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Monday, May 31, 2010

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Greatest Story, I mean "Lie," no, I mean "Story," Ever Told

I'm a Texan by birth, and everyone knows that Texans enjoy nothing more than a good lie story. Many take great pride in their ability to yarn. Must be something in the water, or the air. Too many cattle, perhaps.

Two riverboat captains who got into a shouting match around the campfire one night about who was the better liar. One of their crew suggested a contest to find out who could tell the best lie. Wagers were made and the captains took a moment to gather their thoughts. The first captain stood up in the light of the campfire and spun his story of that summer the Old Muddy ran so low and dry that they used their paddle-wheel steamboat to plow and furrow the once soggy bottom. They turned miles of the rich riverbed into farmland. The soil was so rich that instead of waiting weeks, the first crop came in mere days in the heat of the summer sun. As they began to harvest the corn by backing their paddle-wheel downstream through the fields, the summer sun beat down so hard that all the corn started to pop. The popping corn filled the sky so much that it blocked out the sun and winter set in and they had to shovel their way out of the snow, which subsequently melted and got the river flowing again.

Everyone around the fire hee-ed and haw-ed, slapping knees, holding their sides, laughing uproarously. Everyone that is, except for the other captain. The proud crew slapped their captain on the back with cheers of congratulations while he stood with a grim smile, arms crossed, staring at his rival across the fire. The other captain, still seated, dropped his head down on his chest and stared at his feet.

All fell silent, save for the crackling of the fire and the locusts in the trees.

The second captain looked up, and everyone leaned forward, straining to hear. His mouth opened, he took a deep sigh and said, "I believe every word of it."

As far as this Texan is concerned, that may be the greatest lie . . . or it may be a close second.

Lying is fun. This is what makes magic work. Lying is what drives the enterainment industry. But closer to home, when talking with people about lying, I often hear this: "Sometimes we lie because it may be better than telling the truth." I brace myself here because I know what is coming. "What if your wife comes to you and says [and the speaker turns sideways, elevating a hip], 'Honey, does this make me look fat?'" It's weird, but it’s like everyone went to the meeting and agreed this would be the response.

The speaker usually shrugs and looks at me like this has got to be the greatest problem ever on the face of the planet ever across all time--ever. "What I am going to say? 'Sure, Sweetie, it makes you look fat?'" And then they rationalize how the lie is beneficial to the cause. To prove my point (and other videos will follow later, so remember I told you people will say this):




Here is my response:

Rationalizing lying does not solve the problem of lying. The response to “does this make me look fat?“ is primed for a false answer. Here’s what I mean: “does this make me look fat?” is not the same as, “am I fat“ or “have I gained weight?” The question is, “do the clothes I am wearing give the appearance that I am fatter than I may really be?” Guys, you have no reason to lie because the answer is about the clothes, not your sweetie.

Ladies, if after you get dressed and you feel the need to ask, just stay in the room, change clothes and don't put your husband in such an awkward position to decide if he has to lie or not. And don’t put yourself in the position of living in a lie. If, after you change and all your clothes give the appearance that you look fat, then it may be time to ask the other question. If the truth is uncomfortable, then do something about it. Don’t take it out on your man -- besides wouldn’t you be upset if he intentionally lied about anything else? Where does trust end and begin?

Truth hurts. If your man tells you the truth, you should thank him because he is honoring God by telling the truth. If your man tells you the truth, find something else to wear, or get busy so you don't have to ask that question and put either of you in an awkward position.

Why make such a big deal of this? Because a lie, regardless of the reason, is a lie. People who tell lies are liars. God is all about truth.

Listen to truth, as found in God’s Word:

Exodus 20:16, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”

Proverbs 6:16-19, “There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.”

Proverbs 14:25, “A truthful witness saves lives, but one who breathes out lies is deceitful.”

Proverbs 19:9, “A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will perish.”

Revelation 21:8, “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death."

Breaking God’s moral commands is what sends people to hell. God does not punish people because He is mean or vindictive, but because man rebels against God. The Lord Jesus Christ is the Way, the TRUTH and the Life--the only way we can enjoy God forever is by admitting our sin (that we are liars) and asking God to save us from the penalty of sin (hell) so we can live in truth. We no longer have to lie for any reason, but tell the truth in love, like I am doing now.

Don’t die in your sins. Repent and embrace the truth of God’s love.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Randoms

Here it comes! Keith Green: The movie!

"Was Judas’ betrayal of Jesus to the Sanhedrin an act of impulse or anger?" A look at Judas' motives and role, by Dr. Terry Hulbert.

Called to be a street preacher?

10,000 days of volcanic eruption.

This amazing pic captures the Space Station and Shuttle "passing by" the sun.

New life, or a manipulation of already-existing life?

Not sure if this qualifies as evangelism. Waddya think?




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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Psalm 111, Ray Bradbury's "Picasso Summer," and a Gomer Pyle Look at Everything

Far from enjoining men to listen to such tales are we, who avoid the practice of soothing our crying children, as the saying is, by telling them fabulous stories, being afraid of fostering in their minds the impiety professed by those who, though wise in their own conceit, have no more knowledge of the truth than do infants. For why (in the name of truth!) do you make those who believe you subject to ruin and corruption, dire and irretrievable? Why, I beseech you, fill up life with idolatrous images, by feigning the winds, or the air, or fire, or earth, or stones, or stocks, or steel, or this universe, to be gods; and, prating loftily of the heavenly bodies in this much vaunted science of astrology, not astronomy, to those men who have truly wandered, talk of the wandering stars as gods?” (Clement of Alexandria, “Exhortation to the Heathen”)

I quote Clement once more because our thoughts are centered on the matter he here presents: people are soothed with fabulous stories that are no more than idolatrous images. Rather than look at the stars and find their Maker, people would rather look to the stars and find themselves. Why does man do this? Fear. Religion is an expression of how man understands the world in order to feel secure, an explanation against what he fears. Through religion man attempts to grasp his relationship to the Universe and with others, to find meaning for life in the shadow of death, to honor what is sacred and to deal with otherwise aberrant behavior. Religion is man’s way to master life by focusing on anything but God Himself.

Psalm 111 contains this golden nugget in verse 2, which is the theme of the psalm (the “Rosetta Stone,” as it were, for our understanding): “Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in them.” The lines of this psalm (and 112) form an acrostic of the Hebrew alphabet (alephbet); that is, the lines are arranged in a specific order with the first word of the first verse beginning with the first letter of the Hebrew alephbet (aleph); the second line of the first verse starts with a word that begins with the second letter (bet); and so on. This psalm can be understood at the most elementary level—a child could learn it! But a child is learning something more than his or her ABC’s (or in this case, ABG’s)—they are learning theology: God is the context of life.

Here is a chart that presents the psalm in a format to illustrate (I don’t want to take too much time or space explaining technicalities, but they are so fascinating) how the principles of the psalm are communicated. The psalmist has taken great care under inspiration of the Holy Spirit to remind the reader/worshipper that the LORD is the one who revealed Himself to Moses in the burning bush. “LORD” is the English designation for God’s personal, convenant-making name. Let there be no room for error concerning the deity involved here; that is, this is not a god of one’s own making or understanding.

The “works” the psalmist has in mind here are worth study because they are full of splendor, majestic. His works are worth remembering; for example, He is a provider and is powerful. Remember when the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years and ate the heavenly manna? Remember when God delivered Israel from the Egyptians by judging the false gods through the plagues? God’s works demonstrate His faithfulness and His justice, because He is good. His greatest work is His redemption. God does not do work for the sake of keeping busy. There is a reason for His works, namely, to be studied.

The works of God are beneficial to those who study them. They help man learn that His righteousness is forever-enduring; that He is gracious and merciful; that God is a missionary God (He remembers His covenant forever and His inheritance is for the nations--not just one, but the whole world); that His Word is trustworthy, does not change and is meant to be obeyed. Understanding comes to those who live by His Word.

What are the gods of this able to reveal about themselves, their character and expectations? “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.”


Theology is a science, the study of God that produces knowledge about Him, the definite and objective subject. The Word of God explains the works of God; that is, the Bible (God’s Word) is the founding document concerning God, so we must study what God reveals about Himself in nature (Natural revelation, or natural theology) in the light of God’s special revelation, the Bible. The works of God are not intended to explain everything about Him, only point to Him. Study the natural without the supernatural, and one drifts into idolatry.

Ray Bradbury wrote a wonderful short story (“In A Season of Calm Weather”) of George Smith and his wife vacation in Europe. They were getting settled into a villa on a beach when they heard a rumor that Pablo Picasso was visiting nearby. This nearly upset the entire vacation because George Smith was a great lover of art, and had a deep appreciate for Picasso’s work. At his wife’s behest, George Smith tried to forget the rumor and spent the afternoon enjoying the surf. "If only," she said, "you liked other painters." Near sunset, George Smith decided to talk a walk along the nearly deserted beach. Far up ahead, George Smith noticed a small man bent over scratching the sand with a discarded popsicle stick.

George Smith, drawing nearer, saw that the man, deeply tanned, was bending down. Nearer yet, and it was obvious what the man was up to, George Smith chuckled. Of course . . . Alone on the beach this man--how old? Sixty-five? Seventy? -- was scribbling and doodling away. How the sand flew! How the wild portraits flung themselves out there on the shore! How . . . George Smith took one more step and stopped, very still.”


One can well imagine George Smith’s reaction to his realization of what he’d found. A good reader will find the story and read for himself what happened at the end when George Smith realized he had no camera, the sun was going down, the tide was coming in and nobody else was around. But his initial reaction . . . can you imagine the flood of emotion?

According to Psalm 111:1-2, 10, we should find ourselves responding to God in a similar and much higher way. The psalm begins with a geyser of praise and closes with the same running river. This is indicative of a spontaneous response. This is a weak illustration, but consider: a young child has been coloring away on a sheet of paper. Stick figures and lopsided houses are presented with a small, “Here. I made this for you.” You take the picture and embrace the child, you talk about the picture and hug the child. You kiss the child. You take what he has done and put it on the refrigerator. You high-five the child. You make the child his favorite snack. Why? You have studied and responded. Honestly, I am not sure I understand everything about what the picture is, but I love that child.

This psalm is filled with nearly overwhelming affection. There is a little Gomer Pyle’s, “gollll-ly!” with a sprinkling of a child’s amazed pointing, “did you see THAT? Woah!” History is chock full of God’s activity. Miracles abound! God is active in time and space, to the praise of His Glory, and those who believe and respond in worship are blessed to see and know. The Lord He is God! The rocks and trees and fire and space and the earth and my lowly ideas are not. Fables are just that—fables.



Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Book Review: "The Christian Mind" by Harry Blamires

The past couple of months I have been reading and writing on the subject of being a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ toward the necessity of having, keeping and nurturing the biblical worldview in contemporary culture. Reading various authors has introduced me to Harry Blamires, who in 1963 wrote “The Christian Mind,” a book that has for many been the vehicle of significant contributions in the conversation on the study of culture and worldviews. Here I endeavor to present the theme of the book, a description of major divisions with a brief summary of chapter contents, an outline of content with quotes, a few observations and criticism from reading, followed by a list of principles or insights gained from reading and finally, will close with a set of questions raised for further thought and/or discussion.
THEME
What could a 47 year-old book possibly contribute to our present situation? The central theme of Blamires’ book is that the Christian mind does not exist as does the modern mind or the scientific mind (“a collectively accepted set of notions and attitudes”). What he means is that “no Christian mind plays fruitfully, as a coherent and recognizable influence, upon our social, political, or cultural life.”
DIVISIONS AND SUMMARY OF CONTENTS
The book is divided into two major parts: “The Lack of a Christian Mind,” wherein the deficiencies of the Christian mind is explained and explored; and, “Marks of the Christian Mind,” which contains six chapters illustrating what the Christian mind really is, or at least, what it should be. The first part of the book is subdivided into two chapters where the author defines and demonstrates the surrender of the Christian mind to secularism and how “thinking Christianly is not the same as thinking about Christian matters.” The six chapters of the second part discuss unique features of the Christian mind: “Its Supernatural Orientation” (cultivating the eternal perspective); “Its Awareness of Evil” (The World, The Flesh, and the Devil); “Its Conception of Truth” (how Christian doctrine testifies to a reality beyond our finite order); “Its Acceptance of Authority” (man either bows his head or turns his back); “Its Concern For the Person” (Christian thought is incarnational); and finally, “Its Sacremental Cast” (life’s positive richness is derived from the supernatural).
CONTENT OUTLINE WITH QUOTES (in separate document, 7 pages)
OBSERVATIONS AND CRITICISM
Concerning the lack of “living dialogue,” (p. 6) and the lack of comparable analysis (p. 8) since 1963 (the date of publication of this book), the pendulum was already swinging the other way during his own time with contributions of thinkers and writers such as G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis. More recently, we’ve seen the impact of other thinkers such as Francis Schaeffer (“Death and the Pollution of Man” may have been influenced by Blamires’ book), Os Guinness, Chuck Coleson, and Ravi Zacharias, to name a few. The advent of the blog has since provided fertile ground for “living dialogue.”

Harry Blamires is very quotable, and finding a short passage of worth is a task. This is to his credit; however, reading the book proved to be a bit of an exercise not because of the temporal gap since the date of publishing, and not because of the cultural or ecclesiastical gap (the author is English and Anglican), but because of the meandering nature and verbosity of the author—he often fails to complete his thoughts or points. For example, the second chapter of the second half (“Its Awareness of Evil”) he discusses the influence of the World and the Flesh, but there is no discussion whatsoever on The Devil and the Christian mind—not even a mention of personality, work or influence. Also, the thrust of his premise seemed to rely more heavily on the logical fallacies than the truths of the statements themselves: “there is no longer a Christian mind.” How can there be a book as this without one? Finally, the last three chapters, which could have been the strongest, seemed to be a demonstration of the very weakness the author was writing against; that is, either the author fell prey to the nature of his thesis, or he merely ran out of steam—perhaps both.

INSIGHT GAINED FROM READING
1. The Christian mind need not succumb to secular thinking.
2. Today’s Christian is too centered on affection (feelings) to engage in healthy dialogue so we compromise.
a. “One of the reasons why we have no tradition of Christian thinking about contemporary affairs is that we have been thus taught to view with disfavour any earnest attachment to ideas and ideals such as would bring the heat of theoretical controversy into the arena of practical life.” (p. 21)
b. We’ve adopted a change a vocabulary that undermines Christian thought: for example, “evil” and “sin” are now “mistakes.” (p. 26)
3. “Your beliefs, as a Christian, are not yours in the sense that you have rights over them, either to tamper with them or throw them away.” (p. 40)
4. A thinker is a prophet, for both challenge presuppositions and prejudices; disturb complacency; obstruct pragmatism; question foundations, aims, motives and purposes of those who don’t investigate. A thinker is unattractive to the world. (p. 50)
5. Everything is sacred so we need not altering our understanding and change our theology to accommodate secular thinking (p. 69ff). Bring them “up” to the biblical worldview, don’t compromise by taking it “down.”
6. If we neglect to engage the world by bringing forward the Christian worldview, then we are responsible for the neglect and indifference the world shows to the biblical worldview. (p. 78)
7. Truth is a person, not a thing; objective; one does not make truth, but resides in truth. (p. 113). Don’t ask me what I believe, ask me what is true. (p. 121)
8. The Church cannot be destroyed because the world had its chance and did it’s best and worst at Calvary. (p. 152-153)
9. It is not the task of The Church to get in touch with technologies but with getting in touch with men, women and children. (p. 171)

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION OR FURTHER STUDY (page numbers refer only to the section read and does not imply any answer is provided by author):
1. The author’s introductory note presents a definition for “the modern mind” and “the scientific mind,” as “a collectively accepted set of notions and attitudes,” then states the Christian mind does not exist when posited against this definition. How can there be a comparison or contrast of minds if one does not exist? Since the Christian mind must exist, how did the author decide that “the modern mind” and “the scientific mind” should be the standard of comparison? Why not the reverse? He answers this question thusly: “Except over a very narrow field of thinking, chiefly touching questions of strictly personal conduct, we Christians in the modern world accept, for the purpose of mental activity, a frame of reference constructed by the secular mind and a set of criteria reflecting secular evaluations. There is no Christian mind; there is no shared field of discourse in which we can move at ease as thinking Christians by trodden ways and past established landmarks.” (p. 4) In other words, the Christian has allowed the world to dictate how he or she thinks. Since the Church and the world have nothing in common, the Christian has been deceived to stray off the narrow old paths and into the broad and beaten way.

2. Blamires writes, “Is there in the first rank of anti-totalitarian imaginative literature a work which shows man as the child of God?” (p. 13) Is he building his premise on the logical fallacy, “there is no Christian mind,” or “there is no Christian dialogue”; or, he is simply unaware of others who are thinking, speaking and contributing? He seems to be more familiar with the works of Orwell, Camus, Shaw, Becket and others—is he simply not looking, or is there a noticeable absence of literature and thinkers who write them?
3. The Christian is not required to think through the filters provided by the world. Bertrand Russell is quoted to have said “Loyalty is always evil.” (p. 23) yet the First Commandment is to love God with all heart, mind, soul and strength. When did Russell become so great as to change what God has said? What response does Proverbs 20:6 make to Russell?
4. How does a change in vocabulary undermine Christian thought? How does such a change lead to silence, and why is this dangerous?
5. How does advertising undermine Christian contentment (p. 29)? Are there Christians on the boards of these companies? In what ways would a Christian board think “Christianly” through its advertising?
6. What is the difference between “there is no longer a Christian mind,” and “there is no longer any need for Christian thinking?” Why didn’t the author use the second as his premise for the book? What do you make of this statement: “we are not thinking Christianly about secular activities?”
7. How does Christian thinking address injustice, poverty and unemployment? How has Welfare (for example) supplanted the need for Christian input in these areas?
8. How does thinking Christianly affect the way we approach ethical situations?
9. The author summarizes in this statement, how a Christian mind “thinks in terms of heaven and hell, of the universe as a battlefield between the forces of good and evil” (p. 86) and the teachings of the Church. How does this statement demonstrate that the author is thinking secularly about theology? What non-Christian presuppositions does he reflect? Does thinking about places such as heaven and hell make the difference about how one sees the world or is there something greater? What comments can be made concerning the missing discussion on “The Devil” in his chapter on “The Awareness of Evil?”
10. The author writes, “truth is supernaturally grounded: it is not manufactured within nature” (p. 106). How is this true in light of the natural revelation as described in Psalm 19 and Romans 1 (to name a few)?
11. How do people from different outlooks and beliefs and mixing conflicting views arrive at truth? Is truth a consensus, constructed or discovered (p. 112)?
12. Compare and contrast intellectualism and faith (p. 123).
13. When the world crashes and burns, why will The Church survive (p. 152 – 155)?
14. How does theological truth remedy the technological dehumanization of man (p. 159-160)?
15. What examples can you give as to how has man stopped serving God and started serving machine (p. 163)?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Paul Goes to Mars: What We Learn from the Original Mars Rover and the “Got Jesus?” Tee Shirt Guy

Our team was downtown late one Friday night. Outside one bar, I saw a man crossed the street toward us with another fellow and two young ladies tagging along. I noticed he was wearing a “Got Jesus?” tee-shirt. Curious, I asked him if he had a Christian background. I ’ll tell you what happened in a moment—keep reading.

Mention the “love chapter” of the Bible and one thinks of 1 Corinthians 13. Mention “The Hall of Faith,” and one turns to Hebrews 11. Ask someone on the street their favorite psalm and most will say “the 23rd.” When we think of Acts 17, our minds flip up the title, “Paul Goes to Mars” (or something like that) and we recall this is the record of Paul preaching to the pagans in their temple regarding “an unknown god.” Our eyes zero in on verse 16, noting that Paul when he arrives in Athens, does what any good Mars rover does: he observed. Next, he went to their temple and preached, they heard and some believed. Actually, that’s not quite what happened.

When Paul first arrived in Athens, and with provoked spirit (because of the idolatry of the city), Paul begins reasoning in the synagogue with Jews and God-fearing non-Jews. This is not the first time he encountered idolatry, for with Barnabas he had already preached to pagans in Lystra (14:15). Paul’s Athenian synagogue conversation then spills over into marketplace. Daily. The Epicureans and Stoics bring practically usher him from the marketplace to the Areopagus, "May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean." (Acts 17:19-20) Don’t miss this: when Paul finally reaches the Areopagus, the sermon he preaches there is part of an ongoing conversation that was started days previous.

As worldview thinkers moving in the world as representatives of the Lord Jesus Christ, we may learn a few principles that apply to our ministry:

First, survey your surroundings: where are you and what is going on around you? Is there a festival going on? What is being celebrated? Halloween, July 4, Cinco de Mayo? Garage Sale? Paul let the city speak to him before he spoke to the citizens. Paul observed the spirituality of the city—what clues do you about what people believe from what is going on around you? Just because a person is wearing Christian swag does not mean they are a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. I’ll say more on this in a moment.

Do you see someone sitting by the fountain, but talking on a cell phone? She is probably not approachable. Is someone reading a book on spirituality of some kind? They are probably willing to talk. People sitting outside Starbucks playing board games might be approachable. A conversation in the crowd standing at the stage of a live band is not sensible. Open-air preaching on aisle 12 is not appropriate either.

Second, conversation: what are people talking about in your setting? Paul did what the pagans were doing, talking in the public square, the designated place for philosophical conversation. This is the time to be a listener for verbal cues. Probe and see what people think—get their opinion on a topic or a headline. “Hey, did you hear on the news about the guy who was arrested for crimes committed 30 years ago? Should he be tried for his crimes?”

One might say our purpose is not to contradict, but build on what others say. The daily marketplace conversation was for Paul this kind of excercise which culminates in his quoting a well known philosopher, then building on that quote from the biblical worldview.

Also, and contrary to popular belief, spiritual matters are not intended to be kept behind church walls. Athens was bustling with spiritual activity and Paul’s conversants were in the marketplace. State citizens are spiritual beings, unless they have split personalities being one person in one place and another person in another place. Today’s society would have its’ people living as mad men! Keep the conversation going!

Third, know your audience: with whom are you speaking? Have you met this person before—it can happen if you become a “regular.” The Epicureans and Stoics listened to Paul. Who were the Epicureans and the Stoics? Most people will reflect one of these two ways of thinking:

The Epicureans thought that whatever brought the highest pleasure was “good.” Happiness is the goal of life. Do whatever you like, just don’t hurt anyone. The Epicureans thought that after the gods created the world, they got bored and left. Since there is no controlling deity, everything happens by chance, or luck. Life is to be lived to the full NOW because there is nothing after death, nothing to fear and nothing to hope for.

The Stoics felt that blind, impersonal force rules the Universe, that Nature takes its course. If there is a God, then He is everything; that is God = The Universe. Life is full when one is at peace, content. Accept circumstances as they are and don’t struggle against what you cannot change. Just “go with the flow.”

The final principle we learn from Paul is to identify springboards--advance the biblical worldview using what people give you. Remember the guy with the “Got Jesus?” tee shirt? I stopped him and asked if he had a Christian background. “Nah,” he said, “I’m just out to get some Christian babes.” I can’t tell you the rest of what he said, but that I told him to turn from his sin of blasphemy and lust and to ask God to cleanse him from his sin by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. He refused, but his friends looked stunned. One girl started cursing at me and blaspheming. I told her to watch her mouth because ladies might be present—and that she needed to repent of her blasphemy as well. Her mouth clamped shut.

Luke, the recorder of this event, notes three responses Paul received (Acts 17:32-34). The first response is that after hearing of the resurrection from the dead, people began to sneer. Sneering is a facial expression, usually identified with a slight raising of a corner of the lip, to signify disgust Just because a person responds negatively does not mean that they have not heard, nor does it mean they will not stand before God on judgment day. The second response was “We will hear of you again concerning this.” We find it difficult to find if they were waving their fists and shouting in a threatening way; or, if this was a more introspective sort of response. Regardless, their meaning was they were still open to the message of the gospel. The final response was that “some men joined him and believed.” This means they repented, they changed their mind and responded by faith.

What did they believe?

They believed God made the world and everything in it, and He is Lord of heaven and earth. This means that everything they were worshipping as gods were not worthy of worship at all. Now they knew there was a Creator deserving all love and devotion.

They believed that the Creator cannot be contained in a hand-made temple and has need of nothing that comes through man’s hands. They believed that He is the source of life, breath and everything. He does not need a house or to be fed. He has no need of man.

They believed that God made from one man all nations and all their temporal, geographic, social, cultural, and philosophical limitations. They believed that God could be found, apprehended. He is a relational God. He is the father of all men by virtue of creation and the spiritual Father of all men who partake of the Divine Nature by repentance and faith in the finished work of the once dead and now risen Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul’s attitude toward the lost is noteworthy, his burden was huge. His spirit was provoked about the way they viewed the world and their subsequent theology (v. 16) so he reasoned with them, took time with them, invested in them, thought through the issues with them (v. 17). He stood up among them and proclaimed not a cold and sudden, unexpected message, but one they were ready to hear (v. 22). For those who would not address their own worldview thinking, he went out from them (v. 33) and joined those who believed (v. 34). He was done with one group and went on with another.

When the guy with the tee shirt heard that He had broken God’s law, he was not ready to hear of God’s grace until he understood how he had offended God. He had no intention of changing. His friends were just as tenacious about their sin, so we moved on.

We should not expect to be well received in the world; however, we should be ready to get out, explore a little, survey, engage, then move along. Boldly going . . .


Saturday, May 22, 2010

Laura Story Elvington Receives CIU Award

Laura Story Elvington (CIU class of 2003), author of the song, "Indescribable," received Columbia International University's "Recent Alumni Recognition" on April 25 at Spring Valley Baptist Church. Rev. Robert Winburn, senior pastor of Spring Valley, hosted the event. The recognition was given to Laura by Dr. Bill Jones, President of CIU, and Dr. Roy King, Director of CIU Alumni Ministries. For more information about Lauras ministry, go to: http://www.laurastorymusic.com/

Friday, May 21, 2010

Joe Average, William Drummond’s (1585‐1649), “The Booke of the World” and the Beatles

I wanted to write a story in my later teen years about a book shop that contained every book imaginable, each representing every person, nation, empire and event of human history. I imagined the shop to be located just down the street from Scrooge and Marley’s place (I once had a fascination with Dickens). Mind you, this was at a time in my life I was trying to deny the existence of God. The more I worked on the story, the more God-like my character came to be. I never finished the story, but the imagery was captivating for a season.

I had never heard of Henry Drummond until a few short years ago, and certainly never heard of this poem until a few days ago. One can imagine how my thoughts are keenly focused on “The Booke Of The World.”

“Of this faire volumne, which wee World doe name,
If wee the sheetes and leaves could turne with care,
Of Him who it correctes, and did it frame,
Wee cleare might read the Art and Wisedome rare:
Finde out his Power, which wildest Powʹrs doth tame,
His Providence extending everie‐where,
His justice which proud Rebels doeth not spare,
In everie Page, no, Period of the same:
But sillie wee (like foolish Children) rest
Well pleasʹd with colourʹd Velame, Leaves of Gold,
Faire dangling Ribbones, leaving what is best,
Of the great Writers sense neʹer taking hold;
Or if by chance Mindes doe muse on ought,
It is some Picture on the Margine wrought.”

What is this “booke” of which Drummond writes? Permit me to rephrase in the vernacular of the peasantry:

“Here is a book, and let’s name it ‘The World.’ If read carefully we will discover the art and wisdom of the author editor, discover His power and control. His providence is everywhere and His justice thorough-everyone is accountable to Him. Every page of the Book of the World is a record of all history. Like silly, foolish children, we enjoy the pictures and decorations of the book and leave what is best. We don’t look deeper for what is written there by the greatest of writers. We are easily distracted, thinking about other than what the Book reveals, captivated by what lies in the margins.”

“The Booke of the World” is just that-it is the world, in and of itself. The “booke” is all of Nature, the whole Universe (not “universe” as in that which is limited to our planet, or galaxy; but “Universe” as it pertains to everything conceivable on both the micro and macro level). The mere existence of “The Booke” points me to its author. I enjoy reading and have gotten to know many authors, but I have only met one I have actually read. We know about the authors and through their writings, anyone is able to learn their thoughts; but unless we meet them, we will never KNOW them. The books merely point me to them. When read properly, “The Booke of the World” introduces the reader to its author, first affirming that the author exists.

“The most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.” (Sir Isaac Newton)

“The more I study nature, the more I stand amazed at the work of the Creator.” (Louis Pasteur)

As one reads, one becomes familiar with the author himself: his character, how he thinks, of what are his concerns.

Watch AT LEAST the first four minutes of this video (all if it is worth your time, really):


Drummond’s poem is reminiscent of Psalm 19. The first half (verses 1-6) describe how the heavens and earth declare God's glory (vv. 1-2, 4-6) and that man is witness the soundless sermon (vv. 3-4). This is called "natural revelation." The second half describes the nature of "special revelation" (vv. 7-14): first, the description of God's Word (vv. 7-9) followed by the desire for God's Word (vv. 10-14) that everyone should have. This is what we call "special revelation."

Rather than trust what the author/creator has given us in the content of the book/world, man would rather doodle in the margins and make himself the author of his own content. Man sees creation and knows the Creator exists, but rather than accept this truth (and with nowhere else to go, no other planet to run to or create for himself) he makes content that is comfortable for his way of thinking, way of life. Man does not want to be the creation of someone else. Man wants to be in control of his destiny (though little thought confirms that man could not bring himself into being in the first place). Man does not like the author, nor does he want to meet Him. Man does not want to be accountable for his actions to a Holy God.

Naturalism says that nature is self-sufficient and explains itself—there is no evidence of God in nature. This is like saying a book exists and not only can it not be opened, but it does not say anything. The difficulty here is that a “booke” cannot always have existed. If it has, then it would be greater than its author. Instead the book has an author, who also serves as editor. God has brought all things into being and through the Lord Jesus Christ, holds everything together by the word of His power.

Pantheism says that nature = God. This is like saying a book is it’s author; furthermore, there is no author nor is there a book—we just “know,” have an “understanding”; that is, “oneness.” Some people “understand” or “realize” better than others—some things are more “one” than others. Words and books are not necessary, but since we use them, they move us along to understand that the author (if there were one, and there is not) is “this” and not “that.” Once you understand that these, then you grasp further and more higher (to you) “this” and not “that.” Goo-goo ga-choob.


Deism says that nature is sufficient evidence for a Creator God and He has given us enough to know how to be good—we just get to discover what this means for ourselves. God is only an architect, a “first cause.” If God were watchmaker, he only sits back to observe it winding down. Nature and all matter is a system and science is the tool man uses to transcend matter, not understand it. Nothing is revealed about God outside of what we experience and all we experience is for man to know himself better. If we do learn anything about God, we only learn what He is like—God cannot be known or contacted in any way. This is like discovering a pile of words without knowing who put them there or how they get there, and walking away with complete knowledge of yourself.

The Bible, God’s special revelation, clearly confirms that since the creation of the world, God’s invisible attributes are clearly seen, so man is without excuse (Romans 1:20). Seeing a building and knowing there is a builder, or seeing a painting and knowing there is a painter, or seeing creation and knowing there is a Creator does not require faith. It requires seeing and a working brain. Now, if we would like the builder or painter or Creator do to something, then we need faith. “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

For further thought: “And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 10:15).

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Randoms

"Have you ever heard of anyone in history being imprisoned or executed for distributing copies of Grimm’s fairy tales? What would you say if you’d heard that copies of The Iliad and The Odyssey had been banned in Saudi Arabia and North Korea? Imagine people trying to smuggle copies of Hans Christian Andersen’s works into China? Such ideas are comical, but the Bible, which has been called a mere collection of myths and fairy tales, has suffered all of these fates. Throughout history and even today, copies of the Bible are banned and burned, and those possessing it are persecuted and imprisoned. There’s something about this ancient book that threatens and frightens those in power, especially those who use power to oppress people weaker than themselves. And they have every reason to be frightened.” Eric Metaxas, Everything You Always Wanted to Know about God (Colorado Springs, 2005), page 155. (ht: Ray Ortlund)

Other "Randoms":

Even literature has its "one hit wonders."

Delete Facebook, or tighten up some controls?

The impossible motion of Magnetic Wooden Balls?

Is this the key to understanding C.S. Lewis' Narnia series?

Follow the spread of human ancestry through this interactive map.

He's controversial and complicated, but there wouldn't be an America without him (it gets good about the 7:40 mark).


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Partnership = Tuition Discount!

Would you like a tuition discount for education (with the exception of doctoral level courses)? Do you belong to any of these agencies?

Africa Inland Mission


CAM International


Child Evangelism Fellowship


Christar


Greater Europe Mission


Pioneers


Seacoast Church


SEND International

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

"I don't know enough to be a Christian."

"God is not so cruel as to have left us in the miserable plight that the most saving and necessary truths have to be laboriously assembled by everyone for himself. We are not a lot of amatteur detectives on the hunt for clues in a cosmic whodunit."

Would God be so unloving, unkind and unjust to have given faith only to intellectuals?

Blamires, Harry. The Christian Mind. S.P.C.K.: London, 1963

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

Call the right play

Monday, May 17, 2010

Clement of Alexandria's "Exhoration to the Heathen" and Man, God’s Vice-Regent on Earth (part 2)

He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11, ESV).

Clement of Alexandria was not a spectacular theologian and has been the object of as much adulation as criticism. He has quoted extensively from the both Old and New Testaments in his writings and his primary work was in laying the foundations for catechism for new believers. His predecessor at the Alexandrian school was a philosopher and Clement was not lacking in the area of study himself. Reading Clement leaves one with the feeling of eavesdropping, as oftentimes he engages authors in a conversation, allowing his readers to hear.

Clement often dialogued with Plato in his writings, which lead many to conclude that Clement favored Plato to the point of allowing his philosophy to influence his theology. This writer is not prepared to comment on this possibility; however, one cannot miss a kind of urgency for Plato (nearly 200 years dead from Clement) to move from philosophy into theology:

“How, then, is God to be searched out, O Plato? ‘For both to find the Father and Maker of this universe is a work of difficulty; and having found Him, to declare Him fully, is impossible.’ Why so? By Himself, I beseech you! For He can by no means be expressed. Well done, Plato! Thou hast touched on the truth. But do not flag. Undertake with me the inquiry respecting the Good.”

Clement’s attitude should be those of our own, to encourage those who have touched to truth to come along further and apprehend truth. This requires a shift in worldview and can be a humbling experience. Consider the experience of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., who said, “Young man, the secret of my success is that at an early age I discovered I was not God.” We must be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit in our conversations. One need not be a philosopher or a pagan to reach the conclusion that God exists — the evidence is right in our eyes, under our noses, even our very feet. The Goodness of God is everywhere. Furthermore, the proof extends into the law, and man carries it out socially and adapts it culturally. These same evidences also points out that man is Titanically sinking into the cold grips of death, against which philosophy and paganism can only react as no solutions are found there.

Man, as already stated in the previous post, is not caught in the middle of creation but is the crown of it. Earth swirls through space with man clinging to it face. If the earth were merely a pale blue dot, man is without meaning and as far as death is concerned, there is nothing to be done. We live out Sam Beckett’s “End Game.” The biblical worldview explains that man does have meaning. Man is God’s vice-regent on earth, all things are in subjection under our feet. In other words, man is given by God the administration of the Universe. Those who reject God reject this privilege and become servant to that which he was intended to administer. Man wants to rule the Universe, but man does not want to rule the Universe as God gave him administration.

Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’" (Genesis 1:26-28)

The biblical worldview is that God, in His goodness has given man the highest position possible on the earth and in the Universe. The unbiblical worldview says, “No thanks, we’d rather evolve to that position (hopefully);” or “no thanks, we’d rather think or realize ourselves to that position.” Even the proponents of worldviews that do not distinguish between man from the Universe (that we are all “one”) still treat their children better than rocks. These still hold that lying and stealing (regardless of the reason) is wrong. Here are God’s laws at work in the Universe!

All is not well between man and God, so God stepped into time and space as a man in order to restore the relationship between God and man. The Creator took on Himself the form of an Ambassador of creation. “But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.” (Hebrews 2:9-10)

Faithful obedience to Christ is the means by which we fully obey God’s intention for us as His vice-regent. His salvific work sets the repentant man free from death, free from the one who holds the power of death (Satan). The repentant man is free to do everything he should as representing God on this earth. Whether we work at the microscopic or macroscopic level, in Christ, we are able to fully accomplish the task as God intended.

Clement’s backward challenge to Plato is a forward challenge to us, today. “Undertake with me the inquiry respecting the Good.” One writer stated that, “only a Christian is in a position fully to articulate a worldview that can be pleasing to God and in accord with truth.” This is an agreeable statement, for when we understand that God is good, man sees he is not and is near the place of receiving God’s love in Christ when he repents.

The Lord Jesus Christ is ready to help man achieve what the Father has planned for him. Meditate on this amazing truth, that God does not help angels, but man:

For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” (Hebrews 2:16-17)

Divine help is extended to man because the Lord Jesus Christ, as a merciful and faithful high priest, satisfied justice and paid the penalty for sin in His blood.


Friday, May 14, 2010

Sir John Davies on, "The Intellectual Powers of the Soul"

There is a saying, “favor is the currency of God.” If favor were the result of fate or destiny then due to the impersonality of fate or destiny, favor becomes meaningless. If favor were the outcome of a game or even good deeds, then favor would be a wage. Favor is the “currency” of God, a blessing. The life of Sir John Davies (1569 - 1626), the English Renaissance lawyer and parliamentarian under Queen Elizabeth (and late contemporary of Sir Philip Sidney) is a wonderful illustration of one who received this blessing.

Davies wrote and published in 1599 a book called Nosce Te Ipsum, or “Know Thyself.” When Davies was presented to King James (yes, the same King James of the 1611 Bible) Davies was already a favorite of Queen Elizabeth. When King James inquired if the man before him was the author of the Nosce Te Ipsum, the King "embraced him and conceived a considerable liking for him." Davies was later appointed to be Solicitor General for Ireland when he was knighted in 1603, became Speaker to the Irish House of Commons (1613 -1615) and then Attorney General to Ireland. [1] King James really liked this collection of poems, and God blessed Davies with a way to bring glory to Himself through his position!

What was in Davies writing to receive such adulation from the British nobility? Below is a sample from Davies’ king-embracing work. This particular poem describes the intellectual power of the soul:

"But now I haue a will, yet want a wit
To expresse the working of the wit and will
Which though their root be to the body knit
Use not the body when they vse their skill
powers the nature of the Soule declare
For to man's soule these onely proper bee
For on the Earth no other wights there are
That haue these heauenly powers but only we."

As God created with words, so man is creative with words. What a beautiful demonstration of the image of God in man, as seen in this poem.

Davies explains in the poem following this one in his book, that wit is “understanding.” He does not intend for wit to be understood as simple “awareness.” Man is the only creature on earth (“wight”) with understanding. “Awareness” is shared among all living beings, but only man is capable of understanding that of which he is aware. The hymn writer Isaac Watts, in his book on Logic (published 1792) seemed to be influenced by Davies’ contribution and explains the flow of thought toward understanding (or, “wit”) from perception to judgment to argumentation to disposition. He writes:

“Perception, conception, or apprehension is the mere simple contemplation of things offered to our minds, without affirming or denying anything concerning them . . . Judgment is that operation of the mind whereby we join two or more ideas together by one affirmation or negation; that is, we either affirm or deny this to be that (that tree is high, God is just, good men are miserable in this world) [sic] . . . Argumentation or Reasoning is that operation of the mind, whereby we infer one thing, that is, one proposition from two or more propositions premised. Or, it is the drawing a conclusion, which before was either unknown, or dark or doubtful, from some propositions which are more evident . . . Disposition is . . . the ranging of our thoughts in such as order as is best for our own and others conception and memory.”

All that fancy talk means that first we see (or sense); second, we form relationships regarding what we see (or sense); third, we form opinions or come to conclusions (depending on our relationship to the facts); and finally, we order our thoughts. Here’s how it works, in four illustrations:

  1. We see a painting; we see the painting has color; we reason that the paint was delivered to the canvas, so we conclude the painting was painted; we arrange our thoughts that there must be a painter.
  2. See that building? That building is Starbucks. Someone must have built that building. There must be a builder.
  3. That tree is tall. Either it was made, or it was not. If it has always existed, then why isn’t it taller? It must have been made, so there must be a maker.
  4. We see evidence of a Maker or Creator; we reason that we are created and that the Creator must have some kind of relationship to His creation; He must know the most intricate parts of our being.

How did Davies come to the conclusion the soul has intellectual ability? For him, the will is not sufficient because it does not solve the deeper problems of life, namely death. The psalmist Ethan (David was not the only one inspired to write psalms) wrote, “What man can live and never see death? Who can deliver his soul from the power of Sheol?” (89:14) Every person has an appointment with death, and after this, judgment (Hebrews 9:27). We can’t even control our own body functions, so what makes a person think he can control anything at all by the will?

Davies describes wit as "the pupill of the Soule's clear eye, and in man's world, the only shining starre; [that] lookes in the mirror of Fantasie, where all the gatherings of the Senses are." In other words, wit is “intelligence.” Roy Zuck explains the intellectual “power” of the soul from a biblical perspective in "A Biblical Theology of the Old Testament" (Zondervan: Chicago, 1991):

"Man’s 'heart' is referred to in Ecclesiastes more often than his soul or spirit. Consistent with its usage elsewhere in the Old Testament, 'heart' represents the inner part of man, either his intellect, his emotions, or his will. The intellect is suggested in 1:13, 16–17, in which the NIV translates the Hebrew 'I said in my heart' by the words 'I applied myself' or 'I devoted myself.' The idea in these verses is inner determination to complete an intellectual pursuit. The NIV renders 'heart' by 'mind' in 7:25; 8:9, 16—verses that clearly suggest an intellectual exercise. 'Take this to heart' (7:2), 'you know in your heart' (v. 22), and 'the wise heart will know' (8:5) all suggest the intellect. 'I reflected on all this' (9:1), another instance of the exercise of the mind, is literally 'I have taken all this to heart.'”

Davies title explains the soul has intellectual “powers;” that is, the soul collects, sorts and stores. By definition, and by Davies’ 411 year-old observation, the mind is not limited to the physical body, but is connected elsewhere of deeper importance. Davies is in agreement with the biblical perspective!

Where does the understanding soul do? First, it understands that one is created by God who is all good and is therefore dependent on the one who gave him life. Men respond to this knowledge by the secondary understanding that, in comparison with their Creator who is perfect, there is nothing good and need the righteousness of their Creator in order to enjoy Him forever—this is life. The only other response is to blaspheme the Creator and set up a god of one’s own understanding, an idol. When life on this earth ends for those who raise their hands in pride against the true and living God, they will meet Him in His justice and pay the penalty for rejecting what they understand to be true concerning themselves and Him.

The sun, moon and stars cannot respond to God their Creator in the way that man is able. Neither can the animal, who can only react to his surroundings. The heavenly nature of true understanding is God enjoyed forever by man, growing in ever-increasing knowledge of who He is. No other being in the Universe has this priviledge.



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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Randoms

A good writer shows the reader what to see in narrative, rather than simply tell. Joseph Conrad could have simply written, "as the sun went down, two men walked up the hill." How boring.

Instead, Conrad shows us: "The sun was low: and leaning forward side by side, they seemed to be tugging painfully uphill their two ridiculous shadows of unequal length, that trailed behind them slowly over the tall grass without bending a single blade." (Heart of Darkness, 1902)

Now that's good writing!

Need some help with sermon preparation? Use this handy tool for help in making applications from the text.

First Underwater Footage: Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill at Source

Can you tell the difference between Joel Osteen and a fortune cookie?



The easy way to share your faith on the golf course.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Abomination

Are you familiar with this word, "abomination?" Perhaps now it is an older word and not much used today. The word is used in reference to something extremely disgusting--so disgusting in fact, that one would put distance between himself or herself and whatever the abomination is. That which makes you jump up and run into the other room might be considered an "abomination." We've all seen the videos of people jumping up, running and screaming from dead rats (fake or otherwise) bugs, or just being scared in general. This is the idea that something is so horrendous, one flees the scene.

Perhaps we would not jump up and run from these things, but consider our reaction to certain people or situations. We will not tolerate cheating either in business or in board games. What is your reaction to a business that steals from its customers, or treats its employees unfairly? We would avoid that business, and perhaps report to some authority regarding unethical business practices. Abomination!

Ask any girl her thoughts about boys who tell lies and she will get up on a soap box and preach the perils of one who lies to her. Not to mention what would happen if he cheats or steals from her. Not tolerable. Abomination! And what about those crooked politicians? "ABOMINATION!"

Have you ever thought about what disgusts God? What does God consider as being so gross, so disgusting, an "abomination?" Would you be surprised to learn that the things that disgust Him are also the things we will not tolerate in others?

There are six, no, seven things that disgust God listed in Proverbs 6:19, the first being "the proud." Another proverb underscores the seriousness of this position, "everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD; assuredly he will not be unpunished" (16:5). Next are the liars. "Lying lips are an abomination to the LORD, but those who deal faithfully are His delight" (12:22). Interestingly, liars are mentioned twice in this list. God takes tellers of untruth very seriously.

Murderers, people who plan wickedness and the wicked plans of the wicked are an abomination to the LORD. "Evil plans are an abomination to the LORD, but pleasant words are pure" (15:26). God connects both lying (a third mention) and wickedness together when He says, "For my mouth will utter truth; and wickedness is an abomination to the LORD." (Proverbs 8:7). This could not be plainer than, "the way of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but He loves him who pursues righteousness." (Proverbs 15:9).

The other night I was waiting in the car with my granddaughter while my wife quickly ran into the store. The parking place I chose was directly between the store my wife wanted to visit, and a liquor store. Outside OUR store (not the liquor store--let me be clear) sat a lady with a table of donuts she was selling as a church program fund-raiser. I could not help but notice that, from time to time, someone would leave the liquor store and would walk over to the church-lady and give her a dollar. They did not give the $7.00 for the suggested donation for the box of donuts, but $1.00 for the church--a "sacrifice" of sorts.

Here is what God thinks: "The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD; but the prayer of the upright is His delight." (Proverbs 15:8) God does not approve. Also, "The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination; how much more when he brings it with evil intent." (21:27). ”He who turns away his ear from listening to the law, even his prayer is an abomination" (Proverbs 28:9). God sees through the motive. God cannot be bribed.

How do you feel knowing that a sex offender might live in your neighborhood? "The perverse in heart are an abomination to the LORD, but the blameless in their walk are His delight." (Proverbs 11:20)

God finds a false balance to be an abomination; in other words, cheating in business is despicable to God. "A false balance is an abomination to the LORD; but a just weight is His delight." (Proverbs 11:1). "Unequal weights and unequal measures are both alike an abomination to the LORD." (20:10) In case we miss the point, then observe, "Unequal weights are an abomination to the LORD, and false scales are not good." (20:23) The reason why this is repeated so often is because cheating in business requires that one lie and steal from customers.

The subject of racism is usually peppered with thoughts about hatred. We strive after harmony and want to abolish hatred. God equates hatred with murder as much a lying. "He who hates disguises it with his lips, but he lays up deceit in his heart. When he speaks graciously, do not believe him, for there are seven abominations in his heart" (26:25). Hatred, lying and murder go together.

Finally, those who intentionally run into evil and the one who starts fights disgust God.
How you do feel about someone in office who lies, steals, commits adultery, starts wars, etc.? Here is what God thinks: "It is an abomination to kings to do evil, for the throne is established by righteousness." (Proverbs 16:12). Do you know what a "crook" is? A crook is someone who commits or has been convicted of a crime. "For the crooked man is an abomination to the LORD; but He is intimate with the upright." (Proverbs 3:32). Fill out a job application and pay attention to that question, "Have you ever been convicted of a crime?" Why is that question there? Consider your own reaction when you find out that someone moves into your neighborhood who was just released from prison. All alerts are on because that person is percieved to be not trustworthy.

We will close the list with a most interesting situation. First, read through this one slowly: "The devising of folly is sin, and the scoffer is an abomination to men." (Proverbs 24:9). Did you catch that? The one who lacks sense to continually and intentionally commit lawlessness through mockery is disgusting to other men. Have you ever broken the law? How many lies do you think you've told? Have you ever stolen anything? Have you ever been so angry with someone you wished they were dead?

What are your thoughts at this point, now that you understand how God sees the heart? Is evil so appalling to you that you are ready to be separated from it? "Desire fulfilled is sweet to the soul, but to turn away from evil is an abomination to fools" (Proverbs 13:19)

Perhaps you have heard that God forgives sin. If you ask God, will He simply just forgive? The Bible teaches that God cannot let the wicked go, that God simply cannot "just forgive" and here is why: "He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the LORD" (Proverbs 17:15). God has seen our sin and cannot simply "just forgive." He cannot let the wicked go. God cannot look at a sinner and say that person is righteous.

God stepped into time and space and lived a perfect life. He did nothing that would be considered an abomination. He never lied. He never stole. He never looked with lust. He never hated anyone. He was perfect. So why did He die on the cross? There are two reasons and the first is this: "An unjust man is an abomination to the righteous, and he who is upright in the way is abominable to the wicked" (Proverbs 29:27). The world cannot tolerate the upright. Long before Jesus was ever born, Plato said that if a person came along who did nothing wrong, he would be dragged outside the city and killed. This is what happened to Jesus.

The other reason Jesus died on the cross is this: to satisfy the justice of God. He paid the penalty for sin. He took our abominations on Himself that we could be declared un-abominable. This exchange is not automatic, but requires that we first agree with how God sees our heart. We must repent, turn from our sin and put our faith and trust in the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. This way we can be forgiven and cleansed from everything that God finds disgusting. Repentance by faith in Christ Jesus is the only way God can declare the wicked person righteous.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Glory and the Rainbow

This helps me better understand what is meant by, "the whole earth is full of His Glory" (Isaiah 6:3) and the rainbow imagery of Revelation (4:3; 10:1) (scroll down for photo gallery).

"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 glory." (Samuel Morse, 1791 - 1872, inventor)

Recommended Reading (click on image):

Monday, May 10, 2010

Clement of Alexandria's "Exhoration to the Heathen" and The God Who Shares of Himself (part 1)

Clement of Alexandria (155 - 220 A.D.) lived during a time of growth for early Christianity. The early Alexandrian church was surrounded by pagan culture, pressed on all sides by either the obscure principles of religious orthodoxy, or outright heresy. [1] The Alexandrian school taught doctrine to early Christians in their preparations for baptism into the Christian faith. Clement (not to be confused with Clement of Rome, but of Alexandria) became the second leader of this school, followed by Origen. The Alexandrian school became more formalized and eventually laid the foundation for what has become the calendar period commonly known as Lent [2] (Lent as currently observed is nothing near what Clement and others taught or intended for the school). “The crucial achievement of Clement and Origen was to put over the gospel in terms which could be understood by people familiar with the highest forms of Greek culture. They established once for all the intellectual respectability of the new faith.” [3]

Clement cultivated the biblical worldview within a pagan culture, and spurred the pursuit of truth from the biblical perspective through teaching and writing. One particular work known as “Exhortation to the Heathen,” the reader is able to sample both the tension of the early churches’ context as well as the bold stand for the biblical worldview. Additionally, this work is relevant today, for the same difficulties Clement helped the early church through are still present today. From Chapter VI "By Divine Inspiration Philosophers Sometimes Hit on the Truth" of his exhortation we read:

Why, I beseech you, fill up life with idolatrous images, by feigning the winds, or the air, or fire, or earth, or stones, or stocks, or steel, or this universe, to be gods; and, prating loftily of the heavenly bodies in this much vaunted science of astrology, not astronomy, to those men who have truly wandered, talk of the wandering stars as gods? It is the Lord of the spirits, the Lord of the fire, the Maker of the universe, Him who lighted up the sun, that I long for. Whom shall I take as a helper in my inquiry?”

Some argue that paganism has been around longer than Christianity; or, that worship of pagan deities has been practiced longer than Theism. This sounds plausible and perhaps threatening to the monothestic cause; but, without the work of The Creator, where else would these things occur? Man's rebellion against God does not occur in a vacuum. Alexandrian Clement wrote further:

For into all men whatever, especially those who are occupied with intellectual pursuits, a certain divine effluence has been instilled wherefore, though reluctantly, they confess that God is one, indestructible, unbegotten, and that somewhere above in the tracts of heaven, in His own peculiar appropriate eminence, whence He surveys all things, He has an existence true and eternal.”

Those influenced by the New Age and similar movements hold that within every person is a divine spark. This is not what Clement means by “a certain divine effluence.” Clement is pointing to what the conscience knows to be true concerning God (“con” means “with” and “science” means “knowledge”= “with knowledge). Every person knows that GOD IS and exists as a unified whole without beginning or end as a heavenly and spiritual personality who sees all, knows all, "in His own peculiar appropriate eminence." Clement's choice is simple: give me The One who sparked the sun. Where else can we turn?

The conscience is aware that The Divine Person is efflluent; that is, He shares Himself. This is seen in His attributes, some of which He shares with man and some He does not share. For example, God does not share His omniscience, omnipresence or omnipotence; on the other hand, God does share His love, grace, mercy and truth. No other thing percieved as god has attributes to share. What more can the sun share than it's golden apples (heat, light and elements) until it withers and fizzles? There is no personality. The moon has no light, no heat and is bound in the dance of gravitational forces as it already has for so long--what contribution does the moon volitionally grant to a person?

David, the shepherd and king, saw God's majestic name in all the earth: high, above the heavens; low, on the earth in the babbling of infants and the raging of God's enemies. He looked at the moon and stars and saw evidence of God. He looked at man, the crown of God's creation and saw evidence of God. Man is not an "in-between" creature, but the one who stands as God's representative on the earth. Man can only fulfill this responsibility with God as the reference point. Read Psalm 8.

Think of it: the swirling galaxies and delicacies of nature do not get to share God's love, mercy and grace. God created all things with His words and with words, David and mankind creatively uses words to praise the Creator. Even the pagans by using words in their worship of the creation demonstrate that they, too, are made in God's image.

Like Clement of Alexandria, with God as our reference point, we are to move throughout all creation declaring the excellent majesty of God in all the earth.

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[1] Chadwick, Henry. The Early Church. Penguin Books: London, 1990.
[2] Eerdman’s Handbook to the History of Christianity. Lion Publishing: Grand Rapids, 1977. p. 86
[3] Eerdman’s Handbook to the History of Christianity. Lion Publishing: Grand Rapids, 1977. p. 77

Friday, May 07, 2010

Reflections on Sir Philip Sidney's poem, “Splendidis Longum Valedico Nugis“

English author and statesman Sir Philip Sidney (1554 - 1586) penned the following farewell poem, “Splendidis Longum Valedico Nugis“:

"LEAVE me, O Love, which reachest but to dust,
And thou, my mind, aspire to higher things!
Grow rich in that which never taketh rust:
Whatever fades, but fading pleasure brings.
Draw in thy beams, and humble all thy might
To that sweet yoke where lasting freedoms be;
Which breaks the clouds and opens forth the light
That doth both shine and give us sight to see.
O take fast hold! let that light be thy guide
In this small course which birth draws out to death,
And think how evil becometh him to slide
Who seeketh Heaven, and comes of heavenly breath.
Then farewell, world! thy uttermost I see:
Eternal Love, maintain thy life in me!"

These farewell words are those of the son of the Lord Deputy of Ireland. He served as a royal attendant to Queen Elizabeth I, as an ambassador to the German Emperor and as a soldier who though living primarily in the presence of royalty, traveled quite extensively. He died at a very young age (32), in the prime of life. He is buried at St. Paul's Cathedral in London. A young man as Sir Sidney had remarkable insight about the temporal and eternal realms, and he reflects this through his poem. Sir Sidney helps us understand the necessity of having the right worldview, for worldview is how we make sense of life and prepares us for what comes after life.

Why is this a farewell poem? What is he bidding this goodbye? Sidney desires separation from the lowly world, the temporal realm, and aspires for the highest, spiritual and eternal realm. The temporal realm, the place in which we now live, is no higher than the dust, and here everything breaks down or fades. Whatever is born here, dies here and the best we can do is evil in the eyes of heaven. The eternal realm is a high place where that which truly matters grows, shines and is not hidden. The eternal realm is the place of light and life. These are the words of a man surrounded by wealth and influence.

The choice before him is say farewell to God's love, and embrace all that is fading lowly dust to eke out a miserable existence until a dark and impoverished eternity; or say farwell to the world and be embraced by God's love in Christ Jesus, and be the recipient of light and life maintained from above.

How does one cross the threshold from the temporal to the eternal? Sidney leaves us one small clue near the high middle of his poem, referring to "that sweet yoke where lasting freedoms be." This "yoke" breaks clouds, brings light and sight to the blind. This "yoke" is the essence of a life leading to death, through death and beyond death to life--it is life abundant. This "yoke" extends to the most unworthy of love who dwell in the dust of the temporal realm. When those appropriate what the "yoke" brings, they die to the dust of the world and have the eternal realm opened to them, being filled with Eternal Love and life!

What is this yoke? We begin to understand by considering first words of our Lord Jesus Christ, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3). The kingdom of heaven belongs to the spiritually bankrupt. "The worldly idea is that happiness is found in riches, merriment, abundance, leisure, and such things. The real truth is the very opposite." (MacAthur Study Bible) When one realizes this truth, as Sir Sidney did, one begins to understand what God has provided in terms of things that really matter. "Salvation is a free gift, but an empty hand must receive it, and not a hand which still tightly grasps the world!" (A.W. Pink)

Our understanding grows when we consider when our Lord Jesus Christ said further, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30) What relief does man's intellect, intuition, or influence bring? One must discover, nuture, cultivate and maintain autonomy if one desires to turn his back on all that God has provided in Christ Jesus. Burdened are the rich in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of this earth! Spiritual, eternal wealth is not gained by religious observances, but by the work of God in Christ Jesus. Sir Sidney recognized an exchange had to occur.

Sir Philip Sidney despises the world. Despite his wealth and position, he expresses that as long as he lived on this earth, that he would experience "the uttermost" of eternal life, by having new life breathed in him while he yet lived on the earth. The poverty of his heart, his spiritual bankruptcy, and his intense desire for the eternal may be glimpsed in the occasion he received the leg wound that, a few days later, would be the cause of his death. Nearby where he lay on the ground was another wounded soldier. Sir Sidney passed over his water bottle and was reported to tell the soldier to drink, for in his eyes, the other soldier had greater need for the water than did Sidney.

Sir Sidney reminds us that the eternal, spiritual realm contains the physical, temporal realm. These are not two realms that exist side-by-side (as it were). There cannot be an infinite regression of the physical, temporal realm. The eternal realm, by nature, has always existed, pressing in on the temporal. In other words, at very bottom, everything is spiritual. The problem is that man in his rebellion against his Creator, would rather exchange that which is passing for that which he cannot escape. Man, in bidding farwell to God, turns to come face to face with Him. Much like a man who, denying the existence of trucks, steps into the road and discovers the harsh reality that he cannot change.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Randoms

Here is my first TEDtalk, using the TEDtalk generator:

"(Laughter.) Thank you very much. You know, you don't diverge from the path et cetera, et cetera. That's why I think the way to true happiness also means keeping your back straight et cetera, et cetera. But most importantly, you need the brain to recognize the exact way it's supposed to think et cetera, et cetera. It is like French phrases such as "et cetera, et cetera". But I should be more specific when referring to a milky weak coffee making you jittery et cetera, et cetera. So I thought maybe a mirror will not get something bad fixed et cetera, et cetera. It's therefore much better to create a choice to consciously solve a problem. To illustrate my point, I'll give you a very dramatic example of a patient who came in bored but all of a sudden this intense need for creativity made him feel alive again. I could use this data to gain insight, but not make decisions."

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Please take a moment to visit this new, free resource center for Church Planting Movements. This is your home for CPM-related free booklets, the latest training materials, PowerPoints, in-depth case studies, profiles, and thought-provoking articles. Here's a book by Dr. Garrison (click on image for more inforamation):


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This "holy man" Claims to Have Lived Without Food and Water for 70 Years. That's just creepy.

Tim Challies on "How To Pray Badly."

The 9Marks e-journal is out. Subject: Deacons and Elders

Dr. Larson shares his thoughts, "Islamic Radicals: How Not To Respond."

And finally, Puritan Lad at Covenant Theology has posted some Atheistic "Amens."

Westminster Bookstore

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Observations Concerning the Martyrdom of Polycarp

Reading through the account of Polycarp’s martyrdom reveals several observations concerning the conflict of worldviews and the impact of truth. Polycarp was killed for being a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, killed in the name of religion. The persecution of believers today occurs because of the same conflict the world showed against truth--the same hostility that even our Lord Jesus Christ faced in his arrest, trial and death.

Truth wrecks the principles of religion because truth is rooted in the person of Lord Jesus Christ, not in a man-made system of people who think they understand God. Pragmatism as a worldview results in many, many problems, because it attempts to establish truth in a "user-friendly" fashion. When two people stand shoulder to shoulder in the name of pragmatism or religious tolerance, the systems fail before it ever begins; for example, biblical truth stresses that man is the crown of God's creation, so for one man to "lift his hand" against another is a crime not only against the victim, but also against his creator. Pragmatic religion on the other hand, may allow me to find pleasure in pouring boiling water of the head of another man and I may be convinced that my god would allow me to do so. Then a miracle occurs: when I approach the other man who shares the same attitude of religious tolerance with my kettle, how quickly his philosophy changes!

"And going out, according to His custom, He went to the Mount of Olives. And His disciples also followed Him." (Luke 22:39)

The account reveals that Polycarp and other followers of Christ were in constant conversation with God, and subsequently, always ready to hear from heaven: “Now, as Polycarp was entering into the stadium, there came to him a voice from heaven, saying, ‘Be strong, and show thyself a man, O Polycarp.’ No one saw who it was that spoke to him; but those of our brethren who were present heard the voice.” The religious crowd only hear their own voices. Heaven is a real place and the lover of God is tuned to hear Him who makes Heaven what it is, like a tuned string resonates with a tuning fork (an out of tune string will not vibrate on pitch). God is not silent and hears those who walk in obedience before Him (Ps. 1; Isaiah 59:2).

"Then Pilate entered into the praetorium again and called Jesus and said to him, 'Are you the king of the Jews?' Jesus answered him, 'Do you say this thing of yourself, or did others say it to you about Me?' Pilate answered, 'Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you to me. What have you done?' Jesus answered, 'My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would fight so that I might not be delivered to the Jews. But now My kingdom is not from here.'" (John 18:33-36)

Polycarp based his faith on the reality and reign of the Lord Jesus Christ. The religious crowd wanted nothing to do with the Lord Jesus Christ because it was disruptive to what they perceived to be good for them. The proconsul wanted Polycarp to confess his atheism (that is, he would not confess Caesar as god and failure to do so was atheism in their eyes). Polycarp confesses instead his eighty-six years of service to Christ and how those years were received by Him and blessed. The sovereignty of God in Christ Jesus was the platform form which he could wave his hand at the crowd and say, “away with the atheists.” There is no freedom apart from the Lordship of Christ for His reign is ethical in every sense--He sets men free to do everything they should. Christ rewards the obedient with life and enjoyment of God forever. Polycarp would not exchange walking any remaining time on earth in slavery to betrayal.

Jesus made it clear that the Kingdom over which He reigns is not of this world. Furthermore, He has no need of anyone to fight for it. The Kingdom of Christ comes from outside man, so his ideas of The Kingdom must be shaped by the way the King presents it. The King is not chosen by men, but God; the Kingdom does not come from the earth, but descends from Heaven (Rev. 22:2); The Kingdom does not come by striving, fighting and conquest, but by the will of God. The weapons are spiritual, the rewards are spiritual. The Kingdom of Christ is internal before it is external, one that is responsive when the Holy Spirit speaks to the conscience.

looking to Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2).

The recorder of Polycarp’s martyrdom records specifically that as he stood firm in the truth out of love for Christ, that “he was filled with confidence and joy, and his countenance was full of grace, so that not merely did it not fall as if troubled by the things said to him, but, on the contrary, the proconsul was astonished, and sent his herald to proclaim in the midst of the stadium thrice, ‘Polycarp has confessed that he is a Christian.’” The peace and joy he experienced was not the basis of his faith, but the result of his faith. His faith was being exercised in the context of persecution and resulted in genuine comfort. His faith was not built on good feelings, good health, a full wallet and a plastic smile. His comfort and joy evidenced that the Holy Spirit was present, doing what He does best--giving glory to Christ, as the crowd witnessed. The religious crowd stood firm on faithlessness and lived riotous, in constant upheaval, unrest, pursuing hedonism because there was no joy.

And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:8)

Perhaps the most astonishing observation about Polycarp’s martyrdom is that he was determined to be obedient to the death. Literally. Polycarp had a vision during a time of prayer that showed he would die by fire. When they were ready to turn the lions on him, Polycarp responded that for them to do so was unlawful. This was a sharp, two-pronged reply: first, the lions were not released at random, but at specific times of the “show.” That time had already passed. Second, this was a reminder to everyone that murder is unlawful but their hard hearts set against the Lord Jesus Christ would drive them to it, in the name of religion. Murder is a crime against man and a crime against God, breaking the 6th Commandment. “Everyone hating his brother is a murderer. And you know that no murderer has everlasting life abiding in him.” (1 John 3:15) The crowd would help him see that he remained obedient to the death. “I must be burnt alive.”

To this end I was born, and for this cause I came into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.“ (John 18:37)

John 18:28-40 is the record of the religious crowd bringing Jesus before Pilate. He was being led by the religious crowd that wanted Him dead, but they loved their religion so much they would not be defiled by His death. Their pragmatic religion revealed the fact that they were not keeping God’s law, but were breaking it by murderous hatred and lies. John records they did not enter the praetorium because they wanted to go home and eat. This was the time of year they were to remember God’s deliverance for Israel through the shed blood of a lamb through the Feast of Passover. If they entered this place they would be ceremonially unclean. They were blind to truth for the sake of religion.

Conclusion: The list is very long for those who, in the name of Christ, have stood in truth and gave their blood for it. God does not want men to die for a lie--that is not His will. His will is that all should come to repentance by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. His will is that men walk before Him in holiness.

Speaking out with a biblical worldview requires that we saturate ourselves in God's Word, obey God's Word, and speak God's Word. God does not change, and neither does His purpose to exalt Christ in all His glory.

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