, March 30, 2007

On we go.

Took my wife to the doctor this morning to check out a spider bite and I ended up having allergies/asthma attack and got to see the doctor too. Yay. I got three prescriptions to her one.

I've not had many solid one-on-one conversations this week, but have been able to pass out tracts like crazy. Wednesday night was able to distribute almost 30 tracts in two blocks downtown, all received with pleasantries and only one rejection.

Anyhoo, E-vangi Tales reminds us:

Remember the Fools on Sunday!

null

Bumpersticker, $1.00, from Livingwaters.com

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The heavens are [still] telling the glory of God.

"NASA's Great Gravity Mystery "
By Tariq Malik, Staff Writer
posted: 27 March 2007 09:07 am ET

NEW YORK – It’s been years since NASA last heard from either of its two Pioneer probes hurtling out of the solar system, but scientists are still debating the source of an odd force pushing against the outbound spacecraft.

Dubbed the Pioneer Anomaly, the unexplained force appears to be acting against NASA’s identical Pioneer 10 and 11 probes, holding them back as they head away from the Sun.

Whether that force stems from the probes themselves, something exotic like dark matter, or some new facet of physics or gravity, remains in doubt.

Read the rest here.
************
"The heavens are telling the glory of God;
And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.
Day to day pours forth speech,
And night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words;
Their voice is not heard.
Their line has gone out through all the earth,
And their utternaces to the end of the world.
In them He has placed a tent for the sun,
Which is as a bridgroom coming out of his chamber;
It rejoices as a srong man to run its course.
Its rising is from one end of the heavens,
And its circuit to the other end of them;
And there is nothing hidden from its heat." (Psalm 19:1-6)

Monday, March 26, 2007

Green rocks and gospel shocks: A talk with a stoner (sort of) and how I got a lesson on gospel preaching.

Leslie and I spent another fine evening at Starbucks in Five Points Sunday night. Now that the weather is warming up, I ventured out of my comfort zone and enjoyed a nice cool Carmel Frappachino. She had the same (decaf). USC was out doing whatever USC does during Spring Break, so patronage and foot traffic was minimal.

While I was savoring the whipped topping on my cold brew, a tall young man came in just begging for conversation. His hair was blown every direction hair can be blown, white shirt (slightly wrinkled) untucked, holes in the knees of his jeans so large he was practically wearing shorts and a pair of flip flops so blown out he has redefined the old Parrot-head song. Around his neck was wrapped a home-made hemp necklace (you should have seen that coming) from which hung a huge—and I mean HUGE--light green “gem” about as big as a fist. You can see now why he was just begging for conversation.

He talked to the girl behind the counter and then stepped outside. As he smoked and made a phone call, I told Leslie I just had to see what that rock was all about. I went out, and asked, “Hey, dude! You just gotta tell me what that rock is all about, man!” He put his phone away and stuck his hands in his pockets and laughed and said he “gets conversation” from time to time about it. He explained he had been to Bonaroo (if I misspelled it, it does’nt matter. Bonaroo is a music festival for those who can’t accept the fact that the 60’s are over) and they were using these glass prisms to shoot lasers through. He snagged (Stole? Was given? Bought?) some of these prisms and was making necklaces to sell after he moved down here.

He is new to the area, from California by way of Tennessee and is managing a certain hotel in another town outside Columbia. He was in town to meet his new roommate and “do some stuff.” We talked for a while about his interests (spelunking) and we swapped stories of our journeys into caves and mine shafts. I kept praying for a clear shot to swing to spiritual matters, but it was difficult to find one. Suddenly one came open. He was talking about the risk-takers and old hippies that go into caves to get drunk and do drugs and how he would never do that. He talked about a rescue he was involved with that left two spelunkers in the bottom of a pit while he had to find more rope.

I asked if he had a contingency plan in the event he should be trapped in a cave-in or drop down a pit—what then? “I dunno,” he said, admitting he should be thinking more about “that kind of stuff.”

I asked him, “What would happen to you if you die, man? Have you ever thought about what happens after death?”

His phone rang. Of course it did. He answered it. “Oh, hey dude! I’m down here outside of Starbucks having a very enjoyable conversation with a nice gentleman.” Cool, God! Thanks for getting me “in!” He talked to his friend for a moment and they agreed to meet. He hung up and explained he was meeting someone. I got back to the question. Hmmmmmm. He thought for a second. I prodded, “what do you think happens after you die? Do you think you are good enough to go to heaven?”

“Yeah, I suppose I’ll go to heaven. Whatever Karma brings around, I’m content,” He bobbed his head, satisfied with his answer, hair following his up-and-down motion.

“That’s interesting, putting heaven and karma together like that. How do you do that? How do you come to that conclusion?” Just as he started to explain, a waitress from Starbucks came out and loudly declared to him, “I’m on my break! Let’s get some food.” She looked at me. Of course, it’s break time. I tried to leave some parting shot, but he beat me to the punch. “I’ll be back in half an hour. I think I can put this together for you,” and stuck out his hand to shake.

“Half an hour,” we smiled, I gave him a tract and we parted.

Half an hour later (or more) we met again. This time he smile was wider, his eyes were redder and he was already working on his second beer. Oh boy. His roommate sat nearby and we talked. He had a religious background, but was too universalistic. By the time I was able to get back where we needed to be the chemicals were kicking in and he was having too good of a time—but he told me, “I got this thing you gave me” (he pulled the tract out his pocket), “I read it and it said stuff I never thought of before. I’m putting this a the top of my collection. Gotta think some more,” and he smiled while Knights in White Satin rode through his head. I gave him my cell number and pray he calls.

Out by the fountain I was able to give out a few tracks. A young man sat playing a guitar while a young lady sat beside him. Her hair was four different colors (a blond streak, a black streak, a brown streak and a pink streak) and they were smoking and talking and strumming in the late afternoon by the fountain. I asked them if they’d gotten one of my gospel tracts (I held a couple out).

She wrinkled up her nose. “What is it?” she asked, looking at it as if I’d squashed a bug with it.

“It’s a ‘Good Person’ test. A Gospel tract. Ever had one?”

“Are you Christian Science? If you are Christian Science I don’t want one because I’ve had one before and that stuff just don’t work.” The guy just looked at me.

I gave her assurance this had nothing to do with Christian Science. I explained the “Good Person” test and about God’s perfect standard. I just wanted to know if she’s gotten one to see how she squared up with God’s perfect law. She took one. He didn’t. They expressed their thanks and I took that as my cue to go away. I did.

I walked around the block and saw practically nobody. Coming back around the other side I headed toward the fountain. Girl and guy saw me and were waving, wanting me to come back. I came back and sat down beside them.

They proceeded to tell me how the cow ate the cabbage. I had no place to go around telling people that if they did not repent, they would be doomed to hell. This day and age is not meant for hell-fire preaching. They got all that from a tract? Wow!

The girl proceeded to tell me that God is love and I was misrepresenting God, who is not a God of wrath. I agreed with her. God is love, but I wondered to her if she had created for herself a god of her own understanding, because the Bible is perfectly clear about God’s love and His wrath. She looked at me funny. I asked her, “As a parent, am I any less loving if I am angry with my children for doing wrong?” I explained that I would discipline those whom I love, but relationship was the key.

I told her, “you must be thinking of that passage of scripture that says, ‘The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth, who keeps lovingkindnes for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin . . .”

She said, “Yeah. That comes to mind.”

I wondered to her what she did with the rest of the verse? She looked at me funny again.

I told her the part that said, “yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generation.” [Ex 34:6-8]

“But God is a loving God!” She said. And I agreed, adding, “and a wrathful one as well. Do you think God punishes sin?” I asked.

She then told me a story of a harlot who lived next door to a church and the pastor of that church. They both died and went to heaven. The harlot was let in and the pastor was not. The reason was because the harlot always wished she could leave the brothel and the pastor always wished he could enter the brothel—God judged their intentions and their desire. So there.

I said, “Let’s try that in a court room. A judge has a list of all your crimes and is about to let justice run it’s course. What do you have to say for yourself?”

She could not argue and agreed that desire does not change the crime. I agreed that God sees all our hearts as sinful. The problem is that good intentions will not let us enjoy God forever—we need to repent and place our faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, or be separated from Him for eternity.

They tried the “just ask forgiveness because God is loving” thing. I wanted to open my Bible to 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and Rev. 21:8 and ask them where in scripture it says we appear before the throne to ask forgiveness. The time is now. Now is the day of salvation.
They guy spoke up setting my understanding straight that the reason why more young people are not in church today because of hell-fire preaching. I argued that there must be some other reason because I don’t hear much of hell-fire preaching any more. He told me he came from a Presbyterian background and church is just not the same anymore.

The longer I sat and listened to this couple tell me I had the gospel all wrong, the narrower I saw the road and the narrower I saw the gate. There was no justice with their god, only love and the God I was “preaching” (thought I’d not preached at all) was the wrong God. Then they wanted to know why I was out there—who was I with? What was my agenda?

I told them I was out to tell people, like the Bible says, repent of their sin (like lying, stealing, blasphemy, etc) and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, to be made into new creations. I was preaching more than salvation from hell, but salvation from sin (like lying, stealing, blasphemy, etc) that displeases God. I told them I was not out to invite people to church. I was out to see people get right with God. I did not want to see the church bursting at the seams with people. I wanted to see people cry out for holiness.

They could not respond.

I asked, “If you saw someone’s house on fire, what would you do? Would you bang on the door or hope the neighbors noticed and got out safely?”

She got mad and said, “You put fire detection devices in the home! Fire alarms! That way the people are safe!” She was disgusted.

I told her, “but it’s too late. The house is already burning. What do you do?”

They guy stuck out his hand, gave me his name, thanking me for talking but we were done. She gave me her name and said that they just wanted me to back off, that I was coming on too strong. She handed me the tract back. I said, “My only hope is that if you truly believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, you are obeying scripture and are out sharing your faith.”

They mumbled something and we parted.

I wondered what would have happened had I actually preached and not simply gave them a tract?

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Revival Hymn

This is a very powerful video message that will stir your spirit for revival! Clips of following speakers included in this message: Ian ... all » Paisley, Leonard Ravenhill, Paris Reidhead, Duncan Campbell, A.W. Tozer, T. Austin Sparks. This is probably one of the most potent and powerful recordings on this entire site. You will be changed as you view this remarkable video.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Endurance for a Lifetime of Ministry (2 Timothy 4:1-7)

[My notes from a sermon by Alan Cotney, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (Chapel archives).]

Why are so many pastors giving up the ministry? Why do so many men of God make poor decisions and give up or be forced out of the ministry God has called them to? Is it because God has changed, or because the ministry had taken on a new direction? Is it because something inside has changed that caused them to have no endurance in the ministry?

This is what Paul is talking about in 2 Timothy 4, talking about endurance. Note the encouragement of 3:10-11, 14. To endure in ministry, you must:

I. Remember the Seriousness of God’s Charge. (v.1)
The charge of the call is from the throne of God, not Paul. God rules and reigns. The Christ of the call is the Jesus of the Judgment. He will judge the ministry He has given us. "For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son." (John 5:22). "Let not many of you becomes teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment." (James 3:1) The God of Creation knows everything about you, so when He called you He is not shocked by what you've become, by what you are capable of or by how He judges you for what you’ve done. When He deems you worthy to give you call, He will judge, so take this ministry seriously.

II. Preach The Fullness of God’s Word (v. 2-3). Not simply “preach” but “preach the Word.” You proclaim from this point forward God’s Word, regardless of what you’ve said or have done in the past. You preach when you feel like it and when you don’t feel like it. [Mark Cahill: there are only two seasons to preach—in season and out of season.] Why? Because this is your life, this is not what you do when you are bored. "But if I say, 'I will not remember Him or speak any more in His name,' then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire shut up in my bones; and I am weary of holding it in and I cannot endure it." (Jer 20:9). You preach when your people want to hear it, and when they don’t. Correct they way they think. Tell them what sins they are doing and tell them, show them what is right to do. You give them sound doctrine because if you preach anything else, you have nothing to say. You might as well preach the text of the theme song of “Cheers” and everyone can leave happy. Don’t you dare appeal to a cute idea, because then you have no intention of giving them anything useful. You become an idle babbler. If they want to hear what a good person they are, let ‘em watch Oprah. If they come into your church and turn their head to hear what you have to say, they must hear what matters for eternity.

III. Complete Your Mission as God’s Servant (v. 5-7). Fulfill your ministry. Stay focused and clear-headed. Your responsibility is to the One who called you, not the church you serve. To lose focus will cause you to make those bad decisions that will drive you to quit. Endure hardship, afflictions. Ministry is not easy. You were not called because it is simple. Satan hates you and you are a target to be destroyed because you bring people into account with God. Ministry costs you pleasure and comfort. Your people must see your leadership, including winning others to Christ.

Fulfill your ministry, no matter what happens. Keep plugging on!
Always keep the mission first, never accept defeat and never give up.

Your assignment comes from on high. Your mission is not over until your coffin is sealed and you are face-to-face with the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge you by what you’ve done with your life and your calling.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

What God Is Looking For In The World.

"[God is not] served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything." Acts 17:25

The difference between Uncle Sam and Jesus Christ is that Uncle Sam won't enlist you in his service unless you are healthy and Jesus won't enlist you unless you are sick.

What is God looking for in the world? Assistants? No. The gospel is not a help-wanted ad. It is a help-available ad. God is not looking for people to work for Him but people who let Him work mightly in and through them.

************

Piper, John. "Brothers, Tell Them Not To Serve God." Brothers, We are Not Professionals. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2002.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

“An Old Kind of Christian, A Jesus Kind of Christian”

I just listened to an incredible archived chapel message by Dr. Danny Akin of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (http://www.sebts.edu/). I believe the notes (below) are comprehensive enough:

************


We have new theological “neighbors” moving into our “neighborhood”, and compared to the way we like to “keep house”, these “neighbors” seem strange. We should not grow so accustomed to seeing them that we ignore them. The father of our new “neighborhood family” is Brian McClaren, and many of his “family” members believe we need to “repaint” the Christian faith.


What we need is not a new kind of Christian, but an old kind of Christian, a Jesus kind of Christian. Jonathan Edwards asked a question and we should pay close attention to the answer: “What is it that makes the church like heaven?” The answer: love.


I Corinthians 13:1-13


  1. Love is essential (vv. 1-3). Jesus made it clear that the mark of a disciple is “love for one another.” Paul, following Jesus, makes it clear:

    1. It does not matter what you say. (v. 1) If love does not accompany what you say, you are a making the same noise as popular instruments of pagan temples! Without love, your words don’t matter.

    2. It does not matter what you know (v. 2). Note the comprehensive aspects of love:

      1. The word “love” is used 9 times in this passage;

      2. The word “all” is used 8 times.

      3. Without love you are nothing.

        1. Love must temper knowledge;

        2. Love builds up, specifically His kingdom.

    3. It does not matter what you do (v. 3). Without love, there is no profit.

      1. Anything you do to buy love is a form of prostitution.

      2. If your spirituality is without love, you are bankrupt.

  2. Love is expressive (vv. 4-8).

    1. Note the words in this section:

      1. All the words Paul uses to describe love are verbs;

      2. All the verbs Paul uses are in the present tense. This means that these verbs should be the habit of your life. You must be consistent, because we know we are not able to do it perfect.

    2. There must be a proper perspective:

      1. Inward perspective:

        1. Patient, longsuffering—just like Jesus. To do this, God must make your suffering long. This word for patience is used only in the context of relationships, not circumstances.

        2. Kind. How do you treat people beneath you? This word is in the context of your attitude when you have the opportunity to have the advantage.

        3. No envy. No inferiority complex (jealousy). You will not be happy with what you envy because you will always want more and blame God for holding out. Envy does not believe God.

        4. Does not puff up. No superiority complex (bragging, arrogant). Love is not a peacock, telling God how lucky He is to have us and how much we are a blessing to others.

      2. Outward perspective

        1. v.5. Love has manners, grace, respect for others.

        2. Love does not seek itself, does not begin or start with itself. Where you start depends on where you go, it takes care of others.

        3. Love is not provoked, does not have a quick fuse, is not easily angered. This is the destroyer of ministry. Bad temper is outside the walk of the Spirit!

        4. Keeps no record of wrong, no evil thoughts. Love forgives, even though it still remembers. God only forgives on the basis of the blood of His Son. [What do you think is meant when the Psalmist says God drops our sin in the sea of forgetfulness? Does God forget when He looks at His Son?]

      3. Upward perspective (v. 6)

        1. Love hates sin;

        2. Love rejoices in truth, which means love believes truth exists and can be known.

      4. Forward perspective (v. 7).

        1. Looks to the future. Love does not quit, not an emotion but a decision to press on.

        2. Love is not blind but looks for the best in others.

  3. Love is never-ending (v. 8-13)

    1. Love will outlive spiritual gifts. v.10 refers to the eschaton, love will still remain.

    2. Love will outlast spiritual growth. (vv. 11-12)

    3. Love will outshine spiritual graces

      1. Faith will become sight;

      2. Hope will become reality;

      3. Love keeps going. Why?

        1. God is not faith;

        2. God is not hope;

        3. God is love.


Assignment:

  1. Read through vv. 4-8, removing the word “love” and replace with the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;

  2. Read through the same verses again and see how much you need Him to be love for you toward others.

Monday, March 19, 2007

The Plagiarism-Driven Church?



(HT: Christian Research Net)

The Meeting on the Way

This weekend I met Sloth, Simple and Presumption from Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress.” Well, not really, but the personifications fit just perfectly. My wife and I are getting in the habit of going downtown to Starbucks near USC Campus on Sunday nights (we have no evening service at church) with the intention of evangelism. We met some friends from church, got some coffee and while the ladies stayed inside, Alan and I went out to the fountain to do some “fishing.”

Here is Bunyan’s scenario:

“I saw then in my dream, that he went on thus, even until he came at the bottom [of the hill], where he saw, a little out of the way, three men fast asleep, with fetters upon their heels. The name of the one was Simple, of another Sloth, and of the third Presumption. Christian then seeing them lie in this case, went to them, if peradventure he might awake them, and cried, you are like them that sleep on the top of a mast, (Prov. 23:34), for the Dead Sea is under you, a gulf that hath no bottom: awake, therefore, and come away; be willing also, and I will help you off with your irons. He also told them, If he that goeth about like a roaring lion, (1 Pet. 5:8), comes by, you will certainly become a prey to his teeth. With that they looked upon him, and began to reply in this sort: Simple said, ‘I see no danger’; Sloth said, ‘Yet a little more sleep’; and Presumption said, ‘Every tub must stand upon its own bottom.’ And so they lay down to sleep again, and Christian went on his way.”[1]

Alan met James with two friends smoking on the far side of the fountain and they jumped right into a lively conversation. I stood off to the side and prayed while Alan reasoned with them from scripture. James’ two friends (a girl and a guy) got very defensive and the guy took the girl off by the arm, loudly proclaiming, “You can’t mix religion and politics!” I still don’t get what that was all about. Alan was left with James, who would not relent his position of denying the existence of God and his accountability at final judgment. When Alan looked to me, I jumped in.

[note: I am reproducing as much of the conversation as comes to mind. The conversations were much longer and more detailed than I could give. Please pray for these people]

************
Simple (“I see no danger”)
************
James admitted that as a human he was fatally flawed, but would reason his way out of every flaw on the basis that all humanity was “screwed.” When confronted with God’s perfect law, James would not admit to breaking any of them, yet confessed to breaking many laws. His attitude was that he could go through life as a good person and when he died, would just be assimilated into the universe (“I guess I’ll come back as a nebulae or dirt or something.”)

I asked if he’d ever told a lie. Sure, he had. But he would not confess to being a liar. Alan asked, “if I told a lie, what would you call me?”

“I don’t cast stones, man.”

I asked James, “what do you call someone who murders someone?”

“A murderer,” he said without blinking.

“And what do you call someone who commits rape?” I asked.

“A rapist,” he answered.

“So what would you call someone who tells lies?”

He smiled, shook his head, “A liar. But . . .” then began to justify lying for good causes. I reminded him that good causes don’t matter because a lie is a lie, and people who tell them are liars, just as murderers are murderers, etc.

“But what does it matter,” he shrugged.

“It matters because in the end, a person is accountable for their thoughts and deeds,” I replied.

We carried on a good conversation about his disbelief in the afterlife and the relativity of morals. He made his case that all matter becomes assimilated, so the eternal does not matter, neither do the sins we commit.

Sins? Did he have a religious background? Sure, he was Catholic and grew up in Catholic school and all the pain that came with it. Ah. That’s what he was reacting against.

I asked if he’d ever blasphemed, used God’s name as a curse word. Yes, he had. Funny that he should use as a curse word the name of someone he does not believe.

Yeah, but the problem lies in that God all the religious people believe—nothing wrong with religion, it’s just not useful to him. I wondered to him what he really did think of God. He said that he just could not conceive of a God that the church believed. I showed him from Exodus 34 that God is not the loving God that many make him out to be—He is also a God of justice and righteousness.

His problem now fell to my quoting from scripture, “where’d it come from,” he asked?

“From men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”

“There’s the problem. Men wrote that book.”

I asked him where he heard that. He made some argument about the Bible being written by fallible men who interpreted divine intention through pre-historic and pre-cultural mindsets. I asked him again where he heard that because certainly he did not just “get” that one day. He told me he learned it from school. I asked who taught him.

“Nuns and priests,” he responded.

“Men, right? You take the word of men over the word of God spoken through men?”

He looked stunned. I asked him, “when you want to put something on paper, who does the writing: you or the pen?” And I illustrated this is how inspiration works: men moved by the Holy Spirit wrote as instruments of God.

I went back to conscience and told him that even though he rejects scripture, he still knows the difference between right and wrong. His conscience still works (I think). He told me he still did not believe in hell.

“Get up and come with me,” and he got up. I walked toward the street and told him, “let’s walk into the middle of the road and deny the existence of trucks.” He did not move. His friend covered his mouth so he could not be heard laughing. I told him that he could deny the existence of trucks, but the reality of trucks would hit him right square between the eyes. Same with hell—deny it’s existence and still be hit with the reality of it. He told me it still didn’t matter to him, but I could sense he was wavering.

Alan and I left him by telling him his need to repent and turn from his sin and throw himself on the mercy of God, or he would die in his sins after facing God on judgment day. He thanked us for the good conversation.

***********
Sloth (“Yet a little more sleep”) and Presumption (“Every tub must stand upon its own bottom.”)
************

Alan and I went back inside to join the ladies. A couple that had been sitting next to us heard our conversation (they were there most of the time and heard us talking about Jonathan Edwards and his theology that God is obligated to save no-body from hell) and the guy leans over and notices my colored beads hanging from my fanny-pack (I carry my tracks in a fanny pack).

“Hey, don’t those beads mean something about sin and Jesus and being clean and stuff?” We talked for a while about where he’d heard the “wordless book” and the meaning of the colors.

I asked launched into the “Good Person” test. Yes, he considered himself to be a good person.

Did he keep the 10 Commandments? “Oh No! I’m not good person!” he said outloud. His female companion agreed. I took him through some to see which one’s he’d broken. He’d lied. He’d stolen. He’d shot a guy, and doesn’t know if he lived. Then I asked her, “what about you? Good Person?” Before she could answer, I asked, “ever commit adultery?”

Her head spun and she said, “I’m doing it right now.” And she reached across the table and took the guy by the hand.

I asked what’s going to happen on judgment day when God judges them. They both said, “we’re sunk.”

We talked about that and confirmed it with scripture: 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and Rev. 21:8. They had no chance. They were sunk. I tried to let it sink in a little bit: there was no way they were going to inherit the kingdom of God. I said nothing. “That’s it?” they asked.

“Yep, that’s about the shape of things,” I said. “By your own admission you are liars, thieves and adulterers. You will not inherit the kingdom of God. What do you suppose He will do with you?”

She rolled her eyes and said, “well, God’s supposed to send us to hell and all that, but what about forgiveness?” And crossed her arms in finality.

“What about it?” I asked.

“Isn’t God supposed to be forgiving?” She asked.

“When it comes to justice, what do you think?” I presented to her the scenario about appearing before a judge who has a list of crimes and is about to pass sentence. What can she say for herself? “Forgive me?” What’s a good judge supposed to do?

She made an argument that God is not like that and we could argue courtroom stuff all day. I opened my Bible to the above-mentioned passages, put the scripture in front of her and asked, “where does it say one has the opportunity at judgment to ask for forgiveness? The sentence is being passed, and for not believing you stand judged already.” Her male companion sat back in his chair, “I’d never thought of that. Looks like we’re sunk.”

Strangely enough, I sensed no urgency in their confession or realization of their eternal destiny. The longer we talked (I presented as much bad news as possible about the wrath of God) the less they seemed disturbed. This puzzled me. I came down hard on their need to repent, turn from their adultery and other sin and cry out to God for mercy. The young man started to say how he’d been in church all his life and had never heard this kind of gospel.

Then I brought in Christ Jesus, His substitutionary death and their need to not only acknowledge Him as Savior, but live under His Lordship. I made it clear they were not obeying the gospel.

Somehow we got off talking about tattoos and she showed me one on her wrist of a chain and lock. I was caused to remember Deuteronomy 28:47-48 and told her she could be free of her chains, or be forced under the iron yoke to bend the knee and be destroyed in sin.

At this point she began packing up her books and he took this as his cue they were leaving as well. I knew the conversation was over. I asked if they had a Bible at home. She said she had four. He didn’t have one, but would count on her to be his Bible for him—and he kissed her hand. My heart broke. How could they hear the gospel, know the gospel and hold onto their high-handed sin? I told them my heart was broken and they had their conscience to live with. I once more reminded them of their need to repent and forsake sin and take up Christ Jesus. They said they would much rather not repent and take their chances.

Bunyan closes that frame with this: "Yet he was troubled to think that men in that danger should so little esteem the kindness of him that so freely offered to help them, both by awakening of them, counselling of them, and proffering to help them off with their irons.”

************
[1]Bunyan, John. The Pilgrim's Progress : From This World to That Which Is to Come. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995.

Friday, March 16, 2007

What comes to mind . . .

I thank God for the wonderful weather we’ve had the last few weeks, for with the warmer weather and the longer sunshine hours come people who linger after work downtown. I would like to say that the reason they linger is to hear the gospel, and providentially in God’s sovereignty this must be so, but they don’t realize it yet.

I’ve been praying that God would make our conversations more fruitful, more intentional and real than most would have in “cold call” evangelistic techniques. Now, I am not a person that converses well, and part of my prayer has included the request that God would make me a better listener. The answer to these prayers came through a board game (and I am not one who plays board games, save Chess perhaps) that caught me by surprise: The UN-game. This “Christian” version contained some questions that not only caused me to think, but struck me as the kinds of questions that can be used as spring-boards for conversations. I’ve honed the questions and the list down to these (some are not asked, but I have them on-hand to help guide through conversation). Since people love surveys, I ask them to help me with the following:

  • List four things for which you are thankful.
  • To whom are you thankful for these things?
  • Which of the following do you need most in your life right now: love, joy, peace or hope?
  • Has anyone ever said something like this to you: “God has a wonderful plan/purpose for your life?” What comes to you mind when you hear this? What do you think?
  • How do you think you are fulfilling your purpose/God’s purpose in life?
  • Do you have any spiritual goals?
  • When someone mentioned “God” or you heard “God” mentioned as a child, what came to your mind as you thought about God?
  • What do you think of Him now?
  • Give three reasons why you believe/don’t believe in God.
  • How would you describe God to someone (whether you believe or not).
  • Does God care about right and wrong?
  • Are God’s standards the same as ours?
  • Will God punish sin?
  • Is there a hell?
  • Do you avoid hell by living a good life?
  • Do you think good people should go to heaven?
  • Would you consider yourself to be a good person?
    Etc.

You know what I find as I use these questions? People are willing to spill their hearts out and someone (me) is willing to sit and listen while folks talk about their favorite subject: themselves!

Then I remember:
Proverbs 20:6, “Most men will proclaim their own goodness.”
Proverbs 16:2, “All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight; but the LORD weighs the motives.”

Since I’ve been thinking (and writing) in this area, “Does It Matter What I Believe?” I would like to zero in on one area of the survey: people’s thoughts about God. Of those I’ve surveyed, people have said their childhood impressions of God included: “no idea”; the Bible; some kind of spiritual being; someone who “is”; creator; a higher being or power; mysterious worker; no idol; “gonna get you.”

Here’s what folks think of God now: mysterious worker; good; #1; still think of Him as Creator, but . . .; some kind of spiritual being; forgiving; loving; great; one who pulls you through life.

In retrospect, I perhaps should have asked what made the change (if any) from early thoughts to present thoughts. After presenting the gospel, only one I spoke with would not see God as just, while another (see previous post) saw God as a Universal Savior and disbelieved in hell.

I am struck at how often people can come face-to-face with the reality of their sin, even admit their guilt and against God's perfect standard are fully deserving hell, but they will do nothing about it. I pray God works on their consciences!

Then I hear Jesus say this (my bold for emphasis): “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matt. 7:13).

This is so powerful, that He actually says it twice! Near the end of His ministry, there went this conversation:

And He was passing through from one city and village to another, teaching, and proceeding on His way to Jerusalem. And someone said to Him, ‘Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?’ And He said to them, ‘Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock on the door, saying, “Lord, open up to us!” then He will answer and say to you, “I do not know where you are from.’ Then you will begin to say, “We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets”; and He will say, “I tell you, I do not know where you are from; DEPART FROM ME, ALL YOU EVILDOERS.” In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves being thrown out.’ (Luke 13:22)

Of course, "strive" does not mean "work for your salvation." It means that entering through the narrow gate is like a tough squeeze--it costs everything to go through and people are not willing to let go of their sin. Everything, in effect, must come off. Like going through the airport security: everything must be shed (save the clothes, which in this case limits the illustration, but the principle is the same). Wallet, change, keys, PalmPilot, pens, pencils, whatever--it all goes in the tray before you can go through the gate. Set off an alarm, and you go back.

Same thing with eternal matters: shed it all, or go back. That first quote (Matt 7:13) actually carries the thrust of "there are few who enter even once," meaning, few only get the first chance to go through!

How horrible it is that so many hear the gospel and do not act on it. They think they will enter the Kingdom by recognition or by their intellectual consent without repentance. I am so burdened when I hear the disbelief in the God of the Bible, in the dismissal of hell or a Jesus that does not exist, when scripture speaks of the day to come when “the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed—“

Pray for those we meet. Pray that the god of this world will loose his kingdom and those who hear the gospel will be delivered into the kingdom of Christ and the kingdom of light!

Reminder to self: we are casting seeds. Some sow, some water, but God causes the growth.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Hell or No Hell? Depends on who you deny, I guess.

Edgar Allan Poe's "The Pit and the Pendulum" comes to mind when I reflect on a conversation I had yesterday with "Sam" in the park. With him, the pendulum swings one way. With these guys, the pendulum swings the other . . .



"Sam" had a difficult time thinking up a small list of things he was thankful for, but was finally decisive that he was thankful for his life, for his children, for his wife and for education; however, he was not sure what God's purpose for his life was. Matter of fact, he concluded his purpose was to question his purpose! Mind you, this is a neatly dressed young man about 25 years old, walking his dog, sitting with his girl in the park. To him, God seemed to be a powerful spiritual being who pulled you through life circumstances in order to prove that He exists. To her, God was "out to get you" at first, but then is more like a "mighty being." Here's where his pendulum swings: "Sam" believes that all people everywhere should go to heaven, bad or good. "Sam" does not believe in hell. Oh, and he's Baptist. Let me relate how we got "there."

I met "Sam" and "Kim" in the park last night: I watched her enter the park alone with a blanket and finding a spot, she laid it out and took some snacks from a bag and arranged them and then sat. A few minutes later, a young man walking a dog came and they embraced, kissed and he made himself comfortable. Now, I don't like to approach women alone (ladies, do more witnessing, so us guys can do our thing with guys), but since they were a couple . . .

I approached and after introducing myself, presented my survey through which we talked. When we got to the part where I ask if they thought good people should go to heaven, "Sam" volunteered that everyone should go to heaven, bad or good.

I asked if he thought of himself as "good" or "bad." He shrugged. She laughed nervously.

I asked on what basis they considered themselves to be good or bad? He shrugged and she looked down.

I asked if they'd kept the 10 Commandments. She got excited and proudly began to list them, but when she go to #7 she faltered and they both got uncomfortable. They exchanged some very odd glances. I think I was intruding on something . . .

They admitted to lying, blasphemy, stealing, but we had a problem with lust and adultery.

I asked, "if God were to judge you by the 10 Commandments, would you go to heaven or hell." This is where "Sam" explained his eschatology.

I don't get it: When I hear people blaspheming and/or denying the existence of God, Jesus and/or the Holy Spirit, why is it they all agree they are hell-bound?

And why is it when I talk to religious people about God, Jesus and/or the Holy Spirit, many confess that God, Jesus and/or the Holy Spirit exists; yet, there seems to be a problem with the existence of Hell or the attributes of God ("He would never send anyone to hell, for He is loving" does not exactly deny hell, but it questions God).

I just had to ask "Sam": "What do you do with Revelation 21:8 and Matthew 25 (to name two passages beside so many others.)"

He stared at me. His lady-friend stared at him. I read the verses outloud. I read 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.

He stared at me. His lady-friend stared at him. I asked, "what do you do with those verses."

He made a barely discernable shrug and said, "I just don't believe."

I told him, "people in hell are wishing they didn't believe in hell or could make it go away too," then added, "are you sure you havn't broken the 2nd Commandment and made for yourself a god of your own understanding, a god for your own comfort? The God of the Bible clearly created Hell for the devil and his angels and all those who fail to put their faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. Either you believe Him, or you believe in a god that does not exist."

He just stared at me.

I was disappointed and fearful for the couple as they acknowledged their sin, their need for a Savior, yet entrenched in the belief there is no hell. At least she admitted to it's existence, and related her concern about going there, but neither would do nothing about it.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Author Tim Fleming Offers a Free Download of a New Version of the Bible for the Gay Community

The free Bible download contains all the text of the King James Version, as well as a new book entitled God's New Law, which describes a prophecy from the year 2000 that forgives homosexuality and fornication. This new book is meant to inaugurate the rebirth of mankind and the acceptance of gay marriage in God's kingdom.

San Diego, CA (PRWEB) February 14, 2007 -- This is a new version of the Holy Bible that includes the New Testament, along with a new book entitled God's New Law, which was introduced in the year 2000. This book contains testimony of prophecy fulfilled, prophecy to be, and the decommissioning of traditional religion so that God may dwell with all those who believe. God's New Law is meant to be the last book of the Bible and to herald the birth of God's religion without doctrine.

Starting with the witnessing of Christ, the author, Tim Fleming, claims that, in the year 2000, God tested one of his begotten and realized the value of forgiving those who are willing to forgive, and He has therefore offered salvation to the homosexual community for the sacrifices they have made through mental anguish.


Read the rest here.

Here is an excerpt from the supplimental book:

"Then the Lord directed his son to look up to the man on the ceiling, and then showed his son's rib. The Lord presented his glory and time stopped as the populations watched what was to be. And then the Lord possessed the rib and created with it another perfect body to be his son’s companion. When the God finished creating the companion, he unveiled it to the populations, and this time it was a man. Then the Lord spoke, “It was the woman that led mankind astray.” He kept his promise and removed the curse upon Eden and fulfilled his New Law.

Then the Lord directed his son to the right and it was his future again. And the Lord showed him his new companion. He was the same height as his son, and stood on a platform across a great divide, and then the companion flexed his muscles and showed his son how his body was perfect. His son became excited and anxious. Then the companion said something funny to his son, and his son’s heart started to race and he laughed and laughed.

Then his son wanted to say something to his companion and went to ask God what to say. The Lord spoke, “Look and know me truth.” And his son looked at God and then at his companion and understood what God meant. Then the Lord sent his son to speak to his companion and this time his son knew what to say as he flirted. Then the Lord said, “That’s about as good as it gets before the wedding night.”

Then God put on the companion’s left ring finger a ring of gold, and then on his son’s left ring finger the Lord put a matching ring. And his son cried to God and thanked him. Then the companion was delivered to his son and his son was beaming with excitement."

************
If God has changed his law, then God has changed his mind. This is not the God of the Bible, who plainly states:

"I, the LORD, do not change," (Mal 3:6)

"Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with men, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God." (1 Cor 6:9-10)

Don't believe it?

"But for the fearful, and unbelieving, and abominable, and murderers, and fornicators, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, their part shall be in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone; which is the second death." (Rev. 21:8)

Please, friends. Repent, turn from your sin, ask God to forgive you in Christ Jesus and do not return to those things from which you repent!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Bible and Science

Making efficient use of time (yours and mine) this post will not elaborate the subject of the Bible where it touches authority, inspiration, revelation (and the subsequent distinctions of revelation), illumination and etc.. There are enough links from this website to others that will direct a reader to virtual tomes on these subjects. Time would be better served to stay on the “ground level” and consider the question as to whether the Bible can be considered to be literally true.

Millard J. Erickson writes, “The Bible is first and foremost a theological book. It was designed to teach us about God and our relationship to him [sic]. It was written in a prescientific age. Consequently, it does not describe events and causes in the scientific language of today.” i Erickson’s postulation provides a clue to the necessity of providing an answer to the trustworthiness of scripture.

The Bible is without doubt a theological book for from the very beginning we find God teaching mankind about Himself as not being like the creation, but rather the Creator of those things that are worshipped as gods (see Genesis 1 as polemic against the gods of Egypt, as a reintroduction of the true and living God to the people of the Exodus). In addition, while the Bible itself is not a book of science, it still remains to be a book containing science. Erickson’s statement overall is a starting place where thinkers of this age suppose that if the Bible was written in a prescientific age, it must therefore be untrustworthy or untrue.


“Science” has a wider range of meaning than our English usage allows. We have come to know “science” as “a department of systematized knowledge as an object of study.” ii While it is true that the Bible does not describe events and causes in contemporary formal scientific language, it still remains that the Bible still declares itself to be God’s Word; that is, knowable propositions (a realm of science) through direct communication (another scientific field) to humanity (yet another scientific field of study). The Bible is still trustworthy and reliable. Samuel Morse (inventor of the telegraph, a scientist) said, ““The nearer I approach the end of my pilgrimage, the clearer is the evidence of the divine origin of the Bible. The grandeur and sublimity of God’s remedy for fallen man are more appreciated and the future is illuminated with hope and joy.”

In the area of theology, to say the Bible is “pre-science” would be amiss, for theology, as found in the pantheons of cultures was challenged by theology; that is, the gods of this world have been challenged and deposed by the true and living God. “The science of theology” is the reality of Israel: divinely born as a nation; delivered in the Exodus; established civilly, morally and ceremonially. This cannot be said of cultures who were established and invoke the blessings of the gods as they created them.

This is to say nothing of those systematic developments contributed by societies through their looking up in the sky, down on the ground, into each other, and so forth. What point on the time-line is anyone able to say when science became “science?” Archaeologists marvel at the minds that built ziggurats, pyramids, aquaducts, ships, warfare, farms, medicinal practices, and the list goes on. Our everyday survival depends on science and it takes place in the kitchen: the right combination of ingredients, temperature, storage, etc.. Winemaking alone is traced back to 6000 years B.C. and the industry still cannot improve on ancient scientific technique. The point is: whether Canaanite, Egyptian, Israelite, Babylonian, Greek or Roman, it is obvious that ancient man had systematized knowledge and whether that knowledge is right or wrong, from these scientific contexts the Bible was written.

“God has revealed numerous scientific and medical facts in the Bible, thousands of years before scientists “discovered” them. As Hank Hanegraaff said, ‘Faith in Christ is not some blind leap into a dark chasm, but a faith based on established evidence.’”iii How could the Bible be written at all without the science of linguistics? Somebody had to know a language! “Science expresses the universe in five terms: time, space, matter, power, and motion. Genesis 1:1,2 revealed such truths to the Hebrews in 1450 B.C.: ‘In the beginning [time] God created [power] the heaven [space] and the earth [matter] . . . And the Spirit of God moved [motion] upon the face of the waters.’”iv

Consider further what this so-called pre-science book contains:

“Only in recent years has science discovered that everything we see is composed of invisible atoms. Scripture tells us in Hebrews 11:3 that the ‘things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.’ It is also interesting to note that scientists now understand the universe is expanding or stretching out. Nine times in Scripture we are told that God stretches out the heavens like a curtain (e.g., Psalm 104:2). At a time when it was believed that the earth sat on a large animal or a giant (1500 B.C.), the Bible spoke of the earth’s free float in space: ‘He . . . hangs the earth upon nothing” (Job 26:7). The prophet Isaiah also tells us that the earth is round: ‘It is he that sits upon the circle of the earth’ (Isaiah 40:22). This is not a reference to a flat disk, as some skeptics maintain, but to a sphere. Secular man discovered this 2,400 years later. At a time when science believed that the earth was flat, it was the Scriptures that inspired Christopher Columbus to sail around the world.”v

While we are easily able to enter the subject of inspiration here, we will instead turn attention to the more neglected (yet, still perfectly obvious) aspect in the definition of “science.”

The words “science” comes from the 14 century Latin scientia, from scient-, or sciens, meaning “having knowledge” which is derived from present participle of scire “to know.” Specifically, the primary definition of “science” is “the state of knowing: knowledge as distinguished from ignorance or misunderstanding.”vi

Guess what the following list of people have in common (besides the fact they were scientists):

Physics: Newton, Faraday,Maxwell, Kelvin

Chemistry: Boyle, Dalton, Pascal, Ramsay

Biology: Ray, Linnaeus,Mendel, Pasteur

Geology: Steno,Woodward, Brewster, Agassiz

Astronomy: Kepler, Galileo, Herschel,Maunder

The one enterprise these had in common was how they considered their calling as scientists to “thinking God’s thoughts after Him.”

If the Bible was written in a pre-scientific age, then the Bible was written before an age of knowing, or in an age of ignorance. This does not follow, for what is known is well articulated in scripture. The Bible was written in the context of systematized knowledge!

What is the Bible’s critique of geo-centricity (the concept that the Universe rotates around the earth)? “Have you commanded the morning since your days; and caused the day spring [dawn] to know his place? . . . It [the earth] is turned as clay to the seal” (Job 38:12,14).” The earth is described as the one turning as on a potter’s wheel. Luke 17:34-36 describes the return of the Lord occurring both in daylight and at night, another indication of a revolving earth. The First Law of Thermodymics was not yet catalogued by men when the God “finished” creation and the fiery end to come was established in His purpose before the Third Law of Thermodymics was penned as well.

What a scientifically ludicrous statement did God make to Job when He asked, “Can you send lightnings, that they may go, and say to you, ‘Here we are?’” (Job 38:35). Light can be sent and manifest itself in speech? If you are reading this on wireless internet, you are using enjoying the product of ludicrous pre-scientific knowledge. Is the Bible trustworthy? Somebody tell James Clerk Maxwell that electricity and lightwaves are ludicrous. Of course you would have to time-travel back to 1864 . . . through the practice of science fiction.

Does Job 38:7 (“When the morning stars sang together. . .”) mean anything to those headphoned men and women at their radio telescopes?

While it is difficult to tell exactly what anyone would mean by saying the Bible is written “pre-science,” the need for giving an answer becomes all the more clear.

“The Bible served as a basis for modern scientific pursuits. Modern science was born in the seventeenth century because of a belief in an unchanging God of order, purpose, and consistency—the God portrayed in the Bible. In addition, our modern concept of law and order are based on the Bible. The Bible says that God has set standards of right and wrong behavior. Many of our current laws are based upon biblical morality.”vii

I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” GALILEO GALILEI

Sir John Frederick Herschel, an English astronomer who discovered over 500 stars, stated: “All human discoveries seem to be made only for the purpose of confirming more and more strongly the truths that come from on high and are contained in the Sacred Writings.” His father, Sir William Herschel, also a renowned astronomer, insisted, “The undevout astronomer must be mad.”

************

i Erickson, Millard. Does It Matter What I Believe? Grand Rapids: Baker, 1992.

ii Merriam-Webster, Inc. Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. Includes index. 10th ed. Springfield, Mass., U.S.A.: Merriam-Webster, 1996, c1993.

iii Comfort, Ray. “The Bible.” The School of Biblical Evangelism.

iv Comfort, ibid.

v Comfort, ibid.

vi Merriam-Webster, Inc.

vii Comfort, ibid.

TBN plans new TV series

SANTA ANA, CALIFORNIA

With the immense popularity of the hit television series Lost, the Trinity Broadcasting Network is hoping to capitalize upon the show with its own similar concept, Saved.

The series stars Kirk Cameron, most well-known for his role as Buck Williams in the Left Behind
movies. The story is about a group of "wild" business men and women headed back to the United States from a business trip to Tokyo. Suddenly their plane undergoes severe turbulence that tears it apart. The group crashes on to a deserted island in the Pacific Ocean, and miraculously almost everyone survives.

Thinking
that they are the only ones on the island the group begins to look for ways to escape or get rescued. Little do they know that they are not alone. Soon they discover that there are "others" on the island too. They encounter a group of young missionaries who had crashed on the island ten years earlier led by Bubba Jones (Kirk Cameron). Tensions mount as the group of missionaries try desperately to convert the worldly-minded group of business people.

"We're just so excited about this new show." Said TBN co-founder Jan Crouch. "We just want to give all those fans out there who love Lost an alternative. We just know this will be a big big big fat blessing to everyone who watches it."

"I'm excited about this new role." Said Cameron. "To have the opportunity to get back into acting after such a long absence just thrills me."

The show begins this fall on TBN and will run after Jesse Duplantis on Tuesday nights.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Standard Issue

The pony express was a thrilling part of early American history. It ran from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, California—a distance of 1,900 miles. The trip was made in ten days. Forty men, each riding 50 miles a day, dashed along the trail on 500 of the best horses the West could provide.

To conserve weight, clothing was very light, saddles were extremely small and thin, and no weapons were carried. The horses themselves wore small shoes or none at all. The mail pouches were flat and very conservative in size. Letters had to be written on thin paper, and postage was $5.00 an ounce (a tremendous sum those days).

Yet, each rider carried a full-sized Bible! It was presented to him when he joined the pony express, and he took it with him despite all the scrupulous weight precautions.


************
Tan, P. L. (1996, c1979). Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations : A treasury of illustrations, anecdotes, facts and quotations for pastors, teachers and Christian workers. Garland TX: Bible Communications.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Can Theology Become Idolatry?

The IrishCalvinist ran this great piece yesterday. Fits in great with our thoughts on "Does it matter what I believe?":

Can we become so obsessed with making our theology work or pursue the “correct” theology with such fervor that it subtly becomes the thing we worship and not the Creator behind it?

This is indeed a danger. Our sinful hearts can even use good things like the study of theology as an altar for the personal worship of self. This is tragic. The pursuit of and growth in the knowledge of God is not bad, in fact it is commanded (Matt. 22.37; 2 Pet. 3.18). However, it is true that knowledge in general and theological knowledge in particular may puff up believers (1 Cor. 8.1). So there is a command to learn and a caution toward the growth of pride.

Read the rest here in "Can Theology become Idolatry?".

Friday, March 09, 2007

Un-blissful Ignorance

When I hear the question, “Does it matter what I believe?” I also hear in another question in the background, “does it matter what I don’t believe?”

You’ve heard the old saying, “ignorance is bliss,” and the other saying liked unto it is, “what you don’t know can’t hurt you.” What do you think? Is this true? I wish it were true. Speaking from childhood experience, I could not begin to tell you how much it hurt when I crashed into that curb while riding my bike—I did not know I was going to crash, nor did I know how I was going to crash nor did I know how much skin would come off my arm and my leg--how I wished the axiom would have held true that day! I did not know how much I would bleed and I certainly did not know what it would feel like to walk all the way home. Believe me when I say, “what I did not know DID hurt me!”

When it comes down to what we believe, will God hold us accountable for what are not motivated to learn, especially in matters concerning Him?

A few nights ago I was sitting on a bench with “Tommy”, who worked as a grounds-keeper at the University of South Carolina. I had asked him if anyone had ever asked him or said something like, “God has a wonderful plan for his life” as I was interested to find out what those words meant to him. He told me that he felt this meant that he had to work to help others (volunteer alot) and that he was doing a fairly good job at fulfilling God’s purpose for his life, that God’s plan was being accomplished.

He was thankful that God was real, for his health, family and job but he really felt like he needed more peace that love, joy or hope right now. As a child, he felt that God was some kind of higher power, but was certainly a mysterious worker who is all forgiving and loving. “Tommy” even mentioned his spiritual goals were to get closer to God, follow Jesus and make some important changes in his life.

I asked him “what kind of changes?” He confessed he had an unclean mouth and needed to work on his language, but everything else was cool. Did he consider himself to be a “Good Person?” For the most part.

Does he keep the 10 Commandments? Let me simply say, the bottom fell out. He confessed quickly of known sins—he knew he had broken God’s moral law.

I talked to him about the coming Day of Judgment and God would hold him accountable for his sin, specifically that he would receive his wages for sin. Was he ready to receive that? Did he know if he was going to heaven or hell?

He was going to heaven. Do you know why? Because though he knew he was a sinner, the less he felt he knew about what God was going to do, the better chance he had at getting off easy and getting a light judgment—God is forgiving and loving, right? He was going to work harder at getting to know God and he would get his “stuff” straight and everything would work out . . .

Wow. Is ignorance really bliss? He completely left out Jesus! Does that matter?

I was led to remember another conversation on a road long ago. There were these two guys walking along this seven-mile stretch from Jerusalem to Emmaus, and while they were walking, they were talking about the latest news: the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. While they were walking, Jesus Himself joined them (they were prevented from recognizing Him) and asked what they were talking about. They froze. One of the guys, Cleopas, says, “Are You the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?”

Jesus says, “What things?”

So Cleopas and his friend sadly recount everything to their new traveling companion: Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people, was delivered to death by the chief priests and rulers and was crucified. They spoke of how they had hoped that Jesus was going to redeem Israel and three days came and went. “But also some women among us amazed us. When they were at the tomb early in the morning, and did not find His body, they came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said that He was alive.” They described how some went to the tomb and found it just exactly as the women also had said; but they did not see Him.

"And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures". (Luke 24:13-27).

Jesus does not consider ignorance to be bliss and is very much concerned that what you don’t know can in fact hurt you—especially where it concerns Him! Does it matter what I believe about Jesus? To Jesus, He matters.

Look at Jesus’ attitude toward these guys: He first calls them ignorant and slow of heart to believe. I don’t think this was spoken lightly, but it was certainly spoken lovingly. They were on an emotional rollercoaster: disappointed, confused, sad, curious, bewildered, frustrated, embarrassed, yet they were met with compassion. Now consider what Jesus does, starting here on the road to Emmaus through the end of the Gospel of Luke: “He not only appeared to them, but spoke to them. He not only appeared to them, but taught them, and in particular gave them a commission in which the meaning of His own life and work, and their calling as connected with it, are finally declared.”[i] Jesus is careful to make certain He is clearly understood, so it is our responsibility to get Him right.

Matthew Henry explains that Jesus called them fools not out of reproach (“you idiots!”) but to show where they were weak, ignorant. And He was not about to let them take another step without receiving an education. “He might call them fools, for he knows our foolishness, the foolishness that is bound in our hearts. Those are fools that act against their own interest; so they did who would not admit the evidence given them that their Master was risen, but put away the comfort of it.”[ii]

I sat on the park bench with “Tommy” and explained Christ to him: how God Himself took on flesh and dwelt among us in order that He might take away the sin of the world. I showed him in the court room how he was going to stand before the Almighty Judge, guilty of his crimes, fully deserving punishment that justice demands when it runs it’s course. I spoke to him of Jesus, who had set aside all things glorious, given up everything He had to offer him the chance to walk out of the courtroom free from the guilt and sentence of his sins, away from the wrath of the divine judge . . . and he would not accept the free gift. He just wanted to get to know the judge. He was foolish and slow of heart to believe. He would not believe Christ and he would not believe the Bible—he turned from the gospel to depend on his works.

The two on the road to Emmaus would not believe the Bible. They totally missed what was written in the scriptures concerning Jesus—they did not recognize Him on the road, nor on the page.

Have you ever looked up the word “seminary?” The root word is from the Latin root for “seed.” The primary definition is, “an environment in which something originates and from which it is propagated.”[iii] How appropriate then that these two travelers are given the best seminary education concerning Christ, where Jesus Himself takes them all the way back to the beginning and explains Himself, correcting their understanding of Him through the first five books and the psalter and the prophetic writings. He showed them His identity and the necessity for Him to suffer and die and be raised again and how He is glorified. And why does He do this? A friend recently shared an article with me in which R.C Sproul writes, “God reveals Himself to us in a book. That book is written in words. It communicates concepts that must be understood by the mind. Certainly mysteries remain. But the purpose of God's revelation is that we understand it with our minds that it might penetrate our hearts. To despise the study of theology is to despise learning the Word of God.”[iv] We will visit this again, Lord willing.

Jesus was taking those men to the cross and the tomb, where the work of God was finished in the Lord Jesus Christ. Oswald Chambers reminds us how the cross is the gateway to His life. “His resurrection means that He has the power to convey His life to me. When I am born again from above, I receive from the Risen Lord His very life!”[v] Jesus was not satisfied to leave them in their ignorance, but desiring they grow in the grace and knowledge of Him! Their relationship with Him depended on it! They knew about His life, death and resurrection, but Jesus had to get to the meaning and eliminate ignorance.

At the beginning I asked, “When it comes down to what we believe, will God hold us accountable for what are not motivated to learn, especially in matters concerning Him?” The answer is “yes.” The reason is rooted in the very existence of God Himself: He is, therefore we must know. Motivations to not learn are selfish and idolatrous.

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.” (Hebrews 1:1-2)

************

[i] Denney, James. The Death of Christ. Great Britain: Paternoster, 1997.
[ii]Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible : Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1996, c1991), Lk 24:13.
[iii]Inc Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary., Includes Index., 10th ed. (Springfield, Mass., U.S.A.: Merriam-Webster, 1996, c1993).
[iv] R. C. Sproul, Essential Truths of the Christian Faith (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House, 1996, c1992).
[v] Chambers, Oswald. “His Resurrection Destiny.” My Utmost for His Highest. April 8.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Mark Lowry and Tony Campolo: heretics or lousy theologians?

This fits in nicely with our thoughts this week on why it DOES matter what one believes:

Answering Objections Concerning the Study of Doctrine

Millard Erickson mentions three objections to the study of doctrine early in his book "Does It Matter What I Believe?"[i] First, "the study of doctrine unduly complicates the Christian faith;" second, "doctrine divides Christians;" and third, "doctrine may distract us from other aspects of the Christian life." Erickson does not hold to these objections, but we are well served to answer them, for if these objections are not answered we might as well worship dust bunnies because nobody enjoys complications, everyone is persuant of unity and the last thing we really need are distractions from those thing that make us feel good. A happy home is one where everyone is able to sit and watch the same TV channel without bickering, right?

Doctrine is a strange word. I distinctly remember hearing it for the first time when I was small and how the sound of it stuck with me like grit does after falling on a hard cold tile floor. Not exactly a word many use every day, but we use a form of it religiously—if we are not visiting them for one reason or another, we are enjoying TV shows about them (one of which has become a regular House-hold name.) I speak of the good “doctor.”

Doctrine is simply “teaching,” “instruction,” or “dogma.” If one were to wax Calvinistic, he would speak of “institutes.” Doctrine is simply “something that is taught; or, a principle or position or the body of principles in a branch of knowledge or system of belief. In other applications the word would refer to a principle of law established through past decisions; or, a statement of fundamental government policy especially in international relations.[ii] Unless we were neo-pagan, we unfortunately cannot enjoy entertaining the idea of what life would look like sans doctrine in toto; therefore, we are left to focus our discussion to doctrine as it touches Christianity.

First: Does the study of doctrine complicate Christianity? When study becomes over-analysis, perhaps; however, it is not the doctrine that has become the complication but rather the mishandling of the lesson. Overthinking (to employ a Orwellianism) is the stick in the spokes here. This is easily demonstrated: form a circle with your finger and thumb, like you were making an “OK” sign. Now, poke your head through the hole. Did you do it?

Perhaps something easier. Let’s imagine I whacked you upside the head with a golf-club. Now I’m going to do it again. What will you do differently? What did you have to stop and think about? How long did it take to decide?

If you tried the first experiment, you should have simply placed your “circle” against your forehead and “poked” your head with your other hand. If you got whacked the first time with the club, you would either duck or move or grab my hand to keep from getting whacked again. Some of you may have wrestled the club from my grip at which point I would immediately (and without much thought) take off running. See the point? One does not simply sit and think about it—he acts. No complication.

Consider further: the rules of your workplace. You have a specific job to perform and a certain amount of time in which to do it. How did the training you receive make your job harder? What profit is there to say, “The acquisition of procedure unduly complicates my job?”

Since the main task of the disciple is to learn from the Master and apply what he has learned, what complication did they face by virtue of being disciples? Jesus makes it easy by teaching to walk away from everything else and obey Him out of love. Like Bunyan’s Pilgrim, one must leave family, friends, even the City of Destruction and make his way to the cross (and bear his own) in order to be a disciple. Consider further, if the disciples had not learned the doctrine of prayer, would prayer have been easier for them, or were they asking for complication when they inquired of the Lord Jesus Christ to teach them to pray? Had they already mastered prayer and were looking for something else to do? Jesus made prayer easier, not harder by taking the focus off self and throwing it all on God.

I believe the real issue is that many who are at ease playing at Christianity do so by their own rules. They are uncomfortable with the demands that obedience brings, hence the complication lies within themselves, not the doctrine. If this objection made its point, what other doctrine is there to be learned and would it really be less complicated? In addition, given the demands of maintaining a lifestyle (idolatry) that is not congruent with Christianity, is there any wonder complication becomes an issue? Creating a god of convenience is the result of not learning about the true and living God, and that alone brings eternal complications.

Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”[iii]

Second, it is said that “doctrine divides Christians.” Jesus prayed for His disciples “that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.”[iv] Either His prayer is ineffective as the objection implies (we will touch on this again in the third point), or something other than doctrine concerns Jesus that He would pray for unity.

Thinking through the objection, one should immediately seek to discover what is meant by “divide?” Obviously, Christians are divided geographically; hence, some are “over here” while others are “over there.” But I don’t believe this is the thrust of the objection.

I hear often, “why are there so many denominations?” Look for a moment at your loose change. If you have some in your pocket, dig it out. Do you find pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters? A wadded up bill? Out of all that is in your hand (or jar or purse), which ones of those are truly money? They are all money, right? What you are looking at is money divided into “denominations.” What difficulty is there for denominations to do their work when it comes to making a purchase? The only difficulty comes if that money comes from outside the country or is false, so there must be some clear parameters set for that denomination to function correctly. In this sense “doctrine” does not divide, but assists the division to work. Criteria are clearly established that prevents counterfeiting.

Consider further the example given from scripture. “For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.”[v]

The Church is described as a body with weaker and stronger parts. God seems to have actually constructed the Church (made up of Christians) with an element of division, but not the division that leads to amputation; rather, a division that requires care for one another.

Is division by doctrine bad, or wrong? If “tolerance” is meant by “division,” then the answer is “No.” Doctrine clearly distinguishes the true Christian from the false. I have occasional conversations with Jehovah’s Witnesses who claim Christianity and I’ve spoken with Mormons claim Christianity; but, I cannot help but notice how the Jehovah’s Witness does not claim Mormonism, nor does the Mormon identify with the Watchtower, and the Christian claims no relation with either. All the more intriguing is how that one cardinal doctrine that separates the Christian from the JW’s and Mormons concerns the Trinity; yet, the JW’s and Mormons maintain their distinctive on the Godhead and identity of Jesus. Consider the principle as given by Paul, “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be!”[vi]

Now, my neo-pagan friends say the fault lies within Christianity and the lack of tolerance, that no person has THE doctrine nor the right to impose it on others. They claim unity despite their individual systems in the name of unity. This is like taking some jigsaw puzzles and throwing them together in a box, shaking it up and proclaiming, “now, I’ve completed the puzzle.” The pieces just don’t fit, and if any two pieces just happened to come together, the picture would not be near what it should!

“Just as the sponge lies in the water, and the water fills the sponge, but the water is not the sponge and the sponge is not the water, but they ever remain different things, so children abide in Me and I in them. This is not pantheism, but it is the kingdom of God, which is set up in the hearts of those who abide in this world; and just as the water in the sponge, I am in every place and in everything, but they are not I (Luke xvii.21).”[vii]

But what about doctrinal division within true Christianity, division between those who hold all the cardinal doctrines? The answer is not found in the doctrines themselves, but in those who practice them. This is why we can return to Jesus’ prayer and discover what is meant by unity. Oswald Chambers reminds first us that discipleship is not an isolated or individual experience; rather, discipleship is carried out relation to others. Second, this prayer of Jesus is not one we can answer as it is directed Godward. God’s purpose is to answer that prayer by having Jesus disciples learn the mind of God.[viii] If there is disunity or division then the disciples, not the teachings must be addressed. If Christians in one church are in two congregations, then those Christians are held accountable for how they handle doctrine.

There is a second part of this objection to must consider: If doctrines are divisive to Christians, one must discover “which doctrines?” Which teachings of the faith are more crucial than others: that God created everything or how much time it took to create? That a day will come when the Lord Jesus Christ will return personally, bodily and visibly; or, the exact time when he will come?

Rather than drive believers apart in fellowship, they must learn to walk together by faith in the light of God’s word, paying attention to the essentials as they are discovered from diligent study that produces sound Biblical and Systematic Theology. The central feature is that the Christian must be able to feed himself from God’s Word in personal study, not nibbling on crumbs and the opinions of men.

The third and final objection is that "doctrine may distract us from other aspects of the Christian life." I am curious to know: what other aspects are there? I propose this thinking is the proverbial foot in the door, allowing aberrant teaching to creep into our churches. I hear an underlying motive to question the efficiency of what God is doing. The encroachment of Eastern Mysticism on the church brings with it the assumption that we can be doing religion better than our stuffy grandfathers did. For example: Prayer is no longer tuning and retuning the heart, mind and soul to the glory of God, but a breath of conversation where one seeks to touch and experience God. “The instructions Jesus gave the disciples were just to get them started. Go beyond that and breathe the name of God until you feel His presence.” In more general sense, the attitude is “don’t get all caught up in ecclesiastical legalism, just go with the flow and contact God.”

On the other hand, I contend again that the problem does not lie with the doctrine, but with the Christian who is entrusted to handle that doctrine; that is, as Erickson describes, the problem is a failure to maintain balance. It is entirely possible to spend an unhealthy amount of time dwelling on just one facet of instruction while the others receive less attention. Here is where discipline (notice the close relationship of this word to “discipleship”) is necessary. We would like to think that mastering divinity is possible, so we will hang on until we know the subject by rote—and some certainly seem as if they are able to accomplish this. The truth of the matter is that we instead should be mastered by divinity and allow Him to be the teacher. This way all aspects of Christian life are covered and He is glorified by all that is done and said.

************
[i] Erickson, Millard. Does It Matter What I Believe? Grand Rapids: Baker, 1992.
[ii]Inc Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary., Includes Index., 10th ed. (Springfield, Mass., U.S.A.: Merriam-Webster, 1996, c1993).
[iii]New American Standard Bible : 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Mt 7:13.
[iv]NASB, ibid. Jn 17:21.
[v]NASB, ibid. 1 Co 12:14.
[vi] NASB, ibid. 1 Co 6:15.
[vii] Singh, Sadhu Sundar. At The Master's Feet. London: Fleming H Revell Company, 1922.
[viii] Chamber, Oswald. May 22 “Now This Explains It.” My Utmost for His Highest.

Popular Posts