Thursday, December 31, 2009

If "Evangelical" Means This, Then Count Me In

The term evangelical has come to mean many different things to many different people in our culture. To some, it carries a very positive meaning. To others, the word is very negative.

If the term evangelical means the following, then count me in. If it means these things (which are listed in no particular order), then I'm happy to be considered an evangelical:

Living a life of repentance

Caring for the poor and needy

Loving sinners

Understanding that lost people act lost

Believing and living the gospel

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I Like This View of the World

It is easy to become "Americo-centric" when you grow up in this nation. As Americans, we tend to think the world revolves around what happens in our country. Even when we see pictures of the world, the tendency is for North America to sit right in the middle.

I like the above view of the world. It shows the three most populous continents on earth (Asia, Europe, and Africa). It also reminds us where the vast majority of the lost people in the world reside. Almost all of the 10/40 window fits in this view.

As we think of the world, let's look at it this way for a while.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What Does the Term "Evangelical" Mean Anymore?

I realize that the above question has been asked and answered many times before now. This is nothing new. Regardless, this is a real issue for me. I am occasionally asked by other people if I am an evangelical. I've found that the safest and most accurate answer to that question is, "That depends on what you mean by the word evangelical."

This is an important term because , like it or not, our American culture equates biblical Christianity with evangelicalism.

I plan to write on this issue over the next few days. However, before I do so I would like to hear from you. What do you think the term evangelical means?

Alexa and Humility is good for my humility. I recently plugged by blog into Alexa and found that A Pilgrim's Progress comes in at # 613,379 in traffic rank in the USA. As for the world, I'm somewhere near # 4 million.

What all this reminds me is that I'm not that important. Ah - humility is good.

Funny & Silly

Monday, December 28, 2009

It's Good to Know How to Read a Map

Click here.

Bizarre Letter

Our church received the following bizarre letter last week. The woman who wrote the letter apparently sent the same copy to all Baptist churches in this area. I've changed names for the sake of anonymity.

Dear Sir/Madam:

My name is "Sally." I was married to "Tommy" and am currently attending RCIA classes with "St. Paul's" Catholic Church in "Smithtown," New Jersey.

In order to take my sacraments, I need to provide the church that Tommy was not baptized as a Catholic. Tommy states that he was baptized in a Baptist church in Georgia, either in Jesup or Savannah, but cannot remember which one. He was baptized in 1992 or 1993.

Could you please check your records and see whether or not you can locate Tommy's baptism record? If a record cannot be found, I have to go through a full annulment which is costly versus a simple annulment. Please contact me at the included e-mail and advise that you have indeed located the record and send confirmation to "Father David" at St. Paul's Catholic Church in Smithtown, New Jersey.

I thank you in advance for your cooperation. If you have any questions, please e-mail me.

Very truly yours,


There are several troubling things here. It appears that Sally wishes to join with a Catholic church somewhere in New Jersey (that alone is problematic). However, in order for her to do this, she first has to clear up her marital situation. Sally is seeking an annulment (I'm not sure if a divorce has already occurred - she says she "was married to Tommy"). She wants a cheap annulment as well. The problem for her has to do with Tommy's baptism. If he was baptized in a Baptist church, then Sally receives a discount on the annulment. If this cannot be proven, then it will be full price. Additionally, the baptism couldn't have been too significant for Tommy since he cannot even remember where it took place.

Needless to say, I'm not going to search our baptism records to see if Tommy was baptized in our church. Why would I want to help Sally get a cheap annulment? Why would I want to assist her in joining a Catholic church?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

All Things Are Better in Koine

I admit that I have a love-hate (mostly love) relationship with Koine Greek (the Greek used by the writers of the New Testament.) This is a fun video about that great language.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Visiting India After the Tsunami

In God's providence, Alice and I visited India just a few days after the tsunami of December 26, 2004. We traveled to the city of Jaipur (located in northwestern India) as part of a group mission trip with my seminary. The purpose of the trip was for us to see another culture, share the gospel, prayer-walk, and distribute Christian literature. For the two of us in particular, we hoped that God would use the trip to tell us whether or not to serve Him in India (He did). We spent about two weeks in the city and surrounding area.

Since the tsunami had hit the southeastern coast of India just a few days prior to our arrival, it was heavy on the people's minds. Although Jaipur is located several hundred miles from the sites of devastation, most of the city-dwellers had at least heard about the massive loss of life.

The tsunami, as terrible as it was, provided us with a starting point for discussion. As we walked the city, we engaged in conversations with people of all types. Fortunately for us, because India was a British colony, many of the people spoke English. We were eager to talk with them, and they were intrigued by these white foreigners. Because religion is such a dominant aspect of life in India, it was easy to get to that topic.

In discussing the tsunami, we (Indians and Americans) could all easily agree that it was a tragic thing. Interestingly, when asked to explain the tsunami, the Indians we talked to had no answer. Most were Hindus, but some were Muslims. Regardless, they had no good way of dealing with this tragedy. This allowed us to share with them about the God of the bible. Most were interested to hear about the all-powerful God of the universe who sent His Son to save men.

I cannot say that the Indians we talked to were lining up to hear more about the gospel. However, I believe we did honor God by sharing Christ. Who knows? Maybe God will eventually use that to save many residents of Jaipur.

I know this: God used the 2004 tsunami to give us an open door for conversation with lost people. I praise Him for that.

Let Us Remember

On this day five years ago a tsunami hit the Indian Ocean region killing over 200,000 people. The vast majority of those people were either Muslims, Hindus, or Buddhists.

Let us remember that death can come at any moment for any of us. God controls this; we do not.

Let us also remember that there is a life-and-death urgency to international missions. But for the grace of God, I too would have been an idolater swept away by the tsunami.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Photos from Around the World

These photos are interesting because of their diversity. I'm not sure what they all mean, but they're worth looking at.

It is worth noting that few of these practices have any biblical basis. Then again, much of what I do at this time of year has little biblical warrant. Maybe I need to ponder that some more.

Classic Christmas Story Quotes

The Word Became Flesh and Tabernacled with Us

I'm much more interested in the incarnation of Christ than I am in the birth of Christ. John 1:14 is the primary verse discussing the incarnation in the N.T.

In most translations, John 1:14 says something like, "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." (ESV)

In speaking of Jesus being with us, most versions say that Christ either "dwelt," "pitched His tent," or "took up residence." All these translations miss something very important. In the Greek, John says that Jesus "tabernacled" with us. I've only been able to find one English translation that puts it this way: "And the Word became flesh, and did tabernacle among us, and we beheld his glory, glory as of an only begotten of a father, full of grace and truth." (Young's Literal Translation)

The word "tabernacled" gives a much fuller meaning of what Jesus did than does a word like "dwelt." The reason for this should be clear. When we hear "tabernacled," we ought to immediately think of the tabernacle of the O.T. That tabernacle was the place of God's presence with His people. Exodus 40:34-38 says, "Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys."

The tabernacle of the OT points ahead to God's presence with us, His people. This presence came in the person of Jesus Christ. Matthew 1:23 says, "'Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel' (which means, God with us)."

Jesus Christ, in His incarnation, was the full manifestation of God with man. He was the full self-expression of God. Colossians 2:9 says, "For in Him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily."

Jesus Christ is also the perfect display of the glory of God. Hebrews 1:3 instructs us, "He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high."

Jesus was with us in His first advent. Jesus is coming again in His second advent. When He does, the tabernacle of God will be with men. Revelation 21:1-3, "Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, 'Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.'"

Let us ponder the wonder of Jesus Christ tabernacling with us. Praise be to God!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

78% of Americans Identify as Christian; I Wonder What God Thinks

According to this report from Gallup News, 78% of Americans identify themselves with some form of Christian religion. Some people lament that this number is gradually, but steadily, declining. I, on the other hand, am shocked that the number is so high.

If we look at biblical standards and then look at our society, it seems obvious that less than 10% of the USA is actually Christian.

I wonder what God thinks when He sees a number like 78%.

Words to Live By...

After we come to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, how are we to live this Christian life?

How does my own effort in living a holy life interact with my reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit to enable me to live this way?

If I rely on God's sovereignty, how much am I responsible for? If I work hard, is this an insult to God or is it pleasing to Him?

These are healthy questions for all of us to ask as we strive to honor God in all of life. We can be thankful that God has answered the above questions in a succinct manner in several different locations.

My favorite passage that answers the above questions is Philippians 2:12-13. Paul has just shown us, in the Christ Hymn of 2:5-11, the ultimate example of humility. Immediately after this, in 2:12-13, Paul instructs us to humbly work hard for God while relying on God to accomplish His perfect desires.

Paul writes:

"Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure." (ESV)

"Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure." (NKJV)

It is clear that we are to "work out" our salvation. This does not mean that we work for our salvation. It means that after we are saved we have hard work to do in the process of sanctification. We are to accomplish this with a humble attitude in the presence of holy God ("fear and trembling"). James speaks much about this issue when he discusses the connection between faith and works.

The great blessing for us is that even our ability to work hard in sanctification is a gift of God. We see in these verses that it is actually God who works in us to accomplish what He desires. It is encouraging that He does this for His own pleasure.

So what does this look like in real life? Rather simply, as we trust God to accomplish what He wants and as we rely on His power and strength, we are to live holy lives in loving service to other people.

The twin truths of relying on God's power and putting forth our own effort do not conflict in the process of sanctification. Rather, they go hand-in-hand.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

"The Meaning of the Pentateuch"

One of the great privileges I had while in seminary was taking a class in Old Testament Theology from Dr. John Sailhamer. That particular class helped me more in my understanding of the O.T. than anything else ever has.

Dr. Sailhamer has taken what he taught in that O.T. Theology class and put it in book form for all to enjoy. In The Meaning of the Pentateuch - Revelation, Composition, and Interpretation, Dr. Sailhamer looks in-depth at the biblical meaning of the first five books of the bible. The wealth of information is immense. Just the introduction would be worth the cost.

Here is my favorite quote from the book:
"The purpose of the Pentateuch is not to teach a life of obedience to the law given to Moses at Sinai, but to be a narrative admonition to be like Abraham, who did not live under the law and yet fulfilled the law through a life of faith. The Pentateuch is a lesson drawn from the lives of its two leading men, Abraham and Moses. The Pentateuch lays out two fundamentally dissimilar ways of 'Walking with God' (Deut. 29:1): one is to be like Moses under the Sinai law, and is called the 'Sinai covenant'; the other, like that of Abraham (Gen. 15:6), is by faith and apart from the law, and is called the 'new covenant.' These two central themes (law and faith) are played out in the Pentateuch and into the prophetic literature as a contrast of two covenants, Mosaic and Abrahamic, or law and gospel." (page 14)
This is a long book (about 600 pages) which is fairly complex at times. However, it is worth the effort. If you are patient, it will be a goldmine for you in the theology of the Old Testament.

Order it here.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

How Does a False Teacher Live?

We are too swift these days in calling people "false teachers." Since this term carries such strong meaning, we must be very careful in how we define and apply it.

The bible tells us how to spot false teachers in two ways: by what they teach and by how they live.

A few days ago, I blogged about what false teachers actually teach. They teach against the gospel. False teachers deny Christ in one way or another. On a related note, those who simply teach secondary doctrines in a way we do not like are not false teachers.

The bible instructs us that false teachers live out their false teachings. Because they teach against Christ, false teachers are not in Christ. They are not redeemed, adopted, reconciled, justified, saved, etc. False teachers are in the flesh. Because of this, false teachers will live out their lostness in worldly ways. They do not live holy lives.

Here are three scriptural examples:

Matthew 7:15-20 - "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits."

II Peter 2:12-17 - "But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction, suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing. They count it pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions,while they feast with you. They have eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing,but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet's madness. These are waterless springs and mists driven by a storm. For them the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved."

Jude 4, 8, 16, 18-19 - "For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ...Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones...These are grumblers, malcontents, following their own sinful desires; they are loud-mouthed boasters, showing favoritism to gain advantage...They said to you, 'In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.' It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit."

When we think of false teachers, we mainly think about the content of what they say. However, these passages make it clear that we should also be looking at their behavior. We can spot them through their fleshly, sensual, worldly actions. They cannot help but live this way because they do not know Christ. While claiming to teach for God and about God, they instead remain dead in their sins and under God's wrath.

We must be careful to protect the church from false teachers. We must be on guard against false teachers from both outside and inside the church. Acts 20:29-30, "I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them."

What do we do when we spot false teaching? Our duty is to humbly speak the truth in love. Although somewhat out of context, I believe we must follow Ephesians 4:15, "Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ."

The goal in confronting a false teacher should not be victory in an argument. Rather, the goal should be the salvation of that false teacher.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Amazing Grace Christmas House

I have mixed emotions about celebrating Christmas, but this is just plain fun...

Barna's Year-in-Review Not Very Encouraging

Three themes from pollster George Barna's Year-in-Review are not encouraging. In light of what we see in society at large and in the church in particular, these themes are not surprising either.

The three themes:

Theme 1: Increasingly, Americans are more interested in faith and spirituality than in Christianity.

Theme 2: Faith in the American context is now individual and customized. Americans are comfortable with an altered spiritual experience as long as they can participate in the shaping of that faith experience.

Theme 3: Biblical literacy is neither a current reality nor a goal in the U.S.

In looking at these numbers, it is clear that a connection exists between biblical illiteracy and the "create-your-own-religion" experience that is occurring in our society. As followers of Jesus, we should take these numbers as a wake up call. We have a responsibility to share the good news of Christ as the bible teaches it. We are not effectively getting that great message across to the public at large.

It is true that the gospel is offensive. However, it appears that many people are rejecting it because they do not understand it. Why don't they understand it? They don't know what the bible even says about it. That's why we must continue to share the wonderful message of Christ crucified.

Read the entire Barna article here.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

My Parents' Kenyan Holiday

My parents, who are serving this school year at Rift Valley Academy in Kenya, recently took a trip down to the Indian Ocean. To read more about their adventures and to see their beautiful photos, click here. I've attached a few of their photos for your enjoyment.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

What Does a False Teacher Teach?

Words have consequences.

The reason for this is that words convey powerful meaning.

The term "false teacher" carries extremely strong meaning. I'm concerned because I hear this term being used fairly frequently to describe other people - usually those in teaching positions.

Sometimes this term is used for those who are teaching religions other than Christianity. Sometimes it is used to describe those who are teaching various forms of the gospel. Sometimes people use this term to describe others who teach differently from what they believe about church, family, eschatology, etc. Sometimes it is even used for people who simply do not use a preferred version of the bible.

The term "false teacher" is such an inflammatory one that we must be very careful in how we both define and apply it. We must look to the scriptures to find out what a false teacher actually is.

In the bible, false teachers are usually described in two ways: 1) by what they teach, and 2) by how they live.

In this post, I want to look at what the scriptures say about what false teachers actually teach. In the next post I'll look at how they live (these two things should not be separated in how we think about false teachers, but for the sake of post length, I've divided them here.)

So, what do false teachers actually teach? (Note: this is not an exhaustive list.)

Galatians 1:8-9 - But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

I Timothy 1:8-11 - Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.

II Peter 2:1 - But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.

I John 2:22-23 - Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.

Jude 3-4 - Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Also important to remember is this: Matthew 24:24 - For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.

The above verses tell us very clearly what false teachers teach: they teach against the gospel of Jesus Christ. They deny the basics of the faith. What it comes down to is that they, in one way or another, deny Christ himself. False teaching is a gospel issue.

It is important to recognize that the term "false teacher" is not applied to issues that are not gospel-centered. For example, "false teacher" is not applied to people who teach differently about issues such as baptism, the Lord's supper, the church, the family, etc. While those are important issues to be sure, the term "false teacher" is not used for people who are discussing them.

Also important is the fact that false teachers may, as we see predicted in Matthew 24:24, perform signs and wonders. We must be careful not to automatically believe someone just because of the signs they perform. Their message must be consistent with the gospel as taught in the bible.

So, what does a false teacher teach? He teaches against the gospel of Jesus Christ. He denies Christ as either fully-God or fully-man. He denies that Jesus is the only way of salvation. He denies the realities of heaven and hell. He may teach some doctrines (such as baptism, the Lord's supper, church , family, etc.) in such a warped way that it denies Christ Himself.

Anyone who denies Christ is a false teacher. Anyone who denies His gospel is a false teacher.

Anyone who teaches Christ correctly, but teaches a secondary doctrine in a manner we do not like, is not a false teacher. That teacher may need loving instruction/correction/rebuke, but he is not a false teacher.

Friday, December 18, 2009

On the Incident...

I was in the passenger seat. Click here for more.

I'm No Fan of Santa Clause, But This is Taking it Too Far...

I agree with many that the commercialization of Christmas is a problem. We should focus on the incarnation of Christ rather than on Santa and his reindeer (of course, there is no biblical basis for celebrating Christmas, but that is another issue).

Some folks, like this man, have taken their dislike for Santa way too far.

"Counterfeit Gods"

Timothy Keller has great ability to write about important topics in a conversational manner. I've read all three of his books and continue to be impressed with how Keller communicates so effectively.

In his latest book, Counterfeit Gods, Keller discusses what the book title suggests. He deals with the problem of false gods in our lives, what these false gods tend to be, and how to deal with false gods from a biblical perspective.

A couple of Keller's statements stand out to me:

"Idols capture our imagination, and we can locate them by looking at our daydreams. What do we enjoy imagining? What are our fondest dreams? We look to our idols to love us, to provide us with value and a sense of beauty, significance, and worth." (page xxi)

"Is there any hope? Yes, if we begin to realize that idols cannot simply be removed. They must be replaced. If you only try to uproot them, they grow back; but they can be supplanted. By what? By God himself, of course. But by God we do not mean a general belief in his existence. Most people have that, yet their souls are riddled with idols. What we need is a living encounter with God." (page 155)

This book is pleasant to read and will challenge your focus in life. I recommend it.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Most of the World Faces Religious Restriction

This is probably no surprise, but new data from the Pew Research Center indicates that most of the people of the world face some sort of religious restriction.

According to the report, "64 nations - about one-third of the countries in the world - have high or very high restrictions on religion. But because some of the most restrictive countries are very populous, nearly 70 percent of the world's 6.8 billion people live in countries with high restrictions on religion, the brunt of which often falls on religious minorities." Click here for the full report.

The chart below (click directly on the chart to increase its size) shows restriction in the world's 25 most populous countries. It is interesting - and troublesome - that the people of China and India, by far the two largest countries, face significant restriction, albeit different forms.

I expect the United States to rise in both governmental restrictions and social hostilities in the years ahead. This will probably be a good thing for the church.

Virtual Tour of the Taj Mahal

I haven't been to very many countries outside the USA, but I have been blessed to visit India (once on a trip and once to live). While on our trip, my wife and I were able to see the Taj Mahal (that's really - not virtually - us in the photo to the left). It lived up to the hype.

A virtual tour is never as good as the real thing - thus the word "virtual." However, I just came across a good virtual tour of the Taj Mahal. All in all, it gives a decent sense of what it is like to be there. Click to virtually visit the Taj.

On Marrying an Avatar

Either we have a source of authority or we do not.

For followers of Christ, that source of authority is the bible.

For those who do not know Christ, there really is no objective authority. All decisions are based on subjectivism, feelings of the moment, personal preference, and what that individual thinks "is right for me." This completely subjective morality extends to all areas of life - even marriage. When biblical restraints are rejected, anything becomes possible and even probable. Our world is now quickly embracing the gay lifestyle as not just normal but preferable. Logically, if gays can marry, then anyone can. People can even marry non-people. People can even marry avatars. Wow.

Western Influence, Islam, and TV Preaching

Click here to read a fascinating article that shows how the West (for better or probably worse) is influencing Islam. Who knew the world now has Islamic televangelists?

According to the article, "Amr Khaled's unique brand of Muslim preaching has made him one of the most popular preachers in the world. Such is his appeal, he was recently named the 13th most influential person in the world by Time Magazine. In Cairo, his DVDs stand on the top shelves reserved for best sellers in the Virgin record store, next to Bruce Willis and Charlie Chaplin. His controversial style, comparable to the almost rock star approach of some of America's Christian evangelists, has drawn criticism from the religious establishment and he has moved away from his native Egypt. Ironically, thanks to the proliferation of satellite channels, he is now able to reach far greater numbers than he could have ever done had his message remained within the confines of a mosque or a lecture hall."

Quite frankly, this article should sadden us. We must pray, hope, and work so that Christ's gospel, not modern technology, is what has the greatest impact on the Islamic world.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Spend Time at Joshua Project

I simply cannot say enough positive things about Joshua Project. The amount of information they have about missions in general and people groups in particular is amazing. Check it out.

This Hits Too Close to Home


Twin Symbols of Christianity

I love the cross of Christ. I also love the empty tomb. I love the gospel message these symbols remind us of. In particular, I love our Lord Jesus Christ who perished on the cross but rose from the tomb.

Let us always cherish them and teach them together. The cross by itself offers no hope. The empty tomb by itself offers no hope. However, the cross and the tomb together remind us that Jesus paid for sin and rose victoriously over death.

Keep these symbols together.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Greek Still Stuns Me

I do not claim to be a New Testament Greek scholar. I'm not even close. However, I can read the basics. I'm very thankful for the apostle John because his Greek writing is simpler than that of Matthew, Mark, Paul, James, Peter, Jude, and especially Luke. Some of John's statements, despite being simple in Greek structure, are absolutely profound. I continue to be stunned by the Greek of passages such as John 1:1-5 (see below). It does not take years of instruction for someone to learn the basics of Greek and enjoy passages like this one. Therefore, it is my hope that churches will increasingly begin to teach NT Greek to all people. I hope this happens at our church within the next year.

1 εν αρχη ην ο λογος και ο λογος ην προς τον θεον και θεος ην ο λογος

ουτος ην εν αρχη προς τον θεον

3 παντα δι αυτου εγενετο και χωρις αυτου εγενετο ουδε εν ο γεγονεν

4 εν αυτω ζωη ην και η ζωη ην το φως των ανθρωπων

5 και το φως εν τη σκοτια φαινει και η σκοτια αυτο ου κατελαβεν

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Death and Resurrection - 17, Birth - 2.5

At this time of year, when we place so much emphasis upon the celebration of the birth of Christ, it might be interesting to see how much the gospel writers have to say about it. It seems logical that if we, as Christ's church, should be celebrating His birth, then the writers of the gospels would spend a great deal of time on it.

Let's look at the simple math:

In the four gospel accounts, there are a total of 89 chapters (Matthew - 28, Mark - 16, Luke - 24, and John - 21).

Matthew gives about 1 chapter to the birth narrative. Mark does not discuss it. Luke spends roughly 1.5 chapters on it. John, like Mark, does not mention Christ's birth. Therefore, out of 89 total chapters, only 2.5 are spent on the birth of Jesus Christ. I'm not suggesting that the birth of Christ is unimportant; rather, I'm pointing out that the gospel writers did not take much time to discuss it. Maybe we should think about this as we contemplate the celebrating we do.

For the sake of comparison, let's look at how much the gospel writers had to say in their passion and resurrection narratives. The starting point for each is the mention of the Passover. Matthew spends 3 chapters on it (chapters 26-28). Mark uses 3 chapters (14-16). Luke writes for 3 chapters about it (22-24). John spends a whopping 8 chapters (13-20) on the passion and resurrection of Christ. That makes for a total of 17 chapters total focusing on the death and resurrection of Jesus.

We must assume that the biblical writers took the most time on the content that they believed to be the most important. The above score (17 to 2.5) should show us that while the birth of Christ is significant, His death and resurrection are far more significant. Just the sheer number of chapters gives us a strong clue about what we should be celebrating (at any time of year).

The early church understood this. When they gathered, they celebrated the death and resurrection of Christ. They did this at least in part through the Lord's Supper. We have no indication that early Christians spent time focusing on Christ's birth.

Since the gospel writers emphasized the death and resurrection of Jesus more than anything else, shouldn't we do the same no matter what time of year it is?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Tiger Woods Needs the Gospel

By this point, we probably all know much more than we ever wanted to about the Tiger Woods affair. For his and his family's sake, we should hope that there won't be any more new revelations.

In light of everything that has transpired over the last two weeks, Tiger made the wise decision yesterday to take an extended leave from professional golf. On his personal website, he said, "I am deeply aware of the disappointment and hurt that my infidelity has caused to so many people, most of all my wife and children. I want to say again to everyone that I am profoundly sorry and that I ask forgiveness. It may not be possible to repair the damage I've done, but I want to do my best to try."

We should show compassion by giving Tiger the benefit of the doubt. Let's believe that he is sincere.

Something else that Tiger later said on his site shows his desperate need for the gospel. He wrote, "I need to focus my attention on being a better husband, father, and person."

His wording is very important. Tiger is going to focus on being "a better person." This is a classic statement by a lost person who realizes that he has done something wrong. Tiger has fallen into the moralism trap. It appears from this wording that he is going to try to improve himself by his own strength. He'll try to pull-himself-up-by-his-bootstraps. Tiger is a talented person and has thus far in his life been able to accomplish just about everything he has wanted to. He'll work hard at becoming a better person.

Under his own power, Tiger will fail at becoming a better person. It is only through the gospel of Jesus Christ that we can live honorable lives. This is because after we are saved by the grace of God, the Holy Spirit begins a work of transformation in us. This makes it possible for us to increase in holiness and godliness. As this happens, we are able to truly enjoy and serve our glorious Lord.

Tiger desperately needs to hear the gospel in a way he can understand. Unfortunately, he is also very difficult to contact. Let's show compassion for him by praying that God will send someone to him with the gospel. Let's also pray that God will change Tiger's heart and save him from his sins.

Friday, December 11, 2009

What's Wrong with These Pictures?

What's wrong? Answer: All of these pictures imply a very unhealthy union between Christianity and the United States of America. In the scope of history, whenever Christianity unites with the state (any state), it is Christianity that suffers. Let us reject any notion of a link between "God and country." As followers of Jesus, our citizenship is in heaven. While here, we are exiles.

Let's Respond Positively Instead of Skeptically

According to CNN, "A leading Muslim-American civil rights group is advocating intense grassroots engagement among police and U.S. Muslim neighborhood leaders to thwart the emergence of homegrown Islamic terrorists." To read the entire article, click here.

I used to read articles like this and immediately respond with skepticism and/or disgust. That reaction, however, led to nothing positive whatsoever. Rather than assuming the negative, why not hope and pray for a positive outcome?

Speaking about India at Jasper Springs

On Wednesday night, Alice and I had a wonderful time speaking with the church family of Jasper Springs Baptist Church in Garden City, GA (about 20 minutes from our home). Our focus was the desperate need for increased international missions in India. As part of our presentation, we showed some photos from our time there. India is a country of architectural and natural beauty. It also has many animals to keep things interesting. The main thing that stands out in India, however, is the many, many, many people (over 1 billion). Sadly, most Indians do not know Jesus Christ as Lord; India is less than 3% Christian. Several of the photos below show Hindus worshiping in one way or another. The final few photos show an Islamic mosque, Muslims at prayer, and a Buddhist monk. We all still have much gospel work to do.