Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Reformation Day!

The Protestant Reformation was not a perfect movement, but it certainly did a lot of good. Specifically, God used it to wrench the biblical Gospel out into the open. The Roman Catholic Church was no longer allowed to shroud the Gospel of grace under its false, works-based teachings.

Martin Luther's nailing of his 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenburg, Germany was a significant event. It occurred on October 31st, 1517 (as an aside, next year will hold lots of 500 year celebrations of Luther's act). However, it wasn't the most important thing to happen. Rather than one big thing, the Reformation was a conglomeration of many different, semi-related little things that happened over the span of a few hundred years. In the end, the true Gospel was freed from the clutches of those who hate it.

If not for the Reformation, I doubt that I would know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. That's why I cherish the Reformation.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Running Update - Marathon in One Week!

The high point of my running year is the Savannah Rock 'n' Roll Marathon. This race, which is by far our city's largest, is one massive event. Over 20,000 runners take part (about 3/4 in the half marathon, 1/4 in the full). It all concludes with a free concert in Forsyth Park. Tourists/runners from all over flock to Savannah for this race.

I've been training for this for almost a year. My personal journey began in February 2015 when I decided it was time to lose weight and get in shape. With much help from my wonderful wife Alice, I changed the way I eat and began running seriously. My weight is down from 225 to 175 and holding. My running goal was to complete the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon in November 2015 in under four hours.

Everything progressed well until race day. That's when the weather decided to be abnormally hot and humid for that time of year. As I approached the 21 mile mark of the 26.2 mile race, I was informed that race organizers and city officials had decided to cut the race short due to the heat (two runners actually died). It was extremely disappointing. In the end I ran about 24 miles in 3 hours, 35 minutes. Therefore, I likely would have finished solidly under four hours. But I didn't get to complete the 26.2! Aarrgh!

Since that debacle I've been looking forward one year. However, this time it's going to be different (and I'm not referring to the weather). I have no idea how hot or not it will be. The difference this year is that I'm trying to run a time fast enough to qualify for the granddaddy of them all - the Boston Marathon. In order to do that, I've got to finish in under 3 hours, 25 minutes. That's a 7:40 mile pace for 26.2 miles.

Next Saturday I make my attempt. The distance will not be the problem; it's the time that is the challenge.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Christian Postmodernism Run Amok: "That's Unchristlike."

Christian #1 speaks the truth on a difficult topic. Christian #2 does not like what Christian #1 has said and/or it makes him feel uncomfortable. Christian #2 either knows that Christian #1 speaks the truth, does not know whether or not Christian #1 speaks the truth, or does not care whether or not Christian #1 speaks the truth. Christian #2 says to Christian #1, "You're being unchristlike."

Wham! The trump card has been played! Game, set, and match to Christian #2.

The above scenario happened to me recently on social media. I said something against homosexuality or some other prized topic of the Progressives. A Christian brother soon informed me that I was being "unchristlike." Since it was social media, I think I just let the conversation drop. I figured there was no point in pursuing it.

This a prime example of the postmodern poison that has crept into the church. Postmodernism is so dangerous because it not only attacks truth claims, but it also attacks the concept of truth itself. It calls the very essence of truth into question. In that regard, it (ironically) makes a most staggering of truth claims by asserting that objective truth does not exist.

Christianity is a belief system founded in truth. God truly exists as Father, Son, and Spirit. God truly made the world and everything in it. The Son of God truly came to earth as the God-Man. He truly lived a perfect life and died a perfect death. He truly rose from the grave on the third day. I could go on, and on, and on. Christianity is real in space and time. It is both truth and fact.

To borrow a term from Christian theologian and philosopher Francis Schaeffer, Christianity is "true truth."

Apart from truth, Christianity simply falls into the waste bin of man's false religions.

It is a sad thing that many in the church today are embarrassed by some of the truth claims of Christianity. Some are embarrassed by the creation account in Genesis. Some are embarrassed by the virgin birth. Still others are embarrassed by the resurrection of Christ. However, my guess is that the most are embarrassed by what the bible has to say regarding moral/ethical issues.

When we speak the truth about issues of this sort, in particular homosexuality, we are flying in the face of all sorts of increasing social pressures. Christians, and I use that term loosely here, who do not like these sorts of statements simply fall back on their trump card: the claim of unchristlikeness. Since they do not want to deal with the issue of truth at all, they resort to postmodernistic claims that focus on feelings.

At the same time, they may say something like, "Remember to speak the truth in love." What they really mean is, "Stop speaking the truth at all you bigot. You are being mean."

In the postmodern world the only love is one that accepts all behaviors as valid (as long as they fit inside the Progressive, liberal, socialistic narrative). For the postmodern Christian, the label of "unchristlike" is their ace in the hole. Since it is not well defined, they can throw it around willy-nilly. It's sort of like another ridiculous term that the left wing loves to use: white privilege.

Back to "unchristlike." The term heavily implies that the person speaking the truth is not being like Jesus. Of course, to the Progressive person Jesus was simply a guy who walked around healing people and loving on them, but who never said anything about nasty topics such as holiness and repentance. However, we know that Jesus actually said lots about those things.

Jesus also spoke some fairly harsh words from time to time. They were also true. Read Matthew chapter 23. Jesus referred to the scribes and Pharisees as children of Hell, blind guides, blind fools, hypocrites, whitewashed tombs, and brood of vipers among other things. According to the postmodernists, Jesus Christ sounds "unchristlike"!

The fact is that we, the body of Christ, must indeed speak the truth in love. But we must speak the truth.

We are not of Pilate who asked in John 18:38, "What is truth?" Rather, we are of the one who said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6a). Truth is loving because it is ultimately from God, and He is the source of all truth. Political correctness and postmodernism are evil because they aim to suppress the truth. Postmodernism would have us believe that everything is relative. Jesus tells us otherwise.

Sometimes it is difficult to listen to the truth because it exposes sinfulness in our own lives. However, it's far better that we hear it and act upon it than never hear it at all. It can at other times be difficult to speak the truth. This is especially the case when confronting someone we love with their sin. We must show tact and grace, but we must speak the truth no matter what the cost.

It is never unchristlike to speak the truth.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Truth is Revolutionary

Interestingly, this quote actually may not have come from George Orwell (author of the famous and troubling classic 1984). Regardless, the quote rings true as our culture sprints farther and farther away from the truth every day.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Four Excellent Books on Biblical Interpretation

Some Christians struggle to interpret the bible correctly but wish they could do so. Others don't interpret it correctly and don't seem to care. Additionally, some passages are tough for just about anybody to comprehend. Because of all this, it's critical that we, Christ's church, do our best to understand what God is saying in scripture. One reason for the general impotence of the church in this country is that many Christians fail when interpreting what the bible means.

I'd like to recommend four excellent books that focus specifically on biblical interpretation. None are boring textbook types. Rather, they are enjoyable reads that you can work through without undue effort. I benefited from all four. I've previously written about them individually on this blog, but I'm grouping them together here in case you want to study a few at the same time.

In no particular order:

Exegetical Fallacies by D.A. Carson

This book is a classic. Part of that is because Carson is a both prolific and wonderful writer. In this short text (only 140 pages) he covers word-study fallacies, grammatical fallacies, logical fallacies, and presuppositional and historical fallacies. A basic knowledge of New Testament Greek helps quite a bit when reading this book; I wouldn't say it is required, but it is a large benefit. If I could recommend only one book on biblical interpretation this would be the one.

40 Questions About Interpreting the Bible by Robert Plummer

I love the layout of this book. The author asks and answers forty specific questions as the forty chapters. This is superb because it allows the reader to easily pick and choose which chapters to read. I'm also pleased that Plummer deals quite a bit with genre, which is an often ignored but critical issue.

Click here to read my full review of this book.

The Most Misused Verses in the Bible by Eric Bargerhuff

This book is a lot of fun to read. Bargerhuff's text is composed of eighteen chapters that focus on eighteen common, incorrect biblical interpretations. For example, he tackles "Do not judge," "Plans to prosper you and not to harm you," "Where two or three are gathered," "If my people who are called by my name," "Money is the root of all evil," "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me," and several others. This would be a great book for any Christian to read, especially those who are first wading into the issue of biblical interpretation.

Click here to read my full review of this book.

Urban Legends of the New Testament by David Croteau

Croteau's book is similar to Bargerhuff's but a little more advanced. Urban Legends deals with forty poor interpretations specifically of New Testament passages. If you are more than a beginner in interpreting the bible, then I recommend this text over The Most Misused Verses in the Bible. Think of Bargerhuff's book as being more fun, but Croteau's as being more beneficial.

Click here to read my full review of this book.

For other reading on biblical interpretation, take a look at two blog series I've written on this subject:

Church, Bible, And Interpretation - It's Not So Simple
Old Testament Interpretive Problems Always Lead to Church Problems

Finally, enjoy:

Monday, October 17, 2016

My Wife's Thoughts on Hurricane Matthew

My wife Alice is an awesome woman. Truly she is. God has greatly blessed us with over twenty-five years of wedded bliss.

Alice is also an excellent writer. Click here to read her musings about our night with Hurricane Matthew.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Blog Series Favorites

As the years have rolled along I've written several blog series. Some are better than others. My four favorites are below. I encourage you to take a look and tell me what you think.

Church, Bible, And Interpretation - It's Not So Simple

Homosexuality - an appropriate Christian response

Twenty-Five Reasons Professional Pastors Should Resign

Unavoidable Church Principles

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Adopted, Redeemed, and Sealed!

My favorite section of Ephesians is 1:3-14. In these twelve verses, which are actually one sentence in Greek, Paul describes for us a vast array of spiritual blessings that God has bestowed upon us. It is truly amazing.

The three blessings that jump off the page at me are adoption, redemption, and sealing. Because of God's grace and that alone, we are made His children, we are bought back from our sin debt, and we are secured for eternity. This is accomplished through the perfect working together of the Trinity. God the Father adopts, God the Son redeems, and God the Holy Spirit seals.

God's grace is stunning. Let's never cease being awestruck by the gift of salvation.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

We Survived Hurricane Matthew

The photos I'm posting tell you all you need to know about the situation in Savannah right now. The picture above is terribly ironic; that should be dry ground under the sign. Savannah is currently littered with large, fallen trees. One of our fair city's nicknames is "The Forest City." When a hurricane strikes, some of that forest comes down. The trees are actually a much bigger problem than the flooding, which has been limited. I thank the Lord for keeping anything bad from happening to my family and my home. We are all safe, and we now have power (the electricity was out for about 65 hours). For a litte while early Saturday morning it looked like the large pond behind our house (pictured below) might flood. After much prayer and frequent forays by me into the wind and rain to check, the pond receded. Thank you so much for praying for us. I'm glad that Savannah rarely gets hit with storms like this. I'll be happy to never see another.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Back to School...Sort Of

Today I begin a voyage back to school of sorts. Specifically, I'm taking a "mini-mester" class at Armstrong Atlantic State University (ASU). Armstrong is located just five minutes from our home here in Savannah; it's also where two of my kids currently go to college. Our third child has already graduated from ASU.

I've already earned a Bachelor's degree (from here) and two Master's degrees (from here and here). So why return to school? The answer is simple. In order for me to become re-certified as a school psychologist, I have to take a couple of college classes. I'm taking one this fall, and another in the spring. My goal is to become re-certified through the state by next April and then apply for a school psychologist position in the local schools. I worked as a public school psychologist from 1996 to 2002, so the transition would not be difficult.

I'm pursuing this not because school psychology is a wonderful thing. It has plenty of pros and cons. However, it would be a life improvement over my current situation at JCB. I'd have a much nicer schedule, including a large chunk of time off during the summer. I'd also be on salary, which would allow us to set a budget. Additionally, it is an occupation that I could do until I'm 70ish (almost no physical component).

The class should not be too difficult since it is just entry level. However, it is fully online. I've never done that before. It should be interesting. My kids can help me since they are of the technology generation.

My schedule is about to go insane for the next month. Not only am I starting this class, but I'm also in training for the Savannah Rock 'n' Roll Marathon. I'm hoping to not only complete the 26.2 miles, but also to do so fast enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon. We'll see about that.

Due to all of the above, I have no idea how much blogging I'll be doing between now and Thanksgiving. It may have to take a backseat for a while. I'm certain that the world will not come to an end because of it.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Hurricane Matthew Update: So Far, So Good

Hurricane Matthew continues its slow slog up the east coast, with the eye currently south of Jacksonville. On the above map Savannah is located where the black mark is. We are getting consistent rain and some wind. There have been a couple of tornado warnings, but none have been too close to us. So far, so good.

As with most hurricanes, the primary danger is not the wind (even though that's what generally makes the headlines). The real problem is the combination of storm surge and high tide. For the Savannah area that will occur early tomorrow morning around one o'clock. It's difficult to predict how much of the area will see flooding. One nice thing is that the city was originally founded on a bluff above the Savannah River. Because of this, the entire historic district is located at one of the highest points in Chatham County. No flooding for them.

As for our family, we think our home should be O.K. All the projection maps we have seen show us staying dry. Other residents of our fair city may not be so blessed. One way or the other, it's going to be a long night ahead.

I will attempt to update in the morning if we have power.

Thanks again for your prayer.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Hurricane Matthew Approaches

Here it comes.

Hurricane Matthew is gradually creeping toward the southeastern coast of the United States. Although the slow-moving storm could still deviate from its present course, the projections have been fairly consistent over the past few days. Florida is going to take a beating. We in Savannah won't get it that bad, but it's still going to be unpleasant. The worst of it for us should occur between tomorrow morning and mid-day Saturday. We'll almost certainly have at least tropical storm force winds, multiple inches of rain, and power outages.

I'm thankful that we won't have to deal with anything like the poor residents of Haiti. While we may have a hot house for a few days due to a lack of air conditioning, many Haitians probably now have nowhere to live and nothing to eat. In light of that, I'll try not to complain too much.

On the positive side, JCB closed down for today and tomorrow which means an unexpected four day weekend! That means time to hang out with family around the house. Sweet. While some Savannah residents are evacuating, most are going to stay put like us.

Savannah is usually spared from hurricanes because we sit relatively far west. Our longitude is almost the same as that of Cleveland, Ohio. Hurricanes sweeping up the coast almost always miss us as they barrel into the Carolinas somewhere. I guess Matthew didn't get the memo.

I'll likely be off the blogging grid for a few days. Therefore, if you leave a comment please don't expect a quick response. I may schedule some posts a few days in advance, but that doesn't mean I actually have internet access.

I appreciate your prayers to our sovereign God for me and my family. Matthew shouldn't end up being that big of a deal; however, a storm of this nature has the potential for quite a bit of damage, especially from flooding.

Thank you.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Ephesians Times Ten

Over the past month I've read through the epistle of Ephesians ten times in ten different bible translations. I did this for two reasons. First, I just love Ephesians. It is a treasure trove of glorious truths about both God and His church. Second, I wanted to see the different nuances of the various translations.

The translations I selected were (in alphabetical order) the ESV, HCSB, ISV, KJV, NASB, NET, NIV, NKJV, NLT, and YLT. I would have read the epistle in languages other than English, but sadly I am monolingual (at least I'm not monosyllabic).

I attempted to keep an open mind about all the translations. Each has its positives. That said, I do prefer some much more than others. The ESV and NKJV are my favorites. I also like the HCSB, ISV, KJV, NASB, NET, and YLT. I tolerate the NIV. The NLT is too simplistic (these, of course, are all my personal opinions; feel free to disagree).

I gained from all ten readings of the letter. Each time God showed me something different. I thank the Lord that we English speakers are blessed to have so many good translations available to us. I highly encourage you to select a book of the bible and read it through in various translations. If you are a relatively slow reader like me then I suggest a shorter book like Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, James, I Peter, or I John. After that you may decide to bite off something longer such as a Gospel account or Romans. Also, don't forget the Old Testament.


Monday, October 3, 2016

Series Summary: Ten Bad Reasons for Returning to the Church Institution

Some Christians who depart institutional Christianity struggle with the temptation to return. You may have been in that situation in the past, or perhaps you're there right now. It can be a difficult time.

Although I cannot think of any valid reasons for going back to the institution, it's not difficult to think of bad reasons for doing so. In this series I've listed ten specific reasons I've heard for followers of Jesus returning to the tradition-laced model of church they once left behind. None of these reasons are valid. They fail the validity test because none are based in scripture.

Most believers who go back to Rome choose to do so because it's easier. Don't fall for that trap. Stick to the often lonely, more difficult road that is simple church life. Follow God's plan for His body. In the end it will be far more rewarding than the alternative.

The posts:

Series Introduction
A Bad Reason for Returning to the Institution: Personal Guilt
A Bad Reason for Returning to the Institution: Family-Induced Guilt
A Bad Reason for Returning to the Institution: Failure to Find a Small Group
A Bad Reason for Returning to the Institution: Kids
A Bad Reason for Returning to the Institution: It's Easy
A Bad Reason for Returning to the Institution: You've Been Told You Are Being Disobedient
A Bad Reason for Returning to the Institution: You Like a Particular Pastor
A Bad Reason for Returning to the Institution: "Well, the New Testament is Simply Descriptive."
A Bad Reason for Returning to the Institution: It's Where Your Extended Family Attends
A Bad Reason for Returning to the Institution: the Lure of the Mega Church