Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tim Hawkins and Chick-fil-A

Fifteen Favorite Films

Every once in a while I like to write something that has nothing to do with church stuff. Therefore, today I'm listing my fifteen favorite films. Why? The answer is simple: it's my blog and I feel like doing it.

To clarify, these are my fifteen favorites. That means they are the ones I'd most like to spend time watching. I'm not claiming that they are the fifteen best films (that should be clear by the inclusion of number 15). I'm also not saying that they should be your favorites. They are mine. This is an up-front, entirely subjective post.

With no further explanation whatsoever, here they are (linked to IMDB):

15. Napoleon Dynamite

14. Casablanca

13. Some Like it Hot

12. Luther

11. Gettysburg

10. A Beautiful Mind

9. Singin' in the Rain

8. Forrest Gump

7. The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, The Return of the King (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy)

6. Slumdog Millionaire

5. Gone with the Wind

4. Raiders of the Lost Ark

3. The Godfather

2. Star Wars

1. Chariots of Fire (my all-time favorite)

Monday, July 30, 2012

Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid

My New Ride

Most of you know that I was a traditional church pastor but resigned in September 2010 because I couldn't find any scriptural support for the position.

In March of last year I was hired by JCB here in Savannah. Since that time I've worked first in the assembly section of the plant, and later in the Quality Department. All the while the work has focused on skid-steer loaders.

My job has recently changed somewhat. Although I'm still working in Quality, my focus is no longer exclusively skid-steers. I've moved up in the world, at least as far as size is concerned. My new primary inspection target is the HMEE (High Mobility Engineer Excavator). A good way to think of the HMEE is a backhoe on steroids (see above photo). It's an armored backhoe that JCB sells to various militaries around the globe.

The HMEE is one cool vehicle. I like to consider it my new ride. Part of the inspection is driving the vehicle. The best part of my job is driving the HMEE around on a back road behind the JCB plant. I happily take it out for a ten mile excursion. While I speed the HMEE up to close to 55 mph, I also blast the kicking air conditioning. Sweet.

Life can certainly seem strange at times. Four years ago I was just starting out as a traditional pastor. Three years ago I was experiencing the ups and downs of the professional pastorate. Two years ago I was absolutely miserable as a pastor. One year ago I was toiling on an assembly line. Today I'm driving an armored backhoe.

I'm glad that our gracious and merciful God is in charge of all this.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Official Worship Signals

This has been around for a while, but I've posted it just in case you still need some help. Please note that Baptists should not attempt the expert level signals. We wouldn't want anyone to get hurt.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Missions in Titus

In a letter about helping bring about godliness and order in the church, does Paul write anything about missions? Not surprisingly, the answer is yes. In fact, we see it right at the opening of this epistle. In Titus 1:1-3, Paul writes:

"Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God's elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior."

Regarding missions and evangelism, Paul writes something significant when he says in verse one, "their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness." Paul is concerned not only with people's knowledge of the truth but also with their resultant godliness. In other words, he seeks more than knowledge transfer from him to his hearers. He also expects a life change to result from this knowledge. The life change is a turning from worldliness to godliness.

Much of evangelism is explaining the great truths of the faith. We see Paul repeatedly do this throughout various books of the NT (here's one famous example). There are certain things that anyone must know in order to understand and accept the gospel.

However, intellectual knowledge is not enough. The writers of the NT are clear that those truly in Christ will look different than the world. Jesus tells us that a healthy tree bears good fruit. NT writers tell us again and again that godliness is a character of Christ-followers. In Galatians 5 Paul graphically contrasts the works of the flesh with the fruit of the Spirit.

All this informs how we should share the gospel. If we only emphasize truths about God we fail to share the entire gospel. One blessing of the gospel is that we are freed from the power of sin to live a life of godliness. However, godliness is not an option. It requires work and sacrifice. The Spirit empowers it, but we must put forth effort.

This in no way implies that we save ourselves in any way. God does all that. The fruit bearing, or evidence, of our salvation is something we play a part in. Martin Luther said (paraphrasing since he actually would have written it in Latin and/or German), "Faith alone saves but saving faith is never alone."

Let us share the entire gospel. Part of this is stressing that God both expects and empowers godliness in his people.

To read any post in this series, click here.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Nice Article on Homeschooling

Click here to read an interesting article about homeschooling from someone who just recently realized how great it is.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Hoping for an Ephesians 4:11-12 Balance

"And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ..." Ephesians 4:11-12 (ESV)

In Ephesians 4:11-12 we see wonderful gifts that Christ has given to his church for its maturity. He has given apostles, prophets, evangelists, and shepherds-teachers. Although some Christians believe that apostles and prophets no longer exist, there simply isn't biblical warrant for this idea. Rather, the above passage indicates that God both gave (at the writing of Ephesians) and continues to give these gifts.

In the church today the above gifts are out of balance. Apostles and prophets are not very common, evangelists exist here and there, and pastors are everywhere. This is not healthy for the body of Christ.

I'm hoping for a return to a balance within the church. Specifically, I'd love to see more apostles, more prophets, and more evangelists. I'd also like to see more shepherds-teachers functioning within the biblical perspective (as opposed to what we generally see today). What might this look like? We'd have many more active church planters (apostles) moving from place to place where the gospel is most needed. We'd have more of a prophetic voice within the body, speaking what God has told them. We'd see much more evangelism taking place. Of course, anyone in the body can and may do all these things, but those with the giftings will likely be most effective.

We'd also see shepherds within the church acting like shepherds. They would be part of the body as opposed to something different (I've written about this before so I'll say no more here).

What can we do to help bring about more of a balance? First, we can pray that God will continue to liberally bestow these giftings on his children. Second, we can teach that these gifts are alive within the church and meant to be cultivated. Third, we can encourage young people in particular to ask God whether or not they are gifted as apostles, prophets, or evangelists. The subject of pastors-to-be is often raised in churches, but the others are rarely talked about.

God is not the one with the problem. He has said that he gives these gifts and will be faithful to do so. The fault lies with us. We have not recognized all these gifts in the same way. While the church generally scours the landscape for the next pastors, it generally ignores, to its own detriment, the other gifts from Ephesians 4:11-12.

God desires to bless his church and bring about her maturity in his son, Jesus Christ. Let's be a more active part of this by encouraging and recognizing the gifts of apostle, prophet, and evangelist.

Have you seen these gifts be used for the good of the body? What was the outcome? How were they recognized? What was the end result?

I'm curious about this because I've seen little of it. I hope to see much more in the future.

Friday, July 20, 2012

"...appoint elders in every town..."

"This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you." Titus 1:5

I was recently reading through the book of Titus when I saw something that I'd never thought much about before. It's related to both what Paul writes and what he doesn't write.

We know that Paul left Titus on the island of Crete to help with order in the churches and to appoint elders. The above verse is clear enough on that. What fascinates me is a little prepositional phrase that comes immediately after Paul writes the word elders.

Paul mentions to Titus that he left him to appoint elders "in every town." Interesting. Notice that Paul did not say that he left Titus to appoint elders "in every church." This is a key difference.

If Paul had written that Titus was to appoint elders in every church, we would see a suggestion on Paul's part of the validity of separate local churches within the broader Christian community of a city (much like we see today). However, that is not what we see. Instead, Paul instructs Titus to appoint elders in every town. What does this suggest? The answer is that Paul saw a need for recognized elders within the church in each town.

This is significant because it hints strongly at one component of the biblical model for the church: all Christians in a town compose the church there. These Christ-followers are in need of elders, so Titus appoints them. Paul does not suggest that anything smaller than entire Christian community in a town is a valid descriptor.

In most of Paul's other letters he writes to churches in a particular city or town. Nothing smaller than this exists in the apostle's mind. Therefore, when it comes to Crete, Paul understands a need of the churches there.

It is a foreign concept (biblically-speaking) for an elder to serve as such only within a smaller local body but not the broader community. Paul expects the elders in the towns on Crete to serve all the Christians in the town where they live.

This little prepositional phrase speaks volumes about both the definition of church and the unity of the church. All believers in a town make up the church in that town. I live in Savannah, Georgia; therefore, I'm part of the church in Savannah. Anything smaller than that is a man-made, artificial division. This, of course, does not mean that all Christians in a town have to all meet together all the time. Rather, the bible speaks of Christians getting together frequently in various sizes, shapes, and places.

Paul's phrase also clues us in on his expectations for unity. All the Christians in a town are to be united as the church in that town. No division ought to occur between them. Anything that does draw dividing lines (such as denominations, local membership, and church covenants) fails to have any sort of biblical mandate. Instead, Paul recognizes all in a community as the church there.

In light of this, we would do well to think about our own understanding of the church in a certain area. Do we think like Paul thinks? Or, do we think according to cultural traditions and momentum? Maybe more importantly, do we live like the church in our town includes every Christian in our town? If we did, what would this look like?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Monday, July 16, 2012

What Makes Two People Married?

What makes two people married? Specifically, what makes two people married in the sight of God?

I have no real interest in what the state has to say on the issue of marriage. Secular culture is going to do what it's going to do.

But what causes God to consider two people to be married? In light of all the marriage-confusion in our society at large and the church specifically, I think this question should be asked.

God has made it clear that one man can marry one woman. He's limited it to this. Genesis 2:24 tells us, "Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh." There are no other options.

So, if a man and a woman want to be married, what signals that they are married? What is required to make it so?

Does God require a public ceremony? It is interesting that all cultures of all time have both recognized marriage as an institution and have had some sort of ceremony to signal its beginning. We know that Jesus himself attended a wedding at Cana. However, does a ceremony have to occur? It does not seem to. Couples that go to a judge to get married or fly to Vegas to tie the knot are still considered married. I believe God sees them as so.

What about the act of sexual intercourse? Does this cause people to be married? Well, in scripture we see people having sex but not being married. In our culture people are fornicating left and right. No one considers this to cause marriage to occur.

So, what makes it so? If a couple simply lives together for a while, is this enough? Although some states might consider this to be some sort of "common-law" marriage, it does not appear that God recognizes it as such.

So what takes a couple from not being married to being married? We find the answer back in Genesis 2:24. Although the wording of the verse is directed to the male, it applies to both parties involved. There is a three-step process. First, they leave their parents. This is not necessarily a physical departure (in some cultures the young couple lives with one set of parents for quite some time). Instead, it describes a departure of identity. Second, upon leaving the parents the couple holds fast (clings) to one another. They become closer to one another than anyone else on earth. They hold on and don't let go. Third, they become one flesh. In many ways they go from being two people to one person. They are one unit. This describes much more than just physical union. It talks about a couple becoming one in covenant with each other, forsaking everyone else.

What we see described in 2:24 is usually accompanied by a public ceremony of some kind (a wedding). That's where the becoming one can be seen and declared publically. This seems appropriate. That's probably why it occurs in all cultures. However, it is not necessary.

The key is Genesis 2:24. It is where we learn what God thinks. It is by this verse that we see what makes a man and a woman married.

Interestingly, Jesus gives a commentary on the significance of 2:24. In Matthew 19:3-6 we read the following:

And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, "Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?" He answered, "Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate."

This is not surprising since Jesus is God. He has stated early in the bible just what he considers important for a man and a woman to be married.

In the midst of our cultural marriage-confusion, we would do wise to keep Genesis 2:24 in mind.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Proof That God Exists

There are three primary reasons that we know God exists. First, the Holy Spirit tells us. Second, the bible tells us. Third, creation tells us.

Additionally, albeit less important than the above three reasons, it can be logically reasoned that God exists. Take a look at this site to see.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

More Religious Nonsense

Paganism Alert

For paganism, click here.

This by no means suggests that all Catholics are pagans. Far from it. However, practices such as this are nothing more than paganism revisited.

Friday, July 13, 2012

A Good Thing to Tithe

I've worn enough ties to last a lifetime. I'd be happy to get rid of all of them. In light of that, this comic seems to provide a good idea. We should all tithe our ties. That would at least get rid of 10% of them. Since tithing income is not a New Covenant concept, we may as well give part of our pointless clothing. It makes just as much sense.

Missions in II Timothy

"You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." II Timothy 2:1-2

When Alice and I went through our missions training about six years ago, these verses were repeatedly emphasized. The reason is that they describe, in simple yet profound terms, how the gospel spreads most effectively.

What's going on in II Timothy? Does it say anything to us about missions? Emphatically yes! (This post is part of a look at missions throughout the NT. To read the first post in this series, click here. To read any or all of the posts, click here).

This is Paul's final letter that we have. He's likely locked in some sort of wretched dungeon, charged as an enemy of the Roman state. He's basically alone, having been deserted by several companions. Paul writes to Timothy to ask him to come see him. The letter contains much about both proper teaching and suffering.

In 2:1-2 we read the apostle describe a chain of discipleship. Paul writes about the handing of the gospel to the next generation of believers. Based on what he says in chapter four of this letter, it is clear that Paul knows he is going to soon be executed. The propagation of the gospel will no longer be his task. It falls to Timothy. And then to others. And then to others. And on and on...

This gospel transfer does not occur magically. Rather, it must move from one faithful person to another. They must then pass it along. It's sort of like a relay race, with the baton being handed off repeatedly. Each generation has the responsibility to not drop the baton.

I've often wondered who passed the gospel along through the centuries from Jesus to me. I'd love to see a list of the names that were involved. My hope is that I can thank them in heaven one day.

What of us? Paul's charge to Timothy is also a charge to us. We are part of the chain. What's our role? That may differ in specifics, but for all of us we have the privilege of passing the gospel along to others. This may be overseas, but it may also be right here. Regardless, we all have a part to play.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

"We've Got a Better Idea!"

God has shown us his plan for his church in scripture. However, what we read in the bible looks far different from what we see in most of the church today. Why is this? The reason is that today's church thinks it has better ideas. Otherwise, the biblical model is what we would see followed.

This may seem harsh, but when we begin to list the ways the modern church looks significantly different from the church in scripture, we see that it's true. The bible shows us one thing, and today's church responds with, "We've got a better idea. Let's do (insert item) instead!"

For example:

In scripture we see churches gathering in houses.

Today's church responds with, "Let's meet in large, expensive buildings instead!"

In scripture we see churches meeting in informal ways.

"Let's have scripted ceremonies instead!"

In scripture we read of free-flowing, spontaneous gatherings.

"Let's have bulletins instead!"

In scripture we see much dialogue as the church comes together.

"Let's listen to monologue sermons instead!"

In scripture we read of the church meeting for the purpose of edification.

"Let's meet for worship instead!"

In scripture we see the Lord's Supper celebrated as a full meal.

"Let's eat a snack in a funeral-like setting instead!"

In scripture all of the spiritual gifts are used to build up the body.

"Let's limit the expression of spiritual gifts to the ones we like instead!"

In scripture we read of the entire church gathering together regardless of age.

"Let's split up into age groupings instead!"

In scripture all the church is equal. The elders were simply part of the body.

"Let's create a clergy and treat it differently than the laity instead!"

In scripture the elders always came from the place they served.

"Let's hire pastors we don't know instead!"

In scripture the elders worked like everyone else.

"Let's pay salaries to professionals instead!"

In scripture we see preaching primarily to the lost.

"Let's have preaching mainly to the church instead!"

In scripture we read that we are free from the OT law to follow the law of Christ.

"Let's focus on the Ten Commandments instead!"

In scripture we see that every day is the same in Christ.

"Let's make Sunday into 'The Lord's Day' instead!"

In scripture the young adults are expected to act as such.

"Let's have youth groups instead!"

In scripture we see the church give its money away to assist those in need.

"Let's keep most of the money (to pay the bills) instead!"

In scripture we read of believers giving freely, without compulsion.

"Let's give a tithe instead!"

In scripture the church simply gives as it sees need.

"Let's have budgets instead!"

In scripture the church seeks unity in decision making.

"Let's vote instead!"

In scripture everyone is a member of the church.

"Let's have local membership instead!"

In scripture we see an emphasis on the New Covenant.

"Let's have a church covenant instead!"

In scripture we see Christians unite in Christ.

"Let's be united with those that agree with us instead!"

In scripture we see every Christian in a city as part of the church in that city.

"Let's split into denominations instead!"

In scripture we see the church serving the needy.

"Let's read lots of theology books instead!"

In scripture we read of the church taking responsibility to educate its people.

"Let's build seminaries to educate the future clergy instead!"

In scripture the church read the bible (the Hebrew scriptures).

"Let's read out of our quarterlies instead!"

In scripture the Holy Spirit brought life wherever he saw fit.

"Let's have scheduled revival services instead!"

In scripture all days are holy. The church celebrated Christ whenever it gathered.

"Let's celebrate Christmas and Easter instead!"

In scripture only Jesus is referred to as the Senior Pastor.

"Let's call some other man the Senior Pastor instead!"

In scripture the church is a God-created organism.

"Let's form an institution instead!"

This list does not suggest or imply that the early church was perfect. Far from it. However, we can see what was approved and what was not by the apostles. Christ has given us, through apostolic writings, a plan for his people.

It is categorically not a better idea to move away from God's plan for his church.

What we generally see today is so different from the church in scripture that we have to ask if it is even the church. It is much more of a man-created institution. They are not the same.

God's plan is best. When we follow the principles and models he has laid down, much positive comes from it. The question is simply whether or not his people will follow it.

Monday, July 9, 2012

On Sacrificing What is Personally Edifying for the Good of the Body

A few days ago I blogged about different things being edifying to different people as the church gathers. My conclusion was that the church ought to be involved in a wide variety of activities so that everyone will be built up in Christ.

We are are told throughout scripture that we are to think of others before ourselves. For example, Philippians 2:3-4 says, "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others."

Thinking of others before ourselves may, and probably will, include sacrificing what is personally edifying in order that others will be edified. This can take many different forms in different situations. Clearly, this will not always be the case, but it is something that we must deal with.

For example, there may be one activity that we enjoy a great deal and that edifies us personally (the two have a tendency to go together). We might not question the fact that this activity happens very frequently as the church gathers. However, maybe we should question it if it gets in the way of other things happening.

Let's take an example: teaching. If we have teaching every time we gather, this may end up taking a lot of the time. It could be that this is getting in the way of other things happening. Now, I'm all for teaching and robust discussion. I believe it is critical to the life of the church. However, should it occur every time the church gathers? Maybe, maybe not. That's something for each church family to discuss.

As individuals, our Christian duty is to be on the lookout for the needs of our brothers and sisters. We may need to actively sacrifice certain activities so that other things will have time to happen. This includes suggesting this sacrifice to the body as a whole.

Sacrifice of this sort could be simple in form, such as talking less in order to give others more time to speak. It may be more involved at times, such as encouraging everyone to use all their spiritual gifts, even those we may be less "comfortable" with.

The irony is that as we sacrifice, we tend to grow in Christ. This is a normal function of the Christian life. Sacrifice of any kind, and any resultant suffering, usually causes Christian growth. The same can be said in giving up, at least some of the time, activities that we enjoy.

The beauty is when everyone in the body has this same attitude. When this occurs, then in the end everyone will be edified because all needed activities will occur. This should be one of the primary goals of the gathering.

Have you ever seen anyone purposely sacrifice certain activities for the good of the whole? Have you ever given up anything in particular? What was the result?

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Long Sought Answer to Paul's Thorn in the Flesh

I'm not sure where this came from, but it makes me laugh every time I look at it. Poor Paul. His thorn was worse than I ever imagined.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Vader Theology

This is one of my all-time favorite quotes, regardless of source.

Friday, July 6, 2012

You Write the Caption

What's going on here? What's he saying? Please write the caption in the comments.

For previous writing of captions, click here.

Thursday, July 5, 2012


On this date in 1991 Alice and I were married. Today marks twenty-one years of wedded bliss.

Other than Himself, Alice is God's greatest gift to me. She truly is a marvelous woman who loves the Lord (which is understandable) and loves me (less understandable). Since I was only twenty when we wed, quick math tells that I've been married longer than I've not. The married part has been better.

Most of my co-workers are not married. Several of them live with other folks. Some are divorced. Almost all of them have a negative view of marriage. The things they say indicate that they generally think of marriage as unnecessary, confining, and/or pointless. How sad this is.

Marriage is a sweet gift of God to His creation. Not only does it give us a deep relationship on earth like no other, but it also grants us a peek into the wonder of the intimacy within the Trinity.

God's design for things is always best. Marriage is one of the supreme examples of this.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Are Different Things Edifying for Different People?

We all enjoy certain activities more than others. For example, I'd rather go to the beach than go to the mall. Others feel the opposite. We could all make lists of our favorite things.

As the church gathers, we also all tend to have our favorite things to do. Some of us prefer casually hanging out. Others prefer a ceremony of some kind. Some like discussion, while others would rather hear a sermon. Some want to sing hymns, while others desire modern choruses. Some would rather meet in homes while others desire a large building. The list is endless.

Some of this is related to our spiritual giftings. We tend to like to do the things we are good at, whatever they may be.

Something more is going on. On blogs like this we talk a lot about edification. We might be making a mistake in assuming that certain things are always edifying while others are not. For example, we could be incorrect to say that dialog is always more edifying to all people than is monologue. There are clearly some Christians who are edified a great deal by sermons. I enjoy listening to one from time to time.

Since we are different people, we Christians likely are edified by different activities in different amounts, different ways, and in differing occasions. This can even vary from time to time for the individual. It certainly varies between people.

In light of these differences, church gatherings should have a great deal of variety to them. In the busyness of life it is easy to fall into the trap of the routine. Regardless of how churches tend to gather, they can end up doing the same things gathering after gathering. This may be edifying for some, but others may feel starved.

I'm not suggesting some sort of postmodern nonsense during church meetings where "anything goes." Certainly the biblical model should be our model. However, there does seem to be some freedom within that model. For example, in scripture we see dialogue as the dominant form of communication in gatherings. This can take many forms and styles.

Keeping all this in mind, it would serve the church well to talk about what is edifying personally. I'm referring to taking time during a gathering for everyone to speak about what helps them grow in the Lord. Some folks might say things that the body has never thought of or done. It could lead to the church family engaging in some types of activities that they haven't done before (again, within biblical parameters).

In this post I'm attempting to leave out too many specifics. The reason for this is that each church family is unique. A discussion of what is edifying will take on different forms for each local body. There may be some people who have been aching to do something specific, but who have been reticent to say it. This type of conversation gives them the opportunity they need.

This could, of course, be a little uncomfortable. Somebody make make a suggestion that would be a great challenge for everyone involved (possibly some sort of service in the community). Someone could decide it's time to break out in one of the spiritual gifts we don't often see (such as speaking in tongues). Another person might decide that this is an invitation to perform a puppet show (possibly acceptable). Some odd fellow may take this opportunity to plant a holy kiss on all the attractive females present (not acceptable).

Discussions like this could lead to an exciting time for the body. It would certainly bring about interesting conversations. The goal is to assist brothers and sisters in growing in Christ.

It's a conversation worth having because we are all different.