May 29, 2007

When The News And Your Theology Collide

And you're faced with absolute gut-wrenching, heart-breaking realities. And every last bone in your body wants to say "THIS ISN'T RIGHT".

God, this doesn't feel right. That you would allow a mom to lock the doors, systematically take each one of her little baby girls, hold them up, tie a scarf or some other piece of clothing around their little necks, tie a knot, and then let them dangle as they struggle, and yell, and scream, and cry, and look at her wondering why someone they should trust so much is doing such a horrible, unthinkable, unspeakable thing to them.

Did you hear their screams? Did you hear their little throats closing as they lost their life? Did you see their tears? Did you feel their pain? Did you sympathize with their horror and their terror? Did you God? Did you? Were you really there as their little faces turned blue and their feet stopped dangling and their bodies quit wiggling? Were you?

Those are the only questions a lot of people will be able to ask as they read this story. Where was God when all of this was taking place and how could a loving God allow this to happen? What would your answer be? What would a Biblically faithful, Gospel centered, Christ exalting, God honoring answer be?

Because this doesn't just happen once a day. Horrible things happen every day. And your theology and your understanding of the Gospel had better be able to address news like this otherwise we offer no hope to a world besought by tragedy and terror. So I ask you..what would your answer be?

Colossians, Logos Software, And A Little More Just For Good Measure

As midnight approaches here on the East Coast, God is doing some amazing things in my life.

First, I received my Logos Software today. The Scholar's Silver Edition looks like a great choice at this point and I was blown away tonight by what has been put at my fingertips. Hats off to the boys in the Seattle area.

Second, I'm preaching here in a few weeks at Hope Point Community Church here in the Spartanburg area and my message is going to be an exposition of Colossians 1. God's had me in this letter for a while now and I just can't get past Chapter 1. Now granted, there are some amazing things that God says in the following chapters, but man oh man, Chapter 1 is loaded.
I'd love to share the preaching outline here on the blog, but then it would ruin it for those that will be in attendance. I'll be sure and post it (along with the audio hopefully) soon after.

Third, you should definitely go for this. It's like God himself is reading the Word to you. Don't tell me it costs too much. You will not be disappointed. One thing to consider, make sure you have enough bandwidth.

Fourth, this quote which really went along with where God has me in Colossians right now (HT: The Heidelblog):

If we weren’t so obsessed with our symbols, our bumper stickers, our necklaces, our rings, perhaps we would have time to look to the signs and seals given to us to remind us of His covenant blessings and promises in Baptism and The Lord’s Supper. Then we would realise the only covering we need as we shine as salt and light for our saviour, is the covering of Christ’s righteousness. Our gratitude for that would help the girls keep the uniform code and it might just help the rest of us to keep the highway code as well


May 27, 2007

Good Words About Sex - And She Aint Even A Pastor

This was a refreshing change to see. Someone in the MSM writing something decent for a change. Lauren Green with FoxNews wrote a piece about chastity for and really did a stellar job in my opinion. Here's an excerpt from the piece that you'll probably want to read.

Dawn Eden, author of the book, “The Thrill of the Chaste: Finding Fulfillment While Keeping Your Clothes On," says, "the fruits of the sexual revolution" of the '60s "prove to be loneliness, divorce, and disease." That's the legacy of the "get yours while you can" generation. And it's certainly a far cry from a pot of gold or spiritual fulfillment.

However, the real concern should be that an 18-year-old, so influenced by porn and its images, would think it's okay to prostitute herself for the sake of our voyeuristic culture so controlled by sex and its images. It should anger us to the point of revolt that she would actually believe there was something virtuous in her decision.

Dawn Eden says that this girl, even if she hasn't lost her virginity, has certainly lost her innocence. And in fact, she has already been psychologically raped by the lies of a sexually-obsessed culture. Her on-camera appearance will simply complete the trifecta of being physically and emotionally raped. "This is not just the Paris Hilton syndrome or the 'Girls Gone Wild' syndrome. This is a case of a woman who was already broken and the media catered to her brokenness in a very negative and damaging way."

Thousands Of You Are Being Dunked - From All Over The Sanctuary

So I'm perusing the web this morning and visiting some church websites that I frequent and I come across this piece of news on a pastor's page:

Q: “I’ve heard we’re going to have a Sunday in the near future when anyone who wants to be baptized can come forward and be baptized immediately – right there on the spot! Is that right?”
A: Yes, and we’re calling it H2O Sunday. The date is "mm-dd-yyyy". It will be a Sunday like we’ve never had at "XXXX"! Here are the facts: There are many people who attend "XXXX" who have accepted Christ as Savior and Lord, but for one reason or another have never been baptized. I’ve felt for some time a leading from God to provide them an opportunity to obey God by publicly professing their faith in Christ through believer’s baptism. Why do people hesitate to be baptized, even though they’ve made a personal commitment to Christ? For some, it ‘s fear of the unknown. They wonder what happens back there before a person comes out to be baptized. What about that “counseling room” that they hear the pastor talk about, where people are counseled after they come forward during the invitation? Well, on H2O Sunday we’ll do a video walkthrough of the prayer room, the dressing area, the baptismal pool, and everything else. You’ll discover it’s not as scary as you might think!
Now stop me if I'm wrong, BUT, wouldn't you think that a true conversion, one that is real and genuine, would at the very least seek out a pastoral team member to inquire about baptism and to learn more? Maybe the reason some have hesitated to be baptized is because their conversion wasn't real in the first place.

Also, what is going on in this church that folks who have been been converted have never been counseled, discipled, or engaged so that you have to have a "blanket baptismal service" to catch them? What is the world is wrong with our churches. Are we in such a hurry to do such mundane, unimportant, trivial stuff that we will allow converts to sit in our midst for years without following Jesus' lead in baptism. What are we doing in church today?

This is the first time I have ever heard of service of this type and in my opinion now begins to turn "hit and run" evangelism into "hit and run" baptism and before too long you are engaged in "hit and run" discipleship and teaching. With that approach, you will produce lame, uninterested, uncommitted, untested, and impotent church membership which is exactly the opposite of what the Spirit produces in the lives of true converts. You will not need to far to answer the question in this church 20 years from now "Where did we go wrong?"

May 26, 2007

Dealing With Disappointment

We've all had them. Those days. Days where disappointment and failure blemish the beautiful day that God has made. Today was my turn. Something I really had my heart set on, was looking forward to, and something that would mean a lot to me is now NOT going to happen.

That's the disappointment. Needless to say the failures as a husband and a father I displayed today didn't help matters either. There are just days where you get the wheels in a ditch and you can not get back out. Days that take such a wrong turn, you're grateful that God gave us sleep as a daily reminder of our weakness and as a great "reset" button of our lives.

So as I sat here tonight wondering what the Bible had to say about disappointment, I typed in the words "disappointed", "despair", and "sad" into Blue Letter Bible. Ultimately, I ended up in Job. Job was disappointed. He had every right to be. He was sad. He despaired. He lost everything valuable to him in this world. He reasons with men throughout most of the book. he both rebukes and is rebuked. He despairs and attempts to reason with God. He knows God has did this but also puts God on the spot.

The answer God gives in Chapter 38 is the answer I need to read every day. Whether things seem to be going my way or not, these words (and they are just a small part of God's answer to Job) should always effect humility and submission in me. God I have no idea why You do what You do. It really doesn't matter that I know. You are God the Father. I am not. Your ways are higher than my ways. Help me always to remember and to trust in You. Amen

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:
2“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
3Dress for action [fn1] like a man;I will question you, and you make it known to
4“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?Tell me, if you have
5Who determined its measurements—surely you know!Or who stretched the line upon it?
6On what were its bases sunk,or who laid its cornerstone,
7when the morning stars sang togetherand all the sons of God shouted for joy?
8“Or who shut in the sea with doorswhen it burst out from the womb,
9when I made clouds its garmentand thick darkness its swaddling band,
10and prescribed limits for itand set bars and doors,
11and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther,and here shall your proud waves be stayed’?

May 25, 2007

The Bible As A Textbook

Just got off the phone with Logos and completed my purchase of the Scholar's Silver Edition. I know what most are thinking - "You don't have Bible software yet?"

The answer is no, and I'm excited that it's on the way. I have to confess one thing though. And I'm curious if anyone else has had this hesitation as well.

The more software we get and the more books we read, do you ever run into the trap of looking at the Bible as a textbook rather than the breathing Words Of God that come straight from Him. I participated in a demo of the software and man is it slick, but the thought hit me "How am I gonna make sure that this is still God in front of me and not just a bunch of words on a screen?"

I want to study, dig in, and know God so much better. I want to understand His word and His ways, but not at the expense of "academizing" Him (if that's even a word). Has anyone else ran into this and would anyone care to share a "Top 10 List" so to speak of things you can do to help keep this from happening?

May 24, 2007

Finally - A Paragraph That Correctly Diagnoses The Problem

And it comes from a guy whose over student ministry at Lifeway. Here's the paragraph that nails it and it's just an excerpt from a disturbing study about teens and Christianity.

"This is where confusion and perhaps a bit of self-made salvation have crept in," Scott Stevens, LifeWay's director of student ministry, noted in a column at" Why would teenagers feel the need to add anything to Jesus' work on the cross? Maybe it's because so many of them are fully engulfed in a performance-based existence where they are constantly striving to earn the favor and acceptance of those around them, especially those in positions of authority. How often do these teens experience unconditional love at home, school, or even in their church?"

UPDATE: And then you read this and you go right back to concern mode.

In a first-ever venture for the state convention, Dakota Baptists rented booth space on a busy street at the massive Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in 2006 and offered the 400,000-plus visitors a chance to win a new Harley-Davidson limited-edition motorcycle. All they had to do was to listen to a three-minute Gospel presentation and they could put in their name for a chance to win a pristine white Harley

Now tell me exactly how you share the Gospel in 3 minutes? My Bible has over 2,000 pages in it and I want to know how you share all that God has to say about who Jesus is in 3 minutes? That's amazing to me.

The next paragraph is very telling:

Dakota Baptists sent to each person who made a profession of faith a Bible, a discipleship book for new believers and a letter encouraging them to immediately connect with a church home. They also followed up with those who lived in North and South Dakota. Names and contact information from people in other states were sent to the North American Mission Board's evangelism response center to pass on to churches near the new believers' homes.

A Bible, a book, and a letter. Yep, that's follow up. We've done our job now, so let's all go home. WOW!

And finally to top it all off:

Training in three-minute Gospel presentations will take place at 8 a.m. every day during Sturgis, to be led by Texas evangelist Ronnie Hill. The 20-by-30-foot booth will open at 10 a.m. and close at 8 p.m., while it's still broad daylight. Housing is available at area churches

If someone who reads this blog actually goes to that training, I would love an email to know how you are trained to "declare the WHOLE counsel of God" in 180 seconds.

May 23, 2007

Even A Hammerhead Can Understand The Virgin Birth

For your moment of levity today. You'll understand when you click here.

UPDATE: Christianity Today's blog has a serious post on this.

You're Getting Warmer

There's an interesting article over at BP Press about where SBC churches have gone wrong. The pastor who wrote the article is getting warmer as to why baptism numbers are declining in the SBC but the article is far from wholly and correctly diagnosing the problem.

I'll bullet point my diagnosis here (And yes this will be an oversimplification):

  • Cheap Conversions (Cheap Grace)
  • Focus On Numbers (Baptisms) Instead Of Depth of Change
  • Lack Of Cultural Understanding Among The Pastoral Ranks
  • Lack Of Relationship Building / Understanding Interpersonal Relationships Among Pastoral Ranks
  • Manward Trend In Preaching
  • Refuge Mentality Vs. Missional Mentality
  • Focus On Church Growth Instead Of Life Change
Those are a few. I have others but I'm interested to hear what you would have had in this list. Please leave your list in the comments section.

May 22, 2007

I'm A Member, You're A Member, Wouldn't Everyone Like To Be A Member

So what does the word "member" actually mean. Tom over at The Founders Blog has a great article today with links that discuss his views on membership and what the impact on the SBC is.

To Live Is Christ But To Die Is ________?

I wonder how we would fill in that blank today in most of our lives. Would dying be gain as Paul called it or would we use these words:

  • Tragic
  • Loss
  • Bad
  • Awful
  • Senseless
What kind of perspective are you living life with? An eternal perspective or one that's wrapped up in the television show you watched last night. Driving into Upward this morning, I listened to a Christian radio station that offered really helpful commentary on American Idol and why flip flops are bad for your feet. Mind really is.

I wanted to share this with you as it challenged me over the last few weeks. From Foxe's Book Of Martyrs:
In this persecution, suffered the blessed martyr, Ignatius, who is had in famouns reverence among very many. This Ignatius was appointed to the bishopric of Antioch next after Peter in succession. Som do say, that he, being sent from Syria to Rome, because he professed Christ, was given to the wild beasts to be devoured. It is also said of him, that when he passed through Asia, being under the most strict custody of his keepers, he strenghtened and confirmed the churches through all the cities as he went, both with his exhortations and preaching of the Word of God. Accordingly, having come to Smyrna, he wrote to the church at Rome, exhorting them not to use means for his deliverance from martyrdom, LEST THEY SHOULD DEPRIVE HIM OF THAT WHICH HE MOST HOPED AND LONGED FOR. "Now I begin to be a disciple. I care for nothing, of visible or invisible things, so that I may but win Christ. Let fire and the cross, let the companies of wild beasts, let breaking of bones and tearing of limbs, let the grinding of the whole body, and all the malice of the devil, come upon me; be it so, only may I win Christ Jesus!" And even when he was sentenced to be thrown to the beasts, such was the burning desire that he had to suffer, that he spake what time he heard the lions roaring, saying "I am the wheat of Christ: I am going to be ground with the teeth of wild beasts, that I may be found pure bread."

Re-read that and let that sink in. Not all of us will be called to be martyrs, but NONE of us are called to love television, apparell, parties, gossip, ignorant, stupid worldly things, more than we love Jesus. If dying is not gain to you, you must ask yourself the question "Do I Really Know Jesus?" And if you don't unite with Him in faith, for He is the only Savior you have.

May 21, 2007

Red And Yellow - Black & White

They are precious in his sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world.

As you listen to that song in your head, you read this and feel the horror of this. How long will we be silent? How long will we say nothing?

The Conscience Will Most Certainly Have Its Revenge

May 20, 2007

Congratulations - You've Just Been Elected President

Can you imagine hearing those words whispered behind you and when you turn around, there He stands. God Himself. And after you fall to your knees in trembling, He gently helps you up and shares with you - "Marc, there's one more thing. You're not only President for the rest of your life, but for all of eternity".

Now imagine yourself as a janitor down by the docks at the Naval shipyard in Annapolis, MD. You've spent your whole life there, toiling away, lving in debauchery. You'd shown promise at one time, but you threw it all away so you could party, have sex, drink, steal, and get high. And in a hungover, lethargic day of work, the Lord of the Universe reached down from heaven, stood next to you, and whispered those loving words in your ear.

You might think "Well was I elected?". "Yes you were, but not by man, or by popular vote, but by ME" God says. He then says that no matter what you do, how bad you screw up, how wrong you get it, you still get to be President. You begin to think to yourself "Hey I can't do this, I'm just a janitor".

God whispers in your ear "I know, and the great part is that I'm going to sit right beside you as you do this and all you have to do is what I tell you to do. Really, I'm going to be running the show, but I'm going to use you to do it" You look around the docks and see the squalor in which you've existed and you question God. You tell Him "Surely you must have the wrong guy. I think you must be mistaken".

God says back to you "Nope, I know just what I'm doing. I want you and have wanted you ever since I created the world." Despite your many protests, God takes you to the White House where you get the first real good shower you've had in years. A butler walks in and sets before you a tremendous feast of steak, lobster, potatoes, sparkling water. You're entertained by an orchestra as you eat, and when you've finished your meal, you retire for the evening to find your bed has been turned down for you.

As you lay down to sleep, the bed is the softest you've ever slept on. The pillows are so fluffy and as you pull the comforter over you, it is so warm and soft you feel like you're sleeping in the clouds. You turn the light off, but you remember before you fall asleep that there is one more question you forgot to ask God. You hit the intercom to summon him and before long He is standing in your room.

You ask him the question that's been haunting you all day long, ever since you took the drive from the docks to the White House. You ask God why He did all this for you, and His answer is "To show you how great I am, and because I love you".

Your face becomes quizzical as you look back at God and press Him "Yea but I don't deserve this". God then lovingly reaches out to you as he opens up the nightstand. He opens a book and places it in front of you. He softly says to you "I know you didn't deserve this, what you really deserved was:

To be bruised, wounded, crushed, chastised, smitten, afflicted, flogged, oppressed, slaughtered, judged, cut off, and killed.

You reach out to God and question Him "Why didn't I get that? Why did you spare me? Why did you not do any of those things?"

As God reaches into his wallet, he says to you "Oh I did those things, it just wasn't to you. See someone had to endure that, so I took it out on my Son. And because he took that punishment for you, I can now have you in the White House and give you all that I have to offer."

"Now all this is yours on one condition. Never forget what my Son did for you. Never forget what I've done for you. Love Him and Me with all you have. And trust that because my Son did that for you, that it is the only reason I was able to come to the docks and drive you over here. You're not here because you were great on those docks. You're here because He took your beating"

I want to ask you something: What would be your response to God?

While the story is overly simplistic I know, it is how I envision Ephesis 2: 11-22. Put yourself in the story and think about tomorrow being instantaneously elected President of the United States. Think about the analogies here and how this passage of Scripture impacts our sanctification?

May 18, 2007

For Those Who Are Not RSS Literate

I'm changing the structure of The Jonah Syndrome just a bit over the next few days. On the sidebar to the right (and down the page a little) will be the feeds of the blogs that I read every day.

The section titled now "What The Syndrome Consumes" will be direct links to the audio sites of sermons / podcasts / content that I listen to on a weekly basis. I hope that these structural changes help a bit and I hope that by stopping by The Jonah Syndrome, you can use it as a launching off place to other helpful content around the blogosphere.

May 17, 2007

Putting Your Eggs In The Wrong Basket

So here's the story from Fox News of Pakistani Christians facing the threat of bombings and martyrdom if they don't convert to Islam.

The part of the article that I was most struck by was this paragraph:

"Police say someone is joking with us by writing these letters," Chaudhry Salim, a Charsadda Christian leader, said during a news conference in Islamabad. "They have deployed only two policemen at our churches ... this is the kind of security we are getting now."

I know that the Lord watches over them, and more than anything I pray that God comfort them as they face the trial. Mr. Salim, you have more security than you could ever imagine. You have a faithful Creator who sees and ordains everything. Do not rely on police, when you have the God of the Universe in control. I couldn't help but think of this passage of Scripture:

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 1Pe 4:13
But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 1Pe 4:14
If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory[fn2] and of God rests upon you. 1Pe4:15
But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 1Pe 4:16
Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 1Pe 4:17
For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 1Pe 4:18
And “If the righteous is scarcely saved,what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”[fn3]1Pe 4:19
Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

May 16, 2007

From One Brother To Another - Uh Huh

Ok, so maybe this post won't be a Kenny Rogers & Ann Margaret duo, but as I was typing the title "Islands In The Stream" just ran through my head. Don't ask why, I stopped doing that a long time ago.

What this post is about is to thank Tony Kummer for the very nice words he said about me here. It was awesome to meet Tony and to talk with him and his pastor about all things Jesus. They would say I didn't shut up. I would say I was passionate. It was refreshing that in a world that seems growingly apathetic towards truth, that I was fortunate to spend some time with brothers in Christ who are passionate about it and seeing it lived out in their church. It's almost as if we were "Islands In The Stream" as it were.

Also you definitely want to check out Tony's other blog (in cooperation with others) titled Said At Southern. It's a blog about latest news, postings, and all things Southern Seminary related. It's been tremendously helpful for me.

Once again, Thank you Tony for the link. I look forward to sharing corners of cyberspace with you. To God Be The Glory!

Three Nights In May

And they have been great nights indeed. God never ceases to amaze me. Monday night, Upward dedicated it's new campus in Spartanburg, SC. Simultaneous to the campus dedication was a gathering of 50 folks from local churches all across the country that Upward has built strong relationships with and who we would consider our "key" churches because they have made a commitment to use the Upward tool with excellence.

As I look back on the 3 days, the thing that strikes me more than anything is the God wrought and God bought passion that permeated the leaders that we brought in and the leader of Upward's President, Caz McCaslin. In many respects, they are humble simple recreation people who just have a passion to make a big difference in the world in which they live. I wouldn't say they are tremendous theologians, but they are passionate and dedicated to reaching out to folks in their neighborhoods, state, and the uttermost parts of the world. I think sometimes we place the study of theology above the labor born of that theology. I'm coming to learn that in many ways, seeing the truth lived out in front of you is the best way and absorb theology into your life. These folks are servants in every sense of the word and they truly were inspring to be around.

I used to take times like these for granted, assuming they would roll around again. I take nothing for granted anymore and commit myself, with all the God supplied strength and focus I can, to make the most and enjoy the most these sweet times of fellowship.

Father, may you truly provide for them their daily bread. May you forgive them and help them to forgive others. May you not lead them into temptation and may you truly deliver them from evil. And in all that we do, may it be your will we are doing.


May 14, 2007

A Hectic Week

Blogging will be light the next few days as we have some big events planned at Upward. Please be in prayer for our ministry as we talk through some things this week that will signficantly impact our direction.

May 13, 2007

A Tribute To Two Moms And One Wife

Isn't it funny that on this day devoted to women (particularly moms), that we men become reflective sappy boys again gushing over the women God has placed in our life (both childhood and adulthood).

It's been an interesting day and one with many emotions. So without further hesitation:

In Memory Of My Mother (Helen Backes):

My mom was an interesting creation of God. Born in 1946 in a small town in central Missouri, she was 1 of 10 kids. She lost her dad at 18 in a horrible accident in which my grandfather suffered terribly. She lost her little sister just a few years later (who was the maid of honor in my mom and dad's wedding) in an automobile accident on Easter Sunday. She would later divorce from my dad and struggled throughout her life with mental illness. To say that she was inperfect would be an understatment, but she gave me a deep love and affection for single moms. God love em, I don't know how they do it. That's not to say that my dad wasn't a huge part of my childhood, but still, being a single mom with two sons had to be hard.

My mom taught me almost everything I knew growing up. She was the one who helped me learn to play baseball (she was an all-star softball player in high school). She helped me do homework, play basketball, read, learn music, and so very much more. In many respects, it felt like at times her boys were all she had left in life. I have a profound respect, love, and memory of my mother despite the frustrations, hurts, guilt, and pain that surrounded our lives. She made poor choices in life, and at times couldn't find forgiveness or healing from the trauma that characterized her life. But as a son always will, I loved her very deeply and wanted the absolute best for her. She took her own life this past January and this is the first Mother's day without her.

I have caught myself today missing her and wishing I had one more chance to call her and tell her I love her. Don't ever miss the chance to make those calls, because one day, you won't have them on the other end to pick up the phone. Tell people now how much you miss them and how much you love them. I can't help but think of Jesus final night with His beloved disciples and the hurt and groaning He must have felt knowing His time with them was drawing to a close. We truly are not promised tomorrow. Make every moment count. Live a radical risk-taking life and follow Jesus boldly into areas you never dreamed possible. For nothing is impossible with God.

In Memory Of My Step-Mother (Joyce Backes):

While she bore the title step-mom, she was no less a mom to me than she was to her biological children. Joyce never treated me or my brother any differently and she loved us deeply as well. She was a strong woman. She was born in rural Missouri and grew up dirt poor like so many other people in that area of Missouri during the 40's and 50's. It was an agricultural area and farming was the main way to make a living back then.

It was from that poverty background and rural landscape that she would put her hand to the plow and go on to hold a politically appointed office in Missouri State Government. She worked very hard and was diligent in her career. She was a maticulous woman and bold. She did not lack courage to be a female leader in a male dominated industry (Information Technology). As a matter of fact, for most of my life I can remember my dad essentially having Joyce as his boss. Talk about interesting conversations at home! She was successful in almost every respect that the world measures (financially, family, career, etc).

Then in February of 2000, we received news that would rock our family to its foundations. She was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer. A long battle with cancer would ensue and she lost that battle February 21st, 2001. One of the most emotional moments of that year long battle was in a hospital during the winter. Her and I were alone in a hospital room talking and she shared with me if she could have anything she wanted, she wanted one more day to spend with my dad. All the success, all the accolades, all the money, and when faced with a battle she wouldn't win, the most important piece of her life was her husband. I'll never forget that moment because it taught me not to make an idol out of my career and not to take my family for granted. I loved Joyce dearly and I miss her today as well. She made possible so many things in my life that wouldn't have otherwise been and God's providence is amazing.

To My Wife (Jenni Backes):

So many things here to say, but many of them too personal for public consumption. I have said before and will say again, that aside from God, and His Son Jesus Christ, you have been my salvation and I don't deserve you. Your strength, love, compassion, wisdom, hard work, and beauty have held me together through our wonderful 8+ years. I thank God for you and for the fact that we became one on January 9, 1999. I look forward, God willing, to many more years together and the journeys that God will continue to take us on. It has been pedal to the metal since our wedding day, and I pray it doesn't stop. Thank you for the mother you are to our boys. Thank you for the lover you are to me. Thank you for the best friend you always are. Thank you for having me and for enduring me. May the Grace of God abound in our marriage, and may we do all that we do for the Glory of God. I can't imagine life without you, but I'm profoundly happy that I didn't have to.

Bet Ya You Can't Read Just One!

A great day for some very unique posts around the sphere. Here are the ones that piqued my interest:

- Tim Challies posts on a Mother's Day story

- Adrian Warnock writes on the connection of the cross and resurrection

- Tony Morgan has one of the best posts I've read on organizations in a long time. And it wasn't even his thoughts, just a review on a book he read. WOW!

- A guy I don't know didn't like the debate on God. What do you expect when you get Kirk Cameron? (HT: Justin Taylor)

May 11, 2007

Evangelism Doesn't Work Anymore? Really?

I was reading an article over at Christianity Today authored by Greg Stier (President of Dare2Share) about "Why Evangelism Doesn't Work".

To be even handed, the thrust of the article is to encourage teenagers to share their faith and not keep it bottled up. I don't think Greg is trying to teach any deep theological points here, but merely spur teenagers to action. The part of the article that caused a "Not So Fast My Friend" moment, was the following paragraph:

If evangelism doesn't work anymore, maybe the reason is that we refuse to engage in it like Jessica was willing to. Maybe the Gospel message is more relevant now than ever. Maybe St. Paul (not St. Francis) was right: "I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16).

The more I thought about that, the more I began to think "Well, Greg, what is the Gospel to you?" In the article, he had a link to his site where he describes "The Gospel Journey". Here is what Dare2Share has on their site:
Sharing the gospel with someone else is like taking them on a journey with six stops along the way. The evangelist becomes a guide of sorts who brings their fellow sojourners to six stops along the way to pause and ponder the landscape of the story of the Bible, the gospel message. This journey begins in Genesis chapter one with the creation of humanity and concludes with the last chapter of the Bible, Revelation chapter twenty two. In between there are twists and turns, break ups and make ups, mystery and intrigue but the driving message of the plot is that from the ashes of sin comes the redemption of mankind through the death of Christ and His resurrection from the dead.

In many ways this journey is like a fairy tale that just happens to be true. It could begin "Once upon a time" and conclude "and they lived happily ever after." This journey through the storyline of the Bible is filled with mankind's weak attempts at reconciliation toward a God whose heart humanity had broken. Much of the Old Testament is filled with examples of how sinful humanity attempted to gain God's acceptance through good deeds (Cain and his vegetables), obedience to God's commandments and a seemingly endless array of blood sacrifices. But all of these failed attempts prepared the way for the coming of Christ and the hope that He offered by His once and for all sacrifice on the cross.

The irreducible minimum of the gospel message can be communicated in an acrostic with six letters in it that happen to spell out the word "gospel".

The site goes on to then use the acrostic to share a very "Romans Road" esque presentation. My issue here is not with the acrostic, but rather with the paragraph. Let's take it a few sentences at a time here:
Sharing the gospel with someone else is like taking them on a journey with six stops along the way. The evangelist becomes a guide of sorts who brings their fellow sojourners to six stops along the way to pause and ponder the landscape of the story of the Bible, the gospel message.

Really? That's what sharing the Gospel with someone is like? Now remember, this isn't a children's audience we're talking about here. These are teenagers, fully capable of comprehending complex feelings and themes, and we describe calling to repentence and faith as "a guide of sorts who ...pauses and ponders the landscape".

That just seems so weak and powerless to me. It gives the feeling of God as a "latte" drinker who is just waiting for his "fellow sojourners" to "discover" him in the gallery of art and music. That's not the Gospel. Teenagers are completely capable of comprehending wrath, judgment, sin, and all of it's ugliness and rebellion against God. That whole paragraph is man-centric rather than Christ-exalting.

Onto the next:
In between there are twists and turns, break ups and make ups, mystery and intrigue but the driving message of the plot is that from the ashes of sin comes the redemption of mankind through the death of Christ and His resurrection from the dead

What is this? Beverly Hills 90210? Melrose Place? Lost? Grey's Anatomy? Has anyone read Colossians 1? Do the words "alien" and "hostile" come to mind here?

In many ways this journey is like a fairy tale that just happens to be true. It could begin "Once upon a time" and conclude "and they lived happily ever after." This journey through the storyline of the Bible is filled with mankind's weak attempts at reconciliation toward a God whose heart humanity had broken

Again, very soft language and no real Christ exaltation in this. It's almost as if the journey is the real attractive thing here and Jesus is just the enabler. Isn't Jesus the whole point here? One other thought here, I can't see this inspiring teenage dudes. There's no manhood in this.

And finally:
Much of the Old Testament is filled with examples of how sinful humanity attempted to gain God's acceptance through good deeds (Cain and his vegetables), obedience to God's commandments and a seemingly endless array of blood sacrifices. But all of these failed attempts prepared the way for the coming of Christ and the hope that He offered by His once and for all sacrifice on the cross

I would say much of the Old Testament is filled with mankind rebelling against God and thumbing their nose at Him and telling Him to "get lost, we don't need you". Once again, a very soft representation of the Scriptures.

I know what they are trying to go for here and the approach that they are taking with teenagers, but you have to ask the question: "Is Evangelism Failing Because We Really Don't Communicate What The Gospel Is?" There is nothing in this statment that talks about the righteousness of God and the depravity of man and just how grievous of an offense sin really is against God.

And if you say to me that teenagers don't want to hear that, or that teenagers can't understand that, then it is you who doesn't believe in the power of God unto salvation. I'll put a spin on Greg's illustration. Using soft language and flowery images doesn't help a cancer patient deal with reality. It merely lulls them into a soft feeling. Forcing them to think about the realities of death and end of existence here on Earth and what that means is the only "loving" thing you can do. But it's not just "fire and brimstone" but also the exalting, soul changing, universe lifting language about Jesus that matters. They have to accept Jesus because He is their treasure. Not because they want to come on a journey.

Yeaaa...That's About Right!

Here is a great article on preaching by Crawford Loritts. I first heard Crawford at a Promise Keeper's event in Kansas City MO about eight years ago. I think there are some good exhortations here about preaching.

What Did You Take For Granted This Morning?

Have you ever considered this as you wake up every morning? Here's my list (in no particular order) I'm sure my nasty heart won't get them all:

  • My eyes (the fact that I could open them and actually see something)
  • My ears (the fact that I could hear my children say my name or my wife say good morning)
  • My house (the fact that God has seen fit to give me a shelter from the elements so that I don't have to sleep outside)
  • My bed (the fact that I have something soft to lay down on at night and rest
  • My shower (the fact that I have clean water to wash my body)
  • Shampoo (the fact that I have somethign actually to use to clean
  • My Toilet (the fact that I have indoor plumbing)
  • My Computer (the fact that God has blessed me with such a tool to hear His word shared and taught from places all around the world
  • My Mind (the fact that I can think at all. So many people are mentally ill and can't share a cognitive thought..thank you God for my mind)
  • My Children (my boys are the loves of my life and I care for them so much...I want them so much to grow up and be men of God who love His word. I love them at this stage...)
  • My Wife (I love you'll never know how much..other than have been my salvation
  • My Friends (The fact that God has blessed me with people to go through the fight and women...they are awesome to have in my life and they are there for such a short time)
  • My Car (The fact that I can travel 20 miles in 20 minutes instead of 2 hours. And how this allows me to experience God in new ways every day without time spent in travel)
  • Air Conditioning (The fact that I can set the temperature I live in and ride in to what I stupid is that...why God wouldn't just make me live at the temperature he sets is amazing)
  • My Food (The fact that I woke up in a house and had food. So many people don't. I do. I'll never be able to explain's the providence of God...nothing less)
  • My Soda (The fact that I can now enjoy caffeinated beverages with 0 calories...a miracle of God)
  • Worship (The fact that I can come before a personal, holy, omnipotent, powerful, majestic, loving, judging, jealous, caring, providential God who wants me to draw near to him and live from his strength)
  • My Hands (The fact that I can type this message many folks don't have hands to type)
  • My Health (I for the most part have not suffered illness in my life...God I don't know why)
  • My Parents (I took them for granted for most of my dad...I love him so much)
  • My Brothers And Sisters (I want so much for them to know Jesus..Lord please make it so)
  • Upward (The fact that God has brought me here for such a time as this)
  • Furniture (The fact that we don't have to sit on the ground and work)
  • My Jesus And His Cross (I sit and listen to "The Wonderful Cross" as I type this. Oh the wonderful cross, bids me come and die, and find that I may truly live. Jesus, I'm so sorry for taking you for granted. Please forgive me, the least of all men and the greatest of sinners. I'm so sorry

May 10, 2007

Is He Your Greatest Treasure

That's the title of a video post over at PapaMarcs Blog.

You have to listen to these words of Piper and examine them for their truthfulness and then shudder to think how many of them may very well hear the most dreaded words you could ever hear: "Get away from me, for I never knew you".

A Critique Of Evangelism

Wow! Whether you agree entirely with this article over at Evangelical Outpost or not, it's well written and has some very valid points. Here's an excerpt on the Altar Call: (HT: Challies)

The gospel of God requires an immediate response from all; but it does not require the same response from all. The immediate duty of the unprepared sinner is not to try and believe on Christ, which he is not able to do, but to read, enquire, pray, use the means of grace and learn what he needs to be saved from. It is not in his power to accept Christ at any moment, as Finney supposed; and it is God's prerogative, not the evangelist's, to fix the time when men shall first savingly believe. For the latter to try and do so, by appealing to sinners to begin believing here and now, is for man to take to himself the sovereign right of the Holy Ghost. It is an act of presumption, however creditable the evangelists motive's may be. Hereby he goes beyond his commission as God's messenger; and hereby he risks doing incalculable damage to the souls of men. If he tells men they are under obligation to receive Christ on the spot, and demands in God's name that they decide at once, some who are spiritually unprepared will try to do so; they will come forward and accept directions and "go through the motions" and go away thinking they have received Christ, when all the time they have not done so because they were not yet able to do so. So a crop of false conversions will result from making such appeals, in the nature of the case. Bullying for "decisions" thus in fact impedes and thwarts the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart. Man takes it on himself to try to bring that work to a precipitate conclusion, to pick the fruit before it is ripe; and the result is "false conversions," hypocrisy and hardening. "For the appeal for immediate decision presupposes that men are free to "decide for Christ" at any time; and this presupposition is the disastrous issue of a false, un-Scriptural view of sin.

May 09, 2007

A Holocaust Of A Different Kind

Denny Burk has a stunning and sickening post on Downs Syndrome Diagnosis and Abortion.

You can find the post here. (HT: Justin Taylor)

UPDATE: Denny Goes OFF On A Reader Comment From Yesterdays Post!

See - The Problem Is You Thinks Too Much

Adrian Warnock had a post on Monday that I just read and WOW! You can find the post here.

Here is an excerpt:

Well, as I say, that is all right at a preliminary stage, but if you have never felt anything, if you have never had any experience. I say it is not faith, it is mere intellectual assent, and intellectual belief. Because the whole of the Bible teaches experiences of God. And we are meant to experience God. We are meant to know Him, not simply to believe, and to go on 'holding to our beliefs,' and 'taking it by faith'. That is only the first step, and it is to be followed by a realisation, by an understanding. And I feel that it is this error at this point that accounts for so much of dead orthodoxy, and is such a grievous hindrance to revival

I Believe The Children Are Our Future

Teach them well and ...(well you know the rest)

Before I get started, let me say that I have said publicly, on this blog, that whether you agree with his theology or not, you have to admire his passion. So my response to a blog entry from Perry Noble should be construed in no way as "Well Marc, you're just a Perry hater!"

I am most certainly not. However, as I read this, I had to give my thoughts on it. Perry's post is on why NewSpring Community Church focuses on children and youth. In typical Perry fashion, he is blunt, honest, and to the point. As I read the post, I'm really not rubbed the wrong way until I get here:

If we want to SERIOUSLY impact the world we live in–I believe it MUST be done through dynamic youth and children’s ministry…and in order to do that we MUST spend money on them…and if we are spending money of them then that means that some of the things we would love to see as adults in the church…well…we go without them! We inconvenience ourselves. We go without! All in an effort to reach a generation that needs Jesus more than any generation that has ever existed. those who focus on instilling truth, passion, sound doctrine, perseverance, love, compassion, etc into adults aren't SERIOUS? That's an interesting take and a pretty bold statement. Second, the phrase "it MUST be done through dynamic youth and children's ministry...and in order to do that we MUST spend money on them" is just flat false.

What Perry assumes here, though he would never state it, is that it is the church's job to teach your children and your youth the Christian faith. Spend more money, have flashier programs, have big stuff for them to come to is THE WAY to grow mature Christian kids. SURVEY SAYS: WRONG. The family (MOM & DAD) are the instrument God picked as the PRIMARY instrument to raise children in the admonition of the Lord. The local church is second to Mom & Dad here.

Now I will concede here that Perry would say "well Mom and Dad are not gettin the flippin job done so we have to step in". It is sad that Mom and Dad aren't getting the job done, but my question is: If we focus on the kids, then who's teaching Mom and Dad how to do what we're doing for them? It's a very logical thing to see the decline of the family as the teaching unit as more and more local churches have stepped in to take their place. Barna makes the same observation in his book "Raising Children To Be Spiritual Champions".

From later in the post:
Because church attendance among teenagers and twenty something’s is the lowest of any generation in existence. Statistics show that 1 out of 8 churched kids DROP OUT of church before the age of 25. The church needs to wake up and smell the flippin’ coffee!!!!

Perry, wake up man. Churches have been pouring more money into childrens ministry than they ever have in the last 20 years. If you don't believe that, you haven't paid attention to the rise of giants like Group Publishing, Willow Creek, etc. And with all that investment, your statistic still holds true. WHY? Because we are not teaching Mom & Dad how to be the primary teachers of their children and they are abdicating that responsibility to the local church and no matter how great your ministry is, they still spend far more time at home than they do at your church. Mom & Dad have to be primary. There's no way around this. Long before there was children's ministry, there were families teaching their children the Bible.

A couple more and then I'm done:
The ONLY way to seriously impact the world that teenagers and children live in is to spend money. Disney spends money! MTV spends money! The cartoon network spends money! The church has GOT to spend money
Wow, another really bold and ultimately ignorant statement. If money were the answer, then failing public schools would not be failing the way they are. And ask any administrator what they most desire to happen to improve the condition of their schools and the number one answer you'll get is "parental involvement". It's not even close and I've asked a lot of them. Money is not the answer to anything. Never has been, never will be. This is a very shallow statement.

Our youth and kids are going to be a MAJOR focus of our next campaign…as well as local and foreign missions AND starting new satellite campuses
And here you have the WHY? If I'm a member of this church, I'm extremely skeptical at this point. Perry, you probably will never read this post, and if I'm honest, it wouldn't matter to you what I say anyway. But I'm telling you, in case you do, teach Mom & Dad how to teach their kid. That's the most true and Biblical position you can take. And spend the money on something other than flashy lights and loud noise. Kids have plenty of that. What they don't have, sadly in a lot of cases, is a Mom & Dad who give a crap.

A Protestants' Return To Catholicism

Well, CT has come out with an interview with Francis Beckwith about his return to Catholicism and as I read the article, most of it was rather uninteresting except for this paragraph:

The debate over Sola Scriptura is big between Protestants and Catholics. A Catholic thinker will say, typically, "Sola Scriptura is not mentioned in the Bible." And the Protestant will say, "It's not mentioned in the Bible, but it's implied there." But even if it's implied there, why should I accept it? Obviously, the Qur'an believes in Sola Scriptura. At some point, there has to be some connection between the church and its role and the phenomenon of Scripture.There are a lot of evangelicals who believe that and aren't Catholic. But if you accept that particularly narrow view of Sola Scriptura, then it becomes almost impossible to understand the Catholic view. And I think it's a kind of axiomatic rationalism that doesn't really capture why people convert, and why people believe things.

So let me get this straight. The Bible implies it, but I still don't have to accept it? Beckwith spends a lot of time in this article sharing why evangelicalism is in a weaker position theologically than Catholicism, but this paragraph is just out and out "willful negligence".

You know what's really odd, is that the precipitating event for his return to Catholicism was his nephew's confirmation (I think it was his nephew). You have here Beckwith saying that even if it is implied in the Scripture, that it matters more what early fathers and church had to say than the actual "God breathed" document itself. Doesn't that sound odd to anyone else?

He finished with this statement:
That is what you often find in real strong Calvinist views of God's moral nature, that things ought to be obeyed because God says so, not because he's good. In a weird way, there's an assumption that all authority is authoritarian. I deny that assumption. I think that the church was given the authority to make these judgments, and that the Holy Spirit allowed them to make those judgments and humbly accept it. So they're not inconsistent with each other

And my point made for me again. If all authority is not "authoritarian" and we are left with fallible men in the early church who were susceptible to sin and temptation just like we are today as our authorities, then movements like the "emergent" church have free reign to interpret any way they want to. To say that opinions and insights in the 2nd century are more enlightened than opinions in the 21st century is to cede that they had "special" inspiration, leading, and guiding from the Holy Spirit than we do today and I just don't believe that. We cannot have theology and foundation built on "opinions" as they are not God breathed.

One more note on this. How does he square the priesthood, confession, veneration of Mary, etc etc with the Bible? Honestly?

When The Situation Isn't Black Or White

You have to check out this series titled "Gray Matters". This is good stuff! Here's an excerpt:

I can't tell you which movies to watch or what music to listen to. I can't give you a list of Do's and Don'ts. But together we can go to Scripture to cultivate discernment in the gray matters

This Is Good Stuff, I Don't Care Who You Are

From a posting over at Al Mohler's blog (You need to read the whole thing):

Our judgment on manliness has to take its bearings from the dangers it poses on both extremes, too little and too much. If you keep your eye only on one extreme, you back unawares into the other. The modern philosophers behind the project of rational control were mainly afraid of thumos and its incitements to idealism; they laid the ground for a dull, bourgeois society lacking in both love and ambition. Nietzsche, in revulsion against this uninteresting landscape,released manliness from all restraint except the self restraint needed to strengthen one's self. Of course those who followed him forgot what was noble and embraced what was brutal. Yet our situation is not so different from the one faced by the classical philosophers. True, our extremes are more extreme than in their time. We are, or we claim to be, more rational than they, and at the same time the history of our totalitarian regimes shows us to be more willful as well. The uncompromising reason with which we have destroyed divine authority is accompanied by the untrammeled will that has destroyed self-government and been guilty of genocide. Can it be an accident that the first atheist regimes in human history were the first totalitarian regimes? Still, our experience only confirms the conclusions of Plato and Aristotle on manliness that the true way is in the middle between too much and too little. In this general strategy they can be our guide.

Bet Ya You Can't Read Just One!

An Interesting Trip Around The Blogosphere This Morning!

- Tim Challies is blogging The Basics Conference. Sounds like a really great conference.

- A new blog "Sufficient Grace" has some reflections on Jonathan Edwards resolutions in his diary

- Al Mohler points to a church having a hard time finding a pastor

- Thabiti gets interviewed by Colin Adams (HT: Justin Taylor)

Out Of The Mouths Of Babes

So I'm laying in bed with my son Trey last night reading the Bible with him, and we're in Matthew going over the Beatitudes.

We talked about "Those who are treated badly because they do good, they will be happy. The Kingdom of God belongs to them". And we used the illustration of Trey being nice to a new kid in class and being called "dumb" because he was nice to him.

Well nothing momentous at this point, except for the fact that when we laid the Bible on his nightstand and I asked him to pray, these were his words:

Please help all the people in Australia.
And also Jesus, help us have food, and clothes, and houses.
In your name we pray.
Prayer isn't hard. It's actually powerful when it's simple and straight from your heart.

May 07, 2007

May 06, 2007

Overcoming Sin And Tempation - Chapter 8

Owen moves into Chapter 8 and now turns his focus to the "unversality of obedience". The key paragraph in the chapter is:

The true and acceptable principles of mortification shall be afterward insisted on. Hatred of sin as sin, not only as galling or disquieting, a sense of the love of Christ in the cross, lies at the bottom of all true spiritual mortification. Now, it is certain that that which I speak of proceeds from self-love. You set yourself with all diligence and earnestness to mortify such a lust or sin; what is the reason of it? It disquiets you, it has taken away your peace, it fills your heart with sorrow and trouble and fear; you have no rest because of it. Yea, but friend, you have neglected prayer or reading; you have been vain and loose in your conversation in other things, that have not been of the same nature with that lust wherewith you are perplexed. These are no less sins and evils than those under which you groan. Jesus Christ bled for them also. Why do you not set yourself against them also? If you hate sin as sin, every evil way, you would be no less watchful against everything that grieves and disquiets the Spirit of God, than against that which grieves and disquiets your own soul. It is evident that you contend against sin merely because of your own trouble by it. Would your conscience be quiet under it, you would let it alone. Did it not disquiet you, it should not be disquieted by you.

What I believe Owen is getting at here is the tendency of Christians to focus only on the sin that bothers THEM. But what Owen is getting at is that ALL SIN bothers God and we need to be diligent in examining ourselves in other areas to discover sin that "might not make us uncomfortable" but still it is an offense to God whether we are jarred or not.

Have you ever experienced this as a Christian. You can't shake a sin loose and you focus so much energy on that sin, that you completely ignore other blatant areas of your life that are just as sinful. Owen had insight that very few people today are blessed with.

Contending For The Faith Given Once For All

In the completion of the interview that generated this post, I wanted to link to the other three parts of the interview. There is some really good stuff here:

Part 2:

“The only substantial resistance to the breakdown of evangelicalism will come from reformed confessing evangelicals, whether they be charismatic or not charismatic, for they are the only ones with the strength and conviction to stand against the assault.”
Part 3:
I asked Liam if he could enlighten me as to what the detractors of PSA (Penal Substitutionary Atonement) believe actually happened on the cross, since I find them hard to pin down. He agreed that it is far from clear what many of those people actually believe, and that often it seems almost as if they are saying that the cross was merely a display to the world of how much God loves us. Liam said, “It’s a bit like a boy saying to a girl — 'Look how much I love you!' — and then jumping straight off a cliff. That’s an absurd way to view the cross.”
Part 4:
I am excited to see that men like Dr Goligher are beginning to understand that pieces of paper and organisational structures do not guarantee orthodoxy. I believe that it is no accident that the New Testament speaks of God giving gifts of specific men with ministries to the whole church to equip us and help us to do works of service. It is these men who are supposed to stop us being blown around by every wind of teaching.

You Mean To Tell Me God Actually Executes Judgement?

Naaa...couldn't be true. God is love! God couldn't possibly be angry with sin. God couldn't possibly have a righteous wrath stored up for me.

If that's your line of thinking, then an article like this probably makes you angry or hurts you. But until we understand the depths of our own sin, there will be absolutely nothing amazing about grace.

Here's the article you need to read...

(HT: Adrian Warnock)

Bet Ya You Can't Read Just One!

From the blogosphere:

- It seems that we are going to debate the existence of God on TV. Somehow, I don't think he's going to care as it won't affect him in one bit (HT: PapaMarcs)

- A fellow Jonah blog (The Sign Of Jonah) has an interesting article on WICCA. Reminds me of the Wizard Of Oz scene "Are you a good witch or a bad witch?"

- The Gospel Driven Life has great thoughts on church politics. Don't worry, he avoids the usual "God will you please nuke all the hateful people in my congregation!"

- Reformation Theology writes on "Not Pursuing Justice". A must read.

What Is An "Evangelical"?

Thabiti has a great post over at Pure Church regarding an "evangelical" re-entering the Roman Catholic church. At the end of his post, he finished with this question: "What is an evangelical?"

Now that's an interesting question isn't it. And one that should make for interesting discussions. So I wanted to offer my thoughts and then get yours as well. I'm going to present a list and as you read this list ask yourself this question:

If I take this one away, OR don't believe this one, can I still be considered an evangelical Christian?

  • Sola Gratia
  • Sola Fide
  • Sola Scriptura
  • Solus Christus
  • Soli Deo Gloria
  • Virgin Birth
  • Sinless Life
  • Penal Substitutionary Atonement
  • Gender Distinctions
  • Hell
  • Literal Bodily Resurrection
  • Trinity
  • Original Sin

What are some that I have missed in your opinion? What are some that need to be added? How would you formulate a "Statement Of Faith" to define what an evanglical is?

The Homeschooling Debate

Tim Challies has two great posts and a long string of comments on this topic.

The first post is here:

The second one is here:

And I'll say this. What I agree with most is that homeschooling IS NOT an issue that should be so divisive amongst Christians. Families that keep their kids at home are not doing some irreparable social harm to their children and families that put their children in public schools are not sentincing their kids to a life of depravity.

The key thing for me is to know your child and to seek wisdom of God as to what His desires for your child are.

May 03, 2007

"Name It And Claim It" - Does The Bible Really Say That?

Here's a fantastic article over at the Sign Of Jonah for the folks who listen to GROSS Biblical distortions every week.

Be Fruitful And Multiply - Its The Only Chance We Got!

Now theres a thought for ya. Over at Dr. Mohler's blog, he talked about birthrates and how they impact the long term worldview propogation.

So when God talks about children as a blessing. When God commands us to be fruitful and multiply. Are those just empty words? Are those commands and statements that can be ignored?

What role does "family planning" have in this debate? Is there such a thing as Biblical "family planning". I read a blog post recently called "The Contraception Conundrum". What are the macro effects of people deciding to "have one for me, have one for you, and then we are through"?

What about adoption? How does it fit into the picture as well?

May 02, 2007

So When Is It Acceptable To Get A Divorce?

That's the question of this article from an Australian newspaper. Here's my question to those of you that would read this:

Whether you agree or disagree with the decision being made by the evangelical group, what would be your "Biblical" basis for supporting your argument. Can a blanket "yes" or "no" be given to such case by case situations.

What are some of the things you would consider before making up your mind if someone came to you in this situation?

Overcoming Sin And Tempation - Chapter 7

Owen uses this chapter to talk about the ways and means by which men must pursue mortification. Chapter 7 is really just an exposition of his first rule "without which no sin will ever be mortified":

- There Will Be No Mortification Unless A Man Be A Believer

How shall he, then, mortify sin that has not the Spirit? A man may easier see without eyes, speak without a tongue, than truly mortify one sin without the Spirit
How true. How many times do we in vain and in our own efforts, apart from the Spirit of God, attempt to put to death a sin in our lives and see absolutely no effectiveness in doing so. You may as well try and push a rope through a brick wall, as to take on sin apart from the Holy Spirit.

Owens continues his thoughts with this really great paragraph:
When the Jews, upon the conviction of their sin, were cut to the heart and cried out, “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37), what does Peter direct them to do? Does he bid them go and mortify their pride, wrath, malice, cruelty, and the like? No; he knew that was not their present work, but he calls them to conversion and faith in Christ in general (v. 38). Let the soul be first thoroughly converted, and then, “looking on him whom they had pierced” [Zech. 12:10; John 19:37], humiliationand mortification will ensue.
WOW. What a statement here by Owens and how backwards do we have this is the church today. Seriously. How many times do we first tell men to go mortify their drinking, their pornography, their financial ruin, their homosexual lifestyle, their drug addiction when we should first be about the business of conversion and them saying with Peter "THOU ART THE CHRIST". This is a very damaging statement to the evangelistic modes of many individuals in the American church today.

But Owens isn't done, he continues:
And this is the usual issue with persons attempting the mortification of sin without an interest in Christ first obtained. It deludes them, hardens them—destroys them. And therefore we see that there are not usually more vile and desperate sinners in the world than such as, having by conviction been put on this course, have found it fruitless and deserted it without a discoveryof Christ. And this is the substance of the religion and godliness of the choicest formalists in the world, and of all those who in the Roman22 synagogue are drawn to mortification, as they drive Indians to baptism or cattle to water.
Haven't we seen this so many times in people that at one time attended church, heard the "mortification first' preaching from the pulpit, maybe even stayed in church for a while, but under the weight of not being able to perform to standard, abandoned Christianity all together and gave themselves over to a more destructive lifestyle than they ever lived in the first place. Amazing.

Then, Owen has some words for preachers:
Let me add this to those who are preachers of the word, or intend, through the good hand of God, that employment: It is their duty to plead with men about their sins, to lay load on particular sins, but always remember that it be done with that which is the proper end of law and gospel—that is, that they make use of the sin they speak against to the discovery of the state and condition wherein the sinner is; otherwise, haply,24 they may work men to formality and hypocrisy, but little of the true end of preaching the gospel will be brought about. It will not avail to beat a man off from his drunkenness into a sober formality. A skillful master of the assemblies lays his axe at the root, drives still at the heart. To inveigh25 against particular sins of ignorant, unregenerate persons, such as the land is full of, is a good work; but yet, though it may be done with great efficacy, vigor, and success, if this be all the effect of it, that they are set upon the most sedulous26 endeavors of mortifying their sins preached down, all that is done is but like the beating of an enemy in an open field, and driving him into an impregnable castle, not to be prevailed against. Get you at any time a sinner at the advantage, on the account of any one sin whatsoever? have you anything to take hold of him by?—bring it to his state and condition, drive it up to the head, and there deal with him. To break men off particular sins, and not to break their hearts, is to deprive ourselves of advantages of dealing with them.
Owens admonishes that if you're not careful, you'll preach men into a legalism and empty faith but won't see them enter into true communion with Christ. How many churches and pulpits does that describe today?

Finally, to end with his summary on Chapter 7:

What has been spoken I suppose is sufficient to make good my first general rule:
Be sure to get an interest in Christ—
if you intend to mortify any sin without it,
it will never be done.

And I Thought All My Wife Did Was Eat Bon Bons And Watch "The View"

But alas, she might be the greatest helpmate God ever gave me. And I'm getting her at a bargain evidently!

(HT: Between Two Worlds)

And Oh By The Way: This is my 100th POST! How fitting that a milestone would be a subject covering my wife!

You Have To Look Beyond Yourself

That's essentially the message of this post over at Gospel Drive Life.

He's recently finished a series on The Beauty Of Christ that is well worth reading as well!

Give Me Some Of That Old Time Gospel

Reformation Theology has a phenomenal post on why the Gospel should never get old!

UPDATE: Also a great post on thinking.

When Someone Dies Before Their Time

Great post here on losing someone "prematurely".

(HT: PapaMarcs Blog)

May 01, 2007

Sam Storms Responds To Critics Of Penal Substitutionary Atonement

In this blog post, Sam critiques a book that's out opposing the orthodox view of penal substitutionary atonement. Here's an excerpt of the authors he responds to:

The authors proceed to ask several questions. Is PSA biblical, i.e., is it faithful to the text? Could it be that PSA speaks not so much to our culture but actually grows out of it? “In what ways is the theory of penal substitution shaped by the Western culture in which it has grown and gained its popularity?”(29). Can penal substitution thrive in our postmodern world which is challenging our traditional concepts of a) individualism (“in favor of a communal accounting of human nature,” 29); b) autobiographical justice (“in favor of systems theory, including the determinative role of genes and family experience in human behavior,” 29); and c) the existence and progress of an autonomous humanity (“in favor of a portrait of the human family that locates humanity within the cosmos, so that the redicament and soteriology must account for creation as a whole,” 29)?

Who Doesn't Like Free Books?

Go to Voice of the Sheep to get a great freebie!

Don't Speak Against God's Anointed

For anyone who has ever tried to refute heresy or contend for the faith, we've all heard arguments like this one.

(HT: The Sign Of Jonah)

More On The Driscoll Video

As I thought it would, this was going to have some legs if for nothing else than Driscoll's visibility. Ought to be interesting what the next post is going to be!

If you have no idea what I'm talking about, go here.

An Interesting Interview With Implications For Para-Church

This was an interesting article for me to read especially since I am on staff at a para-church ministry.

Here's a key paragraph:

Liam was eager to point out that he believes it is vital for those who he describes as “confessing evangelicals” to work together across some of the barriers that have divided them in the past. He does not, however, advocate minimising or removing all such distinctions. We operate in two spheres — the sphere of joining hands to support the Gospel and work together and the sphere of the local church. Liam spoke about the importance of realising what issues have prominence, and in our conversation those did, indeed, have prominence. He clearly believes that what Mohler calls “theological triage” is crucial. There are issues that should not prevent us from working together on a conference platform, but which within a local church may present practical difficulties. Each local church must identify where it is going to stand on these matters, and on which of them it is willing to be flexible. Liam believes, for example, that to have both cessationists and charismatics in the leadership team of a local church congregation would not be practical. On the other hand, in his own local church, considerable flexibility is given to those who differ on the mode and timing of baptism. Not every church will come to the same conclusions about where it stands on these “second-order” issues, which of them will be required for membership, and which will be prerequisites for leaders in that congregation.
But, said Liam, every church must have a clear idea of its own theological and stylistic identity, and must not confuse the two. Along with theological distinctives, each congregation will be shaped to some degree by the local culture in which it exists — this will affect the stylistic choices, but obviously should not affect the theological ones. It is vital that we remember that the way we do things is not the only way they can be done — or even necessarily the best way in another context.

Bet Ya You Can't Read Just One!

- Great post over at Dr. Mohlers blog on abortion and the ultrasound machine.

- Voice of the Sheep has a great post on the true meaning of the word "catholic". For those who didn't grow up in the Roman Catholic church, you may be surprised by what you read

- Like him or not, like his theology or not, you have to see the passion for lost people in Perry Noble's latest post.

- The Pyromaniacs on "denominations"

So in one swing through the blogosphere, you could read about abortion, the church, passion for lost people, and denominations. Not a bad day's worth of reading.