Saturday, January 30, 2010

Encourage CBS to Stand Firm

CBS is taking a good deal of heat for its decision to air a commercial during next week's Super Bowl in which Tim Tebow's family talks about their decision not to abort their son, who has gone on to win College Football's most prestigious award, the Heisman trophy (Read more about Pam's decision not to abort Tim).

If you'd like to encourage CBS, you can send them a comment on their website.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The First Installment

This week I've been reading through John Piper's book Finally Alive (read the book in its entirety for free here). I've been in a season of spiritual lethargy and weariness, and being reminded of God's sovereign work of begetting me anew has been an aid to my weary soul.

Here's one quote that I especially enjoyed, in which Piper is commenting on Titus 3:5. Paul uses the word 'regeneration', and the only other time he uses that word it describes the regeneration of the entire creation in Matthew 19:28:

"So when you think of your new birth, think of it as the first installment of what is coming. Your body and the whole world will one day take part in this regeneration. God's final purpose is not spiritually renewed souls inhabiting decrepit bodies in a disease- and disaster-ravaged world. His purpose is a renewed world with renewed bodies and renewed souls that take all our renewed senses and make them a means of enjoying and praising God."

What a great reminder, that the miracle of our being born again is just a taste of the glory that is to come...not only in us, but in the entirety of God's creation.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Cultivating Humility

From the 9 Marks blog:

24 manifestations of what Christ-exalting humility should produce in your life.

30 indicators that pride is resident in your heart.

This is great, convicting, stuff.

The Pro-Life Generation

I guess I am still in Sanctity of Life Sunday mode (and why shouldn't I be, since almost 10,000 babies have been murdered in abortion clinics around this nation since I preached on Sunday morning?). This post from Gene Veith's blog was an encouragement to me:

The pro-abortionists are worried. Journalist Robert McCartney, one of their number, explains why:

I went to the March for Life rally Friday on the Mall expecting to write about its irrelevance. Isn’t it quaint, I thought, that these abortion protesters show up each year on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, even though the decision still stands after 37 years. What’s more, with a Democrat in the White House likely to appoint justices who support abortion rights, surely the Supreme Court isn’t going to overturn Roe in the foreseeable future.

How wrong I was. The antiabortion movement feels it’s gaining strength, even if it’s not yet ready to predict ultimate triumph, and Roe supporters (including me) are justifiably nervous.

As always, we in Washington enjoy an up-close view of the health of various causes because of the city’s role as the nation’s most important setting for political demonstrations. In this case, I was especially struck by the large number of young people among the tens of thousands at the march. It suggests that the battle over abortion will endure for a long time to come.

“We are the pro-life generation,” said signs carried by the crowd, about half its members appearing to be younger than 30. . . .

Activists who support abortion rights conceded that there’s less energy among young people on their side of the debate.

“Unfortunately, I feel my generation is a little complacent,” said Amanda Pelletier, 20, co-director of the abortion rights group at American University. “It just doesn’t seem to be a very hip issue.”

via Young activists adding fuel to antiabortion side – washingtonpost.com.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Mugged by Ultrasound

On Sunday in my sermon I mentioned that 70-90 % of abortion-minded women choose life if only they see an ultrasound of their baby. That's a pretty amazing statistic.

Along those lines is an interesting article that I came across via Kevin DeYoung's excellent blog. Here's a quote from the article:

Many abortion providers have been converted by ultrasound technology. The most famous example is Bernard Nathanson, cofounder of the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws, the original NARAL. By his own reckoning Nathanson performed more than 60,000 abortions, including one on his own child. But over time he began to fear he was involved in a great evil. Ultrasound images pushed him over the edge. “When he finally left his profession for pro-life activism, he produced The Silent Scream (1984), a documentary of an ultrasound abortion that showed the fetus scrambling vainly to escape dismemberment.”

Read the whole thing.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Unexpected Lesson in Humility

Yesterday in our church's second worship service I made a pretty significant pastoral blunder. I won't go into the gory details here, but as soon as it happened, I immediately was reminded of this video from the Worship God conference two years ago. I was in attendance when this happened:



No, my blunder had nothing to do with music at all, but I was reminded yesterday that I can't take myself too seriously. The pursuit of humility is a lifelong journey, and I am grateful for the way that God uses even our blunders to sanctify our hearts and conform us to the image of His Son.

Abortion and Adoption

Yesterday I preached on the subject of abortion (you can download the sermon here), while earlier in the service an adoption ministry was introduced to the church.

In this video, Russell Moore explains how the two fit together:

Friday, January 22, 2010

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Pain of "Choice"

Ignorance abounds in our nation on the subject of abortion. We can do something about that ignorance by simply getting educated via stories like this, and spreading the word:

I'm not Mark Dever or anything, but still...

For those who read this blog and do not attend my church, I'd really recommend picking up a copy of The Trellis and the Vine for your pastor.

Mark Dever, who has done a pretty good bit of thinking on the nature and call of the Church, has said this of the book:

What Col and Tony have described here is exactly what I've been trying to do in my own life and in our congregation for years. According to this book, Christians are to be disciple-making disciples and pastors are to be trainers. Superb! This book sets out a crucial shift that is needed in the mindset of many pastors. The authors have carefully listened to the Bible. And they've worked on this book. The result is a book that is well-written and well- illustrated, but even more, a book that is full of biblical wisdom and practical advice. This is the best book I've read on the nature of church ministry.

Like I said, I'm not Mark Dever; so saying that this is the best book on the nature of church ministry that I've read isn't saying that much. But take it from Dever and pick up a copy of The Trellis and the Vine. Read it yourself, and then give it to your pastor.

Because it's published overseas, the price is a bit more than you'd expect for a book of only 200 pages. But after reading it twice, I think it's worth every penny.




Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Daily Dose of Humility

Thanks to a wisely placed frame by my wife, not a day goes by in which I do not ponder this quote from the Westminster Larger Catechism:

"The duties required in the first commandment are, the knowing and acknowledging of God to be the only true God, and our God; and to worship and glorify him accordingly, by thinking, meditating, remembering, highly esteeming, honoring, adoring, choosing, loving, desiring, fearing of him; believing him; trusting, hoping, delighting, rejoicing in him; being zealous for him; calling upon him, giving all praise and thanks, and yielding all obedience and submission to him with the whole man; being careful in all things to please him, and sorrowful when in anything he is offended; and walking humbly with him."

I love seeing this quote daily, because it is a daily reminder of how miserably short I fall of God's requirements. It is a daily reminder that I am more sinful and wicked than I have ever dared to imagine.

Yet in that reminder is the precious reminder that because of Jesus Christ, the righteous requirements of that first commandment, and every other commandment have been fulfilled in my place by the perfectly obedient Son of God. By virtue of my trust in His finished work, I am clothed in His righteousness so that God looks at me as perfectly blameless in His sight.

When I am thinking rightly about this, it is hard to think critically of others. It is hard to get offended when someone points out an area of weakness or fault within me, of which there are many. And it is hard not to stand amazed at the wondrous love of Jesus Christ, who would die to transform such a miserable wretch into a beloved child.

But I am so inclined to forget this and not think rightly about it. So thanks to my darling wife, for putting that quote in a place that I cannot miss it.

Monday, January 18, 2010

MLK's Dream was a Religiously Rooted Dream

There are many in our society who want to see religious rhetoric banned from the public square. This of course, is very self-contradictory, but I won't get into that now. Besides that, if we strip the public square of religious rhetoric, we lose this:



This is all incredibly relevant to the abortion issue, which I will address in church this Sunday. Please pray for me, that I would speak humbly and graciously and faithfully lift up the glorious hope that is found in Jesus Christ.

A Christian View of Work

Justin Taylor posted a quote today from Dorothy Sayers in an essay titled, "Why Work?"

The Church’s approach to an intelligent carpenter is usually confined to exhorting him not to be drunk and disorderly in his leisure hours, and to come to church on Sundays. What the Church should be telling him is this: that the very first demand that his religion makes upon him is that he should make good tables.

. . . Let the Church remember this: that every maker and worker is called to serve God in his profession or trade—not outside of it. The Apostles complained rightly when they said it was not meant they should leave the word of God and serve tables; their vocation was to preach the word. But the person whose vocation it is to prepare the meals beautifully might with equal justice protest: It is not meant for us to leave the service of our tables to preach the word.

The official Church wastes time and energy, and moreover, commits sacrilege, in demanding that secular workers should neglect their proper vocation in order to do Christian work—by which she means ecclesiastical work. The only Christian work is good work well done. Let the Church see to it that the workers are Christian people and do their work well, as to God: then all the work will be Christian work, whether it is Church embroidery or sewage-farming.

Thoughts?

Cold Comfort

A few weeks back I wrote about the Manhattan Declaration, and the discussion that was being engaged in throughout evangelicalism about how much cooperation Christians should have with those of other faiths in taking action about social issues like abortion. You can read that post if you want a bit more of the background and the current discussion.

When I read this quote today from Gregg Cunningham, I thought it was a pretty simple, yet compelling, argument to get involved with Catholics, Muslims, Jews or Atheists who also care about the unborn. Cunningham writes:

"It is cold comfort to a dead baby that we allowed him to die to avoid working with Catholics."

I'm not sure how those who opposed the Manhattan Declaration would respond, but I'd be interested to hear what they would say.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Exposed by the Cross

A great quote from Milton Vincent's A Gospel Primer for Christians:

"The Cross exposes me before the eyes of other people, informing them of the depth of depravity. If I wanted others to think highly of me, I would conceal the fact that a shameful slaughter of the perfect Son of God was required that I might be saved. But when I stand at the foot of the Cross an am seen by others under the light of that Cross, I am left uncomfortably exposed before their eyes.

Indeed, the most humiliating gossip that could ever be whispered about me is blared from Golgotha's hill, and my self-righteous reputation is left in ruins in the wake of its revelations. With the worst facts about me thus exposed to the view of others, I find myself feeling that I truly have nothing left to hide.


Thankfully, the more exposed I see that I am by the Cross, the more I find myself opening up to others about ongoing issues of sin in my life. (Why should anyone be shocked to hear of my struggles with past and present sin when the Cross already told them I am a desperately sinful person?)
And the more open I am in confessing my sins to fellow-Christians, the more I enjoy the healing of the Lord in response to their grace-filled counsel and prayers.

Experiencing richer levels of Christ's love in companionship with such saints, I give thanks for the gospel's role in forcing my hand toward self-disclosure and the freedom that follows."


What would the impact be on our churches, on our small groups, if we all lived in the good of this reality? When resting in the gospel, sharing about our flaws is not scary, but liberating.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Enjoy Those 11 Minutes

Kevin DeYoung, quoting a Wall Street Journal study:

An NFL game is 60 minutes by the rulebook. It takes at least 3 hours on the air. How much of this time involves actual play on the field? A recent study says about 11 minutes.

According to a Wall Street Journal study of four recent broadcasts, and similar estimates by researchers, the average amount of time the ball is in play on the field during an NFL game is about 11 minutes.

In other words, if you tally up everything that happens between the time the ball is snapped and the play is whistled dead by the officials, there’s barely enough time to prepare a hard-boiled egg. In fact, the average telecast devotes 56% more time to showing replays.

Read the rest here.


Word and Deed Ministry

My post on Tuesday about the necessity of words in communicating the gospel has stirred some conversation in that post. In case you missed it, it's probably worth a post in its own right.

One blogger made this comment:

I see you have an interesting take on the gospel which is that it is all about words. No words - no gospel. The word 'gospel' as you know means 'good news.' Here is Jesus' own testimony concerning the gospel or good news (emphasis mine).

"I must preach the GOOD NEWS of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because THAT IS WHY I WAS SENT" (Luke 4:43, NIV).

I think there is a general misconception throughout Christendom that the gospel is Jesus coming to die for our sins. That is only ONE part of the whole plan of redemption, and not the full gospel. We need to understand also that the plan of redemption and good news is not only about Jesus dying to pay the penalty for our sins, but that it also about the RESTORATION of man into a right relationship with God, and our adoption as sons and daughters into the family of God. As sons and daughters of God we are also citizens of the kingdom of God.

Therefore, we are called to walk "worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called" and not cause the name of God to be "blasphemed" among the heathen, for we are ambassadors of Christ, and are called by His name, therefore let us live in such a way so that when people see our good works, our Father in heaven is glorified.

Here's what I wrote in response to her:

I hope you aren't getting the wrong idea about my understanding of the gospel based on this one little quote. I think if you were to listen regularly to my preaching (you can, at joycf.org) or read this blog regularly you would see that I am in wholehearted agreement that the gospel includes the restoration of man's relationship with God, producing a changed life that brings honor and glory to our Redeemer. I absolutely agree with that. In fact, I would say the the gospel includes not only man's restoration to relationship with God, but also the entire creation being restored and renewed (Romans 8:19ff, Colossians 1:20).

That said, I still believe that the HEART of the gospel is Christ dying and rising to bear the penalty of our sins and reconcile us to God. This is the fountain from which all of the other wonderful benefits of the gospel flow out from.

The reason I believe the quote in the original post is important, and the reason I stress that the gospel is a message with words, is because there are many in Christendom who have denied this truth about Jesus dying as a substitute to redeem sinners, and have put the entire focus of the gospel on living good lives, caring for the poor, fixing environmental problems and unjust social structures, etc. Ie, "the social gospel".

Again, I agree that we should live lives worthy of the gospel and care for the poor and be good stewards of God's creation. Next Sunday I will preach a sermon on how Christians ought to be involved in one of the great injustices of our day: the tragedy of abortion. But to say that is gospel, while denying that which Paul said was the matter of first importance (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), is not to preach part of the gospel; it is to deny the gospel.

Whether or not you want to say that the gospel is all words, it seems that you agree that the whole gospel has not been communicated if the message of Christ's death as a substitute for sinners to be received by faith has not been communicated. For that I am grateful.

Whereas you say this is only a part of the gospel, I might say it is the gospel. But I would only say that with the addiional qualification that the inevitable consequence of that gospel being believed is that we will live changed lives, putting sin to death and performing good works that bring glory to our Father in heaven. I would not call that the gospel, I would call it ADORNING the gospel (Titus 2:10), and all true Christians will do that.

Paul says in Romans 1:16 that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe. No one will be saved by believing that I fed some impoverished people at soup kitchen. Therefore I do not call it gospel. However, in seeing us sacrificially serve and care for the weak and needy, they may be compelled to ask us why we do such things. That is adorning the gospel. In that way, my changed life might give me the opportunity to tell them about how Jesus lavished His riches on me in my spiritual poverty by dying on the cross to forgive me of my sins.

That is the message that need to be believed in order to be saved. And that is why I call it the gospel, or at least the heart of the gospel.

Thoughts?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Some Thoughts on Pat Robertson

During just about every national or international calamity, televangelist Pat Robertson makes headlines with some insensitive remarks about why that particular calamity occurred. This week's earthquake in Haiti gave Robertson another opportunity. Here's what he said:



Someone in my congregation asked me how I would respond if a news reporter asked me to comment on Robertson's remarks. Here's what I wrote back in response:

The Bible is pretty clear that earthquakes, and other natural disasters, are a part of this world because of sin. After Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, God cursed the entire creation and “subjected it to futility” (Romans 8:20). So earthquakes exist because of human rebellion against God. But it’s not just the people of Haiti who are at fault; it’s all of us, because Adam acted as our representative, and so we are all guilty (Romans 5). It seems as though Pat Robertson ignores this reality in his public comments following every calamity. He basically did the same thing after 9/11 and Katrina. It is always somebody else’s sin that is the problem, and he never publicly seems to own up to his own sin as being a part of the problem with the world.

That is probably why so many people can’t stand him. Sometimes Christians are called to experience hostility from the world for the sake of Christ, but it seems to me that Robertson experiences hostility because of his own arrogance and insensitivity, not for the sake of Christ. In his public comments, he does not demonstrate a contrition and humility that flow out of understanding how desperate his own situation is because of sin, and knowing that salvation by the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ is his only hope.

In Luke 13, Jesus was asked about a calamity in Galilee, and His response is insightful for this whole situation. Jesus said,

“Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem?

So I think if Jesus was asked about the earthquake in Haiti, He might say, “Do you think that the people of Haiti were worse sinners than all other human beings? No, I tell you. But unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” That is God’s word to us, I believe, in the face of the pain and horrors of this world. Earthquakes exist because we live in a fallen world in which humans have rebelled against our Maker.


The people of Haiti are no more guilty than I am. Yet Jesus came into the world not only to speak eloquently about calamities, but to experience cosmic calamity on the Cross. In His crucifixion, Jesus willingly took upon Himself the judgment of God that we deserved for our sin. Through faith in Him, we can receive forgiveness of sins and be reconciled to God, needing no longer to fear His anger and condemnation. When we have come into relationship with God through Jesus, we can have hope that even the biggest storms and calamities of this world will ultimately work for our good, because that is what He has promised to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

So in the face of the devastation in Haiti, Christians are called to love and sacrificially serve those who have been affected by this earthquake. And, like Jesus, we are called to remind everyone that their earthquake will come one day as well. Through repentance and faith in the crucified and risen Christ, we can be rescued from the coming wrath that will make this earthquake seem like an amusement park. He is our only hope.

What do you think of Robertson's remarks (or mine)? Leave a comment and let me know...


Groan...and Give

Locals look for their beloved among the dead bodies outside the morgue, in Port-au-Prince.

As Christians we groan, knowing that earthquakes are not the way things ought to be. But we don't only groan. Here are 11 charities collecting donations for relief in Haiti. My church, Joy Community Fellowship, will be giving this way.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Piper at Angola Prison

Michelle and I give monthly to Desiring God. Watching this made me really glad to make that regular investment (click through to the blog if the video doesn't appear in your feed reader):

A conjunction could make me suicidal

Philippians 3:12 reads:

"Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own."

Think of the power of this little conjunction, "because". If, instead of writing "because", Paul had actually written, "so that," I am pretty sure I'd want to kill myself. My ability to press on after Christ is grounded in the reality that He has already made me His own. If it were not so, I'd lose all hope and probably want to take my own life.

God's grace, not human effort and striving, is the rock our salvation rests on. But it wouldn't be so with a little change of that tiny conjunction.

So read the Bible carefully; our joy and peace is built on something as small as a conjunction.

The Key to Joy

John Piper:

Heartfelt confidence that, because of Christ, our all-controlling God is 100% for us, is the key to indomitable joy.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

I didn't really care about seeing Avatar; now I do

A faithful reader emailed me this article from CNN's website about how the movie Avatar is making people depressed because of the picture of a utopia called Pandora that the movie depicts. One viewer said this:

"Ever since I went to see 'Avatar' I have been depressed. Watching the wonderful world of Pandora and all the Na'vi made me want to be one of them. I can't stop thinking about all the things that happened in the film and all of the tears and shivers I got from it," Mike posted. "I even contemplate suicide thinking that if I do it I will be rebirthed in a world similar to Pandora and the everything is the same as in 'Avatar.' "

This is tragic, but also insightful. It's not hard to imagine why people yearn in the depths of their souls for a perfect world. We yearn for that because we were made to celebrate our Maker and Redeemer on a New Earth, one in which the entire cosmos is healed from its present corruption and decay and transformed into the perfect theater of God's all-satisfying glory.

So now I want to see Avatar, knowing that no matter how beautiful Pandora is, it will not make me depressed. It will only make me eagerly await the New Heavens and New Earth that is our inheritance in Christ.

Has anyone else seen this movie yet? If so, what did you think?

Rebuke

What comes to your mind when you think of that word?

If someone called you tonight and said, "I'd like to come over in the morning and rebuke you," how do you think you'd respond? You probably wouldn't run to your friend and say, "The most wonderful thing is going to happen to me tomorrow! _____ is coming over to rebuke me. I can't wait!"

That would be a strange way to respond, wouldn't it? But it would be a biblical way:

Let a righteous man strike me—it is a kindness;
let him rebuke me—it is oil for my head;
let my head not refuse it. (Psalm 141:5)

Oh, to have such sweet security in Jesus that it would be our joy to have another rebuke us!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Yes, Yes, Yes!

Loved this quote I read on Justin Taylor's blog today:

@J.D. Greear: Saying “Preach the gospel; if necessary use words” is like saying “Tell me your phone number; if necessary use digits.”

The gospel is a message. If you take out the words, you have no gospel!

Real Needs and Felt Needs

It's common in our day for secular, non-religious people to say that they do not feel that they need God in their lives. "That is nice that it is meaningful for you, but I really don't feel that I have any need for God or religion in my life."

What do we say to this kind of attitude about God? Well, I am sure there are many things to say. But one thing might be this:

At around 8:15 AM on the morning of September 11th, 2001, those who had come to work in New York City did not feel the need to get as far away from the World Trade Center as possible. They didn't feel that need, but the need was real nevertheless.

Feeling safe and secure is no sure indicator that you really are safe and secure. Whether you feel a need for God is not really that important, because feelings are not a reliable guide to knowing what is actually true.

Monday, January 11, 2010

A Lesson in Perseverance

This might be the best post from Abraham Piper I've ever read:

I tried for hours this morning to access the internet, though it wasn’t responding.

I don’t do that with God. Do you?

In Defense of Proselytism

Last week I posted the video of Brit Hume speaking about Tiger Woods' need for a redemption that could only be found in the Christian faith. As expected, he's getting a good bit of criticism from people who are offended by people who try to convert others to their religious views.

If you've ever experienced that kind of criticism, this post from Trevin Wax is a good one to read through. He mentions five common objections to "proselytism", and then shows how those objections are unpersuasive.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Colt McCoy Gets It

At least it sure seems like it. Everybody seems to talk about Tim Tebow's faith, but this is a pretty solid interview with Texas' quarterback Colt McCoy, who was forced to miss the biggest game of his life when he was injured on Texas' first possession (if using a feed reader, click through to the post if unable to see the video):

Well, at least he's honest

Richard Lewontin is a committed Darwinist, which means his basic worldview is that of materialism: matter alone constitutes ultimate reality, and everything that exists is the product of strict physical laws and blind random chance.

Not much room for God in that kind of worldview. But look at how Lewontin arrives at his worldview (and thus drives God out of the picture):

"We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism.

"It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door."


So basically, materialism is true because it must be true, even though it seems absurd and counter-intuitive. Because if it's not true, we might have to include God in the equation. And this guy works at Harvard.

I don't know; if this is the foundation that my worldview was built on, I'd probably look for a different worldview.

Yet God is mighty to save even Richard Lewontin. Only God's grace has made me to differ, and the same grace that redeemed me can melt even the stoniest atheists' heart.

Take a minute as you read this and pray for him.

King of the Universe, or Cosmic Idiot

It's often said in secular circles that Jesus was a fine moral teacher, but it's nonsense to try to make Him out to be the Lord of the universe. This kind of thinking just won't work if we actually listen to what Jesus Himself said (all of these quotes are from John 8):

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

“You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.
"

"I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins."

"If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here."


"Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death."

“Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

When the people listening to Jesus heard all this, they did not conclude that he was a good moral teacher. They picked up rocks and attempted to stone him to death.

CS Lewis was right; enough of this nonsense about Jesus being a good moral teacher. Either He is the Lord and King of the universe, or He's a complete idiot. There simply isn't a middle road. He's not left that option open to us.

Tolerance

Washington Post writer Michael Gerson, on the Brit Hume/Tiger Woods ordeal:

True tolerance consists in engaging deep disagreements respectfully — through persuasion — not in banning certain categories of argument and belief from public debate.

In this controversy, we are presented with two models of discourse. Hume, in an angry sea of loss and tragedy — his son’s death in 1998 — found a life preserver in faith. He offered that life preserver to another drowning man. Whatever your view of Hume’s beliefs, he could have no motive other than concern for Woods himself.

The other model has come from critics such as Shales, in a spittle-flinging rage at the mention of religion in public, comparing Hume to “Mary Poppins on the joys of a tidy room, or Ron Popeil on the glories of some amazing potato peeler.” Shales, of course, is engaged in proselytism of his own — for a secular fundamentalism that trivializes and banishes all other faiths. He distributes the sacrament of the sneer.

Who in this picture is more intolerant?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Brit Hume on Tiger Woods

I suppose many of you have seen or heard about this, but in case you haven't:



It's cool to see someone tell it like it is even though they know it's not going to be popular.

What's Wrong with this Picture?

Have you ever seen this bumper sticker?Here's the problem. A pro-life advocate makes a moral claim that he/she believes is objectively true: that elective abortion unjustly takes the life of a defenseless human being. The advocate of abortion-choice responds by turning that objective truth claim into a preference, like preferring chocolate ice cream to vanilla.

But this misses the point entirely. Being pro-life isn't about what I like better, it's about what is true. I don't oppose abortion because I find it distasteful; I oppose it because it violates rational moral principles.

So this bumper sticker, no matter how passionately it is slapped onto someone's car, is really irrelevant to the abortion debate. It treats the unborn like an ice cream flavor instead of a human being.

Imagine a bumper sticker that read, "Don't like slavery? Then don't own one!" Are we ok with that as a society? Then we shouldn't be ok with one for abortion either.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

How would you counsel this person?

Since every Christian is called to be a minister of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:17ff), it's good to think through how you might share with people in different situations. Here's a real situation with some made-up names. As a Christian, what would you say to help this person:

Amanda is an old friend from high school who knows that you are a pretty committed Christian. She is Jewish and identifies religion as being very important to her. She is married to Bill, who she explains is a devout Catholic. They are expecting a son in a few months, and are having a bit of a conflict in regards to whether to have their son undergo the Jewish tradition of a Bris, which is the ceremony of circumcision that takes place on the 8th day of the boy's life.

Bill is very opposed to performing the Bris, because he feels that it would be an indication that that they are committing to raise him as Jewish. Amanda doesn't understand why circumcision is a big deal, since it fulfills the covenant that was made with Abraham and is a part of the Old Testament which Christians embrace.

So what do you think about this situation? Should Bill allow his son to have a Bris? What would you say to Amanda with regard to why Christians don't perform a Bris for their newborn sons?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Deflating our Pride

John Stott:

"Every time we look at the cross Christ seems to say to us, 'I am here because of you. It is your sin I am bearing, your curse I am suffering, your debt I am paying, your death I am dying.' Nothing in history or in the universe cuts us down to size like the cross. All of us have inflated views of ourselves, especially in self-righteousness, until we have visited a place called Calvary. It is here, at the foot of the cross, that we shrink to our true size."

A Good Kind of Seeker-Sensitivity

The term "seeker-sensitive" is a pretty loathsome term for many people. It smells of compromising the truth of the gospel in order to win crowds by giving them what they want. And I admit, I loathe that kind of attitude myself.

But a couple of weeks ago I listened to a sermon by Mark Dever in which I saw a wonderful kind of "seeker-sensitivity" (you can listen to the sermon here). As you would imagine from a guy like Dever, this had nothing to do with selling out the truth. It had to do with a very small thing at the beginning of his sermon.

In asking the congregation to turn to Revelation 21 (the passage for the morning's sermon), Dever said something along the lines of:

"If you're not familiar with the Bible, just turn to very end and thumb a few pages backwards. The large numbers are the chapters, and the smaller numbers are the verse numbers. We are going to begin in chapter 21, verse 1 today..."

And then he went on to read the passage and preached for over an hour (not seeker-sensitive there!). I was really impressed by this small gesture, a simple statement to those present who were not Christians that Dever was thinking about them, and aware of and grateful for their presence in the congregation that day.

Now that is a positive way to be senstive to those investigating the Christian faith. As it is, many evangelical churches (most?) speak in only "churchish" language that leaves a non-believer feeling like he or she doesn't belong.

The message of the cross is a stumbling block; that we will not change! But churches need to do everything possible to remove all unneccessary stumbling blocks, which means having a constant awareness that non-believers are in your presence, and "coming down to their level" so that they can keep up with what is going on.

I was grateful for that reminder from Mark Dever.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Don't Forget to Groan, 1/4

This video certainly made me groan. It also made me cry:

Communicating with Grace and Truth

Another good quote from Chris Castaldo's book, Holy Ground. Castaldo is actually quoting John Stackhouse's book, Humble Apologetics. When sharing with non-believers,

"We should sound like we really do respect the intelligence and spiritual interest and moral integrity of our neighbors. We should act as if we do see the very image of God in them. It is a voice that speaks authentically out of Christian convictions about our own very real limitations and our neighbor's very real dignity, not cynical expediency.

"We are rhetorically humble because we are not prophets infallibly inspired by God, let alone the One who could speak with authority in a way no one else can speak. We are messengers of that One: messengers who earnestly mean well, but who forget this bit of the message or never really understood that bit; messengers who never entirely live up to their own good news; messengers who recognize the ambiguities in the world that make the message harder to believe; and therefore messengers who can sympathize with neighbors who aren't ready just yet to believe everything we're telling them."

Sunday, January 3, 2010

What Produces Prayer

This morning I had the (unexpected) privilege of preaching on prayer, which reminded me of this quote from Matt Chandler:

When the illusion of control disappears we become men and women of prayer.

He should know; he's currently undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatment for a malignant brain tumor. Of course I pray that it doesn't take that for me to learn this lesson, but what a valuable lesson it is to know.

Congratulations, Gerry

You're the proud winner of the iTunes gift card (though you'll probably have the gift card before you read this post and know that you are the winner!).

Thanks again for the encouragement of those who left comments earlier in the week.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

"Happy Holidays" or "Merry Christmas"?

So it seems that some Christians (a lot?) get irked by the way that "Happy Holidays" has become the predominant way of greeting people in the second half of Decemeber. They are frustrated that it's just another way in which Christ is being marginalized in our society.

Maybe it's because of my ethnicity, but I don't really see what the fuss is about. One of the wonderful qualities about our nation is that we have the freedom to believe what we want to believe about God. It seems to me that saying "Happy Holidays" is a way of expressing our sensitivity to those around us who don't believe what we believe. Plus, it's not as though the Bible actually uses the word "Christmas" anywhere, right?

At least that's what I think about the whole thing; what about you? Are you bothered by the growing distaste for saying, "Merry Christmas" in our culture? If so, why do you feel that way?

Friday, January 1, 2010

Don't Forget to Groan, 1/1

A new year doesn't change the fact the world is still groaning with the pains of childbirth, waiting on tip toe for its redemption:


An Afghan child looks from a doorway as the shadow of a United States Marine is seen on the wall during an operation in Garmsir district, southern Afghanistan.

If you click the photo to enlarge it, you can see that the boys eyes are filled with fear. But one day, soldiers will beat their swords into plowshares. On that day, there will be no fear.

But until that day, we groan.

Happy New Year from the Lazarii

Make the Most of the New Year

Don Whitney:

The beginning of a new year is an ideal time to stop, look up, and get our bearings. To that end, here are some questions to ask prayerfully in the presence of God.

  1. What’s one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?
  2. What’s the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?
  3. What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?
  4. In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?
  5. What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?
  6. What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?
  7. For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?
  8. What’s the most important way you will, by God’s grace, try to make this year different from last year?
  9. What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?
  10. What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in ten years? In eternity?
Whitney also offers an additional 21 questions to help us “consider our ways,” which can be read here.