Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Question Desiring Answers: How Should Christians Reconcile Infant Baptism and Believer's Baptism?

In John 17:20-23, Jesus prays to His Father, saying, "I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. "

This theme of unity among believers runs throughout the New Testament. It is abundantly clear that Jesus both commands and desires that His followers be united.

In light of what Jesus has commanded, this is my question: How should Christians reconcile infant baptism and believer's baptism?

Here is a scenario: A group of followers of Jesus Christ enjoys fellowshipping with one another and believes that the Lord has called them together as a local body (I'm not dealing with the issue of church membership here). These believers are in complete agreement about the core doctrines of the faith (such as the divinity of Christ, the truth of the resurrection, etc.). They desperately want to be united and be biblical in how they function as a church family.

There is only one problem: some within the group have studied the scriptures and believe that infants should be baptized. Others within the group have studied the scriptures and believe that only believers should be baptized. How do they reconcile this difference?

Most of the time the group is together, this is not an issue. However, what do they do when a young couple within the body wants their infant to be baptized? If the couple decides to do this, how do the people within the body respond who believe it is unbiblical to baptize anyone who does not believe? Let's say they talk it over, listen to each other, pray about it together, and still cannot agree on the issue. What then?

Unfortunately, the typical answer to this question is that these folks should split into different churches along denominational lines. However, this does not seem to adhere whatsoever to what Jesus said in John chapter 17.

So, if this body of believers is determined to be biblical by remaining united, how do they deal with this issue of baptism?

I'd really like to hear what you think.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

No More "This Week in Blogdom"

Last month, I began a series called This Week in Blogdom that I thought would continue on a regular basis. Well, it hasn't.

The purpose was to link to various blog posts from around the blogosphere that seemed interesting to me. The problem was that I found myself spending too much time surfing around the Christian blog world in search of interesting posts. I realized that the last thing I need is an excuse to spend more time on-line than I already do. Therefore, This Week in Blogdom must go the way of the Dodo.

If I do come across some interesting stuff, I'll be sure to link to it. Speaking of that, enjoy this.

My 5 Favorite Non-Inspired Christian Documents

The bible must be our supreme authority in all matters of faith and practice. No questions asked.

That said, I have found it helpful to look through different Christian documents (creeds, confessions, statements of faith, etc.) in order to help me clarify what I believe and why.

Based on their content and/or their historical significance, the following are my 5 favorite non-inspired Christian documents:

The Nicene Creed (A.D. 325)

The 95 Theses (1517)

The Canons of the Synod of Dort (1618-1619)

The 2nd London Baptist Confession (1689)

The Abstract of Principles (1858)

What are your favorite Christian documents? Why?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I Like This T-Shirt

Most T-shirts are a waste of time - at least in what they say. I have a few that fit in this category. I'd rather not get into any specifics.

I just stumbled upon a T-shirt that I actually like. The shirt accurately describes the spiritual state of the human heart both before and after God's work of regeneration. It even includes scripture references. As a bonus, because the shirt looks interesting, it is bound to lead to questions and conversations - hopefully with lost people.

The shirt is offered by Monergism. Click here to look at product details.

Below are the shirt and a picture of the regeneration image (click directly on the icons to enlarge).

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Dual Significance of Ephesians 6:1

In Ephesians 6:1, Paul writes (translated into various English versions):

"Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right." (NKJV)

"Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right." (KJV)

"Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right." (ESV)

"Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right." (NASB)

"Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right." (NIV)

"Children, obey your parents in the Lord, because this is right." (HCSB)

(The similarity of the above versions shows us that this is a very straightforward verse to translate. In other words, there is no confusion in coming from Greek to English.)

Ephesians 6:1 is very significant for at least two reasons. One of these is obvious to all. The second, however, is generally either not seen or ignored all together. In this post, I'll be discussing both of the reasons this verse is so important.

Ever since 5:22, Paul has been discussing family issues. From 5:22 to the end of that chapter, Paul compares the marriage relationship between a man and a woman to the relationship between Christ and His church.

As we read Ephesians, we should ignore the chapter divisions between 5 and 6 (after all, they certainly aren't inspired, having been added many hundreds of years after Paul wrote this letter).

Immediately at the beginning of chapter 6, Paul gives children a command. This is a plural command, which means it was directed to children in general.

The first reason 6:1 is significant is that Paul is, quite simply, commanding children to obey their parents as long as their parents' instructions and expectations correspond to those in the bible. The apostle is commanding all children everywhere to make a practice of submitting to their parents' rule - as long as the parents do not violate scripture.

The second reason 6:1 is significant is often either not seen or ignored. The significance is that Paul expects children to be with their parents while the church is gathered and teaching is taking place. How do we know this? In the early church, most of the people could not read. Therefore, someone (maybe the one who brought the letter) would read the letter to the church. In Ephesians 6:1, Paul gives a direct command to the children. He tells them to obey. Paul does not tell the parents to later tell the kids to obey. He gives a command directly to the children. This means that the children were together with the rest of the church.

To put it another way, Paul did not expect the children to be separated out as the church gathered. He clearly expected the kids to be paying attention to what he said. Remember that Paul wrote this in 6:1, so he assumes that the children will be able to listen through at least the first five chapters. Paul's giving a command to the kids in general shows us that he presumes that the gathering of the church will be the entire church.

So as we look at Ephesians 6:1, we see two important things. First, Paul commands children to obey their parents and expects them to do so. Second, Paul assumes and expects children to be with their parents (or at least with the church as a whole) as the teaching takes place.

We should think through the significance of this as we think about our own church gatherings. Do we expect our children to be with us as we gather as church bodies, or do we separate the children out? Paul's expectations should make us ask ourselves uncomfortable questions such as, "Why do we have children's church if Paul expects the children to be with the adults?"

As difficult as it may be, we should allow scripture to inform the way we exist and function as church families.

Paul, as an apostle, certainly knew how Jesus wants the church to operate. Shouldn't we follow Paul's expectations?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

What Our Family Devotions Look Like

Family devotions/worship/bible study has now become a regular and very enjoyable part of our lives. I thank God for His grace in bringing us to the point of consistent family devotions.

Based on my discussions with other Christians, I believe there are many Christian parents who have never even considered having a regular time of family devotions. They've never heard of it, so it is not even on their radar screen.

For others, they have a desire to spend time in family devotions, but they do not know how or where to begin. Their difficulty is what we might refer to as "the launch."

In light of all this, I thought I would describe what our family devotions look like from start to finish. If this is helpful, then I'm thrilled. I hope that those of you who also have a regular family devotional time will leave comments describing what you do, what has worked well, what hasn't, etc.

Here we go:

We plan to begin at 8:00 AM and finish by 8:30. This doesn't always happen, but it does fit our family's schedule well. We all know that we need to plan to eat breakfast before 8:00 or wait until after 8:30.

We tend to sit at the dining room table for devotions.

We usually begin by going through 10-20 catechism questions and answers. We have decided to to use the Baptist Catechism published by Desiring God Ministries, but I'm sure there are other options. The question and answer format of a catechism is simple to follow, and everyone enjoys it. I read the questions, and then we all answer them together. It is exciting to hear my three kids rattle off a biblical answer to questions such as "What is God?" and "What is sin?"

Next, we usually move on to singing a hymn or two. One of the children often picks the hymn we will sing. My only concern is that we sing hymns that are faithful to the scriptures, so I act as a sort of filter in deciding if the hymn is appropriate (biblical). Alice and I decided a while back to use the Celebration Hymnal. We have found this to be a solid hymnal that is full of the great hymns of the faith. As an added bonus, since Alice plays the piano, we sometimes sit in our living room and sing with her playing. We are thrilled to hear our children praising God and learning wonderful songs. By the way, hymns are certainly not the only options. There are many good, modern praise choruses out there.

After singing, we go to the bible. As the family's spiritual leader, I take it as my responsibility to lead this process carefully. With my wife's sage advice, I select the book we will study. We are currently in the middle of the book of Proverbs. Each day we have family devotions, we read either one or two chapters. To cut down on confusion and frustration, it is very important for everyone to have the same version of the bible (we use the NKJV, but I would be just as happy with any of several other versions). Since all our kids are old enough to read, we take turns, splitting each chapter into five segments. I try to give time for the kids to ask questions; they usually have not only several questions, but also some very good comments. We find that all five of us learn during this process.

We conclude our devotions with a time of prayer. Many times only one of us will pray. I either pray, or ask someone else to pray. We use this time to praise the Lord for who He is and what He has done, to thank Him for His provision for us, to intercede on behalf of others, and to ask Him to help us live holy lives for Him today. Now, the prayers aren't always like that, but I hope they are most of the time.

We have found that morning devotions work well because they set a tone of godliness for the day. I realize that not everyone can do this in the mornings, but if you can, I highly encourage you to do so.

Everyone can find the time to have family devotions at least three or four times per week. For some of us, the question is simply "Will we do it?"

Do it. You will never regret it.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Good Post (and by My Daughter, too!)

My older daughter, Caroline, blogs at Caroline's Thoughts. I'm happy and pleased to say that Caroline is one of those rare teenagers who actually thinks - at least about more than movies, i-Pods, and Hollywood.

Caroline has written a good post entitled Secular Music and Lies from Satan. I encourage you to read it. She seems to be thinking about the same sorts of things that I have been pondering.

What Bible are You Using for Personal Devotions?

This is another post for the sake of curiosity.

Today I finally finished reading all the way through (not in order) my ESV Reformation Study Bible. I enjoyed my time in this bible. The ESV is my personal preference as far as versions go, and the study notes were solid. Although I don't necessarily agree with all the notes in this particular bible, I still appreciate the scholarly nature of the notes.

Now it is time to move on to another bible for personal devotions. I realize that I don't have to do this, but I find that switching versions keeps things from getting stale (my fault - not a fault of the scriptures).

Tomorrow I will begin studying through the International Standard Version (ISV) New Testament. I have been looking forward to this for some time. This is a new translation rather than a revision. To read more about the ISV, click here to visit the features page.

I initially heard about the ISV while in seminary. One of my professors, Dr. David Alan Black, served on the translation committee of the ISV. Just knowing Dr. Black's excellence in the original Greek text of the NT gives me great confidence in the accuracy of the ISV.

To read more about Dr. Black's involvement in the ISV, click here. To visit Dr. Black's personal website, click here.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Thinking About PG-13

I haven't seen many movies lately because they cost so much and are generally worthless. My lack of going to the cinema has had less to do with conviction than just simple preference.

Lately, however, I have been pondering what I put into my head. Specifically related to movies, what is acceptable? I have heard many Christians employ some type of "Christian liberty" argument to defend watching just about anything. Other followers of Christ simply draw the line at the "R" rating.

But what about PG-13? The above ratings chart says that PG-13 films "may be inappropriate for children under 13." Let's keep in mind that the folks who give movies their ratings are not exactly people who are living according to a biblical worldview - and even they say some of the material should not be watched by anyone under 13.

This got me thinking. If a secularist says a movie warrants a PG-13 rating, then what should my reaction be to it?

This is where I (and many other Christians) make a mistake. We try to figure things out by using our own reasoning ability rather than simply looking into the bible. We ought to always be asking what the scriptures say about things.

Watching any sort of film causes the viewer to think about certain things - whether good or bad. What does the bible say we should be thinking about? Paul addresses this quite clearly in Philippians 4:8. The apostle writes:

"Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy -- meditate on these things." (NKJV)

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." (ESV)

"Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things." (NASB)

Paul commands the Philippian church (and us) to mediate, think, dwell on godly, holy things. This is a present tense command, which means that we should be continually thinking upon these things.

If we are to be continually pondering things that are true, honorable, just, etc., then there is no room for thinking about those things that we might, in our flesh, even consider to be "neutral." If we are to take scripture literally, then movies with a PG-13 rating should be considered to be unacceptable. How can content that is not appropriate for a 12-year-old fulfill what is said in Philippians 4:8?

I realize that there could be exceptions to what I have said. As an example, Schindler's List, which I think had a "R" rating, might be appropriate because its rating stems from the graphic nature of the treatment of the Jews during WWII.

The reality, however, is that the vast majority of movies receive a PG-13 rating (or worse) due to content that is inappropriate for Christians to be viewing (if we are willing to accept Philippians 4:8 at face value.)

Now, what about PG movies? Quite frankly, are ANY movies worthy of spending our time on?

I'm going to have to think about this some more. But, suffice it to say, PG-13 films do not need to be something we are watching.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Must We Follow the Biblical Model in All Things?

Must we follow the biblical model in all things?

As pastor of a traditional SBC church, the above question is one that I have been wrestling with and continue to wrestle with. Even a cursory reading of the New Testament (especially the book of Acts) shows that the way the modern, American church operates is far different from what we see modeled in scripture. What is interesting is that a church can follow all the commands of scripture, and at the same time look almost nothing like the early church. This happens when what is modeled is ignored.

So - what do we do with the above question? Must we follow the biblical model in the way the church functions?

I'm beginning to think that we are asking the wrong question.

Here is an example of folks asking the wrong question about the issue of suffering. Some people ask, "If God is both perfectly powerful and perfectly loving, then why do terrible things happen to people?" This is the wrong question. The biblical question should be, "In light of my rebellion against perfectly holy God, why doesn't He cast me into Hell right now?"

I think we are asking the wrong question about what is modeled in the bible as it relates to how the church operates. For too long, I have been asking if we must follow what is modeled. I'm realizing that there is a better, more appropriate, and more biblical question. That question is this:

Why wouldn't we want to follow what is modeled in scripture as it relates to the church?

God has given us all we need in His word. For example:

Acts 17:25 says, "...nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything."

II Peter 1:3 says, "His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence..."

The bible is all we need. As evangelicals, we say that the bible is completely true and authoritative. We say that it is our rule for both faith and practice.

If this is the case, then we must admit at least two things: First, the bible tells us all we need to know about church. Second, we should try to model our churches after what we see in the scriptures.

With that in mind, what should we do? Those who feel led to do so should plant churches modeled after exactly what we see in the NT.

However, the reality is that many of us are part of local churches that practice various things that are not found in the bible. These things are not necessarily bad, but they are unbiblical in the sense that they are not found anywhere in the bible. So, in this situation, what do we do?

The first thing to do is to study the practice of the early church. Many churched-folks have never thought or been taught about these issues.

Second, we should take a look at everything we are doing as a church. Chances are good that we are already doing some things that scripture models. For example, when we pray together as a body this is clearly modeled after what we see in the bible. When we eat together, this is following the biblical model. When we care for the sick and needy in the church and outside it, this follows what we see in the bible.

Third, we should be honest with ourselves about things we are doing that are nowhere to be found in scripture. What do we do about these things? Well, that depends on how biblical we want to be. If we are going to make changes, we should move slowly, explaining to everyone why we are doing what we are doing.

Additionally, I do think there is some freedom in this. There are some things that we may be doing that, after much prayer, we decide are fine to continue. We must be careful, however, and not use Christian freedom as an excuse for being unbiblical.

We should fault on the side of being biblical. Unless we have an extremely good reason for not following what is modeled in scripture, we should do so. One example of not following scripture literally might be the command to give one another a holy kiss. In our culture, this might not be appropriate.

To summarize, let's make sure we are asking the right question. In light of what we say we believe about the bible, the right question must be: Why wouldn't we want to follow what is modeled in scripture as it relates to the church?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Results: The 10 Most Desired Books of the Bible

(In case you were wondering, the 10 bible books I would choose on a deserted island are Genesis, Exodus, Psalms, Isaiah, Matthew, John, Acts, Romans, Ephesians, and Revelation.)

I've tabulated the results of the 9 folks (including me) who responded to this question. Below are the number of people - with 9 being the maximum - who selected each book:

Genesis - 8
Exodus - 7
Leviticus - 1
Ruth - 1
I Samuel - 1
II Samuel - 1
Esther - 1
Job - 3
Psalms - 9
Proverbs - 5
Ecclesiastes - 1
Isaiah - 4
Daniel - 1
Jonah - 1
Matthew - 7
Mark - 1
Luke - 1
John - 8
Acts - 3
Romans - 6
Galatians - 1
Ephesians - 6
Philippians - 2
Colossians - 2
I Timothy - 1
II Timothy - 1
Hebrews - 1
James - 2
I John - 1
Revelation - 3

Psalms is the winner, with Genesis and John coming in a close second. I'm somewhat surprised that Isaiah and Romans did not get higher scores.

Thank God we don't have to ever really be confronted with this difficult and uncomfortable question.

Monday, July 20, 2009

On What I Like About Jehovah's Witnesses...

The answer is that I do not like much about Jehovah's Witnesses. They are, quite simply, a cult.

However, I love the fact that Jehovah's Witnesses are integrated. If you see them in your neighborhood, they very frequently have people of various ethnic backgrounds in their little groups.

Why is it that people who don't have the truth (JWs) can be integrated while those who do have the truth (followers of Christ) are routinely part of churches that are basically segregated? This should not be.

If anywhere on this earth should be integrated, it is God's church. God's love for both Jew and Gentile should show us all that race should never be a barrier.

Romans 1:16 says, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek."

What is Your Confession of Faith?

What is your confession of faith? I'm not asking you to defend it or even tell why you hold to it. I'm simply curious.

Yes, I know that the bible takes supreme position in matters of faith and practice. I'm not arguing that. I simply want to know what your confession is. If you don't have one, then just say that.

In case anyone is wondering, my preferred confession of faith is the Second London Baptist Confession of 1689.

A Hard Look at Suffering

A few years ago, not long after we returned to the U.S.A. from India, I dealt with some hard issues (on my previous blog) related to suffering. This was during the time that our son Bobby was undergoing chemotherapy treatments for cancer. These were difficult questions at the time, and they remain that way now. Please click on the links below to read the different questions and how I think the bible answers them. I'm interested to know what you think.

By the way, we praise the Lord for healing our son!

Why Does My Son Have to Suffer?

Question #1: Why Does My Child Have to Suffer?

Question #2: Does God Want My Child to be Healed?

Question #3: Why Does a Good, Omnipotent God Allow Suffering?

Question #4: Does God Cause or Allow Suffering?

Question #5: What Does Our Suffering Say About the Character of God?

Question #6: How Should We Respond to Suffering?

A Wise Word on Suffering - Adoniram Judson

Play a Geography Game and Donate Water - All for Free

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Great Definition for Sin

Sin is a concept and a reality that we do not talk about enough. Our own sin, in particular, is something we tend to avoid. Why is this? The answer is that we avoid thinking and talking about our sin because we are sinful.

As I write this, I am not condemning anyone. Trust me - most of the time I feel like I (not Paul) am the chief of sinners. This is probably because when I dare to do so, I can see into the depths of my own heart much better than I can anyone else's.

One problem we may have is that we do not have an accurate definition of sin in mind. If you have time someday, take a look on-line at a variety of different church websites. Where they tell what they believe, see if they define sin. I guarantee that you will find definitions that vary a great deal.

So what is a great (and more importantly - biblical) definition of sin?

The Baptist Catechism published by Desiring God Ministries (which is patterned on the Westminster Catechism) defines sin as well as I have seen it. It reads, "Sin is transgression of the revealed will of God which teaches that we are to act in perfect holiness from a heart of faith to the glory of God."

I have never seen sin defined any better.

As a family, we use this catechism as part of our family devotional time. I am thrilled whenever I hear my three children rattle off this definition for sin. My hope is that by knowing what sin is, they will be less likely to commit it.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Which 10 Books of the Bible Would You Want?

I'll admit up-front that this is silly, but I am curious about what you think.

Here's the scenario: you find yourself stranded on a deserted island. For some unknown reason, you are allowed to have 10, but only 10, books of the bible. You will be by yourself on the island (with presumably enough to eat and drink) for an undetermined period of time.

Which 10 books of the bible would you want? Which one would be your biggest regret not having?

I'm curious as to what you think. I'll let you know my 10 within a few days.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

New John Piper Book Available

John Piper's latest book is now available. It is the latest in a series that I have liked a great deal: The Swans Are Not Silent.

This book, entitled Filling Up the Afflictions of Christ, focuses on the faithful lives of William Tyndale, Adoniram Judson, and John Paton.

I have enjoyed all four previous books in this series and look forward to reading this one as well. Piper does an excellent job of bringing historical figures to life in relatively brief biographical sketches.

To order this book, click here (I ordered it earlier today).

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Men Praying Together

For whatever reason, men in the church (and I won't exclude myself from this camp) don't seem to like to take the lead in spiritual matters. Regardless of where the church is or what the size is, it always seems that the ladies are the ones who have more spiritual depth and closer walks with Christ. In particular, men do not in general pray like women do.

This is a burden on my heart. Scripture is clear that men should be taking the leadership roles in their families and in their churches. We should not force the ladies into the uncomfortable position of leading when God did not create them to do so. Men - it is our responsibility. It is also our joy.

This morning we started something new at Chevis Oaks Baptist. It is hardly revolutionary, but I am hoping that God will use it to His glory. A group of us men met at 6:30 this morning to pray. We prayed for repentance. We prayed for deeper walks with Christ. We prayed for protection from temptation and sin. Above all, we prayed that God would be glorified in our individual lives and in the life of our church family in general.

It was a sweet time of prayer. I love to listen to other saints (and I use that term biblically) pray. I am always amazed to hear others speak to the God of the universe. In particular, I am greatly edified when I hear people pray who have been walking with the Lord for many years.

I was greatly encouraged this morning because I believe that our time of prayer was both glorifying to God and edifying to the body. Since these are the two primary reasons for the existence of the church, I couldn't be happier about it.

This group of men will be meeting every Tuesday morning at 6:30. My prayer is that God will use this time to encourage and exhort us men to take the spiritual leadership roles in our church. This is God's desire. That is enough of a reason for us to do it.

Additionally, praying together is a great joy. I know of no one who regrets time spent in prayer.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Why Did I Repent and Believe?

Why did I repent and believe?

This is an interesting question for all of us. It is worthy of asking ourselves because of its direct connection with salvation.

I have to wonder: WHY did I repent and believe? There are many, many people around the world who have heard the gospel message (sadly, many have not heard, but that is another blog post). Many have believed in the gospel, but many others have not.

So why does one person repent and believe while another does not? In hearing the gospel, why did I respond positively while another person responded negatively?

The bible is clear that prior to salvation, all humans are wicked. No one seeks God. All are spiritually dead.

How do we go from that wretched state to responding positively to the gospel message?

When a person is saved, something dramatic happens. That person is born again. He becomes a new creation.

Back to our original question - why does anyone repent and believe? Why does he reject his love of sin in favor of a love of God? There are only two possible answers to this question: either the sinful man changes his own heart, or God changes his heart.

Did I change my own heart, and choose to turn to God? Did I, of my own free-will, reject the things of the world in order to repent and believe? The answer is "no." I had no capacity in my spiritual deadness to turn to God. I didn't want God. I certainly did not change the condition of my heart.

In fact, if I were to say that I repented and believed of my own free-will, then what I am saying is that I am better than the person who rejected God. I would be saying that there is something in me that is inherently of more value, of greater good than there is in that person who rejects the gospel. This is the only conclusion.

However, what if someone else brought about the heart change that leads to repentance and faith? If someone else does this, then I can in no way claim that I am better than anyone else. Who would this someone else be?

The answer is clearly God Himself. He brought it about. He caused me to be born again. He caused the radical change to occur. Ezekiel explains it this way.

Why would God do this? Paul tells us here. Paul says that God's saving of people happens, "according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace."

So, why did I repent and believe? It certainly was not because I am of more value than anyone else. I know that I did not choose God on my own. I know first from the bible, and second from my own experience (with the bible being far superior in terms of authority) that I repented and believed because God, in His great grace, made it happen.

Because of this, God deserves all the glory. While I was dead, He saved me! Praise the Lord!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A Great Resource from DG

In looking around the Desiring God website, I came across a very helpful little resource. It is named simply Ask Pastor John. This is a place where John Piper receives and answers questions from all across the spectrum of the bible, theology, the church, ethics, etc.

Today's question is, "Is it possible to be angry and not sin?" A few days ago, someone asked, "What is God's glory?" Piper does his best to answer these questions in a short enough manner that they can be read or listened to in just a few minutes.

Does John Piper know everything? No. Is he well-versed in the scriptures? Yes. Does he have years of pastoral experience and wisdom? Yes. Therefore, I think it is worth it to listen to him answer some interesting and difficult questions.


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Sitting Ducks in a Fallen World

Our house backs up to a small pond in our subdivision. Because of this, we have all sorts of fowl around our home. Some of the most interesting visitors are Muscovy Ducks. These are large, decorative ducks that become very tame when living near homes.

For the last few weeks, we had a female Muscovy sitting on a nest that she constructed near a front window of our house. We enjoyed watching her sit on her eggs. She was so protective of her eggs that she didn't move as I mowed the front yard, coming within two feet of her at one point. I wouldn't say we became emotionally attached to the duck, but we did enjoy her presence.

I'm sad to report that I now know at an experiential level what the term "sitting duck" means. Last Monday at about 6 A.M. I wandered outside to go for a run. I came upon a dead duck in our front yard. It was the female Muscovy. Something rather large must have killed her during the night because her body was moved about 6-7 feet from the nest. There was no doubt - she was dead. Her neck was broken, and her body was not moving at all. I don't know what killed her or why. The eggs remained in the nest.

I decided to leave the body there and go for my run. When I returned I saw something sad. A male duck (her mate?) was standing next to her body looking confused. It did not know what to do. After a bit, it wandered away.

What to do with a dead duck body? We (to be accurate, my poor wife, because I was at work when we found out that we had to dispose of the body) put it in a bag and threw it in our trash. This was Monday. The trash truck comes on Thursday. Every day last week reached near 100 degrees. Yuck.

The stench of death reigned for a few days anywhere within 5-10 feet of our trash can. It was nasty. We tried to avoid it, but still fell prey occasionally to the wretched stench. On Wednesday, when I took the trash can to the curbside, I held my breath the entire time. Alas, the overpowering odor still managed to get inside my nostrils. Therefore, when I finally took a breath...well, it was not peaches and cream.

Why describe this unpleasant situation in detail? The reason is that the death of this duck reminded me that we live in a fallen world. Only in a fallen world is there death. Death is a consequence of sin. Consequently, only in a fallen world is there the stench of death. Only in a fallen world does a mother duck get killed for protecting her eggs. Only in a fallen world does a duck have to stand over its dead mate.

This was a stark reminder to me of the fragile nature of life on this earth. Life can end very quickly. Not only in the animal world, but also among humans life can be extinguished in the blink of an eye.

Our dead duck reminded me that my life is a vapor. What am I doing to advance the kingdom of God today? I may not have tomorrow.

Our dead duck also reminded me that we have something much better to look forward to. As followers of Christ, we have eternity with Christ, free from the stench and reality of death. That is a great hope.

We are not sitting ducks, but we also can't count on 30, 40, 50, 60 or more years on earth. Let's live today for Christ, knowing that death is a reality in this fallen world.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Dads - How Many More Verses Do We Need?

To all fathers: How many more bible verses do we need before we begin obeying?

We have been told in the scriptures very clearly that it is the father's joy and duty to disciple his children in the things of our triune God. It is not the mother's primary responsibility. It is not the grandparents' primary responsibility. It is not the church's primary responsibility. It is certainly not the responsibility of a secular school system.

In two very significant bible passages for fathers, we read the following:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (ESV; emphasis mine)

"Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 'Honor your father and mother' (this is the first commandment with a promise), 'that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.' Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." Ephesians 6:1-4 (ESV; emphasis mine)

Despite passages like this, fathers are failing their children.

The reality is that most children who are part of churches do not know the basics of the Christian faith. Why is this? The reason is that most dads, despite their stated belief that the bible is both true and authoritative, are not discipling their children. They aren't teaching the bible, discussing theology, modeling service to others inside and outside the church, and aren't sharing their faith for their kids to see.

In this country, we are raising generation after generation of children who believe that Christianity is a part of life that happens on Sundays for a few hours and maybe some evening during the week. Because of this, most Christians are living lives that look little different from those of the secular culture. Christian families are bereft of true discipleship. The guilty party is the fathers.

This lack of discipleship is the primary reason why so many churches will close their doors permanently within the next 20-30 years. The children who have not been discipled by their fathers will leave the church (many already have) and won't return.

Fathers, what can we do about this? Here are a few ideas:

1. Let's stop pretending that the bible is not clear on this issue. We have a clear responsibility.

2. Let's repent of our disobedience in not discipling our children.

3. Let's begin discipling today. You do not have to be an expert to do this.

4. Let's begin by explaining to our families how things are going to be different (if she is a Christian, your wife will be thrilled).

5. Let's set aside a time of day to read the bible, sing hymns or choruses, study a catechism, pray, and whatever else the Lord tells us to do.

6. Let's be purposeful and proactive in serving others while taking our children with us.

7. Let's look for opportunities to share our faith in Jesus Christ so that our kids can see it happen.

8. Let's encourage other men in our church family to do these same things.

Dads - we have a great privilege. We get to teach our children about the glories of our great God. We have the joy of building in them a deep faith in Christ that they can then use to honor God in all their lives. We have the duty of raising our kids in such a way that they will be disciples of Christ.

If the bible is God's word, then it is true. If it is true, then it is authoritative. If it is authoritative, then one bible verse is all we need in order to know what to do.

Dads - let's obey and disciple.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

"Christ in the Passover"

Buy this book. It's worth it.

Moishe Rosen, founder of Jews for Jesus, and his wife, Ceil, have penned a very helpful book that focuses on Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of the Passover celebration in general and the Passover meal in particular.

Christ in the Passover has helped me a great deal because, as a Gentile, I have only a very basic understanding of the Passover meal. It was amazing for me to read this text and have the Passover come alive.

Rosen does an excellent job in describing both the elements and order of the meal, and also the meaning behind the meal. He shows the immediate meaning as it relates to the passover just prior to the exodus. Rosen also describes in detail how Jesus fulfills the various aspects of the meal.

In particular, I enjoyed and benefited from the author's discussion of the aphikomen. This is the three pieces of unleavened bread that symbolize (whether most Jews recognize this or not) the Trinity. Amazingly, the second piece of bread is broken, hidden, and then found by the children of the family. This is clearly symbolic of Jesus' crucifixion, burial, and resurrection.

If you want a greater understanding of the Passover as it relates to Christ, buy this book.

For more information on Jews for Jesus, watch this short video:

Friday, July 3, 2009

No TV - I'm Lovin' It!

When we moved into our new (for us) house in January of this year, we made a decision to not have cable TV in our home. We do have a TV and use it to watch videos, but we do not watch any television shows, TV news, sports, etc. For about a week it was weird. After that, we realized that we don't miss TV at all. In fact, to quote McD's, we're "lovin' it!"

We do keep very up to date with what is going on in the world. We check the internet numerous times per day to stay on top of things.

I have put together a list of 10 increases and 10 decreases that have happened in our home since we got rid of cable TV. We're never going back.

No TV:

increases time (for everything else)

increases conversation with family

increases conversation with friends

increases discussion of the things of the Lord

increases reading

increases physical activity/exercise

increases blogging

increases parental supervision (we know what is on the videos our kids are watching)

increases family game-playing

increases personal and family devotions (from not staying up too late the night before)

decreases wasted time

decreases worldly influences

decreases secular worldviews in our home

decreases stress

decreases profanity in our home

decreases secular-slanted "news"

decreases staying up too late and feeling wretched the next day

decreases pointless eating and overall caloric intake

decreases having to dive for the remote when an adult-themed scene unexpectedly pops up on the TV screen

decreases pointless conversations with people who watch TV

Thursday, July 2, 2009

"The Jesus Paradigm" - the Church and Politics

This is really two posts in one - dealing with both the church and politics.

Dave Black has written a challenging and somewhat revolutionary book. The reason I say this is that the author challenges the reader to take a long look at how his life compares to what the bible has to say about what it is to follow after Jesus Christ.

I have already said that I believe the bedrock issue Dave Black addresses is biblical hermeneutics (interpretation). A simple, even cursory, reading of The Jesus Paradigm challenges the reader to not just obey the commands of scripture, but to live according to the model we see in scripture. This model comes from both Jesus Christ and the early church. In other words, Black seemingly sees all of the New Testament as not only descriptive, but also prescriptive.

Once the reader of this book realizes (and it doesn't take long) that Black believes followers of Jesus Christ should live personally and corporately based on what we see in scripture, he - the reader - can take a good guess at what Black will have to say specifically about both the church and politics.

To put it simply, Black writes that the church of today should live like the church from the Book of Acts. As we see in the N.T., Black emphasizes that every member of the church should minister within the body. All have responsibility to one another. All are to be active. The author also stresses that every member ought to be a missionary. Regarding leadership, the church must avoid the typical clergy-laity divide. Jesus Christ alone must be recognized as the senior pastor.

As for politics, Black stresses that the bible does not call upon the church to serve a particular political party or particular ideology. The church is not to be a servant of the state or be involved in fighting culture wars. The church, on the other hand, is to impact society for Christ by being salt and light in the world. As Christians, our utmost allegiance must be to the Kingdom of God rather than to any political movement.

The Jesus Paradigm is revolutionary, but it is also simple. It is challenging, but it is also a relatively easy read. The reason for these things is that Dr. Black is simply trying to be as biblical as he can be.

If we want to claim to be biblical, we cannot pick-and-choose what sections of scripture to follow. Black does his best to exhort us to live by all of the bible.

I encourage every Christian to read this book. Even if you do not agree with all the author says, it will cause you to think. That is always a good thing.

To order, click here or here.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A Video Worth Watching

Click here to watch a relatively short video about the city of Mumbai. Mumbai is the largest city in India, and India is the country in the world with (probably) the most people who do not know Jesus Christ. As some have said, "India is the Mount Everest of the Great Commission."

I encourage you to watch this video to learn more about this great city with a great need for the gospel of Jesus Christ.