Wednesday, June 30, 2010

If I Want One Of These, Is It Coveting?

The Terrafugia Transition

Dr. George Murray on Lausanne Congress III at CIU

Masters degree, Doctor of Ministry and guest students are encouraged to take advantage of what is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to “be at the table” for major thinking and strategizing on world evangelization for the next generation. The course will be led by Dr. William Larkin and Dr. George Murray, site coordinators at Cape Town, and Dr. Roy King, Columbia International University-site coordinator.

GLS 5445 (Master's level) and MIS 9445 (Doctoral level) "Major Issues in 21st Century Missions" (3 credit hours): This course is centered on “Cape Town 2010,” the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization held in Cape Town, South Africa, October 16-25, 2010. Through pre-campus and post-campus reading, written papers, and participation in a GlobaLink gathering on the Columbia International University campus, October 22-25, with Internet feeds from Capetown 2010, you will be exposed to six major issues confronting individuals involved in world evangelization during the twenty-first century. These are:

  • The Whole Gospel: “Truth and Uniqueness of Jesus Christ” and a “Theology of Reconciliation”;
  • The Whole World: “Good News for a Broken World” and “The Unfinished Task”;
  • The Whole Church: “A Call for a 21st Century Reformation of the Church” and “Unity of the Church.”

This will be a Fall intensive “wrap around course” with the following parameters:

  • Pre-campus work (in your present location), due on Oct 22;
  • Attendance at “Lausanne III at CIU” (in Columbia, Oct 22-25, including evening dinner class discussions of the day’s proceedings);
  • Post-campus work (in your present location, Oct 26 to Dec 17).

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The 1MoreTour Guys First Webisode!

Visit the website.

What is the gospel?

Since one blogger already asked the question, I will merely catalogue a few responses received to the question, “What is the gospel?”

  • "The gospel is the good news (not good advice) of the announced end of the age of decay accomplished in the incarnation and crucifixion of Jesus Christ and inaugurated in his resurrection into creation 2.0;"
  • "It meant the announcement of a new King and a new Kingdom;"
  • "The kingdom of God is among you;"
  • "God's grace can prevail over my depravity;"
  • "The good news. The kingdom is here. Is coming. Has arrived;"
  • "The Gospel is John 3:16 followed by carrying out the 2 greatest commandments- Love God, love your neighbor as yourself;"
  • "Son of God comes to earth, saves mankind, sparks religious unrest for next millennium;"
  • "The Gospel is the announcement that, in Jesus, God is setting in motion a revolution to begin to make things as they will one day be;"
  • "I don't know. I honestly don't know;"

Recognizing how every respondent to her blog does not represent every viewpoint on the gospel, I still can’t help but wonder why no contributor defined God as the gospel (John Piper has written an excellent work on the subject). Why did nobody mention Romans 1:16-17, which explains what that means, that “God is the gospel?” “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’”

Reflecting on Paul’s statement, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ,” I think of the UPS guy, the FEDEx gal, or the person who delivers packages and mail to the door. Picture the scenario: your office is in the rhythm of work, or you are busy at home, and the currier comes to the desk or to the door—right where you are—to drop off that which they have been entrusted to deliver (and perhaps collect a signature) then they turn and make their way to the next stop. Whatever you were doing has been completely interrupted with no embarrassment, no guilt, and no shame. Sure, you may not know what has just been handed to you; or perhaps this is something you’ve been expecting. Regardless, you now have the parcel in a responsible manner.

The implication behind Paul’s statement is the gospel is news that originates from God Himself, and Paul gets to deliver it! There is there is great honor being entrusted with the good news of Jesus Christ, for He is worth the glory received in its proclamation. We would not have believed it had not someone interrupted our lives to deliver it—now we get to hand it off to someone else! As Martin Luther succinctly stated, “I believe, therefore I speak.” But is it that simple?

The Apostle Paul was a Jew, a people of low regard in the world. Theologically, he was a Pharisee, one of the most religious groups of the day and he not only hated the message of the gospel, but killed those who were followers of Christ. Socially, he was also a Roman, a citizen of a corrupt and despised government. Threes strikes. Why should he be unashamed of the gospel? The message alone is nearly unbelievable: God breaks into time and space as a baby, born in an obscure village to people without nobility. As a Jewish man, he lived all but three years of His life very quietly, and then stirs up the countryside with His teachings and claims that He came to die for other men—and He does die! To top it off, women bear the first witness to his rising again! Are you serious, Paul? Yes, he is very serious because Paul came to know the gospel personally; or we should say, the gospel came to know him. More on this in a future post.

The gospel is the power of God. One of God’s attributes is His Omnipotence; that is, His power. God’s incredible power could easily have wiped everything out and started completely over again. Nobody would have known any different. In a way, this is exactly what God does—the only difference is that everyone gets to know about it. That’s what makes the good news the good news! Conspiracy theorists and Zeitgeitists object: “The religious myth is the most powerful device ever created, and serves as the psychological soil upon which other myths can flourish.” Kenneth Prior correctly observed that “mythology exists to show the wickedness of men through the depravity of their gods, whose deeds are so repulsive that men abandon them. The Bible records the depravity of men against a righteous God, who alone can save them.” (The Gospel in a Pagan Society. Hodder and Stoughton: London, 1975)

The gospel is the power of God to salvation. God’s power is not aimless, but is at work within us (Eph 3:20). Years earlier, Paul wrote, “For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (1Cor 1:25) This is in reference to the gospel, “that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” (1Cor 2:5) God’s power providing salvation reminds us why we should not be ashamed—this is His doing, not ours. We could never dream of such a remedy for sin. The salvation He provides is so complete: consider how He desires we be saved from the penalty of sin (hell), the power of sin (victorious Christian living) and the presence of sin (enjoying Him forever in the place He has prepared for us in Heaven). If man has his way, he would just stop at the first. Test me in this: talk with people on the street and ask them what it means to be saved and rarely will you find one that will say more than “not going to hell.” Salvation is about being reconciled to God in Christ Jesus!

The gospel is the power of God to salvation to everyone who believes. First, we must recall this is the gospel of Christ; in other words, a connection exists between His death on the cross and the power of God to save, extending “to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Jesus’ death and resurrection powerfully accomplished what man cannot for him, that is, make the payment for sin. “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Ro 6:23) Man broke God’s moral law and the justice of God demands payment. No person is exempt from understanding his lawlessness and God’s command to repent. Everyone should hear that God’s will is for everyone to be cleansed and forgiven by grace through faith. “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor. 1:18)

The gospel is the revealer of the righteousness of God. God has acted intentionally in a way that secures our right standing before Him. The difficulty for man is that man rejects what God has provided. Man does not need righteousness to be man, but God must be righteous to be God. Man thinks he is good enough for God (Proverbs 20:6) but there is not a righteous person who seeks after God (Romans 3). Man is separated from God by sin, and man must be made righteous to be reconciled to God. This is accomplished only by faith in Christ Jesus. Right standing is given to man when he is credited with righteousness in believing; furthermore, because of the generosity of God in Christ, this is how He brings man to Himself—but man must repent and believe.

The beauty of this work of God magnifies considering how His righteousness is not a one-time dispensation, that is, at salvation; rather, it is perpetual and keeping. Note Paul’s words, “the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith”—from beginning to end. The life of the follower of Christ is the life of faith. We begin by faith, we continue by faith, we grow by faith, we please the Lord with faith. When God gives us grace in salvation and grace to help in time of need and grace that helps us deny ungodliness as we wait for His return, we appropriate Him by faith—God is the gospel.

Monday, June 28, 2010

A Prayer About Annoyance

"A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult." Proverbs 12:16

Read Scotty's prayer here: A Prayer About Annoyance

Absurd arguments

There is one scene in Disney’s “A Bug’s Life” (time travel back to 1998) where the Grasshoppers bully the Ants over food and things get a little rough. Most frightening to the Ants is the Grasshopper, Thumper. He a raving mad-bug. His eyes are bloodshot, teeth are jagged, and his wings are torn. He never speaks (except in the outtakes), but grunts and growls, screams and scowls. When the lead Grasshopper (Hopper, wants to flex a little muscle, he snaps his fingers (?) and Thumper goes berserk. This is the picture that comes to mind when I read Matthew 12:14 which says, “But the Pharisees went out and counseled together against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.”

Not too far before they began plotting, Jesus healed (among others that day) two blind men (Matthew 9:27-30) and a demonized man who was also dumb (Matthew 9:32) was brought to Him. Now, after they plotted to kill Him, we read that they go out, find a man who is demon-possessed, blind and dumb (Matthew 12:22) and bring him to Jesus. If this was part of their plot to kill Him, I wonder what they were expecting. Was this man supposed to snap and do violence to His person? Were they hoping this man would kill Jesus for them?

One can easily imagine the crowds nearby actually holding their breath for what they knew was coming. It is more difficult to imagine what the Pharisees were thinking, beyond their obvious bracing for what was coming, that would be their excuse to disbelieve even further. When we read that Jesus healed the man, we also read the crowds were amazed (Matthew 12:22-23). We also read the Pharisees heard the report of what Jesus did (Matthew 12:24). What? Where were the Pharisees? Did they drop this guy off and run for cover?

They could not tolerate the words and works of the Kingdom. When Jesus healed the man, they tried to undermine Him. “This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the rule of the demons.” (Matthew 12:24). Those on the front lines engaging the world often hear objections similar to this. Listen to this man’s objections to the works and word of God:

Jesus wastes no time answering His critics. Instead, He heals the man and exposes them—He resisted the proud and gave grace to the humble. He heals the man because he was brought into the picture as an innocent. Jesus’ ministry to the man was consistent with what was prophesied concerning Him in Isaiah 42:1-4. He exposes the Pharisees because they were not ready for grace.

Jesus shows the problem with their objection: if the healing of the man was a Satanic work, then Satan was against himself. “How then shall his kingdom stand?” Furthermore, since casting out demons was practiced by the sons of the Pharisees, how do they do it? (Matthew 12:15-27). Jesus puts the burden of proof on the objector. Jesus response is summarized in the first two principles of “The Columbo Tactic,” as summarized by Greg Koukl at Stand to Reason.

Ministry is hard enough as it is—and that’s toward those who will receive ministry. Those that will not receive ministry cut themselves off from the life of God in Christ Jesus by their own objections. Through patient teaching under the power of the Holy Spirit, we can by useful to help them see the weakness of their objections by asking simple questions.

The difficulty for Jesus’ objectors is they leave themselves nothing on which to stand. When they question the authority by which Jesus performed His ministry, they jerked the rug from under their own feet because their own sons perform the same ministry—how do they do it (12:27)? When I hear people reject the Bible as a whole or in part and make a case for personal freedom, I remind the objector that when someone commits a crime against them, they have just dismissed all grounds to prosecute.

Jesus tells the truth, regardless of what they think. He tells, “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God [Isaiah 42!], then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.” (Matthew 12:28). Watch the video above once more and listen as Pastor Steve shows the man (who will not let him get a word in edgewise) the futility of his arguments by holding him to the inevitable.

The message of God and His kingdom does not change because He does not change. No matter how a person rails and objects, they cannot change the harsh reality of what God is doing and going to do. The one who is not with Jesus is against Him. The one who does not gather, scatters. One cannot object and follow Christ simultaneously.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Night Langston Hughes Cried

Langston Hughes cried the night he got saved. Actually, Langston Hughes cried because he knew he was not.

A small section of his first autobiography, “The Big Sea” (1940) records what happened. He was twelve years old when he attended a revival at his aunt Reed's church. Days beforehand, Hughes' aunt told him about the meetings (especially the one special meeting that would be held just for the children) and what it was like to be saved.

“My aunt told me that when you were saved you saw a light, and something happened to you inside! And Jesus came into your life! And God was with you from then on! She said you could see and hear and feel Jesus in your soul. I believed her. I had heard a great many old people say the same thing and it seemed to me they ought to know.”

The night finally came, and Hughes was escorted to the front row, placed on the mourner's bench “with all the other young sinners, who had not yet been brought to Jesus” and waited “for Jesus to come to me.”

The preacher preached and pleaded for the little lambs to come. The “little girls cried. And some jumped up and went to Jesus right away. But most of us just sat there.”

Hughes describes how many of the older people gathered around, praying for the children to “come to Jesus.” The children came reluctantly, slowly, and the night was getting on. Two children remained on the bench, and Hughes was one. His friend finally gave in (with a curse of frustration for sitting so long). The preacher and his aunt begged and cried for him to come. Hughes describes he was feeling ashamed for making the meeting go on so long, but he knew that his friends had not seen Jesus. He knew they lied and was wondering what God thought about people cursing and lying “in the temple. So I decided that maybe to save further trouble, I'd better lie too, and say that Jesus had come, and get up and be saved.” Hughes describes the rejoicing, shouting, and people leaping and dancing at his coming forward.

Hughes says that he only cried one other time in his life, and this night was the first. He buried his head under the quilts and sobbed. His aunt heard, convinced of his joy in being filled with the Holy Ghost and seeing Jesus. Hughes knew he had not, but had lied to everyone in the church. “I didn't believe there was a Jesus any more, since he didn't come to help me.”

This is not an uncommon experience, and sadly, the results are rather complicated. Hughes, even at a such a young age, was able to discern a problem, but could not identify where the problem lay. At bottom, he knew that deception was at work—but where was the deception, and what was it specifically? Was he weeping because the theology of his aunt, his elders and the church had failed? Was he weeping because he did not have the feeling he was expecting? Did Jesus really fail to come?

One might read Hughes' experience and point to apparent conflict between the world of children and the world of adults, the rise and fall of childish expectation. There is an apparent problem with building within children grandeur of the fantastic, tearing it down, and replacing it with a greater fantasy called “religion” or something else. Social critic Audre Lourde (1934 – 1992) reflects on her childish confusion following her eighth-grade graduation, “when I was supposed to stop being a child . . . My sister graduated at the same time from high school. I don't know what she was supposed to stop being.” This perspective is too broad, missing the point altogether.

Another may interpret Hughes' experience ethically, arguing it is better to protect someone you love and maintain respect of those around you, even if one must lie to do it. There are two problems with this, the first being that even Hughes' conscience would not accept this. Without doubt he loved his aunt, and respected his elders (he took their opinion to heart), but he made his decision out of convenience, not out of love or respect: it was hot, the night was wearing on, and he feeling personally responsible for holding up the meeting. The second difficulty is that Hughes knew that lying was wrong in the eyes of God and others, regardless of the reason.

Perhaps Hughes wept of personal disillusionment with a person, idea or institution. This is more plausible when one factors in the theology and conscience. Culturally, the revival is more easily compared to a “coming of age” initiation, or to Lourde's graduation. He was told what to expect and nothing happened. Jesus was presented as a feeling, not a person; an experience. When the idea failed, the institution failed. When the institution failed, the relationship with his aunt failed—it would never be the same again. His friend did not have “the experience” but blasphemed and lied, then by “coming forward” convinced everyone through that one move that he met Jesus; but, he was part of the wider family now and could stare down at Hughes from the stage.

The reason Langston Hughes cried was conviction. Hughes lied and he knew it was wrong before God, regardless of what others thought.

Jesus was right there with him, under the covers, speaking to his soft, young heart, and Hughes did not see Him there or recognize His voice.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


Leonard Nimoy finally finds a home in Vulcan.

Speaking of space, did you hear the one about the seventh-graders who found a cave (pit crater) on Mars (the red square is superimposed)?

Your listening ears can now hear the music of the spheres! Here comes the sun.

Evolution does not have the sense of humor to produce this:

Did you get your free book yet? An audio version is available on the same website.

One Website, 800 Languages

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

12 Cities/12 Conversations Tour and MORE!

"Michael Horton recently participated in a panel discussion on global evangelism at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif. It was part of the 12 Cities / 12 Conversations tour sponsored by the Lausanne Movement, and a video of this conversation is now available online. In addition to Horton, other panelists include Skye Jethani, Jim Belcher, Jena Lee Nardella, Miles McPhereson, Soon Chan Rah, and Kay Warren. FYI, the discussion doesn’t get rolling until around 16 minutes into the video (after all the introductory remarks)."

Masters degree, Doctor of Ministry and guest students are encouraged to take advantage of what is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to “be at the table” for major thinking and strategizing on world evangelization for the next generation. The course will be led by Dr. William Larkin and Dr. George Murray, site coordinators at Cape Town, and Dr. Roy King, Columbia International University-site coordinator.

GLS 5445 (Master's level) and MIS 9445 (Doctoral level) "Major Issues in 21st Century Missions" (3 credit hours): This course is centered on “Cape Town 2010,” the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization held in Cape Town, South Africa, October 16-25, 2010.

Through pre-campus and post-campus reading, written papers, and participation in a GlobaLink gathering on the Columbia International University campus, October 22-25, with Internet feeds from Capetown 2010, you will be exposed to six major issues confronting individuals involved in world evangelization during the twenty-first century. These are:

  • The Whole Gospel: “Truth and Uniqueness of Jesus Christ” and a “Theology of Reconciliation”;
  • The Whole World: “Good News for a Broken World” and “The Unfinished Task”;
  • The Whole Church: “A Call for a 21st Century Reformation of the Church” and “Unity of the Church.”

This will be a Fall intensive “wrap around course” with the following parameters:

  1. Pre-campus work (in your present location), due on Oct 22;
  2. Attendance at “Lausanne III at CIU” (in Columbia, Oct 22-25, including evening dinner class discussions of the day’s proceedings);
  3. Post-campus work (in your present location, Oct 26 to Dec 17).

You may contact me for assistance.

Living What Matters

Walking across The Horseshoe on the campus of the University of South Carolina a couple of years ago, I met a young man just coming out of a building from a class. He had his empty back-pack hanging off one shoulder, while he carried a small stack of books under the other arm. After a few moments of light conversation, I asked if he had a religious background, to which he got rather agitated and replied in a stern negative, adding that the Bible could not be trusted. I inquired how he came to that conclusion, to which he bitterly answered, “Because the Bible was written by men. It’s a waste of time. Only an idiot would believe the Bible.” The implication he was trying to make was crystal clear.

What happened next was like one of those movie scenes where everything freezes while a character thinks, dialogues, or moves about for a moment until everything resumes animation once more. I stood there, looked at him, looked at the books under his arm, his empty backpack, again the books under his arm and thought, “really?” When everything started moving again, I could not help, but had to ask:

“Who do you think would be more foolish: the one who believes a book written by men; or, the one who pays thousands of dollars in tuition to read books written by men and be accountable for the contents, whether he agrees or not?”

Everything froze again; or, he was just staring at me, thinking about the logical conclusion of his statement. We eventually parted ways (but not without giving him a gospel tract). Perhaps what is most ironic to me is that USC was founded by the first pastor of what was to become (and still is) the First Baptist Church in Columbia. I meet USC students often who object to the biblical worldview. When I ask how they came to their conclusions regarding their position, the most common answer points back to a class they took or a professor at USC!

People who object to the Bible never come to that conclusion by reading it themselves—they have to be taught their contrary positions.

Objections against the biblical worldview takes various forms, one of which is “truth is relative,” or my personal favorite, “you can’t know anything for certain.” I am amazed at how firmly people stand by their conviction without giving thought to how the argument undermines itself. I am also amazed that the age of the objection—this is nothing new, and I wonder when we will begin to learn from history? Augustine (354-430) faced such objections head-on in his book, “Against the Academics,” where he wrote, “The academicians themselves claim they follow only the probable in acting. Still they go to great pains to seek the truth, although they think it probable that truth cannot be found. Who would not laugh at this? What amazing absurdity!”

Long before Augustine, the apostle Paul faced objections just like we do today. Writing to Titus, Paul warns of unruly empty talkers and deceivers (1:10). “They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.” (1:11) These are no mere open-air hecklers, but are influential teachers who are in close enough proximity to the church to warrant the admonition. These objectors are not simply confused in their opinions (that may be a contributing element, but not the sole cause). They are speaking out of rebellious ignorance and hatred—their motives are evil! They are exalting human understanding and judgment over prayer and faith in the authority of God that inspired His word.

Paul points out the necessity of broadcasting and standing in biblical truth in contrast to the character of false teachers. Paul quotes one of Crete’s own philosophers, “One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, ‘Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.’” (1:12) Their only intent through their rebellion is to make themselves prosper on those who follow their teaching. A family friend (who is not a follower of Christ, incidentally) does not miss the truth of this biblical teaching by his observances regarding the Phelps family and Westboro Baptist Church. This group consists of lawyers or one-time lawyers who are waiting for opportunity to consume anyone against whom they can build a case. This is an example of what Paul is talking about here because those who do not hold the biblical worldview are creating an uproar!

How are we to deal with those who raise objection? On the one hand, if one speaks contrary out of ignorance, he is to be taught. “And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” (2 Timothy 2:24-26) On the other hand, if one speaks contrary to biblical teaching with the intent on doing harm (especially for personal gain), he is to be rebuked (1:13). Rebuking is not a task performed lightly and there is no joy for the one who must do it. Paul often did it with tears (Phil 3:18). There is, however, joy in seeing another repent.

Here is an example of standing firm in truth while dealing with an objection: imagine you are talking with someone and they say, “The Bible has been changed. You can’t trust what it says now because it has been tampered with over time.”

Here is my response that serves as a rebuke for the proud and gives grace to the humble: “who is greater than God to change His Word?” I do not move from this position.

We must cultivate sound thinking because, despite all reason one may give in opposition, the darkness cannot abide in the light; that is, those who do not want the truth will do everything they can to reject it. They may ask hard questions, but don’t let that be discouraging, for the objector may not be asking good questions or they may not even understand what they are asking. How would you answer this one: “There is no such thing as an omnipotent God. Can God make a rock so big he cannot lift it?” This is not a good question because what is at stake is His creative ability vs. His ability to lift. Omnipotence is about power, not ability.

There is an element of hope in Paul’s instruction in verse 13: “This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith . . .” The hope Paul has in mind was hinted at in 2 Timothy, above—that one can come to knowledge of truth and repent. This will only happen when we stand in the truth, speak the truth and live because it matters.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Archaeologists Find Oldest Paintings of Apostles in Roman Catacombs

Published June 22, 2010 Associated Press

"The earliest known icons of the Apostles Peter and Paul have been discovered in a catacomb under an eight-story modern office building in a working-class neighborhood of Rome, Vatican officials said Tuesday.

The images, which date from the second half of the 4th century, were discovered on the ceiling of a tomb that also includes the earliest known images of the apostles John and Andrew. They were uncovered using a new laser technique that allowed restorers to burn off centuries of thick white calcium carbonate deposits without damaging the dark colors of the original paintings underneath."

The full story here

Principles of Leadership

Since the work of the ministry is the transformation of lives into the image of Christ (the application of good news to people's lives), the apostle Paul was inspired to reveal his motive for writing this letter. Anyone desiring the work of ministry should consider what Paul presents in Romans 1:8-15, as here (among other places) are a list of qualities for spiritual leaders.

First, Paul expresses gratitude to God for God's work and gratitude for those to which he ministers (v. 8). Paul is acknowledging that God is doing the work and he is merely the messenger. For years my wife and I have prayed for the congregation God would have for us—little did we know that our congregation was not found within the four walls of a building, but on the streets, in the stores and parks—wherever there are people. God gave us gospel opportunities everywhere, and at first we did not see because our vision was too small-- we were waiting for an address. God showed us we had the whole world. Since that realization, we've had gospel opportunities in different cities, states—even countries! Another reason for his gratitude is that the faith of his audience has global impact; that is, others can learn from what God has done through them. The faith of those who believe become a testimony of what God is doing. Ministers for Christ should be thankful for what they do and for whom they serve.

The role of prayer is vital for spiritual leaders. Paul told the Romans that he prayed for them constantly, even asking God for the opportunity to come visit them, to give them a spiritual gift face-to-face. At first this may seem a little odd because we realize that Paul is pastoring people he has never met, but through prayer, God used this letter to deliver the very thing he desired to give them face-to-face. Paul's ministry is not too much unlike my own today. Nearly every day I have the privilege of meeting people from all over the world who are wanting to learn more about Jesus, have heard the gospel for the first time, or have questions about their spiritual journey. If I do not pray for them, my ministry is nothing more that glorified pen-pal service; but, since this is God's work and I partner with Him in prayer, those who write in are able to receive spiritual gifts they may not receive in any other way! Oh, the wonderful Internet! Like Paul, the servant of Christ must be prayerful, working in the will of God through the power of the Holy Spirit.

One fact to recognize is that the pastor is not the sole and responsible party to carry the gospel into all the world. That is the task of every believer. Like Paul, we are obligated to every person we meet to give them the spiritual gift of the gospel. Our prayer life should be more than, “God bless the pastor,” but “God empower me with Your words to do Your work.” The leader should be your model for this service. Our prayers should include those we don't know, that God would prepare the hearts and minds of those we meet. Our prayer should be more than “let that guy over there get saved.” No, but, “Father, reconcile a lost soul, that he or she would walk before You in obedience to Your Word.”

Why is Paul not ashamed of the gospel? Because it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes (1:16). There is no simpler definition of the gospel than this.

The Thessalonians received a letter from Paul much earlier in his ministry where we read how the power of God to salvation relates to leadership qualities (1 Thessalonians 2:1-3:13). The work of the gospel ministry is not in vain (2:1), gives boldness regardless of circumstances (2:2), is rooted in truth and approved by God (2:3-4). I have some very tender plants coming up in my garden and the heat is increasing. Until the plants are more mature, they must be well watered and protected. I've had to erect a shade to keep the sun from beating down on the plants because I want these specific ones to mature, grow and bear fruit. This is much like God's work. This reminds us that God protects His lasting work—He does not do a work that springs up only to be withered under pressure. God's work is enduring work. Jonathan Edwards wrote an entire book about this in, "The Religious Affection."

The application of the gospel is accomplished through word-smithing and manipulation through clever speech, the exercise influence over people (2:5), nor is the goal of the gospel to win friends and create a following of our own kind (2:6). I heard a preach once apologize for teaching God's Word, “if I am stepping on your toes, I am sorry—I was aiming for the heart.” People should respond to God's Word because that's what it is, and it accomplishes the glory of God for those who obey and believe (2:13).

There is a gentleness in gospel ministry, and affection for those who are served (2:7-8). Sure, we could be out doing something else, but investing in a complete and totals stranger out of obedience and love is where souls are won. The work of the ministry is hard (2:9) and it is not imposing on others who are doing the same (2:9). This relates back to the lasting quality of God's work. When we move in the Spirit, we do not need to ride on the shoulders of others, as if this were a pyramid scheme. Paul likens this gentleness to parenting: “You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.” (2:10-12)

What happened in Dearborn?

Here is a short video on what happened to an evangelism team that distributed The Gospel of John at a Muslim festival in Dearborn, Michigan, USA.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Good News, Bad News

Part of my daily routine is simple: check the news. I open my browser, select my news source and skim the headlines--I like to be informed by my local news source that I can trust (morning news, "Drive time" news, mid-day news, evening news and late night news). News can be breaking, hard, soft, canned, managed, slanted, spot or straight. News categories include general, national, science/tech, entertainment, environmental, political, religion, digestive, organic, earth-friendly, pregnancy, nutrition, diabetes . . . Our choices are no longer relegated to the newspaper or newsletters because we can get it via tv, internet, cell phone and all variations in between. Remember when we were young and thought "good news/bad news" were our only choices?

What if we gave bad news in a good way . . . ?

I like to be informed, but then what? I don't know what to do with this information. I really can't do anything about what I read, can I? Neil Postman wrote: "Our politics, religion, news, athletics, education and commerce have been transformed into congenial adjuncts of show business, largely without protest or even much popular notice. The result is that we are a people on the verge of amusing ourselves to death . . . . [M]ost of our daily news is inert, consisting of information that gives us something to talk about but cannot lead to any meaningful action." (from his book, "Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business") Yet, I still check the news.

Perhaps we check the news because we are fearful of the self-destructive patterns of other human beings--how close to home? "Newspapers, news magazines, and television news shows contain constant reminders that most news is bad and seems to be getting worse. What happens on a national and worldwide scale, however, is simply the magnification of what is occurring on an individual level. As personal problems, animosities, and fears increase, so do their counterparts in society at large." (MacArthur, J. "Romans : Grace, Truth, and Redemption. MacArthur Bible studies . W Publishing Group: Nashville, 2000)

The biggest news right now is the BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Those who remember the Exxon Valdez disaster are having flashbacks--especially those who were directly involved with that cleanup and are still paying the price for their efforts today. Bottom line: oil is toxic, to say nothing of it's other properties. One memory that troubles me is that I grew up in Houston and spent countless hours on the beaches of Galveston. I remember as a boy watching clumps of oil wash up on the beach. Sometimes oil would wash up overnight and then get covered with sand--you walk along the beach and step on a glob of oil, hidden underneath, and it would get all over you. We used to buy and carry extra cans of charcoal lighter fluid with to wash the junk off. The oil spills then did not get as much attention.

Perhaps we skim the news because we are looking for something unusually good, something so virtuous that headlines will just collapse under the weight of carrying the story. Good news makes up jump and do fist-pumps. We smile more and are perhaps a little more generous when we hear good news. Colors look brighter, food tastes better and nobody cares if it rains or shines when good news abounds.

If bad news were flood waters, Paul's letter to the Romans might be viewed as a guage for water levels. Imagine standing on the front porch of your house (it's easy to imagine one), checking to see how close the danger is to home. The first chapter of the book talks about people far removed from where we are, completed flooded over in evil. "The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness . . ." (1:18). Poor, unfortunate pagan souls. Glad it's not me!

Then, he reports on our religious neighbors, those a little closer to home and we realize the flood waters are much closer than we thought: "therefore you are without excuse, every man of you who passes judgment, for in that you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things." (2:1) Poor, unfortunate religious souls!

And if that were not enough, look at what Paul says to the Jews: "But if you bear the name, 'Jew' and rely upon the Law, and boast in God and know His will, and approve the things that are essential, being instructed out of the Law . . . You who boast in the Law, through your breaking of the Law, do you dishonor God?" (2:17-24) By the time we get to 3:23, we discover our front-porch viewpoint is already underwater!

Paul's epistle to the Romans is about the bad news, but it's message is foremost good news. Good news is the promise of God through His prophets in the holy scriptures, all pointing to the person of the Lord Jesus Christ (1:2-3) who died on the cross to save mankind from sin. The person of the good news is the promise of the good news.

Friday, June 18, 2010

"A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World," by Paul Miller

"This is as fine a book on prayer that you will ever read, but it is so much more. It is the story of our struggle to actually live like we believe that our Heavenly father really does love us. If we did, nothing could keep us from being committed to the day by day hard work of prayer. Paul exegetes our struggle in a way that is convicting, insight giving and encouraging. This is a book on prayer that actually makes you want to pray!" - Paul David Tripp

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The "must-read biography of the year"

From the Publisher's description of this biography of the third pastor of what is now the First Baptist Church in Columbia, South Carolina:

"James Petigru Boyce (1827-1888) devoted his life and resources to the dream of training Southern men form many economic and educational backgrounds for pastoral ministry. 'Boyce lived and breathed theological education,' Thomas Nettles writes. 'His theological conviction and his zeal for the strength and purity of Baptist churches drove him to an unrelenting advocacy of theological education for Baptist preachers.

Here is a story of faith triumphing amid struggles and controversies within the Southern Baptist Church. At a time when piety and scholarship were often viewed as antithetical, and no formal confessional statements were required of pastors, Boyce envisioned a confessional seminary that reflected the best of pious scholarship and stood as a bulwark against the slide toward theological diversity. These pages show why Boyce's accomplishment was truly one of the wonders of American theological education.

'Boyce gave his life to training Baptist theological students in orthodox, Reformed, experiential theology,' says Joel Beeke. 'Nettles does with Boyce what Iain Murray did with D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Without resorting t hagiography, nettles offers fascinating details of God's great work through Boyce's intriguing relationships with other notables, such as Archibald Alexander, Samuel Miller, Charles Hodge, Basil Manly Jr., Francis Wayland, John A Broadus, William Williams, and C. H. Toy.'"

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Creation of the Red Rectangle Nebula

APOD asks, "How was the unusual Red Rectangle nebula created?" The key word here is, "created."

Reasoning from Scripture

My wife came into the room where I was reading and asked, "did you hear what your son just said to your daughter? He said, 'don't be drinking the hate-eraide!'" I don't know where he gets his material. Really, I don't.

The mantra of the day is “don’t be hatin’” and “be informed.” How wonderfully these go together! Perhaps with a tool like the internets we are a bit too over-informed. Actually, that is not quite right because being informed requires a little research (as opposed to sitting in front of the computer like a virtual salmon trying to swim upstream through a tidal wave of disconnected information). What better way to understand than to seriously, intentionally look into a matter. One might say, “be open-minded.”

We already considered the Apostle Paul’s visit to Mars Hill in Athens and the conversation that took place over many, many days as recorded in Acts. We can learn that before Paul ever arrived in Athens how Paul set about bringing the biblical worldview in the context of, well, the non-biblical worldview. We read in Acts 17:2-3 that it was his custom to go into the synagogues and reason from the scriptures. Here the people there were already familiar (to some degree) with the scriptures, so his conversation was the kind that involved dialogue, discussion. Next, we must understand that the subject of his discussion was not merely “the scriptures” (as if it were a merely nice subject for conversation) but rather the necessity that Jesus the Christ must suffer and rise from the dead. Through the discussion of text (and remember, they only had most of what we refer to as “The Old Testament” during this time), Paul set about to “explain and prove” this teaching from the scriptures. The result of his discussing and explaining and proving was the persuasion of some and the jealousy of others.

The language of the text is simply this: Paul used irrefutable proof from the authoritative Word of God to prove that King Jesus, the Christ, died and rose again. Luke was only inspired to give us a summary of Paul’s method and message, and we don’t have the actual conversation on record; however, among all that is written by Moses in the Torah, in Prophets and Writings we may remember that the prophet David in Psalm 2 and 110 speak of the Davidic lineage of the Messiah hundreds of years before his birth; Psalm 22 describes His death in detail long before crucifixion was ever put into practice; Psalm 16 looks forward to resurrection.

This is a time-consuming ministry. Did you notice that Paul and company did this over the course of three Sabbaths? Paul does not just swoop in, drop a “gospel bomb” and clear out; rather, he stayed and invested time to the explanation of the Lord Jesus Christ. We should learn a lesson of consistency here for our own ministry. Even if it is on the street. We need to invest in the spiritual lives of others by taking the time to ensure they understand. Too many reject the faith on the basis of unfounded presuppositions (like Langston Hughes).

God’s unchanging Word remains astounding: while we have so many incredible tangible evidences in the historical and archaeological records of everything from Genesis forward, they only confirm what scripture already records—especially regarding Jesus. Namely regarding Jesus. Evidential apologetics is like an underscore of what is already in bold italics. Paul had none of science we do, yet presented overwhelming evidence of Jesus from the scriptures every time he stopped in a city.

Acts 17:6-7 highlights one of the negative responses to the irrefutable proofs: "These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus." First, the world is not right-side up. Sin has reversed the world over on its head, so when the gospel comes into the world, what looks upside to the world is really right-side up. Followers of Jesus are considered upstarts because our message threatens the love-life of the world for itself. Second, there is no other king BUT Jesus. If being a follower of Jesus meant that one make a “decision,” then why are these people so upset? Repentance from sin includes bowing to Him in full allegiance--He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (see Psalm 2 and 110, then John 18:36 and Matthew 28:18, to name of few). These Jews were under the wrong idea that the Caesar’s decrees were being violated. The laws of the land were being undermined by the gospel! Well, the gospel has that effect, but that is not what the gospel is about. The gospel includes a return to obeying the first commandment: there is no other god in God’s face. He is to have total love and the world does not want to give it.

The people in Berea responded differently to Paul’s reasoning, explaining and proving Acts 17:11): “They received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” Formerly, we saw how people are determined not to be changed no matter how much evidence is presented. Now, these people are collectively searching the scriptures to see if what Paul’s teaching was true. This was no easy consent to believe, but one of careful searching and education. The issue was so important that the Bereans studied daily until they saw the truth in Paul’s ministry. Recall from John’s gospel, “but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (20:31)

Let us recall that Paul’s audiences in these contexts have a grasp of scripture. Strongest opposition will come from those who do know now scripture or have been deceived concerning the authority and nature of it. Sometimes it is helpful to know if a person has a religious background by simply asking. Others will not have this knowledge or background, so a more general approach is necessary. When we see Paul talking with the Stoics and Epicureans on Mars Hill, he did not begin with scripture, but by preparing them in conversation, was able to take them there.

Monday, June 14, 2010

76 year-old Hiker Injured on Mount Pisgah

"A hiker falls from a Forest Service viewing platform while hiking on Mount Pisgah."

Pray for Dr. Layman during his recovery!

WMYA MY 40 News :: Top Stories

The Compassionate and Merciful Called Him By Name

Abu Lahab, the uncle of Muhammad, as representative of Muhammad’s own father, was expected to look after his nephew as if he was one of his own children; but, Abu Lahab would not accept any of the teachings of Muhammad. Understand that at this time, Muhammad was just starting to preach the message of Islam and many people had not yet believed him to be the Prophet.

Abu Lahab’s animosity was seen in how he forbade his own two sons to visit their own father unless they divorced their wives (they were married to two of Muhammad’s daughters). Also, as Muhammad began preaching Islam, Abu Lahab would follow him, throwing stones and warning people not to listen, even calling Muhammad a liar. Abu Lahab’s increasing hostility to Muhammad was considered to be an obstruction to the progress of Islam. The Qur’an records that Allah Himself placed a curse on Abu Lahab (by name!) and his wife because of their opposition to the spread of Islam. Surah 111 of the Qur’an is called “Al-lahab,” which reads:

In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful. The power of Abu Lahab will perish, and he will perish. His wealth and gains will not exempt him. He will be plunged in flaming Fire, and his wife, the wood-carrier, will have upon her neck a halter of palm-fibre.”

Here it is again, with a little clarification: “In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful. Abu Lahab [the red-cheeked] will be burned in the flames [Al-lahab, a pun on his name] and there is nothing his “wealth and gains” [children] can do. His wife will hang because she put thorns in the path of the Prophet [an Arabic allusion to slander].”

Islam teaches that Allah (the Compassionate and Merciful) calls Abu Lahab by name and curses him because of his opposition to the message of Islam and Muhammed. Captain Sir Francis Richard Burton (1821 – 1890) was one of the first Westerners to ever visit Mecca (in disguise). He provides a matter of additional insight concerning how Islam responds to Abu Lahab in a practice that continues to this day:

“On the 5th of June, at sunset, commencing our return, we slept at the village of Muzdalifah, and there gathered and washed seven pebbles of the size of peas, to be flung at three piles of whitewashed masonry known as the Satans of Muna . . . A week later, having helped to insult the tumulus of stones which marks, according to popular belief, the burial place of Abulahab, the unbeliever, who we learn from the Koran, has descended into hell with his wife, gatherer of sticks, I was not sorry to relinquish a shade temperature of 120 degrees and wend my way to Jeddah en route for England . . .” Abu Lahab is considered to be an unbeliever who has descended into hell.

One of the 99 Beautiful Names of God in the Qur’an is “Ar-ra’uf” (“The Compassionate”). Sura 111 opens declaring Allah to be “the Compassionate and Merciful.” The prophet David wrote in the Zabbur (Psalm 103:8), “The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.”

The Arabic name of God “Ar-ra’uf” is closely related to the Hebrew word (ra’aph) translated as “drop” or “(over)flow.” The prophet David uses this word to describe the trail of the heavenly chariot, as found in the Zubbur (Psalm 65:11-12, ESV), “You crown the year with your bounty; your wagon tracks overflow with abundance. The pastures of the wilderness overflow, the hills gird themselves with joy.” The prophets Isaiah uses the same word combining the imagery of salvation with that of rain: ​​​​​​​​“Shower, O heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain down righteousness; let the earth open, that salvation and righteousness may bear fruit; let the earth cause them both to sprout; I the Lord have created it.” (Isaiah 45:8)

God, the Merciful the Compassionate, the dripper of abundance, righteousness and salvation condemns a man for throwing stones. Why did this man go to hell and not experience the mercy and compassion of God? A devoutly religious man by the name of Saul tried very hard to stop the spread of a new message sweeping through the land, the message that Jesus rose from the dead and of forgiveness by repentance through faith. Saul stood by the robes of those who stoned a young follower of Christ named Stephen to death. Since Saul was in hearty agreement that this movement be stopped, he received permission from the religious authorities to find more followers of Christ and throw them into prison. His hatred grew as he personally voted for their deaths, punished them within the walls of their own synagogues, tried to force them to blaspheme, or chased them into foreign cities. While Saul was stewing in his anger against these followers of Christ and the message they were spreading, he was called him by name from heaven.

’Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ And he said, ‘who are you, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, but get up and enter the city, and it will be told what you must do.” (Acts 9:4-6) “But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” (Acts 26:16-18)

The voice came from Jesus, who had when he walked the earth, lamented over Jerusalem, saying, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” (Matthew 23:37). Jesus, who shed tears over a city that killed the prophets of God, is the same who called Saul by name from heaven. Saul did not receive hellfire for opposing God’s message or His messengers but was instead given the task of being God’s servant by preaching the very things he opposed! Why is that? What makes the difference?

A few hours following Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem (Matthew 23:37), He prayed in Gethsemane where “His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground.” (Matthew 22:44) What was He praying about so intensely? He was praying that the cup of God’s wrath be removed; “yet, not as I will but as You will.” (Matthew 26:39) When He was being crucified, His life’s blood dripped . . . so we could receive the mercy and compassion of God.

Jesus' last words from the cross were a plea for mercy. Did He receive any? The prophet Isaiah was inspired to record these words of the Lord, "'For a brief moment I forsook you, but with great compassion I will gather you. In an outburst of anger I hid my face from you for a moment; but with everlasting lovingkindness I will have compassion on you," says the LORD your redeemer." (Isaiah 54:7-8)

Consider what this means for us now. Today, the Merciful and Compassionate is calling you by name to turn from sin and by faith know the mercy of God in Christ Jesus. Will you recieve His merciful compassion, or in His wrath?

"The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead. Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, 'We will hear you again about this.'” (Acts 17:30-31)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

On: Heat

They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sunlight on them, nor any heat.” (Revelation 7:16)

It had to go and get hot. This last week has been the hottest ever, and there’s not much to do when its hot and humid other than sit around in your bare bones trying to cool off. We’ve been well over 100 degrees the past few days, and that's not considering the heat index. It’s everything we can do to get the house temp down to at least 80 degrees BEFORE 6:00 a.m. in the next morning.

Here’s some hot trivia for ya:

The highest known temperature in the shade in Britain occurred on July 22, 1868, at Tonbridge in Kent when the heat reached 100.4°F. But the world record is held by Libya where a temperature of 136.4øF was recorded in 1922. According to U. S. Air Force experiments, the highest dry-air temperature that could be endured by naked men was found to be 400°F in 1960. For heavily-clothed men, the highest is 500øF. (Note that steaks require only 325øF).

The historian Herodotus tells of a people in Africa in the neighborhood of Mount Atlas whose daily custom was to curse the sun when it rises high in the heavens, because its excessive heat scorched and tormented them.

The Chicago Tribune told of the shortest sermon ever, preached by Rev. William Henry Wagner at St. Andrew’s Dune Church. He said, “If you think it’s hot here—just wait!”

Ok. One more:

An acquaintance was describing to Whistler a scene he had encountered in his travels. “There was a boatload of Egyptians,” he recounted, “floating down the Nile with the thermometer one hundred and twenty degrees in the shade, and no shade.”

“And no thermometer,” interrupted Whistler.

Have a nice day. Stay coolio.


Friday, June 11, 2010

Red Skelton's Pledge of Allegiance

Thanks for passing this along, Francine.

"A Sacrifice of Praise," by James Trott

The past couple of months I have been reading and commenting on selections (mostly on Fridays) from this unique and wonderful book. The publisher writes:

"A Sacrifice of Praise is a one-volume collection of Christian poetry in English compiled from a spectrum of poets who span twelve centuries. Beginning with Caedmon (ca. 658-680), the poetry comes from the anicent, medieval, Reformation, and modern periods and from Anglican, Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox poets, as well as mainline and evangelical traditions. Because poetry is a vehicle of praise and exhortation, of meditation and understanding, these selections include every form and style of reflection and psalm, from private, personal devotion to hymns and epic forms with godly themes.
In addition to the poetry, each chapter includes an introduction and time line meant to provide a background against which readers can better understand the intricacies and nuances of the poets and their work. Short biographical introductions to each poet are briefly introduced alongside their poetry.
We who speak English have twelve centuries of Christian poetry behind us. I t is a deep and broad stream of praise, frequently poured out by men and women who died for the faith in the midst of persecution. While the glory of God may have been diminished by sectarian motives of some poets, the channel of the stream has always been faith, an unbroken succession of men and women who have praised God. Thus while A Sacrifice of Praise may instruct those who write poetry, it is ultimately a hymnbook for all of God's people."

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Religion that must be seen, not heard.

Amish and Muslims exempt from ObamaCare?

What is missing from this picture?

Slideshow of gladiator graves . . . in England!

Did you know that Americans prefer funny videos to online news? ("Why no! Tell me about it!")

The 1MoreTour team's photo shoot! Go, team, go!

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Test Your Literary Knowledge

We've heard most of these, and use many of them frequently; but, see if you are able to identify the literary source where each one came from:

A drop in the bucket
A fly in the ointment
A man after his own heart
A multitude of sins
A thorn in the flesh
All things must pass
All things to all men
Am I my brother's keeper?
An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth
As old as Methuselah
As old as the hills
As you sow so shall you reap
Ashes to ashes dust to dust
At his wits end
Baptism of fire
Beat swords into ploughshares
Bite the dust
Blessed are the peacemakers
By the skin of your teeth
Can a leopard change its spots?
Coat of many colors
Eat drink and be merry
Faith will move mountains
Fall from grace
Fight the good fight
Flesh and blood
For everything there is a season
Forbidden fruit
Forgive them for they know not what they do
From strength to strength
Give up the ghost
Good Samaritan
How are the mighty fallen
In the beginning was the word
It's better to give than to receive
Lamb to the slaughter
Let not the sun go down on your wrath
Living off the fat of the land
The love of money is the root of all evil
Love thy neighbor as thyself
Man does not live by bread alone
Many are called but few are chosen
My cup runneth over
No rest for the wicked
O ye, of little faith
Out of the mouths of babes
Pearls before swine
Physician heal thyself
Sour grapes
Spare the rod and spoil the child
The apple of his eye
The blind leading the blind
The bread of life
The fly in the ointment
The fruits of your loins
The powers that be
The root of the matter
The salt of the earth
The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak
The wages of sin is death
The writing is on the wall
To cast the first stone
What God has joined together let no man put asunder
Woe is me

They all originate from the Bible. People desire the truth and no other source of literature has impacted the English language like the Bible.

(Source: Peter Kennedy Devotional, May 26, 2010)

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Ignorance and Hate: Subtle Animosity (part 2)

I was handing out gospel tracts during a visit to the grocery store (I come close to emptying my pockets sharing the gospel this way. I primarily keep my eye out for bored people who are tagging along while someone else does the shopping—they would do nearly anything to pass the time, so gospel tracts are a great diversion). I rounded the corner and passed by a small elderly African-American woman pushing her basket. I extended a gospel tract to her, “May God bless you as you read this.” She put her hand out to take it, and asked, “What is it?”

“It’s a gospel tract,” I replied, then repeated, “May God bless you as you read this.”

This dear old lady snapped her hand back like I had slapped it and turned her head as if I’d suddenly gone invisible. “No! I don’t want that from you!” She quickened her pace away from me. My heart broken from her reaction, I was nearly weeping when I spoke a half-hearted “Good evening” to her. I don’t know how to wish someone’s grandmother (or great-grandmother) a good evening after rejecting the good news of the Lord Jesus Christ gospel like that.

Where is the God of love? They just rejected Him. “He’s back there, where you put Him down, ma’am”. God loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. The world hates the Son, the expression of God’s love and by extension, hates the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. When we move through the world preaching the Lord Jesus Christ, of his death, burial, resurrection, of repentance and reconciliation with the Father, we should expect opposition. The Lord Jesus Christ is a threat to the relativism of the ages because He disallows persons to do what they want for themselves. Paul was inspired to encourage the Ephesians, “Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them.” (Eph. 5:11)

Tertullian was treated as a criminal for being a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. His “Apology,” contains his objections to this treatment by showing that his persecutors were acting from their own ignorance, they knew nothing of the Lord Jesus Christ and the doctrines of faith. We note that the unjust behavior he spoke against in his day (160 – 220 A.D.) was nothing new, and it is certainly old news in our own. Jesus knew about hatred and of the ignorance of the men who exercised that hatred, so He prepared His followers for their share of the animosity.

If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’ But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.” (John 15:18-25)

The greatest points of offense in bringing the good news of the Lord Jesus Christ into the world is just that—bringing the good news of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The first commandment is that one would have no other gods “in the face” of the true and living God (from the sense of the Hebrew text) and to love the Lord your God with all heart, mind, soul and strength. The world does not recognize the Lord as its’ God and there is no urgency in loving Him. Loving Him means that something must be done with sin, and the world loves its’ sin too much.

The response of the world is to create for itself a god of its own understanding. God says, “I am like THIS.” The world says, “That is offensive. I actually think you are like THIS.” Is God supposed to say, “Oh, I see. Thanks!”

This attempted re-creation of God is called idolatry, and breaks the second commandment. More sin. Once people have a god that pleases them, they go about claiming to worship the true and living God. This is blasphemy, breaking the third commandment. More sin.

Tertullian helped us understand that ignorance fuels persecution. Ignorance can be identified through the way people respond to truth (apathy), religious superstition and moral or spiritual deviation (idolatry). The depravity of man’s sinfulness is exposed in the blinding whiteness of God’s holiness.

I am so thankful for the grace our Lord shows to His disciples, for His teaching is not this, “hard time’s a-coming, so good luck!” kind of teaching. He gives us the rest of the story long before Paul Harvey:

"But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.” (John 15:26-27)

Introducing Christ to the world is not dependent on me. The Father sends the Spirit of Truth to bear witness of Jesus. We bear witness of Jesus because of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, both as recipients of the gospel and as vehicles of the gospel. When the Holy Spirit is leading, the Lord Jesus Christ is thrust to the forefront. We speak the truth in love to the world.

But what then? Sort of back at “square one,” aren’t we? We are to meet opposition with truth, grace and love. We are to meet opposition by telling in the power of the Holy Spirit what really “is.” The Lord Jesus Christ heaps a blessing on His disciples who speak out for Him, “Blessed are those who have been allowing themselves to be persecuted.” (Matthew 5:10-11). Suffering for truth brings harassment, evil treatment, and might mean perhaps being chased away. The Lord’s workers are insulted, verbally abused, attacked viciously. Good news brings slander on the one who bears it, and this can be the most difficult because our effectiveness is directly related to our personal integrity.

It's hard getting punched in the proverbial gut after experiencing rejection, but it is not an individual suffering. It is a badge of honor that is passed down from generation to generation until the Lord comes.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Ignorance and Hate (part 1)

Tertullian (160 - 220 A.D.) wrote the following in his "Apology," addressing the ignorance of the Roman authorities behind the unjust persecution of Christians:

"We lay this before you as the first ground on which we urge that your hatred to the name of Christian is unjust. And the very reason which seems to excuse this injustice (I mean ignorance) at once aggravates and convicts it. For what is there more unfair than to hate a thing of which you know nothing, even though it deserve to be hated? Hatred is only merited when it is known to be merited. But without that knowledge, whence is its justice to be vindicated? For that is to be proved, not from the mere fact that an aversion exists, but from acquaintance with the subject. When men, then, give way to a dislike simply because they are entirely ignorant of the nature of the thing disliked, why may it not be precisely the very sort of thing they should not dislike? So we maintain that they are both ignorant while they hate us, and hate us unrighteously while they continue in ignorance, the one thing being the result of the other either way of it.

The proof of their ignorance, at once condemning and excusing their injustice, is this, that those who once hated Christianity because they knew nothing about it, no sooner come to know it than they all lay down at once their enmity. From being its haters they become its disciples. By simply getting acquainted with it, they begin now to hate what they had formerly been, and to profess what they had formerly hated; and their numbers are as great as are laid to our charge.

The outcry is that the State is filled with Christians – that they are in the fields, in the citadels, in the islands: they make lamentation, as for some calamity, that both sexes, every age and condition, even high rank, are passing over to the profession of the Christian faith; and yet for all, their minds are not awakened to the thought of some good they have failed to notice in it. They must not allow any truer suspicions to cross their minds; they have no desire to make closer trial. Here alone the curiosity of human nature slumbers. They like to be ignorant, though to others the knowledge has been bliss."

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Tea Party Member Stuns Crowd!

ht: Tony Miano

"Herman Cain lead a Q&A session at the Douglas County Tea Party when a young woman asked him about the attack by the Left on our Judeo-Christian heritage in America...He addressed her question, then went to the last question of the night, and the crowd was not expecting what happened next..."

Friday, June 04, 2010

The Evil of Wickedness

We don’t live in the best of neighborhoods. Most law enforcement officers in our county know our neighbors well, having put most of them in jail or prison from time to time. When we first moved in, we discovered dogs with heavy chains held in the woods behind our house. Drugs are not uncommon with our neighbors, and traffic comes and goes regularly. We were burglarized once, but nobody “knew” anything.

For the last three years, we’ve survived all night parties, shootings, domestic violence of various kinds. And this is perhaps the fourth generation, carrying on the patterns of their fathers (if any of the kids know who their fathers are—one lady boasted her many kids with no clue who any of their fathers are) while one dear very old lady, the matriarch of the family, picks up her Bible and goes to church every week.

My wife called me at lunch today to tell me that a car wrecked in another neighbor’s yard. If you stand on my porch, looking at the street, our friends described above are to the left. The wreck occurred in the neighbor’s house across the street and to the right.

My wife said she heard a horrible sound and went outside. Apparently, this vehicle left from the direction of our left-handed friends at a high rate of speed and crashed into the yard of my neighbor’s house, on the right. She said that people got out of the car and ran. While she stood watching, one of our left-handed neighbors yelled at her not to call for an ambulance or the police because nobody was hurt. A few minutes later, the passengers returned, and were met at the wreck by some of our left-handed neighbors. Together, they all walked back to the house, the passengers “blending in” as innocent bystanders—leaving the impression that nobody was driving.

My wife said they all stood in the yard looking over at the wreck, and giving her dirty looks while she was on the phone with 911. I would not be surprised if there were drugs in the car and our friends were more intent on preserving their stash than in anyone’s health.

How could they be so numb (drugs, notwithstanding)?

Psalm 58 shows a clear contrast between the One who Rules and Judges the earth and those who hate Him. From birth man is sinful, so hatred for truth is poisonous. Those who hate God and love sin are like deaf snakes, toothless lions, evaporating water, dull arrows, dissolving snails, or stillborn infants before Him. They are consumed by God’s wrath faster than a pile of thorns used for a cooking fire--gone before the cooking pots get hot.

David did not get up on the wrong side of the bed the day he wrote this, nor is God an ogre. God describes those who spit at Him and wish Him dead (and notice, the descriptions are pictures of decreasing feebleness), those who roar and bite at Him, those who try to wash away all that is good, those who would shoot at God, consume like a garden-snail. What is delightful about a dead baby?

Sadly, people who disregard God don’t see themselves as being all that bad. God sees a person as he or she is and will not hesitate to tell what He sees. Right now, our role is to point people to the love of God that is not content to leave a person in their sin--but first they must realize what their sin is. If they choose their sin over the love of God, then our role will be warn them of the wrath to come, and when it comes, to celebrate the righteousness of God in punishing evil. The wicked will be swept away faster than thorns in a brush fire—a cooking pot will not feel the heat because it burns so fast.

I’m very thankful that nobody was killed in that wreck; but, death comes unexpectedly. I pray the family next door remembers that just two years ago one of their own died in a car wreck much like that one—and no further than two miles up the same road. I pray they will remember the conversations we’ve had and the gospel tracts--maybe we'll have more still. I pray they will come to their senses and see how God sees the wickedness of their evil, and that all men must stand before Him on judgment day.

Oh, our son took the pictures.

The Sparrow In Winter: A Really Cool (and nearly forgotten) Event from Church History

Quite unintentionally my readings the past few months have been in more ancient English works and many of those works I have reflected on here. While most have been poetic works from the Renaissance period, one particular historical narrative caught my eye. I will not spend too much time on it, but the overall thrust is quite exhilarating and makes a significant contribution to the ongoing conversation regarding the Biblical worldview.

The Venerable Bede (673 – 735) was a Christian monk who earned the posthumous title, “Father of English History.” He was a biblical scholar, translator, and poet who composed (mostly for the purpose of correcting error and debunking myth) the earliest history of England in the five-volumes of the "Ecclesiastical History of the English People." The brief section I would like to highlight here is often referred to as, “The Conversion of Northumbria,” or “The Conversion of King Edwin.” England was a missionary frontier after the Roman occupation, and in 597, Pope Gregory had received an encouraging letter regarding the successful spread of Christianity, especially in the northern regions. King Edwin lived about 625.

Bishop Paulinus had been preaching Christ and the heavenly kingdom when King Edwin expressed interest in receiving the message taught by the bishop; but first, he wanted to consult with his close friends, counselors and priests. He called a meeting, the purpose of which was, that if they were as agreeable as he, then they would all “be cleansed together in Christ, the Fount of Life.” So, they held a “round table” discussion, each expressing his thoughts about this message of Christ they were hearing.

One of his chief priests stated that he did not think this gospel was good idea. Translated from the Old English we read: "O king, consider what this is which is now preached to us; for verily I declare to you that the religion which we have hitherto professed has, as far as I can learn, no virtue in it. For none of your people has applied himself more diligently to the worship of our gods than I; and yet there are many who receive greater favors from you, and are more preferred than I, and who are more prosperous in all their undertakings. Now if the gods were good for anything, they would rather forward me who has been more careful to serve them. It follows, therefore, that if upon examination you find those new doctrines which are now preached to us better and more efficacious, we should immediately receive them without any delay."

In other words, “I don’t see anything good in what we already practice, and nobody knows religion better than me, who receive better favor from you than the gods we worship. If you think their doctrines are better and can actually accomplish something, then we should receive them.”

Here is what grabs me:

Another of the king's chief men, approving of Coifi's words and exhortations, presently added: ‘The present life man, O king, seems to me, in comparison with that time which is unknown to us, like to the swift flight of a sparrow through the room wherein you sit at supper in winter amid your officers and ministers, with a good fire in the midst whilst the storms of rain and snow prevail abroad; the sparrow, I say, flying in at one door and immediately another, whilst he is within is safe from the wintry but after a short space of fair weather he immediately vanishes out of your sight into the dark winter from which he has emerged. So this life of man appears for a short space but of what went before or what is to follow we are ignorant. If, therefore, this new doctrine contains something more certain, it seems justly to deserve to be followed.'

The other elders and king's counselors, by divine inspiration, spoke to the same effect., But Coifi added that he, wished more attentively to hear Paulinus' discourse concerning the God whom he preached. So the bishop having spoken by the king's command at greater length, Coifi, hearing his words,- cried out: "I have long since been sensible that there was nothing in that which we worshiped, because the more diligently I sought after truth in that worship the less I found it. But now I freely confess that such evident, truth appears in this preaching as can confer on us the gifts of life, of salvation, and of eternal happiness. For which reason I advise, O king, that we instantly abjure and set fire to those temples and altars which we have consecrated out reaping any benefits from them."

In short, the king publicly gave his permission to Paulinus to preach the gospel, and, renouncing idolatry, declare he received the faith of Christ: and when he inquired high priest who should first profane the altars and temples of their idols, with the enclosures that were about them, the high priest answered, "‘I; for who can more properly than myself destroy those things which I worshiped through ignorance, for an example to all others, through the wisdom which been given me by the true God?’”

The king gave Paulinus his own horse and armaments, and turned him loose to burn down the temples of their former idolatrous worship.

One reason this event was important to the Venerable Bede is that he was able to show how the preaching of the gospel brought change to the heart of a man and to a country. “King Edwin . . . with all the nobility of the nation, and a large number of the common sort, received the faith and the washing of regeneration, in the eleventh year of his reign, which is the year of the incarnation of our Lord 627, and about one hundred and eighty after the coming of the English into Britain . . .” The conversion of King Edwin was fairly recent to his own time!

There seems to be an aire of excitement and celebration around this nearly forgotten event, even as the Venerable Bede records it. The law of land forbade priests to ride horses or bear arms and the fact that the King of Kings begins his spiritual overthrow through the heart of King Edwin by moving the king to give his own resources to the priest—what a rush! Can you imagine seeing the people standing with mouths hanging open as the bishop rides up to a temple with spear in hand?

The language of King Edwin’s friend, of the uncertainty of life as a flitting winter sparrow was a powerful picture. This must have been a common sight in those days, for everyone seems to have understood the illustration. We take many historical events for granted, that they just occur happenstance and are entered into the minutes should someone happen to record them. One might even suggest that they missionary activity was sort of a random drift across the land, across the European continent, across the English channel, until it perched on the heart of a man.

But the gospel is a surety and is part of God’s design. All the more, the doctrine of forgiveness in Christ is the most certain, dependable, and efficacious. It is part of time and space, though we experience our portion only briefly. This surety empowered the priest to say, that as a convert from idolatry himself that he qualifies as idol-destroyer then he launched into the culture! Most never knew what hit them until after it had passed—like a sparrow, flitting through the hall during winter.

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