Saturday, January 30, 2010

I Love These Biographies

I love to read biographies. In particular, I enjoy reading about the lives of different missionaries. The reality is, however, that many biographies are very long, often including all sorts of extraneous details that do not interest me. I would rather read, for example, three different biographies that are 200 pages long instead of one 600 page biography.

This is where YWAM biographies are great. Every biography focuses on the life of a missionary and is about 200 pages long. Additionally, they are written at an easy reading level so even a slow reader (like me) can complete them fairly rapidly. I've read three in just a last few weeks.

This morning I finished reading about an amazing individual who I had never heard much about before. Sundar Singh was born in the late 1800's into a Sikh family in northern India. After his conversion to Christianity, he wanted to tell other Indians about Jesus Christ. The problem he saw, however, was that European missionaries in India at the time were expecting Indians to basically become European when they surrendered to Christ. Sundar realized this was a problem.

Sundar sought to teach and proclaim Christianity within the Indian context in a manner that could be understood. He traveled all over the country with simply his clothes, a blanket, and a bible. He wore no shoes and had no money. Sundar endured tremendous trial and suffering. On top of everything else, his Sikh family rejected Him.

This book tells not only about the above events, but also recounts God's faithfulness as Sundar traveled to Israel, Europe, the USA, and the Far East. In particular, we read about Sundar's amazing persistence in hiking over the Himalaya Mountains in order to take the gospel to Tibet. That is where he ended up dying - at age 40.

This book is exciting, encouraging, and challenging (not the reading level, but the content). In fact, all the YWAM biographies I have read have been this way; I've read a total of about five so far.

One of the best aspects of these YWAM biographies is that at the of each one there is a bibliography of other biographies the authors used as resources. So, if you are really interested in the person you are reading about, you can choose a book to read from the bibliography to read and learn more.

If you are interested in this book, click here.

I've got one more YWAM biography sitting on my shelf waiting to be read. No doubt I'll start it soon. It focuses on the life of John Wesley. I can't wait to read it.

Friday, January 29, 2010

What Will They Say at My Funeral?

Tomorrow I have the privilege of speaking at a funeral. An elderly lady and saint (in the biblical sense) who battled Alzheimer's for several years has gone to be with the Lord.

In speaking with her family earlier today, I could sense that this woman was greatly loved. Now, we know that almost every family says nice things about those who have died. However, these folks seemed genuine and could give examples of why she was so loved and admired.

After listening to the family, I need to put together what I'm going to say. I was told that she cherished Psalm 23, so I'll probably speak from that chapter. I'm also, of course, going to talk about this sweet lady.

That got me to thinking about what might be said at my own funeral. People usually talk about how others have impacted their lives in a positive way. Have I done this? (That, by the way, is meant to be somewhat of a rhetorical question). What kind of impact have I made?

This is a tough question to answer. It forces me, or anyone else brave enough, to ask what my life means to others. Do they care what I believe? Maybe. Do they care if I have served them? No doubt.

Beliefs certainly matter. In fact, they matter a great deal. However, I'm guessing that at my funeral people will talk about how I have impacted their lives for the better. This almost always comes in the form of sacrificial service.

I need to get serving.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Persecution, Judgment, All Nations, and the Great Commission

Toward the end of the book of Matthew, Jesus mentions "all nations" or "all the nations" on four different occasions:

"Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake." Matthew 24:9 (emphasis added)

"And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come." Matthew 24:14

"All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats." Matthew 25:32

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen." Matthew 28:19-20

As we read these passages, it is important to keep in mind that the same person spoke them all (Jesus). The same person also wrote them all (Matthew). The same wording, "all nations," is used in them all (it's the same in the Greek as well as the English). Because of this, we can draw some conclusions:

First, followers of Jesus will face persecution and be hated by all nations.
Second, followers of Jesus are to proclaim the gospel to all nations.
Third, all the nations will face the final judgment.
Fourth, followers of Jesus are to make disciples of all nations.

It seems that Jesus, in giving us these statements, is also providing His followers with this overall conclusion: Despite the the persecution and hatred we will face from the nations, we are to nonetheless go to them proclaiming the gospel and making disciples, being motivated by the reality of the final judgment.

Like Jesus, we need to go to those who hate us and tell them the good news.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Sharing and Interaction

For a while now I've wanted to have a time of sharing and interaction at the conclusion of our Sunday evening worship service. Last Sunday, I introduced this time as a sort of "question-and-answer" session about the two sermons from the day. After I did this, we had a few questions, but not much interaction.

During the past week, a few people from the blog world suggested that I open this time up to be more than simply question-and-answer. Instead, it could be a time of encouragement, exhortation, sharing, prayer requests, thanksgiving, etc. I pondered this for several days. The more I did this, the more I liked the idea. Additionally, a time of only question-and-answer sets me up as "THE EXPERT PASTOR." That is simply not the case, nor is it biblical.

Last night (Sunday), at the conclusion of our service, I explained that my desire was for us to have a time of more than question-and-answer. It would also be for encouragement, exhortation, etc. After I said this, I simply waited and gave people an opportunity to respond.

I'm happy to say that the response was very edifying. Several people spoke up with words of encouragement. One man who has lost his job talked about God's faithfulness. A lady in the midst of great struggle at home reminded us to cherish the small things in life. At the end, another lady asked us to pray for her husband's salvation; we prayed to conclude the service.

This is a big step for a traditional church like ours. Some of our folks are probably a little uncomfortable with this. However, I think most of our people were encouraged by it. We all need to hear from one another about what the Lord is doing in our lives. I, as pastor, certainly don't have all the answers. God is working with each of us and we need to hear about it.

One another requires "we" as opposed to simply "I."

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Responses to Reading Matthew Together

As our church family gathered this Sunday morning, I was happy that I only heard positive responses about our reading through Matthew together. Several people told me that they enjoyed it a great deal. A few people told me that they didn't realize where certain well-known verses came from (they were talking about context). One lady even specifically asked me when we would read another book together.

This is all very encouraging to me. I really did not know what to expect going into yesterday. With our electronic culture destroying people's attention spans, I was more than a little concerned that at least some of our people would sort of fade out mentally as we progressed. Amazingly (and by the grace of God), that did not happen.

I am convinced that God intervened to honor the reading of His word.

It is difficult to express what it was like as we read. I sensed God's presence with us in what seemed like a tangible way. As we read, nearly everyone seemed mentally locked-in to the biblical story.

I don't know what we will read next or when we will read it. I do know, however, that it will be a positive experience.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Reading Matthew Together

"Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of scripture, to exhortation, to teaching." I Timothy 4:13 (ESV)

Paul exhorted Timothy to, among other things, make sure that public reading of scripture was taking place. Regardless of Timothy's role in the church at Ephesus, it is clear that Paul wanted the people there to be reading the bible aloud together.

We benefit from doing this as well. Why? God's word is, according to Hebrews 4:12, "is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart."

We did this today as a church family. Specifically, about 25 of us gathered together and read through the gospel of Matthew. We read one-by-one, with each of us completing one chapter. It took us about three hours, with two short breaks in between. Although we would have liked to discuss various passages, we decided against this for sake of time (tomorrow night at the conclusion of our evening gathering I'm going to ask if anyone would like to talk about it).

I'm not sure what I was expecting or hoping for, but this experience was fantastic. It was refreshing to sit together and just read the story, listening to it build to a climax at the end. When we reached the resurrection, I found myself quietly weeping with joy. The ending of the book took on such meaning since the account built through 28 chapters and three hours.

It was additionally encouraging because we did it together. I'm sure I would enjoy and benefit from reading through Matthew on my own. This, however, was far superior. I loved listening to other saints, ages 11 to 72, read aloud. We read at different speeds and ability levels, but none of that mattered. What mattered was that we were all enjoying the gospel and being built up in our faith together. Everyone seemed to be edified by what took place. Several folks said we should do it again.

I've never done this before - reading through one of the longer books of the bible with my church family. It was wonderful. In light of what happened today, I'm sure we will do it again.

I highly encourage you to do this with your church family.

This Seems Inappropriate

Tourists in Haiti?

I realize the Haitian locals may benefit economically, but something just seems wrong about cruise ships docking in Haiti when much of the country is still a disaster area. I have an idea. Instead of playing on the beach, why don't these folks use their disposable income (which is what you must have if you can afford a cruise) to help with the relief effort?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Love One Another

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." John 13:34-35

I've been giving a lot of thought lately to how God wants me to live my life day by day. In particular, I've been pondering my interactions with others. In thinking through what I know God has said in the bible, I have come to the conclusion that He has made things rather simple for us. As Jesus said in the above passage, we are to love one another.

We must be careful to understand this as Jesus meant it. The context is without a doubt self-sacrificial love in action. Jesus has just finished washing His disciples feet. He will soon head to the Garden of Gethsemane. In a matter of hours, He will be hanging on a Roman cross.

Our Lord's expectation is that we will love others, both Christians and non-Christians (and even those who hate us because we are Christians), in manner that plays out in self-sacrifice. In effect, we should be willing to go to the cross to die for anyone else - especially for those who would hang us there.

In both seminary and the blog-world, we tend to spend a great deal of time discussing minute points of theology and church practice. There is certainly a place for this. However, sometimes we make things far more complex than God Himself has made them.

He has told us to love one another. We love those who love us; that is easy. We are also to love those who hate us; that's not so easy. Only through the strength and power of the Holy Spirit can we do this.

God has told us how we are to live. Let's do it.

Looking Forward to Teaching Sunday School

(O.K., I admit that the graphic to the left is a bit corny, but I am excited about returning to Sunday School.)

This coming Sunday I get to do something I haven't done in quite a while - teach within the context of a small group. Specifically, I'll be teaching a Sunday School class.

It's odd that in most traditional churches the pastor frequently speaks to large groups in his sermons, but does not teach in small groups. He often isn't even a part of a small group. I've been wanting to be part of a small group for a while now, and I'm pleased that God has opened a door for me to teach as well.

The most exciting part for me is that I now get to be with other Christians in a setting where we can all communicate. I'll teach, but I expect that at some level we will all teach one another. I want to hear what the others in the class have to say. I plan to do as much learning and growing as anyone else in the class.

An added bonus is that this class is composed of mostly 20-30 year-olds. I love that age range (maybe I miss it too much myself as it quickly fades in the rear-view mirror of my life). This group is just starting out in adulthood and is tackling issues such as being newly married, looking for a first steady job, having children, etc. I'm excited because as we open the scriptures, we can discuss what God has to say to us about these real-world issues.

To be honest, I'm looking forward to this more than I am to the worship service that follows Sunday School. The big difference between the two settings is that one allows for group interaction and discussion while the other does not (at least not much).

So back to Sunday School I come. I can't wait.

Jesus Rifles? Why?

Here is another example of the perverse fusing of "Christianity" and militarism. Why does this have to keep happening? We seem to daily come up with new ways to offend Muslims. If we really wanted peace in the Middle East, we would be speaking with Muslims instead of pointing guns at them.

The irony about the connection between Jesus and guns is that Jesus never hurt anyone. As I recall, in the bible Jesus let Himself be hurt (crucified) for others.

The difference between the cultural Jesus and the biblical Jesus could not be clearer.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Blogger's Block

As the 16 of you who read this blog may be aware, I haven't written much lately. The reason is quite simple: I haven't had anything creative or useful to say. Instead of writer's block, I've had blogger's block.

I refuse to write something just to fill space. If I really thought many of you were hanging on my every word (if you are, please seek professional help soon), I would have splashed something up here for filler. However, that would have wasted your time and mine. There is already far too much out there in the blog world that should not have been posted in the first place.

I'm still blogging, but I've also still got blogger's block. When something worthwhile comes to mind, I'll blog about it. Until that time comes, I won't waste your time. God bless.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Two Good Books

I've just finished reading two good books, both of which I recommend. One is a theology book while the other is not.

A. W. Tozer's classic, The Knowledge of the Holy, is a book that I just finally got around to reading. I'm not sure why it took me so long. It is excellent.

The reason I like this book so much is that it is not a typical dry theology text. Instead, Tozer delves into the amazing attributes of God in a worshipful manner. Tozer not only encourages the reader to know about God, but also to know God at a personal level.

This would be an excellent text for small group study and discussion within the local church.

Along with theology books, I very much enjoy reading historical fiction, especially about the early years of our country. In Rise to Rebellion, Jeff Sharra writes about the real events that led up to the American colonies declaring independence from England. This book, which is written as a novel, focuses on specific figures involved such as George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams.

Quite honestly, I have difficulty reading history books that just tell names, places, and dates. I would much prefer to read a book like this which makes a story out of it. If you like to read about the American Revolution, you will like this book.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Wordling the Gospels

Since I'm currently preaching through the book of Matthew, I thought it would be interesting to put the text of the different Gospel accounts through Wordle.

There is an obvious theme to the Wordle results below. See if you can figure out what it is (the answer is located at the end of this post).

Click directly on each image to see a larger view.

Wordle: Matthew

Wordle: Mark

Wordle: Luke

Wordle: John

The theme is (of course) Jesus.

Haiti, Compassion, and Humility

As the initial shock of the horror in Haiti begins to wear off, the question of "Why?" will begin to come to the forefront. This is where we Christians have a wonderful opportunity to show humility and gracefully share the hope of the gospel. Too often, however, we instead stick both feet in our mouths.

So how should we respond to the question of "Why?"

First, let's be certain to answer compassionately. Any answer we give should show great compassion for the immense suffering of the people of Haiti. As Jesus showed compassion for the hurting, we should do the same. This includes helping in tangible ways by sending money, supplies, etc. It also includes prayer.

Second, let's answer with humility. We have to be careful not to assume to know God's thoughts and ways when it comes to disasters like this. I've found that Christians tend to answer the "Why?" question in two faulty ways. On the one hand, some Christians immediately conclude that a disaster of this sort is an act of judgment by God upon wherever a disaster occurs. How they know this, I have no idea. Additionally, this conclusion displays a great amount of hubris because we all deserve to be struck by an earthquake. The second faulty response other Christians give to the "Why?" question is to imply that God was not really in control of it; they answer as if it just sort of happened. This is faulty because we know that God is omnipotent - nothing occurs outside of His sovereign will and control. So, what do we say? We should honestly say that we do not know why this specific earthquake happened.

Third, let's answer by sharing the love of God in the gospel. We know that the worst thing that ever happened on this earth was the execution of the only perfect One - Jesus Christ. Although this earthquake, Hurricane Katrina, the tsunami of 2004, the 9/11 attacks, etc. were terrible, it was the killing of Christ that was the most terrible event in history. Let's share with people what God did that day on the cross. God suffered that day. He suffered worse than anyone else ever has - including even those in Haiti right now.

We do not know the mind of God on specific tragedies. Let's not claim to know it. Instead, let us show compassion, humility, and love as we discuss this issue. Let's use it as an opportunity to share the gospel - the news that God suffered for man in order to rescue those who do not deserve rescuing.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

"A Sweet & Bitter Providence"

I love to read the story of Ruth. For one thing, I can read the entire book rather easily in one sitting. More than that, the grace of God flows off the pages. We read of God blessing Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz. We also read of the blessing of Jesus Christ, who comes through David, a descendant of Ruth.

John Piper has written a new book that focuses on the life of Ruth. The book is entitled A Sweet & Bitter Providence. I highly recommend it.

If you have read this blog for any length of time, you know that I enjoy reading Dr. Piper. I have about 35 of his books on my shelf. A Sweet & Bitter Providence is one of my 5 favorite Piper books - it's that good.

To learn more about the book, watch the short video below:

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Heavens Declare the Glory of God

Psalm 19:1, "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His handiwork."

This morning I met with a group of men from our church family for prayer. As I was leaving, God gave me a gift: this beautiful pink cloud at sunrise in an otherwise clear sky. I'm thankful for the reminder of His glory.

"Do You Have Any Questions?"

On Sunday night I decided to do something rather simple. At the conclusion of the evening sermon, I asked our church family if they had any questions. This might sound revolutionary to some, but it just made sense to me.

Any good teacher knows that asking questions facilitates learning by increasing discussion. It keeps more people involved. It also helps folks pay attention. Additionally, it gives those who have studied the scripture (whoever is preaching, but others as well) the opportunity to answer those who are confused by it or have legitimate questions about it.

Anyway, prior to preaching, I told our church family that at the conclusion of the sermon I would ask if they had any questions. While preaching, I found myself curious about what would happen when I stopped and asked. Would there be some sort of outcry because this has not been done before?

After the sermon, I simply asked, "Do you have any questions or comments?" Everyone was quiet at first. After about 15 seconds, one man made a positive comment about the passage we had just studied. After that, no one said anything. We then concluded the gathering with a song and prayer.

Although there were no questions, I was encouraged by what happened. For one thing, no one rebelled or complained about my asking for questions. There was no negative reaction whatsoever. I did, however, receive a few positive comments about it. I'm hopeful that in the coming weeks, as our church family gets used to this, there will be several questions at the conclusion of each sermon. A question-and-answer time often cements in people's minds what the speaker is trying to convey.

This is a massive paradigm shift for me and for our church family. We have all come from the school of thought that says that the sermon is preached and that is the end of it. We all know (let's be honest) that this turns many people into passive listeners. I've heard hundreds of sermons in my life, but remember few of them. If I knew that I would have the opportunity to ask questions at the end, I think I would have been a more active listener.

In addition to simply asking, "Are there any questions?", I may also ask specific questions such as, "What did you think about _______ ?" or "What do you think was the most important truth to gain from this passage?" or "How do you think we should live out this passage in the life of the church and greater community?".

I'm looking forward to the interaction. I'm looking forward to learning from others through this.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Favorite Photo from India

This is my favorite photo that I took during our time in India. The man you see is Manooj. He is a boat driver in Varanasi. In the distance you can see the famous ghats leading down into the Ganges River. This is a site of pilgrimage for Hindus all over the world. Over 60,000 bathe in the Ganges each day in an attempt to wash their sins away.

Mormons are Most Conservative, But Who Is Most Biblical?

According to this report from Gallup News, Mormons are the most conservative major religious group in the United States. That holds little interest for me. I'd like to know who is most biblical (Newflash: this just in - being conservative and being biblical are not the same thing).

I'd like to think Protestants are most biblical. In particular, I hope Baptists are biblical. Sometimes I think so, but other times I wonder.

We all have a tendency to pick and choose what portions of the bible to live by. Let's exhort and encourage one another to live according to all sections of the scriptures..

A First for Me

I found this interesting today. As a first for me, a post from this blog has ended up being discussed at a news site. To read it, click here.

Give Us Clean Hands

Sunday, January 10, 2010

BBC Religion Quizzes

I found these BBC religion quizzes to be interesting because they are published by a secular news site. Some of the Christian quizzes are good, while others are less so. It was enjoyable to take a number of the quizzes - especially those of the various world religions. Some of the other quizzes were, well, just odd (such as "church and state," "saints," "winter solstice," "mermaid," and "monster.")

Saturday, January 9, 2010


Yesterday I was excited to see that my copy of Megabelt had arrived. I had been looking forward to reading this book for some time.

The reason for my excitement was simple: I live in the middle of the bible belt culture, and this book focuses on that very topic. Megabelt is a fictional account of what it is like to grow up in the bible belt/church culture of the South in the USA.

The book is short (about 100 pages) and an easy read. I do not read quickly but still managed to read it all yesterday.

Megabelt has several positive aspects. The author, Nick May, writes about a topic that needs to be discussed: the effect of the cultural South upon the life of the church. He tells various stories of church practices that exist but really do nothing to promote true Christian living. He forces those of us who live in the South to look at our church practices to see if they have any biblical basis. Additionally, because the book is written in story format, it is easy to read.

Now for the negatives about Megabelt: the author is extremely critical of church life in the South. In fact, he shows little grace whatsoever. After reading his book, someone unfamiliar with church life in the South would think that nothing of substance ever happens in the church. The author's view seems very one-sided. He understandably uses sarcasm, but he employs this literary device far too much. After reading the first few chapters, I became tired of the constant biting comments. Finally, on several occasions the author uses crude/crass language. There was no reason for this.

To summarize, I was really looking forward to this book. Megabelt looks at a topic that needs to be addressed: the impact of the cultural bible belt South on the church. I hope more people write about this issue. The problem with Megabelt is that the author takes an overly critical tone in writing. The amount of sarcasm is over-the-top. The crass nature of the language is unhelpful and unnecessary.

Overall, Megabelt has some good qualities. However, it is my opinion that the author missed his chance at writing a book that would have great impact on the church. I wish this book could be re-written with more grace, less sarcasm, and no crudity. If a revision was done well, then I think churched people of the South might be willing to read it and think about the important issues it raises.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Target Buddha

We were walking through Target last night looking for something to buy with a Christmas gift card. As I strolled down a random aisle, I ran into the Buddha. That's him above (I placed the candle in his hands so he would look complete). Of course, he didn't respond because idols don't do that.

This was another reminder to me that our culture is rapidly changing. Even right here in the bible belt, people are embracing other religions. Additionally, people of non-Christian religious backgrounds continue to move to the area.

What is fascinating to me is that the above sight - Buddha in Target - is becoming increasingly normal. This statue was sitting on a shelf in a main aisle of the store and no one else even seemed to notice. This speaks to the pluralistic society in which we live.

In case you are wondering, I didn't buy the Buddha.

The Buddha was, however, was a good reminder to me that we don't have to travel thousands of miles to find people of other religions (although that is certainly important). They are right here - and they are in desperate need of Jesus Christ. Let's love them, serve them, and show them our glorious Lord.

We're not in Kansas anymore.

Tunnel - Third Day

I love this one:

Thursday, January 7, 2010

50 Reasons for Discussion

Last night during our church gathering, we began going through John Piper's Fifty Reasons Jesus Came to Die. We decided in advance that we would all read one chapter per week ahead of time, and then discuss that chapter when we get together.

Last night we discussed Jesus' coming to absorb the wrath of God. As we talked, we focused on the justice of God, the mercy of God, the sacrifice and suffering of Christ, the meaning and significance of "propitiation," sin as treason, and the love of God.

Going into this, my desire was that our time would be a real discussion and not a lecture. I think we all know that much more learning and life change comes from group communication than one-way communication. Therefore, right at the outset last night I told our church family that we were going to have a group discussion.

I said simply, "What did you think of chapter 1?" Then I waited. I must say that I was thrilled that discussion began almost right away. Lots of people participated. It was wonderful.

I do not write this post to commend this particular book. It's a fine book, but many others would do just as well (one good thing about this particular book is that the chapters are very short, thus encouraging more people to actually read it).

The point was that we discussed it as a group. As we talked, there was a spirit of community, togetherness, and mutual edification. I know I gained a lot from it and I think everyone else did as well.

As I think about this, I have to say that I'm beginning to seriously doubt the effectiveness of what is known as "the sermon." One-way communication is just not that effective. Might there be a way to take the existing sermon and transform it into more of a group discussion? I'm pondering this.

Anyway, this post is just a little reminder of the joy of group discussion and edification. We learn better when we learn together.

Amazing Love

Another good one:

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

What a Simplistic Idea

(Another brief venture into the world of politics)

This is a simplistic idea and, I think, a good one. It is not original, but it certainly makes sense to me:

Let's bring our military home now, stop making destructive threats, start having real conversations with other countries, and put more time, effort, and money into securing our own borders.

It seems that we would have learned by now that attacking sovereign nations in the Islamic world (see Afghanistan and Iraq) has done little to nothing to make our nation safer. Now we seem to be headed down the road toward attacking Iran, Yemen, or both. When will this stop? Will we eventually invade every country that contains a few terrorists?

One thing we need to do is decrease the motivation of those who might want to harm our nation. How might we do this? Here's something simple: let's get out of their countries, cities, neighborhoods, and homes. Let's get all of our threatening military equipment onto planes and haul it back to the USA.

If our military actually came home, it would defuse much of the tension in the Middle East and beyond. Additionally, it would help our exhausted military families a great deal. On top of that, it would save billions of dollars, some of which could be used to increase security at home.

Bringing our troops home would also be in line with that often ignored document named the U.S. Constitution.

Oh yes, bringing our troops home would also save thousands of lives.

One Pure and Holy Passion

Here is another great song that I miss singing in seminary chapel.

Monday, January 4, 2010


My parents' time in Kenya continues to humble me.

In Christ Alone

I can never hear this song too many times.

Another Image is Worshiped

Daniel 3:1-5 -- Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its width six cubits. He set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. And King Nebuchadnezzar sent word to gather together the satraps, the administrators, the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. So the satraps, the administrators, the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered together for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Then a herald cried aloud: "To you it is commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, you shall fall down and worship the gold image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up."

Another image is worshiped.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Are We Fruit Bearers?

Matthew 13:1-9 -- That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: "A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear." (ESV)

As we think about the above parable of the sower and the seed, it forces us to ask an uncomfortable question about our lives. That question is, "Are we fruit bearers?" This question forces us to take a hard look at our attitudes and actions. This is something we would probably rather not do.

Our churches usually let us get away with avoiding this question.

In the modern American church, it is quite possible, maybe even probable, to be in "good standing" in the church while at the same time bearing absolutely no fruit. Nowhere in scripture, for example, can I find anyone being commended for solid church attendance.

The reason so many churched people can get away with bearing little fruit is that most churches are devoid of real community. We do not get involved in people's lives and they don't get involved in ours. We have little fellowship, except for eating. We have no accountability. We live extremely individualized lives.

When a church functions as it should, with its body living together, caring for each other, building one another up, and holding each other accountable, then the people are forced to ask themselves whether or not they are fruit bearers.

This is not a small issue. Rather, it is of primary importance. We are discussing salvation. In the parable of the sower, the first three soils bear no fruit. They represent three kinds of unfruitful people; none are saved. Only the good soil bears fruit, and only it represents those who are in Christ.

A non-fruit bearing Christian is an oxymoron. Simply put, all followers of Christ bear fruit.

The church has the duty and joy of making sure that its people all ask whether or not they are bearing fruit.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

If "Evangelical" Means This, Then Count Me Out

A few days ago, I wrote a post entitled If "Evangelical" Means This, Then Count Me In. Today's post is the flip-side to that one.

As is clear from watching the news or just talking with unchurched people, the term evangelical has (sadly) taken on a negative meaning in much of our culture. The primary reason for this is the union between many/most evangelicals and the "religious/political right."

If evangelical means the following (in no particular order), then count me out:

Believing in the truth of scripture but not living it out

Despising sinners (this is an ironic one anyway because we are all sinners)

Expecting the secular culture to act like it is saved

Emphasizing church membership and attendance, but not holy living and community

Stressing the importance of church buildings

Desiring a union between the Kingdom of God and the USA

Wanting the modern state of Israel to wage holy war on its Muslim neighbors (with our help)

Reading tradition into the pages of the bible

Being a card-carrying member of Republican party

Arguing for an anti-abortion position, but doing little for the poor

God, guts, and guns! God, guts, and guns!

Wishing everywhere was culturally the bible belt

Wanting the flag and cross to combine

Friday, January 1, 2010

Solas Still Stand in 2010

Here Comes Another Tower of Babel

Genesis 11:1-4 - Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”

As Dubai is set to open the latest "World's Tallest Building," I cannot help but think back to Genesis chapter 11. As the people of that time constructed the tower of Babel to make a name for themselves, it seems that the owners and builders of the over 2600 foot tall Burj Dubai are doing the same.

According to the above article, "The 160-floor tower, containing 330,000 cubic metres (11.55 million cubic feet) of concrete and 31,400 tonnes of steel, can be seen from as far as 95 kilometres (59 miles) away...The skyscraper is the centrepiece of a 20-billion-dollar new shopping district, Downtown Burj Dubai, which includes 30,000 apartments and the Dubai Mall, which says its space for 1,200 shops makes it the world's largest indoor shopping centre."

As man continues to worship himself, the idols get bigger and bigger.


There are probably about 10,000 posts in the Christian blog-o-sphere with this same name today. Oh well.

This coming Sunday I'll be preaching on Philippians 3:12-14. I am resolved to the best of my ability (which is a gift of God anyway) to live out this passage during the coming year. Paul speaks clearly of his desire to know Christ more closely each day.

Paul writes:

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Paul tells us 5 key things about his desire to know Christ more fully and live in a more Christlike manner:

1. We must admit that we have not attained Christlikeness.

2. We must forget the past and look to the future.

3. We must have a singular focus.

4. We must press, strain, struggle, and work hard for Christlikeness.

5. We must believe that this is what God intends for us.

Philippians 3:12-14 is both a challenging and encouraging passage. Paul, who served the Lord faithfully, correctly realized his desperate need for the Lord. Despite his earthly accomplishments, Paul cared nothing for those things in comparison to his desire for Christ.

As Christ-followers, we should always be drawing closer to Jesus. Let's resolve to have Paul's attitude by striving for Christ.