Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Excellent Article on Eric Liddell

Eric Liddell is a modern day hero of mine who was both a world class runner and a committed missionary. Liddell is most well-known because of the movie Chariots of Fire. The film, which won best picture in 1981, tells part of the story of Liddell's life (along with that of fellow British sprinter Harold Abrahams). However, Chariots leaves out a great deal about Liddell. Albert Mohler recently wrote an excellent article entitled "God Made Me for China" — Eric Liddell Beyond Olympic Glory that discusses much more of Liddell's life, including his impact in Japanese controlled China during World War II. I highly encourage you to read it.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Blogging Block

As is obvious I haven't been blogging much lately at all. This isn't because I dislike blogging; I don't have any intention of quitting any time soon. The reason the posts have been so infrequent is that I have a raging case of blogging block. For whatever reason, I just don't have many new ideas worth sharing. I could, of course, throw some blather together just to get attention. However, that's a waste of everyone's time. I'd rather go a while between posts, and then actually put something of substance together. Just please keep checking back now and then. More posts will eventually appear.

As for my life, things are going well. Grandparenthood is awesome. What a blessing from the Lord it is to see and cherish the next generation. I'm still running quite a bit. My next big goal is tackling the full 26.2 miles at the Savannah Rock n Roll Marathon in November. Regarding church issues, we still gather simply with a small group of other believers. It is a sweet time of fellowship.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

One in Jesus Christ

I write quite a bit about what makes simple church different from institutional church. Despite these critical differences, something else is even more important: our unity in Jesus Christ. By "our," I'm referring to all Christians everywhere. We are in fact one body with Jesus as our Head. He has made us so.

Even a cursory glance over the American church landscape shows us a great deal diversity within the body of Christ. We are not all alike. There is little uniformity, even within denominations. Frankly, it's difficult to find even two Christians who agree on all points of doctrine. However, that does not mean that we are not one in Christ.

We are one in Christ because God deems it so. It is what we are positionally. Christ is our leader, and we are His followers. It is our duty to live out what we are: one body. We make a terrible mistake if we consider ourselves to be mostly different from other believers (even if we hold very different views about church). A better practice is to view ourselves as mostly the same as other Christians. All believers in fact believe in the same Gospel. This unites us.

Let's do all we can to be proactive in developing unity within the body. This can certainly be a challenge since church-related views are so different. However, there is a lot of time during the week when we have opportunity to see other Christians (at least I hope you have this opportunity). Whether it be at work, in the park, or in the neighborhood, it is our responsibility and joy to edify other Christians whenever and wherever.

We are one in Jesus. Let's live out what we are. The One who bonds us is stronger and more significant than our differences.

Monday, July 18, 2016

A Peculiar People Within A Peculiar People

The body of Christ is an extremely unique, rare organism. In fact, it's one of a kind.

God intends for His body to be one. All the redeemed on earth compose the family of God. Since we are redeemed, saved by God to live for Him, we are able to live according to our Creator's expectations. God desires that we live out what we are: a holy people who are empowered by the Holy Spirit to live holy lives.

Because of what God has done, we the saved are different. In fact, we are peculiar. Not only should we live differently from the world, but the world ought not to fully understand us. The world is dead in sin, with eyes blinded by Satan. This causes much of our behavior, both what we do and don't do, to seem like nonsense to them. This makes the church peculiar.

The word "peculiar" generally carries a somewhat negative connotation. However, I'm not using it in that way. Rather, I'm just suggesting that the church both does live and ought to live in a dramatically different way from how the world does.  Christ's church is a peculiar people.

The title of this post is "A Peculiar People Within A Peculiar People." What am I talking about? I'm referring to those within the church who view church life through a biblical lens. I'm talking about those of us who want the body of Christ to function like we see modeled for us in scripture. I'm writing about us weirdos who keep looking back to the bible to find out what the church ought to be. We reject tradition in the face of God's word (or at least do our best to do so).

We simple church folks are a peculiar people within a peculiar people. We are part of the larger group of peculiars (since we are part of the larger body of Christ). We are also part of a small group of peculiars. The reason for this is that we often seem odd to many of our brothers and sisters in Christ. For example, as many of you know our family meets simply at home. We do not do the worship service-expensive building-salaried pastor thing that so many Christians do. This makes us peculiar even to other believers.

The above diagram illustrates what we simple church folks often face. The large circle represents the church as a whole (the colors have no significance). The smaller circle represents those who have left the institution behind. Please let me be clear: I'm not trying to create any sort of artificial division within the body. I'm certainly not advocating it. Rather, I'm pointing out a reality that exists.

When you desire to live church life according to what God has provided in scripture, you will seem peculiar not only to the world, but also to many other followers of Christ. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can be a lonely road. We are a peculiar people within a peculiar people.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Done But Still Orthodox

I'm done. You may be as well.

I'm done with institutional Christianity. While I remain good friends with many who attend institutional churches, I have no need or desire for institutional trappings such as worship services, expensive buildings, and salaried pastors.

Although I'm done, I remain orthodox in my beliefs about who God is, what He has done, and what He expects of us. I believe the bible is fully and completely true.

I'm writing this particular post because many who are done with the institution are also done with orthodox beliefs. If you spend any time reading around the Christian blogosphere you will come across many claiming the name of Christ who hold some wacked-out (unbiblical) beliefs about a lot of things. It appears that a good number of folks who leave the institution do so because they don't like some of the orthodox teachings they have heard.

One big issue is homosexuality. Many Dones reject what the bible blatantly teaches on this issue (hint: it's sinful). Therefore, they have departed from the institution. Other Dones don't approve of the exclusivity of the Gospel, as if God needs to bow to these folks' politically correct desires. Still others left because they reject scriptural teachings regarding women's roles in the church.

Based on what I have read, I believe the majority of Dones have become done because they cannot stomach orthodoxy. This is extremely ironic; they are rejecting something unbiblical (the institution), but are doing so for unbiblical reasons.

I reject the institution for biblical reasons. We've been shown in scripture what the church should look like and how it ought to function. That's the church I want to be a part of. It's too bad that the church for the most part is shackled by institutional traditions.

To sum up, I'm not like the majority of the Dones. While they rejected orthodoxy, I embrace it. I hope you do as well.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Welcome to the World

I haven't blogged in over a month in part because things have been quite busy around here. By far the best part of that busyness has been the arrival of Lisa Anne, Alice's and my first grandchild. Lisa is the daughter of our daughter Caroline and her husband Shane. What an incredible blessing from the Lord!

I am fulfilling my role as silly grandpa, holding Lisa whenever I get the opportunity. Right now she sleeps, nurses, and cries a lot - after all, that's what babies do. I can't wait for her to get just a little older and become more interactive. As a bonus, Caroline and Shane live less than five minutes from our house so I get to see Lisa almost every day. I thank the Lord for this wonderful gift! I'm reminded once again how gracious our God is. What a joy to see the next generation (not Star Trek).

Saturday, May 7, 2016

"Women’s Sanitary Bins and Bathroom Theology"

Peter Jones has penned an excellent piece that is well worth your time. In Women’s Sanitary Bins and Bathroom Theology he tackles head on the insanity that is the current gender-identity mess in this country. Jones discusses the links between world religions, truth, and feelings. I appreciate that he calls a proverbial spade a spade. We are, quite frankly, at a point of madness in this culture. I highly encourage you to read it.

Monday, May 2, 2016

I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For

U2 is one of my favorite bands. I enjoy almost all of their songs, from the oldest to the most recent. One of my favorites is entitled, "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For."

Not only is it a good song, but the title also describes exactly where I am when it comes to the church. I know what I'm looking for, but I haven't found it. My hope is to gather in community with other followers of Jesus Christ who live simply and radically for our Lord. My desire is to follow the model for the body of Christ that God has given us in scripture. Let me be clear: I'm not searching for perfection. Rather, I just hope to someday be able to grow close to other believers who acknowledge God's plan for His church that He has provided in the bible.

For now my wife and I get together weekly with a few other folks. It is nice, but it's not what I'm hoping to find. I realize that part of the problem may be me. I'm more than willing to change if someone can convince me through scripture that my thoughts about the body of Christ are incorrect. Until that time, I'm going to keep looking.

What about you? Have you found what you're looking for?

Monday, April 4, 2016

Modesty is Not a Dirty Word

I expect nothing good from secular culture. Minds closed to the things of Christ will never live according to biblical standards.

I expect a lot of good from the church. Minds enlightened by the Holy Spirit both can and should live according to what God desires. As with so many things, however, the church often disappoints. One particular area where this is the case is with modesty. In particular, I'm referring to modesty of dress.

How is it that just about any Christian who brings up modesty is almost immediately accused of being a legalist or a prude? One time I actually dared on social media (my mistake) to speak out against women wearing bikinis. I of course received a ton of push back along with the all too frequent question, "Do you expect women to wear burkas?" It is sad that any suggestion that men and women dress modestly is rejected by (it seems) the majority of believers.

Paul tells us in I Timothy chapter 2:

I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works (I Tim. 2:8-10).

The only explanation I have for this phenomenon - that of the church rejecting modesty of dress - is that the church has largely adopted the values of the world. This is not news; we've seen it all our lives. It is simply a very troubling thing.

A basic reading of the New Testament teaches us that followers of Christ will live far differently from the world. We will, in fact, be a peculiar people. Peter actually refers to us as aliens. When the body of Christ looks and acts like what it is (something unique), that pleases God. On the other hand, when the church looks and acts like secular culture something is very wrong.

Modesty of dress is not legalism. No one is calling upon Christian women to wear burkas. What I am calling for is the body of Christ living as what we are - a holy people. When it comes to dress, we should not be flaunting our physical bodies for the world to see. Rather, when we dress modestly it allows God to be glorified through what stands out - our acts of righteousness and service.

Please brothers and sisters, let's all embrace a lifestyle of modesty. When it comes specifically to dress, let's fault on the side of covering up as opposed to showing it off. There will certainly be some gray areas in this; we will not all agree, for example, what constitutes shorts that are too short. However, if we will strive to please Christ and embrace modesty we will look far different from the world around us. This pleases our Lord.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Without the Bible You Can Know about God, But Not About His Plan of Redemption

I grow increasingly tired of some Christians acting as if the bible isn't all that important. I've read some followers of Christ saying that all you need is the Holy Spirit and the world around us to know all you need to know about God. They speak as if the bible is nice to have, but not critical to living as God would have us live.

This is hogwash wrapped up in poppycock.

Of course the bible is important. After all, we would not have any idea who Jesus Christ is if we didn't have scripture. How many people, for example, do you know who heard about Jesus directly from the Holy Spirit? How many learned about him from nature? How many learned about him from the world?

On the other hand, how many learned about Jesus Christ either on their own through the bible or from someone else teaching them from the bible? My guess is a conservative 100%. In God's wisdom, we are able to deduce something of his existence and goodness through nature. However, it is through his written word that we learn critical specifics about exactly who he is, what he has accomplished, and what he expects of us. Psalm 19 spells out for us the difference between God's general revelation (19:1-6) and special revelation (19:7-11):

1 The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
2 Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
3 There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
4 Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
5 which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
6 Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them,
and there is nothing hidden from its heat.
7 The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
making wise the simple;
8 the precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
9 the fear of the Lord is clean,
enduring forever;
the rules of the Lord are true,
and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.

The Holy Spirit is faithful to illuminate our minds to assist us in understanding scripture correctly. The Spirit also regenerates our hearts to enable us to repent and believe. Additionally, the Spirit leads us day-by-day to live according to God the Father's desires. However, the Holy Spirit is generally not in the business of explaining to people God's plan of redemption apart from the bible.

The fact is that without the bible the vast majority of us (probably somewhere between 99 and 100% of us) would have no clue about Jesus Christ. And if we didn't know the Lord, we would have no opportunity for salvation. It is truly that simple.

Therefore, whether some Christians like it or not, the bible is absolutely essential to the Christian life.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

A Republic, Not a Democracy

I don't generally post about politics, but the above graphic is too good to pass up. With religious liberty in this country increasingly under attack, we need to know the difference between a republic and a democracy. My guess is that most Americans don't have a clue. That said, our hope ultimately rests in Christ as opposed to man. Therefore, even if our religious liberty is completely stripped away God will remain faithful. Life will just become much more uncomfortable.

Monday, March 21, 2016

From Columbia to Charleston!

Friday and Saturday were challenging days, but challenging in the good sense.

I participated in the Palmetto 200, a relay race from Columbia to Charleston, South Carolina. As part of a twelve-person JCB team, I ran three of thirty-six total legs that took us from the middle of the state all the way to the coast. My mileage sum was about twenty.

I'd never taken part in anything like this event before. As a team we collectively ran more than 200 miles over the span of about thirty-one uninterrupted hours. We used two vans, alternating between running and sleeping (sort of). One very enjoyable aspect for me was that all three of my legs were far different. On the first, I ran six miles in the early evening from out in the country into a small town. Second, at five in the morning in the dark I ran eight miles through a largely barren section of a national forest. It was so dark! My final leg, in the afternoon of the next day, took me over a huge bridge in the middle of downtown Charleston. That last segment was a long five miles.

The best part of the relay was the camaraderie. Prior to this I did not know many of the other team members very well if at all. It was a blast to spend over a day with people who love to do what I love to do. We had a lot of time to simply talk about all sorts of things. I already cannot wait until next year's relay.

Below are pics of A) me sprinting to the finish line of the relay in order to beat the guy in the banana suit (you simply cannot let yourself be beaten by a banana), and B) the entire JCB team.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Primary Reason Simple Church is Simply Better

The simple church model for church life is not just another model. It is the best model. It is superior to any and all of the man-created, tradition-laced models of church life that dominate the Christian landscape. Simple church, in its various forms, bypasses the shackles that the institution places upon the body of Christ. It frees the church to be what Christ intends for it to be.

Many reasons exist for why simple church is better. However, one particular reason stands out as most important. The primary reason why simple church is simply better is that it recognizes Jesus Christ as its one and only Head.

Objectively and positionally speaking, Jesus Christ is the Head of his church no matter what anyone else does or says. For example, Ephesians 1:22 tells us, "And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church." Later in that same epistle Paul writes, "Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ" (4:15). Likewise, we read in Colossians 1:18, "And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent."

One of the core aspects of simple church life is that the entire body is active. Everyone uses his or her gifts to serve the church family. No one person is elevated in any manner over others. All are equal in the eyes of God and live this out through sacrificial service (at least this is the way things ought to be). The priesthood of all believers is embraced, all teach one another, and no one is treated as any sort of elevated intermediary between God and man.

Therefore, within simple church life Jesus Christ is not only the objective Head of the church, but he is treated this way on a daily, moment-by-moment manner.

It's not so simple within institutional Christianity. While Christ is often given lip service as Head of the church, pastors confuse the fact. Just go to any worship service (denomination doesn't really matter). Who stands up front on an elevated platform? Who does most of the talking? Who leads? Who has a special title? Who does most of the teaching? Additionally, what are most of the people doing?

You know the answers to the above questions. A small number of folks do almost everything. The church views them as the religious experts. These are almost always the pastors. Everybody else generally sits quietly in rows, singing when told to and speaking to one another for a minute or so if given permission. However, generally what is going on is that the majority of the church sits and watches a performance put on by a small group that is paid to do so. This happens week after week after week.

Within the above institutional framework the pastors act as the daily, functional heads of the church. Jesus Christ fades into the background as the pastors lead the way. Christ is clouded, almost as if a sort of curtain is pulled closed in front of him. Ironically, many pastors have decent intentions. They may even speak about Jesus quite a bit during their sermons. However, their sermonizing often places them in the way of Jesus.

In light of all this, the institutional model must be rejected is favor of a simple one. Is simple church life perfect? Of course not. After all, the church is composed of people. Despite this, the model itself promotes and recognizes Jesus Christ as the one and only Head that he is. Because of this, simple church is simply better.

Friday, March 11, 2016

The Danger of Separating Romans 13 from Romans 12

Each Sunday morning our family gathers with some fellow believers in our home. As part of these meetings we've recently been studying through the book of Romans. It has been a joy.

As we looked at Romans chapter 12 and then chapter 13 I was struck by the importance of not separating the two in our minds. Of course, it is all too easy to do this since most bibles make a fairly big deal out of the man-made chapter divisions. Even we, as a small group of Christians, tend to study chapter-by-chapter each week. For example, one week we read through and discussed Romans 12 and the following week Romans 13. It would have been simple to miss the relationship between the two if we didn't pay active attention.

The beginning of Romans 12 is a well-known transition point in the book. The previous eleven chapters focused mostly on what God has done in His grand plan of redemption. Romans 12-16 looks primarily at what man's response should be in light of what God has accomplished. Paul sums this up well in Romans 12:1-2, "I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."

Paul expects us to be "living sacrifices" to God. But what does this look like? The apostle teases this out through the remainder of the epistle. In chapter 12 Paul lists various expectations of the Christian life. Toward the end of the chapter he tells the Roman Christians to "repay no one evil for evil" and "never avenge yourselves." His language is clear. The chapter ends at this point.

This is where the danger comes into play.

In chapter 13 Paul discusses the importance of being subject to governing authorities. Verses 13:3-4 say, "For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer."

The danger to the church, if we separate chapters 12 and 13, is that we might fall into the trap of over applying 13:3-4. I've seen this again and again as Christians point to these verses to support our government's nasty habit of invading other countries whenever we feel it is in America's best interests. I've also heard these verses used to defend self-defense to the point of vigilantism.

We cannot ignore what Paul said at the end of chapter 12. As Christ's followers, we are not to avenge ourselves. We are not to repay evil for evil. This hearkens back to what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount: "Love your enemies." When we keep these things in mind, we are forced to see that Romans 13 has a much smaller application than what has been popular in modern evangelicalism. In Romans 13 Paul is simply saying that government uses its power to discipline those who would break the law. The apostle is discussing how a nation state functions within its own borders. It has nothing to do with invading other countries. It's got even less to do with any sort of self-defense.

For whatever reason the church in the USA has a tendency to support the military almost no matter what it does (at least as long as there's a Republican in the White House at the time). Romans 13 is frequently used as biblical justification for doing so. This is extremely poor interpretation of scripture.

We do much better to keep chapters 12 and 13 linked (which is what Paul intended). While the beginning of chapter 12 serves as a significant transition point in the letter, the beginning of chapter 13 does not. Paul's thought flows directly from 12 into 13. Therefore, everything in 13 must be read in the context of us being living sacrifices, repaying no one evil for evil, and us not avenging ourselves.

Avoid the danger of misinterpretation. Keep 12 and 13 linked.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The 25 Golden Rules of Running

When it comes to running you may not know where to begin. This could be because you just don't know that much about it. That's fine. Now is as good a time as any to learn. Although running is not complicated, there is more to it than simply putting on an old pair of sneakers and heading out the door.

Click here to read an excellent article that focuses on twenty-five of the most universally accepted rules of running.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Dear Institutional Christianity, I Beg You To Stop Crediting Your Foolish Activities to the Holy Spirit

Institutional Christianity is an odd mix of things based in scripture and things based in man's ideas. For the most part, the aspects of the church institution that are founded in the bible are solid (this of course depends on whether or not they are New Covenant-based ideas, but that's for another post).

The massive problem embedded within institutional Christianity is all of the practices that cannot be supported by scripture. The three-headed monster of the church institution have been, are, and will continue to be worship services/religious ceremonies, salaried pastors, and massive buildings. These three prongs do not invite questioning or challenging by anyone or anything. Trust me, I've tried. It usually doesn't go over very well.

How, then, do those within the institution, especially the leadership, justify their man-made practices? Some make the sad and pathetic attempt to go back to the Old Covenant to support the things they do. This is absurd in light of the fact that Jesus came to usher in the New Covenant, and we can/should all be greatly thankful for that. To point to the Old Covenant as the "way to do church" is mind-bogglingly backward.

Another tactic used by institutionalists is to say that the Holy Spirit led them to do what they've done. I write this post today as a call for this to stop and desist immediately. Please institutional Christianity, stop crediting your foolish, unbiblical activities and practices to the Holy Spirit. You have absolutely no biblical reason for doing so. To do so is to rely on your own imaginations, desires, hopes, and dreams.

It's clear from the outside looking in that some institutionalists see crediting the Holy Spirit as a sort of trump card to silence all debate. After all, who can argue with what the Holy Spirit has led? I'll happily argue, not with the Holy Spirit, but with those who blame the Holy Spirit for their sound and light shows, their puppet ministries, their capital campaigns, their youth groups, their children's church, their massive building debt, their women pastors, their choreographed meetings, their nurseries, their altar calls, their ordinations, their seminaries, their budgets, their fund raisers, etc., etc., etc.

I realize and readily admit that many with the church institution are my brothers and sisters in Christ (however, many pew sitters have no knowledge of God). It is to my brothers and sisters that I send this call: please stop giving credit to the Holy Spirit for the things you do that have no biblical basis. Instead, simply have the chutzpah to say, "We do these things because we like them. That's our basis, that is all, and we're sticking to it."


Friday, March 4, 2016

An Excellent Statement on Christology

I'm not generally a big fan of statements of faith. Although they assist with clarity of belief, far too often they are used to separate Christian brothers and sisters instead of uniting them. However, statements can be helpful if they force us to think about not only what we believe but also why we believe it.

Blogger Tim Challies recently pointed out an excellent statement on Christology by Ligonier Ministries. I encourage you to read it.