Friday, April 30, 2010

When Man Tries to Rule Himself...

Click here to see what happens (both literally - in this case - and metaphorically).

Popular, But No

Jesus Christ makes exclusive claims. Let's never water down the gospel by going with the popular and politically-correct idea that all religions are to be united.

We should certainly live in peace with those of other religions. We should love them and share the love of Christ with them. But we will never agree with their belief systems.

Original Languages and the Priesthood of Believers

The original languages of scripture can be a blessing and they can be a curse. They can help or they can harm the priesthood of believers. I have seen both happen.

First, let me say that I encourage all followers of Christ, if they have the opportunity, to learn as much as possible of the Hebrew and Greek. The reason is simple and it has to do with bible translation. No languages ever have perfect one-to-one correspondence in word meaning. Because of this, when a sentence in Hebrew or Greek is translated into English, some of the slight nuances of meaning are lost. The basic meaning is retained, but some of the flavor cannot be translated.

A Greek professor of mine described reading the NT in Greek as compared to English like this: "Reading in Greek is like watching a TV in high definition, while reading scripture in English is like viewing TV in black-and-white." That may be a bit of an overstatement, but we can understand what he is getting at.

Knowledge of Greek and Hebrew can, therefore, lead to a greater understanding of scripture. I imagine everyone agrees with this.

The key, however, is how this knowledge is used in the life of the church. Is it used to help the priesthood of believers or harm it?

Hebrew and Greek can be helpful to the church when this knowledge is used in humility to teach and be taught, to admonish and be admonished, to exhort and be exhorted, to rebuke and be rebuked, to encourage and be encouraged, etc. If a church is together discussing scripture, and knowledge of the original languages helps to better stir up the body to greater love for God and greater works for God, then all the better.

The problem for the priesthood of believers comes when someone uses the Hebrew and Greek to set himself up as "the one with knowledge." This may happen inadvertently, but it harms the church nonetheless. For example, when a pastor (who does almost all the preaching in the modern Western church) repeatedly says, "Well, in the Greek this means..." he is telling the folks of that church that he has special knowledge that they don't have. While he may not mean it this way, this is the message that they receive. He is the expert and they are not.

What does this do to the priesthood? It can devastate it. It causes a passive church when it comes to reading and interpreting the bible. If the people think that the pastor is the one "who brings the word of God," they won't be motivated to study and think for themselves. Instead, they will wait for the expert to bring them "the message" on Sundays.

One of the influences that brought about the Protestant Reformation was the renewed study of the original languages. The printing of Erasmus' Textus Receptus led to an explosion in bible study that I doubt anyone anticipated. As the Reformation progressed, one of the great doctrines to be proclaimed was the priesthood of all believers. As opposed to the teachings of Rome, the Reformers said that all people could interpret scripture.

So we see that in the Reformation, the original languages and the priesthood of believers went together.

Today, sadly, we often see the one harm the other. The reason for this is, whether recognized or not, pride that circulates among pastors. Many pastors seem to want to "go back to Rome" in that they themselves act as a sort of Pope in their local churches because they know (at least something) of the Hebrew and Greek.

There is no reason for the pastor to say repeatedly, "In the Greek it means..." Now, I realize that on occasion this may be necessary, but this would be infrequent at most. Better is to just explain what the text means and leave the Greek and Hebrew out of it. Of course, any discussion is better and easier in a small group situation than when one person is lecturing.

I write all this for two reasons. First, pastors (or anyone else) must be careful to be humble about their knowledge of the original languages. This knowledge is a gift from God to be used for the building up of the body. Second, anyone who does not know the Greek and Hebrew must feel confident that he can still interpret scripture effectively. Greek and Hebrew help, but they are not a must for accurate understanding of the bible. So keep interpreting and don't wait for someone else with "special knowledge" to tell you what the bible means.

All followers of Christ are priests. Therefore, we can all understand the scriptures.

The Blessing of Music at T4G

Bob Kauflin of Worship Matters has written an encouraging post about leading the music at T4G.

In particular, I appreciate what Kauflin says here:
"Singing is a powerful way to express and deepen our unity in the gospel. While I’m sure that differences in opinion, perspective, and doctrine existed among the 7000+ attendees at T4G, hearing our voices as one declaring our dependence on and gratefulness for the person and work of Jesus Christ highlighted the fact that we were there to celebrate HIS greatness and faithfulness, not ours."
The music at T4G was an unexpected blessing for me. While I knew we would be singing, I had given little thought to what it would be like to sing praises to God with 7000+ other followers of Christ.

It was wonderful to stand next to people who I don't agree with on everything and still feel united with them in Christ. Music, if God-honoring, seems to have a unifying effect that goes beyond words. I suppose this is because it stirs our affections in a unique way.

I thank the Lord for His blessing of music and song.

Psalm 96:1-3, "Oh, sing to the LORD a new song! Sing to the LORD, all the earth. Sing to the LORD, bless His name; proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day. Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples."

Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Preeminence of Jesus Christ

Last night during our church gathering, we read through Colossians together. Even though I knew it was coming and I've read it many times, I was again stunned by the beauty and splendor of Jesus Christ as Paul describes Him in Colossians 1:15-20.

"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross."

Here are a few more bonus verses for your edification (Colossians 2:13-14):
"And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross."

No Mention of God

Yesterday I was listening to the radio while driving. I came upon a talk show on NPR where the host was asking questions of a couple of scientists. They were discussing whether or not we should transmit radio waves into space to try to contact alien species. It was actually an interesting discussion because the people involved really took it seriously. They were concerned about any small group of people deciding what would be transmitted because, "Who has the right to speak for the entire human species?" They were also concerned about aliens coming here because they would have much more advanced technology than we do (they had been listening to a worried Stephen Hawking).

The most fascinating aspect of the discussion was that both of the scientists are convinced that aliens exist. They never doubted this for a second. The entire conversation was based on the assumption that they do exist, even though, as they admitted, there is no evidence for this at the present time. One of the scientists briefly discussed Darwinian evolution, saying that we "know how life evolved." However, he also admitted that they do not know how life began (a fairly important thing I would say).

While talking about earth, alien life, space, communication, etc., there was something significant missing. What was missing? God was missing.

Although these scientists (who are clearly secularists) do not know how life began and have no evidence that aliens exist, they still believe they exist. Meanwhile, they refuse to believe that God exists despite obvious evidence in creation for His existence. Throughout the conversation, it was clear that existence of God is not even considered in their worldview. They have ruled Him out.

What is so interesting is the scientists' lack of consistency when it comes to belief and evidence. They believe in alien life despite no evidence for it. At the same time, they do not believe in God despite evidence for Him.

This is a classic case of believing what we want to believe. These scientists want to believe in alien life because it will make their jobs much more interesting. Also, aliens will place no moral/ethical/ spiritual demands upon their lives.

They don't believe in God because they don't want to surrender to His sovereign rule as King. They do not want the constraints that someone else will place upon their lives.

This is just another example of secular scientists do not looking at actual evidence/data to come up with their worldviews. Instead, they believe what they want to believe about the world and then set out to prove it under than name of "science."

Unless we get prideful in looking at this, let us remember that but for the grace of God, we would be just like these secular scientists. So, how do we reach them with the gospel? It won't be from arguments from scripture (at least not at first). The first thing to do is to love them unconditionally and sacrificially in a way the world won't. That will get their attention. Once our love for them piques their curiosity, then we will have an open door for the gospel.

"Sola Scriptura: The Protestant Position on the Bible"

Sola Scriptura: The Protestant Position on the Bible is a book that I'm glad I read, but at the same time have mixed emotions about.

First for the positive. This book is a solid biblical defense of the great Reformation doctrine sola scriptura. In particular, the contributors look to what the bible says of itself regarding how it should be viewed by the church. In contending for sola scriptura, the authors repeatedly illustrate why the Roman Catholic position of scripture + tradition is faulty.

My favorite chapter of the entire book is James White's discussion of sola scriptura and the early church. White, of AOM, shows that, as opposed to the claims of Rome, the early church fathers did in fact hold to the doctrine of sola scriptura. They may not have used these two Latin words to describe their position on the bible, but they believed it nonetheless.

The primary negative aspect of this book is that sola scriptura is not applied by the authors to all areas of life in the same manner. For example, while they unashamedly hold to sola scriptura as it relates to salvation, they seem to hold back when it comes to applying it to the life of the church. This is no surprise since this is what we see in almost all churches in the West today.

Let me provide just one example of what I am talking about regarding the church. In chapter 4 (page 62), Derek Thomas writes on the authority of scripture. This is what he says,

"The Bible's authority must be maintained within sound hermeneutical principles. For example, there must be a clear appreciation of the difference between the descriptive and prescriptive. Although members of the post-Pentecost church in Jerusalem sold all their goods and relinquished their rights to private ownership, I am not obligated to follow their example (Acts 2:44-45). The bible accurately and inerrantly describes these actions of the early church for our edification, but it nowhere prescribes that these things be done by all churches at all times."

The fascinating thing about Dr. Thomas' argument is that while he states that the above account is descriptive rather than prescriptive, he does not provide evidence for WHY he writes this. As is typical of evangelicalism today, narrative accounts in scripture that do not conform to our current church practices are automatically labeled as descriptive. This keeps us from having to think about why we do what we do.

Overall, this book is worthwhile reading. In particular, it will be helpful to you if you have Roman Catholic friends who rely on tradition as much as scripture in their belief and practice.

However, do not expect this book to deal helpfully with what I believe is the most difficult aspect of scripture interpretation: descriptive vs. prescriptive issues and how we apply these.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Stop Judging the World and Start Judging the Church

During our Sunday gatherings, we are studying through the book of Matthew. This Sunday we'll be looking at Matthew 18:15-20. In this passage, Jesus deals with the issue of confronting a Christian brother or sister in unrepentant sin. He tells us how to deal with this keeping in mind that the goal is restoration.

We'll also take a look at I Corinthians chapter 5. In this chapter, Paul rebukes the church in Corinth for tolerating open sin in their midst. They were too proud to do anything about it.

Toward the end of chapter five, Paul says something very interesting. In 5:9-13, Paul writes,

"I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner—not even to eat with such a person. For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore 'put away from yourselves the evil person.'"

This is fascinating because it flies in the face of much of what we usually do in the church. It appears that those in the church in Corinth were judging the world by isolating themselves from it. They were most likely passing judgment upon the world be criticizing those outside the church for their sinful lifestyles. Meanwhile, they were tolerating sin within the church without confronting it. In fact, they were so proud that they said nothing while one man committed sexual immorality with his step-mother. So while they sat in self-appointed judgment over the world, they allowed sin to run amok in the church.

We are much the same way today. As the church gathers, there is no end to all the condemning speech aimed at the immorality of the world. We can all think back to conversations we have overheard or taken part in in which the sins of the world are blasted for their gross excesses. We sit in judgment of those outside the church. Meanwhile, we allow sin to live well in the church. We may not have anyone in the church who is sleeping with his step-mother, but we still allow sinful attitudes and actions to run free. Do we confront gossip, jealousy, anger, anxiety, or pride in the church? We most likely do not.

In 5:9-13, Paul confronts both the Corinthians and us about this. Paul tells them in no uncertain terms to stop judging the world and start judging the church (this judgment, of course, after taking the planks out of our own eyes). Paul makes it clear that we should spend time with those outside the church. We are to be in the world but not of it. How will the lost hear the gospel if we ignore them in judgment? Even Paul didn't judge them. Instead, we are to judge the sin inside the church by excluding those who refuse to repent. These we, as a body, can and should judge. The goal, certainly, is restoration. However, for the time being some pain might be involved for the unrepentant. But why should they repent when everyone in the church gives them the message that their sin is acceptable?

As the church, we must be obedient by stopping judging the world and starting to judge the church. We do this best by sharing in each others' lives and really knowing one another.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Do You Recommend Books You Disagree With?

Do you ever recommend books you disagree with? (Please forgive my ending that question with a preposition, but it seems to work best that way.)

It is easy for us to fall into a dual-trap. First, we only read books we agree with. Second, if we happen to read something we disagree with, we then don't recommend it to other people. In fact, we often tell them not to read it.

For example, it would be easy for me to only read books that are "Reformed." This would, I'm sure, make me feel very good about my beliefs in God's sovereignty over salvation. However, if I never read anything by anyone who isn't Reformed, then I'll never be challenged in what I believe. Am I so scared that I don't dare read anything that I might disagree with?

What this amounts to is a strange form of self-censorship. It's kind of like hiding in a cave and hoping no one finds us.

When we tell others not to read a certain book, we are trying to pull others into the cave with us.

I'm suggesting that it is healthy to both read books with which we disagree and to recommend these to others. For example, I just recently read and reviewed Why We Love the Church (read the reviews first here and then here). I found this book to be disappointing. I disagree with much of it. However, I'm glad I read it and encourage you to do the same.

I recently recommended a website for book reviews named Discerning Reader. Although I like the site, the one problem is that the contributors do not seem to recommend books they disagree with. Why? I don't know.

There are, of course, situations where we would all not recommend a book. If a book is full of obscenities, for example, then it would not be proper to read.

In this post, I'm mostly referring to theological works. We all tend to like to read what most interests us. This is understandable. The problem begins when we only read those things to the absolute exclusion of others. Even worse, we then try to keep others from reading those books.

My suggestion is that we all make more of an effort to read books (maybe one out of every ten?) we think we may disagree with (or at least part of). Let us also shy away from not recommending books just because they don't fit our particular theological likings. In fact, let's recommend them if they seem worthwhile. Remember, a book can be worthwhile even if we disagree with it.

We in the evangelical church suffer from too much theological myopia. We rarely look outside whatever our particular bubbles are. This is not healthy.

Let's read, read well, and read widely. Let us also recommend the same.

This One Counts

I've seen a lot of counters of different types that you can put on your blog, website, etc. Usually the boring looking ones are free, while the nice ones cost something. Well, I've stumbled upon the good looking and free counter that you see above. As a bonus, it is easy to customize and install. A couple of days ago I put one on the side bar of my blog. Anyway, if you are interested, simply click on the link under the globe.

Like anything else, a counter can be a silly source of pride. We need to be careful about this. For this reason, I purposely do not keep track of how many people look at this blog. However, I do like to know where people live who look at it. It is fascinating to think about people from all around the world being able to discuss issues in blog format. For example, I've been challenged and encouraged a great deal by Aussie John at Caesura. We would never have communicated if not for the blog world.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

I Love These Verses

"But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life." Titus 3:4-7 (ESV)

I love these verses because they show the goodness of God in His amazing gifts to His children.

Look at the gifts mentioned (some of these may share aspects, but they are still all mentioned separately here):

"he saved us"
"the washing of regeneration"
"renewal of the Holy Spirit"
"being justified"
"hope of eternal life"

Why does He do this? The above passage tells us that it is according His mercy and grace.

Praise the Lord!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

What I Don't Like About "Why We Love the Church"

I previously posted on what I like about Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck's book entitled Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion.

Please read that post before reading this one (by clicking here).

As I said in my previous post, I really wanted to like this book. I was hoping that the authors would present a biblical defense for today's traditional, institutionalized church. When I completed the book, I was very disappointed. I finished the book thinking, "Is that the best you can do?" While the book was engaging and pleasant to read, I found the biblical defense of the modern church to be unconvincing at best.

(For the sake of this post, from this point forward I'll use the term "institutional church" to refer to the modern church in the West. I'll use this term because the authors used it in the book subtitle).

I've listed below 10 negative aspects of Why We Love the Church:

1. Instead of first looking to the bible to see what it says about the church, the authors instead set out to defend the institutional church. The book title should make that abundantly clear. The problem this leads to is that they have selected certain specific verses to defend their practices rather than building a complete biblical ecclesiology. They have fallen into the trap of proof-texting to make their case for the institutional church.

2. Throughout the book, the authors write as if there are only two groups to talk about. The first is the defenders of the biblical gospel - those who are part of the institutional church. The second group is composed of those in the emergent church who do not take a strong stand for the gospel. By stating things this way, anyone who believes in the gospel feels forced to be part of the institutional church. There is a significant problem with the authors' reasoning. The problem is that there are far more than two groups to discuss. An obvious example is those who look to the biblical model for both belief and practice. I'm describing those who hold strongly to the gospel and also view the model of church set forth in the N.T. as prescriptive. Many of those in the house church movement fall into this category.

3. The authors say several times that since God loves the church, all Christians should as well. The problem is that they confuse the church universal with the institutional church. Of course we should all love the church universal. However, nowhere does the bible tell us to love modern practices that have no scriptural warrant.

4. The authors write that since the church is composed of sinners, we should not be surprised that the church has problems. I agree with this statement. However, they ignore the fact that at least some of the problems in the church are caused by institutionalized structures and practices that cannot be found in the bible. Just one example is church pews. They cause passivity. They, of course, cannot be found in scripture.

5. DeYoung and Kluck often write from experience. They speak about the things they like. On page 34, Kluck writes, "I'm also glad that my church is 'organized.' I'm glad I know where to put my toddler on Sunday morning." It's fine for the authors to have preferences, but they carry no authority and just confuse their arguments. If you consider reading this book, I recommend reading only DeYoung's chapters. Kluck's are fun to read but are based on experience and therefore carry no weight.

6. On several occasions, the authors use the phrase, "going to church." This implies a lack of understanding of what the church actually is. However, I know that these authors do, in fact, know what the church is. Therefore, I wish they had used more precise terminology.

7. This book shows an inconsistent view of church history. For example, they say you shouldn't leave the institutional church. They also quote the Reformers. However, they ignore the fact that the Reformers left the Roman Church.

8. The authors repeatedly dismiss the scriptural model as important. Let me give two examples. First, regarding meeting places, the authors write on page 120, "There is no command for Christians to meet in small numbers in homes and no reason to think they did so for any other reasons than necessity and convenience." They go on to say on page 121, "Here's the bottom line: the whole conversation about church buildings is much ado about nothing." Second, regarding church gatherings, the authors state on page 123, "The services at Corinth are not meant to provide a normative blueprint for Christian worship."

The problem with all this is that the authors are rejecting the model set forth in scripture. Here's the rub: the apostles were there with the early church. They gave approval to the practices that they did not correct. We can with confidence say, for example, that the apostles approve of meetings in homes. We do not know what they would say about many of our modern practices. We simply do not know. Would they approve of pews, stages, pulpits, nurseries, sound systems, ushers, etc.? We don't know. Can we live with that?

9. Many of their arguments show poor biblical exegesis. The reason for this is that they are trying to defend structures and practices that cannot be found in the bible. For example, on page 168, they argue for what they refer to as "elder rule." This is simply an unbiblical concept. On page 169, they argue that the church must have organization. I agree with this. The problem is that when they say "organization," they really mean "institution." For example, they actually say that there is a need for Robert's Rules of Order. On page 174, they argue for the importance of preaching in the church. They give biblical examples. However, none of these examples shows a a preacher preaching week-in and week-out like we see it today and like what the authors are trying to defend.

10. The authors spend a few pages dealing specifically with the house church (pages 179-182). They try to show that there are problems even in the house church. I agree with this; house churches are composed of human beings so there will be problems. They use an example from the Chinese house church situation to try to show these problems. Their goal is to prove (as they say on page 182) that, "every way of doing church and every context has its strengths and weaknesses." Here's the problem with their reasoning: the bible tells us how to deal with the problems they mention in the house church. On the other hand, the bible does not tell us how to deal with problems faced by large institutional churches that gather in large buildings. Somewhat ironically, on page 191 they tell of a gathering of a "small group" that they enjoy. This small group sounds more like a biblical church than does their large gathering!

For the above ten reasons, I found this book to be very disappointing.

I'll close this post with two direct quotes from this book that show what I believe is a lack of understanding of biblical ecclesiology:

Page 175: "God meets with and rules over His people, not through a facilitated experience of group sharing, but through the authoritative preaching of the Word of God."

Page 178, "Christianity is not whatever we want it to be. It is, like it or not, organized religion. And the church is what gives it its organization, shape, and definition."

With all this said, I still encourage you to read this book. We ought not be afraid to read books with which we might disagree. This text is an important defense of the institutional church. It is important for two reasons. First, many people like the book. It has been recommended by some big names in the evangelical world. I'm sure many traditional pastors will find comfort in what DeYoung and Kluck have to say. The second reason it is important is that its arguments are so poor. If this is one of the best defenses of the institutional church, then the institutional church is in trouble.

Read the book and see what you think. I remain unconvinced.

A Great Goal (Literally)

Friday, April 23, 2010

What I Like About "Why We Love the Church"

A few weeks ago I wrote about a book entitled Pagan Christianity. In that book, Frank Viola challenges the basis of many of the practices of the modern church.

In response to my review, a few of my friends suggested that I read Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion. This book, written by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck, is a sort of counterpoint to Pagan Christianity.

I finished reading this book over a week ago, but I wanted to wait a while to write a review so that the authors' thoughts and premises could swim around inside my head. This is an important book, so I want to be thorough in this review.

Since there is much to say, I'm going to write two reviews. This, obviously, is the first. In a few days, I'll blog again with a post entitled What I Don't Like About "Why We Love the Church."

I have to admit that heading into this book, I wanted to like it a lot. After all, I serve as pastor of a traditional church and this book, at least based on the cover, seemed to be a defense of much of what we do. Additionally, I have previously read Kevin DeYoung's book Just Do Something and liked it a lot.

A quick summation statement: Overall, I was disappointed by Why We Love the Church. I'll speak much more about this in the next post. For now, let me just say that I found the arguments in favor of the modern, traditional, institutional church to be lacking in biblical basis.

Despite that, there are several positive aspects to Why We Love the Church.

First, DeYoung and Kluck are solid on the gospel. They leave no gray areas when it comes to core doctrines such as original sin. This book was written in part to oppose those within the emergent church who would give up on core doctrines of the faith. I appreciate the authors' strong stands on these issues.

Second, DeYoung and Kluck have a love for the church. In an age when the church is (sometimes rightly, sometimes not) seen as doing more harm than good, the authors loudly say that they love Jesus Christ's church despite its flaws. For this I commend them.

Third, the authors are correct is stating that the secular culture does not understand Jesus Christ. On page 78, they write, "...we're kidding ourselves if we think most non-Christians (or Christians for that matter) have any idea who Jesus really was and the claims He made." They write this in response to those who say that people like Jesus but don't like the church.

Fourth, DeYoung and Kluck rightly believe that the church in North America has very significant problems today. They write on page 207, "The church in North America is suffering from a crisis in ecclesiology. The crisis is most Christians don't have any ecclesiology. As much as people love to talk about community these days, very few practitioners have given serious thought to the doctrine of the church."

Despite these positive aspects, as I said before, this book was disappointing. I'll share my thoughts on that later.

Let me just close this post with this thought. I find it ironic that DeYoung and Kluck on the one hand recognize that there is an ecclesiological crisis in the church, but on the other hand seem to think that we simply need to improve on the things we are already doing in order for things to improve.

That's not much of a solution.

It Looks Like the Cults Pray More Than We Do

The Pew Forum is reporting on statistics related to prayer in the USA. The reason for this particular report seems to be the furor that has erupted of late over the National Day of Prayer.

As the results below indicate (click directly on the graph to enlarge), the big cults - Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons - pray more than we do. When I write "we," I'm referring to Evangelical Protestants.

It is very problematic when people who know Jesus Christ actually pray less than those who do not know the real God. I realize that some of these groups pray in order to gain what they think is a works-based salvation. This undoubtedly is why their numbers are as high as they are. However, our number should be 100%. Why in the world do only 3/4 of those who know Christ pray to Christ daily? This number alone speaks volumes about the problems we have today in the modern Western church.

The command to "Pray without ceasing" is not a punishment or even work. Rather, it is for our joy and for God's glory. May we be people of fervent and constant prayer who also encourage and exhort our brothers and sisters in Christ to be the same.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Go Tebow!

As a fan of the Georgia Bulldogs (Dawgs), it is difficult to like anything associated with the Florida Gators. There is one exception. That exception is Tim Tebow.

Tonight is the first round of the NFL draft. I'm rooting for Tebow to be selected high. The reason is simple: I like Tim Tebow (even though he played college for the evil empire).

I like Tebow for a couple of reasons. First, he is not ashamed of his Christian faith. Tebow is a follower of Christ and tells people about it. He also lives it out. He does not subscribe to the ridiculous, modern idea that "faith should be private."

Second, Tebow is a genuinely likable person. I have read several articles by different sports writers that tell of the writers' first meetings with Tebow. They almost all said that they expected to dislike him at least to a degree because of his strong beliefs. However, they all (and I mean all) said that they really liked him. He is just a very nice person.

It will be interesting to see which team selects him in the draft and how high he is taken. Some teams are scared off by his beliefs, while others want him mainly to help with ticket sales (see the Jacksonville Jaguars).

No matter where he goes, Tebow is in the spotlight. This is because he believes something that goes against the grain, but at the same time he is nicer than almost everybody else.

To read a secularist's take on Tebow, click here. The writer of this article clearly does not understand Christianity. He describes Tebow like this, "Tim Tebow is a good man. A selfless man. A man whose life is filled with stories of a goodness so rare and pure in an athlete it is hard to imagine that he could be for real."

In hearing Tebow talk, he knows that he is not good, but his Savior (Jesus Christ) is. The writer of this article doesn't understand this. Maybe that is why so many people dislike Tebow in spite of what a nice guy he is. They think Tebow thinks that he is better than they are. They couldn't be farther from the truth.

I hope Tebow gets drafted high and goes on to a long and good career in the NFL. This is my hope because I know he will not be shy about what he believes. While sharing his faith, he will also be very nice about it.

We need more people in the church like Tebow who will both claim Christ and live for Christ.

"The Atonement"

I would rather read about the atoning work of Christ on the cross than about any other doctrine of the faith.

I realize this is a subjective statement, but it is true nonetheless. Because of this, I enjoyed reading Leon Morris' classic entitled The Atonement: Its Meaning and Significance.

This book is straightforward and to the point. The book is composed of eight chapters, each of which deals with a specific aspect of the atonement. The topics he covers are: covenant, sacrifice, the Day of Atonement, the Passover, redemption, reconciliation, propitiation, and justification.

I appreciate this text for two reasons. First, Morris spends a good deal of time looking in the Old Testament to show how Jesus has fulfilled what was prophesied there. Second, Morris sticks to the literal interpretation of the biblical text. In doing this, he shows how liberal theology fails to read the bible for what it says.

If you like to read about the atonement, you'll enjoy this one.

God's Universe Through the Hubble

Take a look at 20 years of photos through the Hubble Telescope. How appropriate for Earth Day. Below are a few of my favorites.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Earth Day - What Do We Do With It?

Earth Day 2010 is tomorrow. How should we, as followers of Jesus Christ, respond to this?

First, let me mention what we should not do. We should avoid simply falling into line with either of the two major political parties on this issue. On the one hand, let's not follow the Democratic Party in worshiping the earth. On the other hand, let's not follow the Republican Party in acting like the earth is ours to destroy.

As in all areas of life, let's make biblically informed decisions.

On the issue of the environment in particular, Genesis 1:1 should settle things for us. We are told, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." We learn a couple of important things here. First, God exists. Second, He made everything and therefore owns everything.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we must recognize that we are stewards of God's creation. We don't really own anything. As Adam was placed in the Garden of Eden, "to tend and keep it," we should do the same. God has created us to glorify Him in all of life. As we do this, we will consume some of His creation. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. However, we should be responsible as we do so.

The problem with the politics of this situation is that neither side takes a biblical view of creation. The liberals care about the environment, but they have turned nature into a god to be worshiped. They fulfill Romans 1:25, which tells us that they, "worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator."

The conservatives may (or may not) worship the God of the bible, but they do not act like they care about His creation at all. Instead of working with the liberals to find ways to conserve God's creation, they act like they would prefer it be destroyed.

As Christians, we should care about nature. It is God's and points to God. When we see a beautiful flower, a magnificent sunset, or a mighty wave crashing on a beach, these all give us a small glimpse of the glory of the Lord. Because of this, we need to be good stewards of His creation.

As we do so, let us remember that we care for nature not as an end in itself. We do not worship the created order, but instead look to the One who made all of it. Let us glory in the Maker of all things.

Below are three photos from God's creation. They are part of some sort of auction related to Earth Day. I liked these three the best. To see the rest, click here. To see some excellent photos of the sun, click here.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

So I Talked to Mark Dever About the Church...

(I promise that this is not some sort of name-dropping post.)

I have been thinking a lot lately about the practice of the early church. It is fascinating that there is almost no disagreement among scholars or anyone else about what the early church looked like.

The argument, instead, is over whether or not the structure and practice of the early church is prescriptive or descriptive. In other words, do we in the church now have to follow the example we see in the early church, or is what we see in the bible simply telling us what happened?

I've been pondering this prescriptive/descriptive issue for a while now.

While at the T4G Conference, I thought to myself that it would be nice to talk about this with Mark Dever since he has written so much about the church. Well, I got my chance.

Here's how it happened: my friend Micah Thornton was standing in line to get into one of the conference sessions. Meanwhile, I was wandering around looking at different promotional booths. When I returned to find Micah, he showed me that he had been handed two tickets to some sort of gathering later that night. We didn't know what it was all about, but because the tickets said "T4G Latenight," we figured we would go. When we got there, we found out that this meeting was for a randomly selected 200 people to attend to get to hear from the main T4G speakers in a much more intimate setting. As I looked around, I realized that the focus was young men. I was just about the oldest man in the room. Oh well, I enjoyed it anyway.

After hearing from Dever, Mohler, Duncan, and Mahaney, we were given the opportunity to talk with any of these four men individually (as long as we could wait in line for a few minutes). Micah turned to me and said that I should go talk with Mark Dever. I didn't really feel like it at the time, but also figured that I might never get the chance again.

After waiting in line for only about five minutes, I spoke with Dr. Dever. He was very friendly, engaging, and knowledgeable. I did not want to take too much time since there was a long line behind me. Therefore, I decided to jump right into my question. I asked him this, "Do you know of any book that has been written about the practice of the early church and whether it should be prescriptive or descriptive for us today?" I may not have used those exact words, but that was the gist of the question.

I appreciate Dr. Dever's answer, although I'll admit that it surprised me. He said, "Do you want an infuriating answer? I haven't found it."

I have read 6 or 7 of Mark Dever's books, and I know that he is extremely well read. Therefore, if he hasn't found a book that addresses this issue, then that at least tells me that very few people have written about it.

Dr. Dever went on to encourage me to continue reading the New Testament and looking for the broad picture of the church there. I appreciate this suggestion, but it is already something I'm doing.

I write this post simply to illustrate that more study needs to be done in this area. More books need to be written. If there are good books out there dealing with this topic, then we should be talking more about them.

This issue (what is prescriptive and what is descriptive for the church) is critical for the life and health of the church. We in the modern West, with our love of freedom, seem to randomly pick and choose what early church practices we want to say are prescriptive and what we want to say are descriptive. Sadly, we all have a tendency to call things prescriptive that we are already doing anyway, while at the same time calling other things descriptive that we would rather not do.

There must be a better way to determine what is prescriptive and what is descriptive.

Have you read a good book on this topic? If so, what is it?

God Must Love Small Churches...

While at T4G, one of the speakers quoted someone (I can't remember who) in saying, "God must love small churches since He made so many of them."

This statement was a good reminder for all of us. The lure of numerical church growth can be a pride-induced, dangerous one indeed. In our society, where bigger is almost always seen as better, it is easy to fall pray to the idea that larger churches are automatically better churches.

The real danger is that in order to become bigger churches, many end up compromising biblical truth - even the gospel itself. When the largest church in the USA is led by Joel Osteen, it is obvious that church growth for the sake of growth is a very significant problem.

It is interesting that the churches we see in the N.T. seem to have generally been small churches. Although it is difficult to know how large the church in Jerusalem was, we do see that they usually met in homes. Then as we read the epistles, all we see is meetings in homes. Therefore, there must be something positive about churches remaining relatively small in number.

The primary positive aspects to small church life seems to be community and accountability. You can only really know a small number of people and share life together. There is no way to do this with 500 people. In fact, it's difficult to do it with even 100. I suppose this is why people who attend large churches usually seem more excited about their "small groups" than they are about the church as a whole. In reality, it is the small group that is really their church.

Instead of encouraging large churches, let's encourage the growth of many smaller churches in order that we might follow the biblical model and be able to live in community with one another.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Comment Confusion

Something weird is going on with Blogger.

In particular, comment moderation seems to have something randomly wrong with it. On more than one occasion, I have published someone's comment, only to have it never appear on the blog post. I actually very much enjoy comments (even if I don't agree with them).

So, if you have commented here but your comment has not appeared, please blame Blogger. Then try commenting again. Thanks.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

"Wreckreational Dating"

I've come up with a new term to describe what I see so often in our society: wreckreational dating.

Especially among teenagers, but also among many 20-30 somethings, dating continues to have disastrous effects. Again and again, we see boys/men and girls/women (for the most part anymore) coming together to date for what is supposed to be recreational pleasure. Some may have marriage in mind, but many do not. The goal for most is simply this - fun.

Instead of fun, what dating ends up doing is providing divorce practice. The reason for this is that most people who date for pleasure end up breaking up. This causes, at least for one party, torn feelings of sadness and despair. It also gets people used to breaking off male-female relationships.

This says nothing of the temptations that dating people face. If they are human, those who are dating will be physically attracted to each other. However, there is nothing that they can do with these feelings (that is, if they want to honor God). Paul tells us that it is better to marry than to burn, but for people who are dating for pleasure, they have nothing to do but become increasingly frustrated.

Because of these problems, I'm convinced that "recreational dating" does not, in fact, exist. A much better term that describes the reality of what we see in the dating scene is "wreckreational dating." The reason for the spelling should be clear. Modern dating usually leads not to marriage, but rather to a train wreck of destroyed emotions.

Is there a better alternative? Yes. That alternative is courtship. While the main purpose of dating is temporary pleasure, the main purpose of courtship is marriage. Courtship is a man and a woman spending time together with a specific goal: to see if marriage is appropriate between them. The key is that they are moving toward marriage. Pleasure is secondary. The specifics of different courtships may vary, but the goal is the same.

Courtship has several benefits. It saves emotional heartache, reduces sexual frustration, and does not provide any divorce practice.

I highly encourage courtship while at the same time strongly discourage wreckreational dating.

(Click here to read more that I've pondered about this topic.)

Our Mission Together (Yours, Mine, and Ours)

Discerning Reader

As usual, I am probably late to the game. In other words, I'm writing (again) about something that is probably not news.

Anyway, I just came across a book-review website that I like a great deal. It is called Discerning Reader. The site is easy to navigate, full of reviews on important Christianity-related works, and generally fair.

Tim Challies, master blogger, is one of the contributors.

I do not agree with everything the reviewers say (who ever agrees with anybody about everything?). Despite this, I enjoy looking through this site. Take a look.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Video of Dr. Mohler's Library

This is not "news," but I still find it fascinating. Dr. Mohler's library is impressive. Where does he find the time to read all these books?

Al Mohler - Study Tour from Together for the Gospel (T4G) on Vimeo.

The Biggest Problem at T4G

As I have already mentioned, I had a great experience at the Together for the Gospel 2010 Conference in Louisville. Almost every aspect was terrific.

I did mention that the crowding was a bit of a problem, but even that is a stretch. Although there were 7000 people, almost everyone acted graciously toward one another.

So, what was really the biggest problem? That's easy: There was no stated biblical definition of what the church is and how it should function.

This may not seem like a big problem since the focus of the conference was the gospel and not the church. However, we must keep in mind that it is the church where the gospel is manifested in this world. The world does not see or hear the gospel apart from the church.

In the opening address of the conference, Mark Dever asked an important question (you can watch him by clicking here). He asked how the church we are a part of displays the gospel (that is a paraphrase). In other words, how do people see the gospel in the life of the church?

It must be clear to all of us that if the vehicle of gospel proclamation is the church, then we must understand both what the church is and what is does. We can only do this by looking to scripture.

At the conference, however, the church was more assumed than anything else. The speakers, of course, mentioned that the church is people. The church is followers of Jesus Christ. The problem was that after that, when they spoke of the church, they seemed to rely more on tradition than bible. The church they spoke of is the traditional, institutional church that we see today in the modern West.

This is a significant problem. During a conference that spends a great deal of time looking to scripture to define the gospel, it seems that the speakers would also look to scripture to define church belief and practice. This did not happen.

Why is this? I believe the problem is that so many current church practices, especially the ones that seem "to work," are almost never questioned. They just happen and keep happening.

Where do we live out the biblical gospel? In the church.

How does the world hear and see the biblical gospel? Through the church.

Since this is the case, if we want to live out the gospel and proclaim it according to scriptural standards, then we must let the bible inform all our church belief and practice.

This conference, as great as it was, was also a good reminder to me of the importance of not assuming anything by tradition. We must be biblical in all things.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Random Thoughts From T4G

The best part of T4G 2010: the fellowship with Christian brothers (there were Christian sisters there, too)

The worst part of T4G 2010: this is a stretch, but it was a bit crowded (7000 people)

The video from T4G: click here and watch, in particular, Piper and MacArthur

The best unexpected blessing of T4G: a new hardcover ESV Study Bible that I gave to my son Bobby. I knew we were going to get a lot of books, but this was one was unexpected.

The funniest part of T4G: Driving in circles around downtown Louisville, KY. On Wednesday, we were trying to find a place to eat lunch. We drove around for about 15 minutes trying to get the GPS to work. It didn't. Then we found a random Arby's close by but kept taking wrong turns. After (no joke) over 20 minutes of circling, we realized we were very close to the hotel parking lot. We simply parked where we started, and then walked to the Arby's. Although it wasn't too funny at the time, it is humorous now.

The best quote from T4G: by Thabiti Anyabwile, "The church should be multi-ethnic, but the church should not be multi-cultural. All human cultures are of themselves apostate." This is not word-for-word, but it is very close.

The time I felt most out-of-place at T4G: Micah Thornton and I were blessed to attend a special function at 10:00 PM on Wednesday. The four T4G founders spoke to a group of about 200 of us about ministry (Micah had been handed a ticket earlier in the evening, and requested another for me). As the meeting began, I realized that I was probably the oldest person there. Almost everyone else was 25 or under. It became clear that this was intended to be a time for Dever, Mohler, Duncan, and Mahaney to talk to young men. Oh well, it was fun anyway.

The best music at T4G: all of it. Bob Kauflin of Sovereign Grace Music led great times of singing God-glorifying songs.

The best coffee at T4G: Starbucks. I think the local bars took a big financial hit this week, but the Starbucks broke the bank.

The best reminder of the world's need for the gospel at T4G: Micah and I took a cab ride to a restaurant one night. The cabbie was nice, but he needs Christ. But for the grace of God, there go I...

The best history discussion at T4G: Ligon Duncan spent about 45 minutes showing that the early church fathers did believe the gospel of grace. This was encouraging because there are many people who say that this is not the case.

The best aspect of T4G: unity in the gospel of Jesus Christ. People from various denominations came together to rejoice in the good news of the grace of God in Christ.

Church Names and Division

My friend Alan Knox wrote a blog post today about church names. I appreciate the link Alan gave to a list of silly new church names (my personal favorite is number 53).

I have been thinking about church names myself of late.

I've been wondering if church names contribute to the division we see today within the church (I'm referring to division between local bodies as opposed to division within one particular body).

We hear it all the time: "I attend ____ church." "Well, I go to _____ assembly." "We are part of ______ fellowship." "Our family gets together at _____ church of the _____."

I understand that we probably need some way to tell people who we gather with and where this occurs. However, in general it seems that we could just tell others that we are part of "the church." When we claim to be part of "the church," we are saying that we are followers of Christ. Also, when we say this, we are showing that we see ourselves as part of the broader church as opposed to just our local body. It could be a bit confusing at times, but I think in the long run it would be beneficial to the church as a whole.

It is interesting that house churches tend to have no specific names. House church folks usually just say that they gather together at a house. When asked further, they tell where it is and who is part of it. They almost never have a name that shows their separation from other believers.

I have to believe that the church as a whole would be better served if we just abandoned our names that show division. Why can't we all just be "The Church of Jesus Christ"? That sounds nice to me. If people seem confused about where we meet, then we can simply tell them.

Let's do all we can to foster unity of Christ's body. Jettisoning specific names might be a good place to begin.

Great News!

God has been gracious to us yet again. My wife does not have Thyroid cancer!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Back Home from T4G

I'm back home after a great T4G Conference. I feel both elated and exhausted. Over the next week I'll be blogging about different things that happened this week. For now, I'll leave you with a couple of photos of the books I gained this week. I only bought two of these. The rest came with the conference. Sweet.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Headed to T4G 2010

I'll be spending most of this week in Louisville, KY attending the Together for the Gospel 2010 Conference.

I'm looking forward to this conference for two reasons. First, several of my favorite authors and speakers will be present. In particular, I'm happy to hear Al Mohler, John MacArthur, John Piper, and R.C. Sproul.

Second, the fellowship will be great. I'm attending along with three men from Ferguson Avenue Baptist Church here in Savannah. Also, my friend Micah Thornton will be with us. Since we will be on the road for a total of over 20 hours, we'll have a lot of time for good discussion.

An added bonus - lots of great books!

I've decided to not take my computer. I don't want the hassle or the danger of having it stolen. Therefore, I doubt that I'll be blogging before next Saturday.

Have a great week!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Dependent Interdependence

I like this picture because it shows how we should function with each other within the church. As we all use our spiritual gifts to build up the body, we need to depend upon each other. This can be difficult for us in our ultra-independent society. However, we must remember that the bible is not a Western book, and our God is not a Western God.

The bible's description of the church is full of "one anothers" and "each others" because God's intent is for the people of the church to be interdependent - all upon one another.

As we are interdependent within the body, we must also be totally dependent: upon the Holy Spirit. In fact, the above picture could be improved if the word "Holy Spirit" was placed in the middle. That would show that those who depend upon one another ultimately depend on the power of the Holy Spirit in order to function how God wants us to as His church.

How can we do this? How can we be dependently interdependent? I think the key is to put our pride to the side and be willing to be served by others and learn from others. As we do this, we will be built up and others will enjoy serving. At the same time, we should serve and teach one another. It "cuts both ways."

One of the reasons the traditional church of the West simply does not work is that we are too independent. We do not rely enough on the Holy Spirit or on our brothers and sisters. Let us strive to be dependent people.

Some Important Things to Remember About Church

1. The bible is pretty important.

2. We must teach the whole counsel of God.

3. We don't have everything figured out in the good ole USA.

4. The world is opposed to Christ. Regardless, we should be zealous for Him.

5. Since the church is made up of people, there will be some problems.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Do You Ever Feel This Way About Church?

Most of us love the church. We love the community of followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. We desire that the church glorify God in all it does.

However, many of us also struggle with how the church should function. Include me in this. If you read this blog regularly, you know that I am going through a time of transition in how I think about the church. You may be in this situation as well.

Although this is uncomfortable (what change isn't?), I believe it is also healthy. The reason is that I desire that what I think about the church and how I act as part of the church come more in line with scriptural teachings.

One problem we face in this country is that so few people actually give thought to what the church ought to be and ought to do. Many people never question the way the church operates, but instead simply "go to church" and do what they have been told to do.

I suggest that we have a holy discontentment with the church. I'm not suggesting that we become a source of complaining or division. I am suggesting that we work to bring our own lives and the life of our church more in line with scripture.

This can be a difficult task. I've read stories of people trying to do this, but being told to basically "knock it off" by their pastors or others in leadership positions. Despite this, I encourage you to ask questions and keep asking them. Pursue holiness and stir up one another to love and good works.

In light of our indwelling sin, I highly doubt that any of us will ever think about or act like the church in a perfect manner. Because of this, there is always room for improvement (biblical fidelity). Let's strive for it.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Family Fire Fun Fotos

I love to simply hang out around the fire. Tonight, which may be the last relatively cool night in southern Georgia for a while, we had a great time making s'mores around a fire behind our house. Caroline and Mary, our two daughters, are in the photo below.

Here are my wife Alice and our son Bobby.

This is the ugly duckling of the bunch - yours truly.

More fire photos:

Someone is Wrong...

Thanks to Mike DeBusk for posting this. It was too good to pass up.

Asking the Right Questions About the Church

As we think about the church, we need to ask the right questions.

One of the most basic questions is, "What is the church?" I will not try to give an exhaustive answer to this question. Many other people have already provided better answers to this questions than I could give. The point I'm trying to make is that in order to find the answer to this question, we almost all ask the question, "What does the bible say about what the church is?"

It is always important that we ask what the bible says about _______.

There is another important issue where we are not as consistent in the questions we ask. That question is, "What does the church do?"

We certainly look to scripture to see what it commands in this area. I hope we would all agree to follow the biblical commands about what the church is supposed to do. If we are not willing to do this, then we have some serious issues related to biblical authority.

It is at this point that we run into some serious differences of opinion related to what the church should do. I'm speaking specifically to what is modeled in scripture. It may not be commanded, but it is displayed for us to read about.

This is closely related to the issue of whether or not what we see is prescriptive or descriptive.

So, what question should we ask? We could ask, "Why not follow what is modeled?" We could also ask, "Do we have freedom to not follow what is modeled?"

Let's follow each of these two questions to their end points. First, we may ask, "Why not follow what is modeled?" If we answer by trying to follow what has been modeled, we will obviously only do the things that the apostles gave approval to. For example, we would celebrate the Lord's Supper as a full meal like the church in Corinth. We would not, however, turn the Lord's Supper into a carnal free-for-all like the church in Corinth.

The benefit of asking this question is that we will end up living the life of the church according to practices that were approved of by the apostles. They certainly would have understood better than anyone else what Jesus would have wanted His church to do.

Now to the second question (which is asked very frequently today). That question is, "Do we have freedom to not follow what is modeled?" It can get difficult in a hurry in trying to answer this question. If we assume that we have freedom where the bible is silent, then we will end up doing various things in the life of the church that are not in the bible. These practices are unbiblical in the sense that they are nowhere to be found in scripture.

The problem with this question is that we cannot know for sure whether or not what we are doing is approved by God. Let's take an example: Children's Church. The bible nowhere speaks specifically to this issue. Therefore, many churches have a Children's Church. Is this pleasing to God or is it not? We just don't know.

When we ask this second question over and over, we may end up with numerous church practices that we cannot be certain about. Simply put: we won't know whether God, who is the head of the church, is pleased with what we are doing in His church.

We must be careful to ask the right questions. If we ask what the early church model was and try as best we can to follow this, then we have much more certainty that what we are doing is pleasing to God.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

On the Importance of a Humble Attitude Regarding Both Salvation and the Church

While at seminary, the two things that brought the most controversy and/or conversation were the two topics of salvation and the church.

Regarding salvation, the discussions focused upon God's sovereignty and how it relates to man's responsibility. Some would call this Calvinism vs. Arminianism, but that is too simplistic.

As for the church, the big arguments stemmed not so much from what the church is. We were all in agreement that the church is the people of God. No one said the church is a building. The discussions/conversations/controversies were related to what church life looks like.

The troublesome thing was that these topics often generated a lot of negative emotion. I still see this today and I do not understand it. Two Christians will be discussing these issues and become angry. Why?

I suppose the answer is that these are important issues. That was an understatement. Of course they are.

Why, however, do we have to fight over them?

We should, as brothers and sisters in Christ, be able to sit down with our bibles open and discuss in a loving manner what the bible says about these issues.

One problem in all this is that people do not like to give up their traditions. Especially as it relates to church life, people have a comfort zone. When one person challenges another's tradition, the result is often anger.

These are great topics to discuss. My hope is that more Christians will want to talk about them. We can sharpen each other as we look to the bible for answers. We must be willing to be corrected in humility and correct others in love.

I'm sure I do not have everything figured out when it comes to salvation or the church. I'm willing to learn and be corrected. I sure hope that happens.

May we all be humble people who enjoy conversation, correction, and challenge. May we let the bible change what we think - even what we hold dear. May we not become angry, but rather be thankful when a brother or sister shows us where we may are wrong.