Friday, October 2, 2015
Author Brant Hansen makes the case that as followers of Jesus Christ we have no right to get angry. In part because of this, we can and should be unoffenable people. This, in turn, makes life better and less complicated. Hansen's argument has more depth than what I've described here, but this is the gist of it. He even tackles the ubiquitous Christian idea of "righteous anger." The best part of this book is that Hansen supports his thesis with a good amount of scripture from various parts of the Bible.
I appreciate the author's belief that we, as Christians, should be humble people. Since God has saved us, people who don't deserve saving, we have no reason to be prideful. On page 192 of Unoffendable Hansen writes, "At the beginning of this book, we talked about the crazy idea that we are not entitled to anger, and how taking this idea seriously actually opens up new dimensions of rest, grace, and simplicity in our lives. We are, above all, embracing a radical humility."
As for negatives, my only real criticism is that the author stresses the grace of God almost to the complete exclusion of sanctification. While God saves us and sustains us through His grace, He also has an expectation that we will grow in holiness. Hansen basically ignores this topic. I find this fascinating because it seems to me that growing in unoffendability (is that a word?) is part of growing in sanctification.
Two other aspects of this book annoyed me a bit, but this has to do with personal preference more than anything substantial. First, the author writes in a very casual, conversational style. This is fine, but takes some getting used to. Second, although Hansen quotes various versions of the Bible, he leans heavily on the New Century Version (NCV). This version has a low reading level, and thus reads in a choppy manner.
If you can deal with a casual writing style and don't mind the NCV, then I recommend this book to you. The author address a topic that we all need to ponder.
Wednesday, September 30, 2015
1. God exists.
2. God exists as the Trinity.
3. God created the universe, but does not need it.
4. Jesus Christ became human, lived a sinless life, died a substitutionary death, was resurrected, and ascended to heaven.
5. The Holy Spirit lives with and empowers us today.
6. The Bible is true and must be understood as God wants it understood.
7. The Gospel of grace, as described in the Bible, is true.
8. We must love one another.
9. We must proclaim the Gospel.
10. We must care for those in need.
I do not intend this post to be exhaustive. We could clearly expand on any number of these (especially number four) or add to the list. My point is simply that we do well to ponder, dwell upon, and take joy in the truths of most importance.
Saturday, September 26, 2015
Friday, September 25, 2015
While he's in Athens Paul shows us how it's done.
In particular, Paul provides us with an excellent example of how to speak to unbelievers about Jesus Christ. Please click here to read the passage and then return.
This is master evangelism.
First, Paul makes a connection with those listening (17:22-23).
Second, Paul describes who God is and what He has done (17:24-29).
Third, Paul calls for repentance (17:30).
Fourth, Paul tells of Jesus Christ and His resurrection (17:31).
Paul understands that he must start at the beginning; he is not dealing with listeners who understand the Old Testament (as they would, for example, in a synagogue). The apostle proceeds to inform the men of Athens about the glorious nature of the God of the bible. Without using harsh words, Paul shows that God is far greater than anything the people of Greece had conceived. Simply put, God as revealed in Jesus Christ is superior. In light of what Christ has done, everyone has the responsibility to repent. Paul, as always, mentions the resurrection (this is critical).
Take note that Paul did not make this overly complicated. He also didn't need to speak for thirty minutes to explain the basics. He just started where his listeners were and went from there. As is usual, some of the people mocked, some believed, and some wanted to hear more.
Sometimes we make sharing Christ into a burden by thinking of it as much more complex than it is. If we will follow Paul's model we can avoid this. We make a connection, tell how great and wonderful God is, tell what He has done in Christ, and make a call for repentance and faith. This is not a rote formula to be memorized. Rather, it is simply a helpful guide to us. Let's use it.
Thursday, September 24, 2015
Wednesday, September 23, 2015
The church would do well to reconsider its current love affair with praise and worship choruses. Frankly, it may just be the latest fad. Twenty years from now most of today's popular choruses will be long forgotten.
About a year ago T. David Gordon wrote an interesting piece entitled The Imminent Decline of Contemporary Worship Music: Eight Reasons. Gordon offers some solid insights into why modern worship music is already fading. While I don't agree with some of his views on church life, I do believe this article is worth reading.
Speaking of music, a few years ago I wrote a post named (not too creatively) My Top Ten Favorite Hymns. While I do not know whether or not all the links still function correctly, the hymns I've listed remain my favorites.
Tuesday, September 22, 2015
One of the advantages of finally getting a smart phone is the awesome camera. Today I took these photos of where I spend much of my time - at JCB North American Headquarters. While I actually work in the factory that makes up the rear 80% of the building, these two pics are from the more picturesque front areas.
Monday, September 21, 2015
I love running. That may seem like crazy talk to some of you. I fully admit that I do not completely understand it myself. As I've mentioned a few times before, I'm training to run in the Savannah Rock 'n' Roll Marathon which takes place in about seven weeks.
I've been running for both exercise and enjoyment for the past twenty years. While doing this, I've always been somewhat envious of folks who are part of specific running clubs (like this one in Savannah). If I'm ever able to transition to a job within JCB that allows me to work a more reasonable schedule I'm going to join.
Why would I join a running club? The reason is simple: encouragement. In fact, the church could learn a great deal from running clubs for just this reason.
Running clubs unite a group of people around one thing: running. The folks in the club enjoy discussing running, challenging one another, and encouraging each other through injuries, trials, and successes. Most of the people genuinely like to help others, giving all sorts of solid advice. The more experienced runners in particular assist the newbies, whether it be in what running shoes to wear, what to eat before a run, or where to train.
Not only do the members talk about running, but they also run together. They foster a family atmosphere and truly enjoy being together. Groups of this type almost always have a good amount of diversity. What unites them is running. The people want others to join the group and often almost proselytize about it. Frankly, they think running is just the greatest.
If you take what I've just described and substitute Jesus Christ for running, you have what the church should and can look like. While I'm not encouraging the unbiblical practice of "local church membership," I am suggesting that local bodies have the capacity to be sources of great encouragement to one another as they unite around the person of Jesus Christ. According to scripture, the church meets for the purpose of edification. What does this look like? Well, it appears much like a family gathering (because churches should be families). The people like to be together, help one another, think Jesus is the greatest, and desire to share him with others. Or, at least this is how it should be.
The church can learn a lot from running clubs. Let's hope it does.
Saturday, September 19, 2015
I despise political correctness. Among other things, the politically correct thought police in our country have developed specific things you can say and cannot say when it comes to race. Actual meaningful dialogue regarding race relations has, quite sadly, become a near impossibility. I fear that in our secular society we will have racial problems until Christ returns.
If there is one place where people of different races should be able to be united it is within the body of Christ. This is because Jesus Christ is in the business of changing hearts from stone to flesh. It is also because in the church it is not race that unites people, but Christ Himself. How I wish Sunday mornings in this country were not so segregated!
When we look in Acts 13 we read something beautiful. Luke describes a group of men of varying backgrounds and races. These men appear, based on the small amount of data we have here, united around the person of Christ. They are worshiping and fasting. I'm not sure exactly what this means, but later in the paragraph we see that prayer was involved. Whatever they were specifically doing, it must have pleased God. Something extraordinary happened. The Holy Spirit spoke to them. Whether or not this was audible is not particularly important. The key is that they were in agreement about what the Spirit said. The men then obeyed.
These men, who could have been divided because of their differences, were instead united around Christ and his gospel. They understood that Christ's mission is what matters, not their variety of races. The unity they had in Jesus trumped all their differences.
Acts 13:1-3 is a short but powerful passage that speaks to the unity we can and should have in Christ. Nothing, not something even as significant as race, ought to be able to separate us from one another. It is Christ and his mission that matter.
Friday, September 18, 2015
I have little explanation for the above recent, silly photo. For some strange reason I was wearing my daughter Mary's Chick-fil-A chef's hat. I decided to take a selfie because I wanted to try out my new smart phone (yes, I've finally moved into the 21st century). As I was doing this, my wife Alice photobombed me. There you have it.
Thursday, September 17, 2015
I'm a follower of Jesus Christ. I'm also a Gentile. Because of these things I love Acts chapters ten and eleven.
In these two chapters we see God announce that He is doing something that the first Christians did not expect: He is saving Gentiles, too.
Please read Acts 10-11:18 and then return to this post.
The first Christ-followers were Jews. Jesus challenged the way they thought about a great many things. Christ was a revolutionary. When we arrive at Acts chapter ten we see our Lord announce something that the early Jewish Christians had not anticipated; God was about to knock down once and for all the dividing line between Jew and Gentile. The good news of Christ-crucified was now applicable to those outside the physical line of Abraham. How would the early believers handle this paradigm-shifting turn of events?
We receive an answer to this question in 11:18. Luke writes, "When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, 'Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.'"
The early church responded to God's saving the Gentiles by accepting it and by glorifying God.
We can learn much from this. In our individual lives and in our church lives God may challenge us in ways we do not anticipate. In fact, there's a good chance He will do so. The question is: how will we respond? In Acts 10-11 we see that the appropriate thing is for us to accept it and glorify God in the process.
Wednesday, September 16, 2015
Tuesday, September 15, 2015
We've probably all seen it.
We also know that wise leaders of any type and in any situation get the group involved. Not only does this give the leadership much valuable information, but it also helps the group feel invested in the decision.
When we look in the book of Acts, chapter six shows us a potentially dangerous situation to the unity of the church. Some of the Gentiles were complaining about how food was being handed out to the Gentile widows. Verses 1-7 show us that the apostles made a wise decision that averted any sort of split within this early church body. We also see that the entire church was a part of it and bought into it.
Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them. And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith (Acts 6:1-7, ESV, emphasis mine).
Interestingly, we never hear about this potentially problematic situation again in the New Testament. Therefore, it is safe to assume that the solution had staying power. Not only was it wise, but it also involved the whole body. Luke tells us specifically that "...what they said pleased the whole gathering." Although we do not have all the small details of the decision making process, we do know that the body was involved and pleased.
We as the church today can and should learn much from this passage about how to go about making critical decisions. Get everybody involved and invested!
Monday, September 14, 2015
I'm currently working my way through two very different books. The first, as I mentioned a few weeks ago, is Urban Legends of the New Testament. The book deals quite a bit with interpretive issues, in particular the critical importance of context.
I've also begun reading George Orwell's classic 1984. Somehow I've never read this one. In light of our current age, filled with political correctness and thought police, it seemed appropriate.
I'll post about each book when I finish them, but since I work a lot, run almost every day, and read slowly it will be a while before I conclude either one.
Additionally, I've ordered two books that will be arriving within the next few weeks: Unoffendable and Christ Alone: Five Challenges Every Group Will Face.