Get the book here

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Cause vs Effect

Another winner from MARK BATTERSON 

When it comes to suffering I think we tend to focus on cause instead of effect. We want to know why. And that is normal and natural. Nothing wrong with wanting to know why bad things happen, but that isn't the primary issue. The primary issue is effect. Why it happened is less important than who you are becoming as a result? You can get bitter or better. It can make you stronger or weaker. And that is up to you.

In a sense, you are not responsible for suffering but you are responsible. Let me explain what I mean. You may not have caused it, but you are response-able. You have the ability to choose your response.

Holocaust survivor, Victor Frankl, said it this way in Man's Search for Meaning: "Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms--to chose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances."

Honestly, I think the reason why so many of us have such a problem with suffering is that we're more concerned with our comfort than God's glory. Suffering is all about sanctification and glorification. If I am sanctified and God is glorified then the suffering is redeemed. God uses a bad thing to produce a good thing in us. That doesn't ease the pain or lessen the sorrow or stop the bleeding, but it does redeem it. There is spiritual gain through the pain. If our goal is to become like Christ and glorify God, we will experience some suffering along the way. A relationship with Christ is not an immunity card. But we have a High Priest who identifies with our suffering and through our suffering we identify with Christ.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Who/What Do You Side With?

“The difference between a Christian and a non-Christian: when a non-Christian is convicted of sin, he sides with his sin. When a Christian is convicted of sin, he sides with God, against himself.”
- Mark Dever

Friday, February 26, 2010

A Film by Joel Hager

Yes, as a matter of fact, I am proud of my son, Joel; as many months of work produce a film called "The Silo Project." You can check it out (and even purchase, if you had a mind to) by CLICKING HERE. (the picture is the cover of the dvd)

Know God

Absolutely needful reminder from J. I. Packer:

"What were we made for? To know God. What aim should we have in life? To know God. What is the eternal life that Jesus gives? To know God. What is the best thing in life? To know God. What in humans gives God most pleasure? Knowledge of himself."


John 17.3 And this is eternal life, that they know You the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent."

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Ex 23.2

"Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong." Ex 23.2 (NIV)
"You shall not fall in with the many to do evil." Ex 23.2 (ESV)
Peanuts

What You Can Do With The Gospel

Great stuff from Justin Taylor

Just a sample list from only two verses.
You can (and should):
  • preach it
  • hear it preached
  • deliver it
  • receive it
  • believe it
  • be saved by it
  • remember it
  • remind others of it
  • stand in it
  • hold fast to it
“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.”—1 Corinthians 15:1-2

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Chan Requesting Prayer for Believers in India

Watch this:
Persecution in India: Francis' Response from Cornerstone Church on Vimeo.

7 Reasons We Find The Bible Boring


This is a bit long, but worth reading. It is from THIS BLOG


Speaking from a protestant perspective, the Holy Bible is the final authority for faith and practice.  Moreover, it is God’s ultimate communication to us.  However, there are a number of Christians who struggle with reading the Bible.  In fact, you might be one of them and find it difficult to engage with on an in-depth and consistent level.  Now, I confess, I have always enjoyed reading the Bible .  But even in my zeal, I have found dry times.  As I contemplate various reasons for the ennui based on observations of others and many conversations as well as my own life experiences, I think that one or more of these reasons could account for it.

1.  Lack of Understanding: for some, reading the Bible is like the reading comprehension portions on standardized tests, the kind that includes a bunch of technical terms, themes and conclusions that are hard to decipher.  Who wants to read something they don’t understand?  I think the contributing factor to this difficulty is not understanding what the Bible is, how it was put together, the different genres, the progression of God’s revelation, the major themes and the correlation of how all the books fit together.  When people are told to just read the Bible and don’t have an understanding of what they are reading, its like picking up a puzzle piece and trying to make sense of the whole picture.   This is an essential component of the discipleship process yet, I fear that might be missing in a great many churches.   Good Bible study methods are needed for understanding.
Now I am of the opinion that the Bible is meant to be understood and can be understood by all (although not all will accept the message).  The Bible is a divine book, in that it is inspired by God, but it is also written by human authors who were using normal means of communication.  Therefore, reading each book according to its literary genre and particular place in God’s overall program is important.
Remedy: If this describes you, get a hold of some instructive material that will aid understanding how the Bible is put together.  Some basic resources that I have found useful for this task is,
  • How to Study the Bible for Yourself, by Tim Lahaye
  • Living by the Book, by Howard Hendricks
  • What the Bible is All About, by Henrietta Mears

2.  Lack of Relevance: if the reason we find the Bible boring is that it just doesn’t seem to applicable to our lives, we will get bored.  Especially, when reading Numbers!  This will happen if we are approaching the Bible to find solutions to our problems and will only be interested if what can solve the problems we face.  However, while the Bible was written for us, it was not written to us.  The Bible is God’s revelation and provides a description of his plan for history.  Understanding his plan should give a great deal of meaning to understand his heart and how we fit into that plan.
Remedy: if this is you, start approaching the Bible to learn about God and his overall program for history.  Always ask with each reading how what you are reading is relevant to his program rather than our personal program.

3.  Too Impatient: We live in a micro-wave culture.  We want understanding and we want it now.  While I do contend that understanding what the Bible is communicating is possible, studying takes time.  Understanding how each part fits together takes time.  It involves a consistent and diligent effort.  The use of study tools, like commentaries, can seem like it slows the process down but are valuable for the understanding process. In the end, it is about understanding and I am of the opinion that the more we understand, the greater our interest will be to learn more.
Remedy: if this is you, resolve in your mind that learning involves discipline and diligence.  It doesn’t happen overnight.

4.  Too Conditioned for Excitement: As long as we are looking for something new, a fresh word from God, the next move of God or wanting to go to the next level we might be conditioned for excitement. But if our Christian walk is conditioned upon needing excitement, reading the Bible can feel like watching paint dry at times.  Now, I contend that there is excitement in learning what God is communicating through his word, but as mentioned in #3, that will take time.  The end product of understanding can cause exhilaration although the process can not seem that way at times.  God has not changed what he has communicated but our understanding does and will increase with each reading.
Remedy: resolve in your mind that learning will not always be exciting.  But learning about God on his terms should be and provide the motivation to continually seek what he is communicating.

5.  Incompatibility with Personal Agendas: similar to #2, if you are looking for the Bible to resolve a self-interested agenda and it does not, then reading what is not relevant to personal agendas can get old real fast.
Remedy: if this is you, ask yourself the question of whom do you serve – self or God.  It is a hard thing at times to loosen the grip of self-serving motives but surrendering to the lordship of Jesus Christ does require us to do just that.

6.  Lack of Spiritual Motivation: I have been here plenty of times, just not interested in spiritual things even though maintaining a commitment to Christ.  Paul indicates in Galatians 5:16-17, that the flesh and spirit oppose each other.  The flesh is that principle within our humanity inherited from the fall that does not want to subject itself to God’s ways. (Romans 8:7).   When its winning, we lose interest.
But consider that God breathed out his word through the pens of 40 authors in order to reveal himself.  Consider the Bible as a love letter where God expresses his heart to us.  When we are apathetic, his word has a way of wooing us but won’t if don’t engage with it.
Remedy: if this is you, read anyway and with intentionality for the word to speak to you.  Now that doesn’t mean ignoring contexts or reasonable rules of reading, but open up to what is being communicated.  This does require discipline that says, even though I don’t feel like it, I’m going to read anyway.

7.  Discouragement or Anger with God: this is worse than spiritual motivation.  Whereas #6 refers to apathy, this is where we are just down right disgruntled with God.   When you are like this, who cares what God is communicating.  You may even feel like he opposes you and has no interest in you.
But here is where I’d say reading the Bible becomes the most crucial.  Jeremiah says that the heart is desperately wicked, who can understand it (Jeremiah 17:17).  Relying on a troubled heart will only pull us down and must combated with the immutable, timeless truths of scripture.  Otherwise, the troubled heart will continue to pull you further and further away from God’s truth, which may even result in you rejecting it all together.
Remedy: honestly, this is the toughest one.  The only thing I can think of is to cry out to God, reach for Christ and keep reading his word even though there may be buckets of tears with each reading.   Finding a loving, leaderful and wise shoulder or two to cry is important too.  Consult your pastor or even get some sound Biblical counseling.  You have nothing to lose but everything to gain, even though it may not feel that way.
Overall, the encouragement here with each one of these categories is to think about what makes the Bible boring for you and how to possibly work past it to absorb the wonderful truths of who God is, his plan for history and the greatest gift of eternal life for those who would place their trust in the work and person of Jesus Christ.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Bottom Line - We Don't "Accept" Christ; We are the Accepted


“The gospel is saying that, what man cannot do in order to be accepted with God, this God Himself has done for us in the person of Jesus Christ. To be acceptable to God we must present to God a life of perfect and unceasing obedience to his will. The gospel declares that Jesus has done this for us. 


For God to be righteous he must deal with our sin. This also he has done for us in Jesus. 


The holy law of God was lived out perfectly for us by Christ, and its penalty was paid perfectly for us by Christ. 


The living and dying of Christ for us, and this alone is the basis of our acceptance with God”
Graeme Goldsworthy, Gospel and Kingdom, p. 86

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Light the Fuel of Praise

“We gather as the church to proclaim the truth. We gather to declare—to ourselves, to each other, and to God—what we know to be eternal reality. There is one God, who is sovereign over the universe and every detail of our lives. We have rebelled against him. He sent his Son to die in our place for our sins. And through Jesus Christ we have forgiveness and peace with God.
There are many things we can proclaim during and after a time of corporate worship. God’s glory is unending, and his perfections are infinite. But the fuel of our praise will always be the gospel of Christ who has redeemed us and brought us to God.”
- Bob Kauflin, "Worship Matters"

Friends are Friends...Forever?

Many a truth is said in jest...thank God for friends who stick with you no matter what...
Peanuts

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Gospel

“The gospel is saying that, what man cannot do in order to be accepted with God, this God Himself has done for us in the person of Jesus Christ. To be acceptable to God we must present to God a life of perfect and unceasing obedience to his will. The gospel declares that Jesus has done this for us. For God to be righteous he must deal with our sin. This also he has done for us in Jesus. The holy law of God was lived out perfectly for us by Christ, and its penalty was paid perfectly for us by Christ. The living and dying of Christ for us, and this alone is the basis of our acceptance with God”
Graeme Goldsworthy, Gospel and Kingdom, p. 86

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

So, You Wanna Be Like Apolo?

I find it fascinating and incredible to watch short track...this report shows the work behind the race:

Throwing up.

Wow. What a concept! I urge you to read this:
Throwing up.

Posted using ShareThis

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

It's Not the Church"s Job!

Caution! The following (from James Emery White) could offend some who have false expectations of the role of a church:


I love the church.  I have given my life to the church.  I believe, as is often said, that the church truly is the hope of the world.


But that’s not the church’s job.


Sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself.  Here you go:


Make me close to Jesus!
It’s not the church’s job.


Save my marriage!
It’s not the church’s job.


Raise my kids!
It’s not the church’s job.


Give me friends!
It’s not the church’s job.


Feed me!
It’s not the church’s job.


It is not the church’s job to give you the life you want, or hope for, much less the one that you are expected to forge through a relationship with God through Christ under the direction of the Holy Spirit.  The church cannot ensure that all goes well with you.  Most of life is your responsibility.


Why do I say this?


To defend the church.


Why do people often come to a church?  To get fixed, find friends, renew faith, or strengthen family.  All well and good, and the church can obviously be of enormous assistance in all four areas.  But the church can’t be held responsible for these four areas of life, nor should you expect it to.


Let’s try and drive this one home:


The parents of a middle-school student drop their child off at a middle-school ministry.  The child does not change into a model Christian student.  The parents immediately search for a new church with a more effective middle-school ministry.
What is wrong with this picture?  What is wrong is the complete absence of any sense that spiritual life is the responsibility of that middle-school student, not to mention that spiritual leadership within the family is the responsibility of her parents.


Instead, we have a mentality of “drop-off parenting,” which is just part of the mentality of a “drop-off church.”  We drop our wives off at a women’s ministry to get them to be the wives or mother’s we want; we drop our husband’s off at a men’s Bible study to get them to be spiritual leaders; we drop ourselves off at a service or recovery group to fix our problems, or a Bible study to renew our lukewarm faith.


It reminds me of the sixties and Timothy Leary’s famous line regarding not only the benefits of LSD, but the spirit of the age:




“Turn on.  Tune in.  Drop out.”


That is not the way to approach the church.


There comes a time when personal responsibility kicks in.


The church exists to coalesce and enrich; to coordinate and inspire; to provide order and leadership.  It exists to pull together the collective force and will of those who follow Christ in order to fulfill the Great Commission given it by Jesus Himself.  Yes, it serves the family trying to raise a child; it seeks to heal those who are broken; it provides the richest of communities for relationships; it offers the necessary resources for a vibrant relationship with Christ.


But it cannot circumvent the choices and responsibilities of the human will.
It cannot do life for you.


That’s your job.

Monday, February 15, 2010

No Redeeming Value - But Pretty cool and fun!

T-SHIRT WAR!! (stop-motion music video)

A Brief, Powerful Description of the Gospel

“The gospel is the story of God covering his naked enemies, bringing them to the wedding feast, and then marrying them rather than crushing them.”  Ed Welch in When People are Big and God is Small

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Performance-Based Christianity Isn't

“From start to finish, the whole Christian life is by grace through faith. A new life in Christ commences with faith, continues by faith, and will be completed through faith. To put this another way, the Gospel is for Christians just as much as it is for non-Christians.
We never advance beyond the good news of the cross and the empty tomb… Therefore, the Christian always looks back to the Gospel and never to the law as the basis for his righteousness before God… There is no such thing as performance-based Christianity… Justification is a doctrine for the whole Christian life from start to finish. It is not simply a doctrine for coming to Christ in the first place… Justification is a doctrine to live by each and every moment.”
- Philip Ryken, Commentary on Galatians, p90-92

Saturday, February 13, 2010

My Story of His Invasion

I am now involved in Kairos Prison Ministry.

Is it Baptist? Pentencostal? Methodist? etc.

Yes, and no.

It is designed to be focused on the essentials of the Christian faith, and thus I spent the weekend with a bunch of men with whom I could debate a lot of secondary theological issues.

But I don't have time for that.

Neither does Kairos.

The goal is to demonstrate and share Jesus with inmates in an intense, strategic, focused four-day-weekend.

As I shared my story of Christ's invasion into my life (I wasn't looking for Him, but I'm grateful He looked for me) it reminded me of an editorial I wrote for "The Family Life Journal" in 1997.

Oddly, I still have it, so I republish it here (with no changes....


Having just celebrated my 23rd spiritual birthday, I reflect on the goodness of God that first drew me to Himself and has more than sustained me since conversion.

Very often Christians speak of “when I found Christ.” The intent is good, the theology is not. Christ finds us! I certainly was not looking for Him, or for salvation, or even for hope in 1973. I had just been arrested and was awaiting extradition. Drugs were found in our cell, the Texas authorities removed everything except the religious material. After a few days of boredom I picked up a paperback book simply because it had the word “Prison” in the title.

As a 26-year old college-educated, alcoholic, drug selling Vietnam Vet I was introduced to the love of God as demonstrated in the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ. No human being was directly involved; I simply read the book. I had no idea there even was a Holy Spirit, but He was doing His work of conviction and drawing. I knew nothing of a trinity, nothing of the “infallibility of Scripture,” zero about predestination, and “secondary separation” would have sounded like a terrible body wound. (Which, on reflection, it is if one capitalizes the “b” in Body). All I know is that on January 30, 1974, I confessed my sins, and turned to God. Though I did not break out in a cold sweat, nor had any outward manifestation, nor tears, I simply knew that Jesus was real, that I was His, and that He was truth.

Subsequently, I was sentenced to prison, did my time, got out and went to Bible school. On this journey, I became painfully familiar with the fact many Christians seem to exist for one purpose…to argue with other Christians.

In the two decades plus of striving to walk with Christ, I’ve not seen any improvement in the infighting. I am known to be opinionated and vocal. Too often I spill my thoughts before I think them through1 but as I reflect, I am sure there are only a few things for which I’ll go to the proverbial wall.

Paramount is the deity of Jesus. He was, is, and always has been God. You don’t believe that , I don’t call upon you for silent prayer, much less have religious fellowship with you. The fact that the death for Christ has paid in full for my redemption is non-negotiable. The physical resurrection of Jesus can not be denied.

The necessity of repentance and faith in the completed work of Jesus for salvation is etched in stone (Acts 26:17-18; 26:20). The reality of heaven and hell are based on the clear words of Christ (Matt. 25:46). The return of Christ is not only a glorious hope, but part and parcel to the gospel.

Well, what about 24 hour days of creation? Are you pre-post-a millennial? What about tongues? Can you lose it? What about Christian rock? Which version is trustworthy?

Folks, when the Vietcong were trying to kill me, I didn’t care a bit about the muzzle velocity of my M16 or 50 caliber, nor did I care about the relative merits of each. I just kept my head down and shot at the enemy. I sure didn’t shoot at another GI who preferred to use a captured AK! I just wanted to stay alive and negatively impact the enemy. Maybe that’s an apropos parallel to spiritual warfare?

What spawned this thought process? I am blessed to have a perpetual calendar of Max Lucado’s writings, and the one I just read is from this book, Six Hours One Friday. I have placed it on my desk and on my bathroom mirror to be a vital reminder:

Seek the simple faith. Major on the majors. Focus on the critical. Long for God.

Though too wordy for a Lucadoism, I add, “Although you may not always see eye to eye, walk hand in hand with others saved by grace.”

Friday, February 12, 2010

Blessed Assurance or Confound Confusion?

I am convinced the reason most Christians don't share their faith is because they have yet to "work out their own salvation with fear and trembling" and thus have no assurance of their relationship with Christ. That is patently sad because the mission statement of the little letter of First John is "that you may know that you have eternal life." Yet all too often people know 1 John 5.11-13 but never read the entire letter to see what "these things" are.

I read the following yesterday on J D. Greear's Blog and resonated deeply with his comments. What do you think? Let me know in the comments...


How Can I Know I'm Saved?

Over the years I have found that an astonishing number of Christians do not possess an assurance of their salvation. They are hopeful, and fairly sure, but still—in times of struggle and doubt, they cannot find that absolute certainty that they belong to God and are safe with Him. This doubt cripples your ability to grow in your love for God, as assurance of salvation is the basis of the security that produces radical obedience and the gratefulness that produces radical generosity.
Many believers are troubled because they can't “remember” the moment when they first made the decision to trust Jesus. That doesn’t really matter at all. All that matters is that you’re trusting Him as Lord and Savior right now. Think of it like this: I walk into a classroom and sit down in a chair. About halfway through the class you ask me if I ever made a decision to sit in the chair. I say “yes,” and you ask me how I know that I made that decision. I don’t walk you through the decision making process that led me to sit in the chair, reviving the logic and emotions that caused me to take seat. I simply show you that I am currently seated.
The fact that I am seated means that at some point I made a decision to sit down, even if I can’t remember making that decision. This is what John 3:36, 1 John 5:13, Romans 4:5, Romans 10:9-10 say clearly... there are only two categories. Those currently believing, submissively, the testimony God has given about His Son, and those in defiant disbelief.
What is important is not that you can remember the moment of your salvation, or that you made the decision “correctly,” but simply that you are seated in Christ’s righteousness and in His authority right now. To press the analogy a bit further, either you are standing in your own righteousness and your own lordship, or you are seated in His salvation and His Lordship. There is no third option.
Often times we look for assurance by re-examining what happened to us at the moment of our salvation, be that 2 years, 5 years, or 25 years ago. If we feel good about that moment, we feel secure. If we don’t, we doubt our salvation.
The Bible never talks about assurance as remembering what happened 5 years ago. “Believing” is always a present tense, not past tense verb. Assurance comes from reflecting on our present reality, not from remembering past decisions.The Bible tells us not to find assurance by resting in what happened 2 years ago, but by resting, in this moment, in what happened 2000 years ago. If you are doing that at this moment, then (if never before) you are saved right now.

Googling Tebow Verses

Who knows what Tim Tebow's NFL career will look like? Hopefully he will continue one of his trademarks.

Tim, of course, is known for painting Bible references under his eyes...(you can get a complete listing of the verses he used this season HERE)

I am hoping that a lot of non-Christians googled the verses (google says that after a Florida game the reference Tim used that game is in the top-three searches...sometimes number 1) And I imagine a lot of people (Christains and churchers) didn't know the cited verse, so looked it up that way rather than leafing through their Bible...

I have no problem at all, in fact I am happy Tim "wears" verses...

All I know is that before I was brought to Christ at the age of 26 I would have no idea what the citations meant (unless the commentator explained it).

Like too many, if I saw a guy at a game with a "John 3:16" sign I would probably assume someone was trying to get his friend John to meet him in section 3, row 16.

And that's yet another reason why I am so enthusiastic about Bible Quizzing (learn more HERE) as for two decades I've been privileged to observe teenagers memorizing, book by book, verse by verse, great chunks of the written Word to the glory of the living Word.

Memories...the old days of school assembly travel...

Just got a facebook message from an old friend (Randy Shepherd)...he and I were on what was then known as Kansas City Youth For Christ staff a million years ago (or so it seems)...here is Randy's note:

"Hey Jack, I found an old newsletter of mine and guess what you and I were doing May 20-23, 1980?   We flew to Lima, Ohio where I booked you in 13 meetings in 3 days!  12 of those were in public schools where I estimated that you addressed over 4,000 teenagers with your personal testimony and a brief declaration of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.  Incredible!  Remember those days?"


The reality is I don't really remember that trip, from 1978 to about 1986 that's pretty much all I did...school assemblies around the country (mostly the midwest). Sad that "Reverend Hager" couldn't get into public schools, but ex-con Hager could!


Message was (and is, I'm still open to doing school programs) stressing personal responsibility. I did not go to prison because I was white, or because my parents were divorced, or because I watched bad tv, or because I was poorly potty-trained...I went to the joint because I made bad decisions.


Which is why, for my money, the worst thing about the "system" is that well-meaning people give inmates excuses for their behavior. The system told me, after the in-processing period, that I committed crime because of my "bad-attitude toward the country because of my service in Vietnam." Could they not look in my file and see I had juvenile convictions long before Nam?


Nope..the "system" starts from the premise that man is "good," so if man goes "bad" they have to find a reason and "fix" it.


Sadly, over the years the famine of personal responsibility has infiltrated the church...



Non-Believers Need "Mystery and Wonder"

Newsweek's technology columnist, Daniel Lyons, in a piece published February 8, discusses the iPad...and has several lines that provide many things for those who desire to "brag on Jesus" to contemplate:

"...What's wrong, or at least interesting, is why some of us expected so much more from a new gadget. I suspect this is because for some people, myself included, technology has become a kind of religion. We may not believe in God anymore, but we still need mystery and wonder.  Five centuries ago Spanish missionaries put shiny mirrors in churches to dazzle the Incas and draw them to Christianity. We, too, want to be dazzled by shiny new objects. Our iPhones not only play music and make phone calls, but they also have become totemic objects, imbued with techno-voodoo. Maybe that sounds nuts, but before the iPad was announced, people were calling it the "Jesus tablet."

"We just have blind faith that technology ultimately will make our business better, not worse. In one example of that blind faith, David Carr of The New York Times wrote recently that Apple's tablet would be nothing less than 'the second coming of the iPhone, a so-called Jesus tablet that can do anything, including saving some embattled print providers from doom.'"  (all emphasis added)


Wow.

The gospel is explosive (Ro 1.16). It makes no "sense." How dare we make it a formula, void of its incredible "mystery and wonder."

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Find God in 60 Days

Stumbled across this, don't know who the guy is, but it is a mixture of humor/sarcasm (I hope)/ and a dash of truth...

Keep Stuff in Place

It is a bad symptom of any man’s state of soul when he begins to put the second things of religion in the first place, and the first in the second, or the things ordained by man above the things ordained by God. There is something sadly wrong when it is more important to us whether others are of our denomination and ceremonies rather than whether they repent of sin, believe on Christ and live holy lives.”
~ J.C. Ryle

Snoopy is Right - Sort of...

Positionally, a convert is "the righteousness of God in Christ." Because of the gospel we are declared righteous in His sight...

Practically, we are a mess...but, unlike Snoopy's observation, we may "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" thru prayer, Bible reading, obedience, fellowship etc...

Described well in Joshua Harris' "Dug Down Deep" wherein he has a chapter titled: Changed, Changing, To Be Changed
Peanuts

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Chinese & Korean Ceremony Pics

At Donny and Angela's wedding in Philly last weekend, the reception featured a traditional "Chinese tea ceremony" (the bride is Chinese) as well as a traditional Korean ceremony. Here are pics:

 Chinese Tea Ceremony, Parents Blessing Newlyweds:


Donny and Angela in Korean garb:
The Korean ceremony:

Don't Count Your Chickens...

I trust I'm not the only one who benefits from Peanuts cartoons...this one caused me to remember times when I (or others) have thought we were pretty hot stuff because of early ministry "success":
Peanuts

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Super Bowl Party (and the more super opportunity to pray)

 After the wedding (and the 28 inches of snow in Philly), a bunch of us got together to watch the SuperBowl...I was the token white guy:
 

Before the wedding; had the opportunity to pray with and for the groom, Donny:

Monday, February 8, 2010

Back Home!

Uneventful, smooth, on-time flight home from snowy Philadelphia to a very light snow in St Joseph...glad to be home, with my family; and smile as I think of the time in Philly...the rehearsal...the wedding itself...opportunity to worship at Tenth Presbyterian...and, ah, the Saints victory!

May I present Mr. and Mrs. Donny (Angela) Cho:

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Linus the Evangelizer...Lucy the Evangelized

I have been quoted as saying there is often better theology in Peanuts' cartoons than most seminaries...and to that I plead "guilty."

But I absolutely love the following...and, at least to me, it is a tremendous portrayal of what we pray happens as we "brag on Jesus" and His gospel:

Peanuts

"Stand and Greet" - Am I the only one who hates them?

No, I know I'm not the only one who hates the typical (in certain "brands") Sunday morning thing when the guy up front says, "Let's stand together and greet one another" or, even worse, "Let's stand together and hug one another." Gaggeth.

Don't misunderstand...it is important for a local body of believers to mingle, greet, and, yeah, hug...but it needs to be a natural outflow of genuine love, concern, and care...not orchestrated and/or demanded.

Today I visited Tenth Presbyterian in Philly (a personal goal, see preceeding post)...due to yesterday's horrific snow there were few in attendance at the 9.00 am service...but at least 6 or 7 individuals went out of their way to welcome me...two were fairly sure I was a visitor (the fact that I had on a sweatshirt and jeans and most of them (but not all) were in suits may have been a hint!)...all before the service, in the foyer and in the (incredible) sanctuary.

Methinks that's the way it should be (granted, some churches have designated "greeters," and I don't think that's necessarily bad...but it would be better (and, alas, rare) if individual parts of the Body would naturally do what should come (super)naturally.

That's my take...what's yours???

A Bucket-List Check Off

Bucket-List = Things I wanna do before I croak!

Some I've written down, some I carry in my head...but this morning I clicked one off - I was privileged to worship at the 10th St Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. I've come to Philly every summer to speak at "Korean Kamp" for two decades, but have never had the chance to go to Tenth.

But, this weekend (with a "bit" of snow...2nd worst in Philly history) I was in town for Donny and Angela's wedding (which started late yesterday, but almost everyone showed up, and the ceremony, and the reception, was incredible...Angela is Chinese, so at the reception she dressed in a traditional chinese dress and had a "tea ceremony" with parents; and then her and Korean Donny put on traditional Korean clothing for an ancient traditional ceremony with parents and family...hopefully fotos later!).

Anyway, this morning I walked a couple miles to the church and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Why so important? Three of her pastors have been hugely influential in my life...Donald Grey Barnhouse, James Montgomery Boice, and Philip Ryken.

Barnhouse died in 1960; his ministry continues in scores of wonderful books. Boice journeyed to heaven in 2000; his books are phenomenal. Ryken is the current pastor (and he finished the book Boice was writing when he died) and continues to write (and preach!) great stuff.

An early 19th century beginning evolved into a church that impacts the city, the state, the nation, the world. It is rather majestic; the orchestra and organ were magnificent, and, more importantly, the preaching of the Word was challenging!

Law/Gospel...What's The Diff?

Vitally important to remember and rebroadcast:

“The difference between the law and gospel does not at all consist in this, that the one requires perfect doing, the other only sincere doing, but in this, that the one requires doing, the other not doing but believing for life and salvation. Their terms are different, not only in degree, but in their whole nature.”



Walter Marshall, The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification (Welwyn, 1981), 76.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Snoopy, I Can Relate!

As I enjoy being in Philadelphia for a wedding...in the midst of Philly's second worst snowstorm ever I find this in my email:
Peanuts

From Where Does Spiritual Stagnation Come?

In the great book, "The Trellis and the Vine: The Ministry Mind Shift that Changes Everything" the authors make a statement regarding, specifically, church ministry that I insist is directly applicable to those of us involved in youth ministry (meaning, how many "good" students who are trying to live right and do right are thinking, "What do I have to do to get my youth leader's attention???)


"But if we pour all our time into caring for those who need help, the stable Christians will stagnate and never be trained to minister to others, the non-Christians will stay unevangelized, and a rule of thumb will quickly emerge within the congregation: if you want the pastor’s time and attention, get yourself a problem. Ministry becomes about problems and counselling, and not about the gospel and growing in godliness.

"And over time, the vine withers."


Friday, February 5, 2010

Props to Tim - But He is not the First!

Thrilled that Tibow will lift up life during his super bowl ad Sunday, but it's been done before...over 20 years ago! Got nine minutes?

Super Bowl Win - Insignificant

As you hopefully enjoy the Super Bowl tomorrow, reflect on the words of Tom Brady on a 60 minutes segment:

"Why do I have three Super Bowl rings and still think there’s something greater out there for me? I mean, maybe a lot of people would say, “Hey man, this is what is.” I reached my goal, my dream, my life. I think, “God, it’s got to be more than this.” I mean this isn’t, this can’t be what it’s all cracked up to be."

Thankfully It Only Takes 2 or 3 Gathered in His Name

Peanuts

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Still Digging "Dug Down Deep"

Very much continuing to enjoy "Dug Down Deep" by Joshua Harris. What follows is his "testimony" as shared in the book. I put quotation marks because there may be some who don't feel he has a testimony because he doesn't have a date/hour.




If Harris' testimony makes you nervous...and even if it doesn't...I recommend very much you read Stephen Smallman's "Spiritual Birthline"...it is a phenomenal book with a distinct and clear message. And...name-dropper that I am...I am in Philadelphia to participate in the wedding of two very good friends...and in the groom's case I am one of several men "standing in" for the groom's father (he was murdered when the groom was 5)...and one of the other men is Stephen Smallman! I am looking forward to meeting him!

Here is what Joshua Harris wrote:

"Don't ask me to tell you when I was converted. Like a lot of church kids, I don't have a specific day when I repented, put my trust in Jesus, and was saved. For me there was no one breakthrough moment. God poked and prodded and shaped me through countless small, seemingly insignificant experiences and decisionsand friendships. Do you know the kind of slow transformation I'm talking about? You don't really see it while it's
happening. But later you look back and realize you're not the same."

I resonate with that, and it brings encouragement as ministry continues...we try to be used of the Lord to "poke...prod...shape" through what may seem to be "insignificant experiences" (a conversation, swapped e-mails, a youth "rally," a camp experience)...and, somehow, the Spirit of God uses and mixes those opportunities to impact hearts, lives, and minds with gospel-seed, and only He can bring it to harvest.

Don't Promise What You Can't Deliver!

So...let's get the coach at half court; blindfold him, tell him if he can make the ball go thru the hoop, he gets tickets to the Final Four.
Great fun.
Oops...
He drains it!

But, the cool thing is that after the fact someone stepped up and got him tickets and paid for the trip.

Yippee.

Dysfunctional Calvinism

I realize that some may think this blog's title is, ah, redundant...but for those on any "side," I think this,
from Timmy Brister is excellent:


I hope that my writings in support of Calvinism gives me the credibility to offer a few words concerning dysfunctional Calvinism.  If not, I am going to say it anyway. :)


Most of the Calvinists I have met are robustly evangelical and passionate about the gospel.  They love the church and have found their soteriological understanding as empowering to their Christian life, causing them to function with greater confidence and courage under the sovereign purposes of God.  However, there is a Calvinist here and a Calvinist there, few to be sure, who have provided sufficient provocation to address dysfunctional Calvinism.

What am I taking about, you might ask?

Dysfunctional Calvinism is the practice of embracing human responsibility in converting people to Calvinism but denying human responsibility in converting people to Christ.

Dysfunctional Calvinism likes to play the “sovereignty card” as a “get out of evangelism” exception clause.

Dysfunctional Calvinism gives an articulation of the doctrines of grace without exhibiting grace to those who disagree with them.

Dysfunctional Calvinism embraces “word” ministry to the exclusion of “deed” ministry–that is the love for the truth does not go far enough.  Let’s just have another Bible Study.

Dysfunctional Calvinism finds it easier to talk to Christians about election than the free grace of God to sinners.

Dysfunctional Calvinism turns your right theology in a wrong-headed way, sometimes as a heresy hunter/watchdog blogger and other times a tacit gnosticism.

Dysfunctional Calvinism is gospel-centered insofar as it satisfies their intellectual inquiry but does not inflame their affections and transforms their will in becoming “all things to all men that by all possible means I might save some.”

Dysfunctional Calvinism gets mad that I am willing to call out the dysfunctionality and complains that I am not going after Arminian

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Theologians R Us!

Thus says Joshua Harris in Dug Down Deep: "We're all theologians. The question is whether what we know about God is true."

I just read the first chapter, and am crazy about this book. Jane and I are soon going to start a Sunday evening study group for 20-somethings, and I'm leaning to using this book as a discussion starter.

Harris (almost parenthetically) hits on what I perceive to be a huge problem as he discusses the foolish and wise builder (Luke 6) when he writes, "Book knowledge about building on rock has no value if we're still resting on shifty sand." Both teens and adults have seminars, retreats, camps, study groups galore; yet so few are fleshing-out what they are "learning." Why? No firm foundation (if any foundation at all).

I probably will review the book more thoroughly when I finish it, but, wow, I'm glad I'm taking it on my trip to Philadlephia (I fly out tomorrow to participate in Donny Cho and Angela Wong's wedding Saturday...by the way, the weatherman is not cooperating...pray with me that the true controller of weather would choose to grace this Christ-honoring couple so all could attend)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Keep Bragging on Jesus Even Though You Can't Save Anyone!

Acts 26.17,18 records Jesus' commission to Paul:   "..to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Me."


Wait a minute! Jesus is sending Paul to do that which only Jesus (and Holy Spirit) can do! Yeah, but that did not cause Paul to not obey! He was obedient and honored to be used as a means to accomplish Jesus' end.


Read John Piper's explanation:
"Don’t stop because you can’t. Of course you can’t. But the fact that you can’t make electricity or create light never stops you from flipping light switches. The fact that you can’t create fire in cylinders never stops you from turning the car key. The fact that you can’t create cell tissue never stops you from eating your meals. So don’t let the fact that you can’t cause the new birth stop you from telling the gospel. That is how people are born again—through the living and abiding word, the good news of Jesus Christ."

Monday, February 1, 2010

Too, Too Funny!

Too, too funny (many a truth said in jest) from Thomas Slawson

New Album: Weepy Whiney Songs for Today's Typical Christian Male

From the best of Christian Radio comes an album just for you males in the church out there. It's the best weepy, whiney overly emotional spineless songs to encourage you as you battle through your hard and tedious life day after day. Titles include,

-My Parents are Making me Move Out
-Why Do I Need a Job?
-Responsibility is Not My Spiritual Gift
-My X Box Broke, Help me Through This Storm
-Help Me Through This Trial of the Cable Being Out
-Why Do Girls Want a Man With a Job?
-I Spilled My No-Fat Mocha Latte on My Lemon Yellow Vest
-Mark Driscoll Yelled at Me and Now I Want to Cry

...and many more great titles to lift you up when darkness clouds your spineless, aimless existence.

Whining to Worship

As has been said, every situation, every encounter, every moment gives us two alternatives - whine or worship. Does that mean Christians don't whine? Absolutely...dead Christians. But as long as we are "in this tent" there will be times we whine.

The folks who talk about "negative confessions" must not read much of the psalms.
For instance, Psalm 13:1-2 are not very "positive:"

How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?
How long will you hide Your face from me?
How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
having sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?

Then David formalizes a request and considers the outcome if his request is not granted in verses 3 and 4:

Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
Enlighten my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,
And my enemy will say, 'I have overcome him,'
And my adversaries will rejoice when I am shaken.

Then, David's answer comes as he remembers, reflects, and refocuses on what a disciple ought to do:

But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness;
My heart shall rejoice in Your Salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
Because He has dealt bountifully with me.

"Honest to God"  is a dumb thing to say to try to convince someone we are telling the truth. But being "honest to God" is a cool thing. Sometimes we don't tell Him the truth because we are afraid we will shock Him. Duh.