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Showing posts from 2010

Mormon America

I've been doing a little light Christmas reading, so as part of this I picked up a book that reads quickly called Mormon America. The work is by authors Richard Ostling and Joan Ostling. Richard spent three decades with Time Magazine in various key roles and was working with the Associated Press as a religion writer according to the back cover. Joan was an editor and writer with the US Information Agency in Wash., DC and a reporter with Press Publications in Chicago. Their goal is to provide a nonpolemical overview of Mormonism as it grows rapidly around the world and to some extent in the US (though from the book one may assume not as quickly as overseas). The book covers everything from what a Celestial Room is in a Mormon temple (page 190) to the fact that Mitt Romney is a Mormon bishop who was invited to speak at Pat Robertson's school in a surprising situation. I have to admit coming from a Methodist-Baptist-Community church background that the book was fascinating. I'…

Communicating for a Change

Andy Stanley and Lane Jones have written a book with the above name, that compares preaching to truck driving, literally. The book is also written in a conversational format. Those two things alone may cause you to doubt its usefulness to you thinking through communication theory. Perhaps they went too basic. The redeeming quality though, because it is a great teaching book, is a series of gold nuggets throughout the long dialogues between an alleged pastor and the truck driving individual. If you can press ahead, you will find useful speaking tips and principles for the Christian communicator. The book really can only be appreciated by a veteran preacher in whatever area they happen to be of church life or speaking engagements. The backing for points about the one idea sermon depend upon this. In addition, one may get glazed eyes reading it if there was not a strong felt need of the speaking reader to communicate better than an informational session about a Bible passage. If you spea…

Roger Nicole Passing

I heard tonight that famous 20th century Christian theologian Roger Nicole has passed away at 95 years old. He was a past evangelical leader, being president of the Evangelical Theological Society, and having taught at Reformed Theological Seminary. He wrote over 100 articles, and contributed to 50 plus books, and helped set up the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (inerrancy generally meaning each word of Scripture is inspired of God). It is sad to hear about this figure passing as he has influenced so many of us in evangelical church life when it comes to theology. I know that I personally benefited from his work on inerrancy and how that influences the rest of theology. One person on twitter put it rightly, at least now he is beholding the face of Jesus Christ. As far as I can see, he ran the race, fought the fight, and persevered by faith. Well done.

For brief info about his life's work you may look at these links current when this blog was posted:
Here.
Here.

Foundation Repair as a Case Study

I was at an apartment complex today where they had someone go around to all of the buildings to inspect their foundations. They were built in the late 1980's, so that the buildings could have been structurally sound still. However, they did not have initial piers attached to the concrete slab to prevent movement (which would have been relatively less expensive than adding them later). To make matters worse, the management (not sure who it was then) years and years ago, had a cheapo pier company come out and work around the buildings. The pier company told them nice things, but sold them an inadequate product. You can see these later concrete cut outs along the side and in other places. These cheapo piers are poured concrete and eventually shift easily.

Several of these apartment buildings are on a downward slope, which means the building moves over time. This little fix makes the problem worse, because the ineffective piers are in the places where an effective one should be. At t…

Fall Allergies and the Glory of God

Have you ever wondered what the point of allergies is? They drag a lot of people into a fog in Texas during the Fall. Allergies would seem to fit into the category of Genesis 3:17-19. What do you think, are allergens part of the Genesis three curse? The affliction of allergies then would be a sign of God's glory in that His absence from keeping things smoothly running as well as they could because the Fall has effects in the present. However, the thorns and thistles idea in Genesis is very much tied to work. This is an interesting concept, since allergies affect more than those working. Perhaps then they are not involved with hardship in work as much as they are situated in the fallenness of the world, not working as it should, before the restoration of all things later in history.

Culture and Theology in Church Starting

Ed Stetzer has an article challenging the focus on relevance to the exclusion of gospel theology. This is probably a good warning for many on the edge of planting. However, on the other hand, there are many who are not very relevant to the culture. In fact, if I had to guess most churches, and church starts, probably are far from relevant in either music style, music language, language of the sermons, and presentation (of gospel, order of service, etc). Still because the enemy works cleverly to deceive all of us, we must stick with the gospel's whole content (such as Jesus' substitionary death, in our place on the cross for our sins) in every planting effort around the country. We must as planters not forget to challenge persons to believe the gospel in a personal decision. Thank you for the good warning for all of us Stetzer.

Church Planting

In a major book on church planting in evangelical life, there is this objection to forming churches in an area in the US: 'another church ... will impede the growth of our church.' This is simply false the authors say, as "when Jesus said "I will build my church," he was not referring to the numerical growth of a particular congregation." In other words, reproduction of congregations following Jesus is the way that the church universal leads more -individuals- "to spiritual maturation." In addition, new churches are not competition but rather instruments to extend the "rule and reign of God" among a people group or city. It is nearly impossible for one church or even several really good churches to reach a whole city, let alone a corridor (several cities). Simply put: people are not doing the same things, they are not in the same place at the same time. This means new churches have an opportunity to branch out into those arenas.

Another o…

1st Timothy 4:16

Scripture tells followers of Jesus: Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. (NIV).

I have heard more and more about the debate over Christianity and Yoga via Albert Mohler's comments, which were engaged with by the Associated Press.

One of Mohler's comments stands out above even the debate among people on Christian faith and Yoga's spiritual background. It is this: "Not one–not a single one–has addressed the theological and biblical issues. There is not even a single protest communication offering a theological argument." (Mohler, Oct. 7th) This is a clear indicator about the type of responses he got (now at 100 respones per hour via his email), no one offered a theological argument. People say "oh it's no big deal." I can think of years and years of being in various churches and hearing little response to engaging with things Christians dabble in. Most of the time in an…

God's Guiding Action

It is interesting how we fret and worry in light of how God has plans to work things out His way. In life we so easily forget the pointlessness of worry, since not even a sparrow falls apart from the Father's plan. We are far more valuable than that as humans carry the imago Dei, the image of God, through how He created us. How much more then, will things like changes in a job, moving from place to place, connections we all have changing, or the way finances turn out be used of God for good. The wonderful thing about how God works is it is subtle enough that it requires faith, but looking back at what He has done we can strengthen our faith for tomorrow.

Nehemiah was ridiculed, but God got him through it (Nehemiah 4). Joseph was cruely treated by those closest to him in a way meant for evil result (Genesis 45:5). Yet God had a plan in that.

Looking at this devotionally, there are so often hidden dangers we miss when looking at and planning our futures. Yet as Romans 8:38 says…

Florida "Dove World Outreach"'

The situation in the news with "Dove World Outreach" (ironic name) has become a hot topic of conversation. It has been hyped up by the media that a pastor at that small (24 year old, nondenominational) church is doing a Qur'an burning. Apparently he says the bonfire they are going to build will go on this week as planned desipte attention drawing widespread criticism.

Now to the point here, it seems that one would be hard pressed to find any endorsement of the reaons that Terry Jones their pastor is doing this in the New Testament pages. It would take some non-existent example such as Paul burning a bunch of books on a Roman Caesar's life or Timothy burning copies of the Artmesian worship manual. No such example exists, and reading the reports that I've seen in several places (here and here and here) I don't see any clear biblical church reasoning for Jones' motivation. It seems that Terry Jones is following a political motive. This motive is to point out …

Christianity and Meditation

Dr. David Powlinson of CCEF, a Christian Counseling association, speaks on the issue of what Christian meditation is in contrast to other forms of the world.

This is worth the time to watch, click here to watch: here.

Christian Theism as a Unit

I was reading the unfortunate news about Clark Pinnock. He passed away recently having displayed the danger of shedding doctrines which are unpalatable to one's own liking. While Pinnock was a staunch defender of Christian theology, still he managed step by step to move in the direction of the world's influence (give up things that are "too" difficult for the ears of the age).
Click here to read more.

Pinnock did have a huge influence in Southern Baptist life years ago. His biography as a whole shows us that we all are to pursue Christ, including all of His teachings, rather than what is easy to defend.

Humility

This week I was reading from the book called Humility by C.J. Mahaney (2005 Multnomah). One of the best statements from this book is an overlooked aspect of what Jesus teaches the disciples in Mark 10:42 and following. The disciples James and John are talking about what it means to be "great." They request to sit at Jesus' right and left in glory. Unfortunately, they were thinking from a worldly perspective. Then, as Mahaney points out, "the Person [of Christ Jesus who owns all things, Col. 1.] standing there" is "making this statement": "whoever would be first among you must be slave to all" (vv 43-44).

Mahaney mentions the word "must" in verse 44; that it implies a thing which is required/indispensable. Mahaney emphasizes there is nothing wrong with striving to be great. That is, so long as greatness comes from what pleases the eyes of the Son (rather than our own view of what great is). Jesus says "whoever would be great am…

The Spirit at Work in Community Settings

Recently, I had an opportunity to take a seminar under Dr. JD Payne at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. He has a book out on Missional House Churches, which essentially studies what by one definition would be successful house church groups. On his blog, he recently posted a link to some major news articles on their movement. Here is a link. Here is another. The goal of Dr. Payne's book is to isolate a certain kind of church: house churches. Furthermore, he wants to find ones which are growing in a healthy way and see what they are doing right, and Scripturally. This in turn would benefit those in the house church movements with ways to improve their ministry. Payne provides some helpful advice for change in those movements, including better supports of missions and associational work. He endorses having pastors (whereas most house church people seem anti-pastor (though they would predictably deny this claim)). My main goal is not to endorse h…

What Happened Back in the Garden?

There is an interesting article on some of the nuance to Adam and Eve's sinning in the Garden of Eden. You might take a look for your own Bible knowledge to be sharpened:

http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2008/03/14/feedback-first-sin

Let me know what you think.

Dividing Wall of Hostility Down

It is somewhat unexpected, but the spiritual truth is present about the dividing wall being broken down between Jew and Gentile in the gospel of Matthew, chapter 15. While it may not be as clear as the Apostle Paul later makes it, it is certainly at the least foreshadowed. Jesus in Matthew 15:22 begins to dialogue with a Gentile woman who requests Jesus to have mercy on her, because her daughter is cruely demon possessed. After clarifying her motives in a 1st century way (to make sure she knew the Messiah's mission), he agrees to set her daughter free because of the request asked in faith. Then after this, Jesus is healing people in a large crowd on a mountaintop that includes both large numbers of Jews and Gentiles. And after three days of being with these crowds, he provides for the 12000-16000 people there with a miracle of multiplying. In each of these cases, the gospel of Matthew which often traces Jewish audiences need to see things about Jesus, shows that Jesus is Lor…

What is a Baptist Association?

Criswell radio in the Dallas/Fort Worth area today had guest host Jeff Campbell, Pastor of Bethany Baptist Church. Jeff is a biblically minded leader, an evangelical. He brought up the issue of Christian associations among churches/ministers. In the area of evangelical life and Baptist life, an association offers the fellowship among pastors and the support of local missions every church should want to celebrate. Beyond this we might add that local Baptist associations or similar associations pool their resources into one, so as to rejuvinate ministries, help ministries and churches find land which they may not otherwise be able to do, provide a means to help the poor in more efficient ways, and a whole host of other things. One caller to that radio program on 90.9 FM said that he doesn't believe in associations and proceeded to call them a number of things that were inappropriate. Rightly, he was challenged on that by Jeff and by a local director of missions. Associations …

Church as Community

Christianity Today came out with an article on the value of a true community in a church. It points out how in American culture, the danger of a "me-centered" individual works against the dignity of the whole. As a working thesis, the author holds that the New Testament and Old Testament lay out a model of church that involves community. In the Old Testament, the family unit was so important that you deferred to their needs. (He doesn't go into depth, but there are many OT texts that say just this kind of self-denial in the Law of Moses). In the New Testament, a Mediterranean family model is emphasized (brother, sister, Father, child, inheritance). Culture has hijacked Christ today so that he is a divine therapist aiding --the individual-- Christian to seek their own spiritual quest. This is evident in church hoping, when an individual Christian never stays at a church very long in our day. Persons who are involved in one church for long enough will see this. After a yea…

Matthew 13

The Lord Jesus teaches people who hear the Word of God have one of several outcomes. The first is they are led to forget the Word of God. The second is people receive the Word of God with joy, but then when persecutions come they turn away from it. The third possibility he lists is a falling away when concerns of the world choke out the Word of God. The fourth response is the Word takes root in the heart via understanding --and-- a return comes out of the change.

It is always an encouragement when doing outreach to understand that spiritual warfare is real. We must pray for those we are trying to reach with the gospel. Further, as much as is possible, we should make those who profess Jesus aware that persecutions do come, and that Jesus was not a millionaire while he was on earth. If possible, this encounter through the Word with a more accurate view of Jesus may save them from destruction as they are spiritually changed in the heart. The last option is the most encouraging. When evang…

Antony Flew Passes

The philosopher Antony Flew died on April 8th, 2010. He had been a lifelong atheist, but recently decided arguments for God's existence were compelling. He adopted something like a deistic creator view of God as a result. He had dialogues with persons such as NT Wright over the resurrection, but to my knowledge Flew did not become a Christ follower in any meaningful sense. This is a sad thing. It is a reminder to us all that we must make sure of our salvation and our calling today. There is never a promise of how long we have and our life must be one that is not fearful, but certain that we know a great Savior Jesus Christ.
An article on his death is here:

http://www.latimes.com/news/obituaries/la-me-antony-flew15-2010apr15,0,4059881.story

Speaking and Writing

For academic researchers in US and Canadian circles or those heralding the gospel in the same, there are two great resources for quality writing. One of the works is called Elements of Style by Strunk and the other is Style by Joseph Williams. These two books are short, to the point, and offer significant checks on our writing style. They are equally relevant to the goal of speaking in a clear way with an English audience. Elements of Style could be read in one afternoon. Style is something you could read in three settings (if you made a good effort of it). The work by Williams takes into account cultural trends in the USA as far as assumptions people hold when writing and reading. The way that a sentence is heard is also explored by Williams. Neither book will break your bank account and will be rewarding for clarity in reviews, essays, research papers, sermons, and newsletters.

Antony Flew's There Is A God

Antony Flew was a self-admitted leading atheist in the West for decades. His article (done early in his career) on 'theology and falsification' was one of the most sought after articles in the 2nd half of the 20th century. He rejected cosmological arguments for God's existence. Yes, and, at one time he found David Hume's arguments convincing for a closed universe system. Even while growing up as a teenage, he admits feeling in his heart uncomfortable with the Problem of Evil in the world. This was compounded by his childhood teachers and peers having no thoughtful explanations for such a situation (should be a clarion call to the church to answer this question). However, through reading various philosophers later in life, Flew came to believe there were powerful arguments for God's existence and for explaining the so-called 'Problem of Evil.' In the book, Flew provides examples of such argument as the work of Terrence Penelhum that critiques assumptions Hum…

Moral Darwinism by Wiker

I thought I would share some of this very useful book. Wiker brings out how Christians unknowingly accepted from some who claimed to be Christians an Epicurean worldview in the 1600's and 1700's. Instead of keeping the discoveries of science as part of a Christian rooted worldview or outlook, and just accepting this as evidence for it; some came along persuading the culture to accept beliefs like this: that matter has always existed and the universe is infinite in size. (Both of which are claims that are highly dubious as far as evidence 'fit' and not accepted by many varied stripes of cosmologists. Apparently even 'father' Epicurus of the materialist worldview admitted a need for a Creator/Starter against his hope otherwise). The resulting idea of chance, infinite worlds, possible worlds, and matter with no limits ended up creating a sort of comfort for some to abandon a unique Incarnation of Christ. One creature, one planet. Wiker's argument (in an un-…

Thomas Morris - The Logic of God Incarnate

I came across this book lately which attempts to defend an orthodox understanding of Jesus as having two natures, but also the unity of his person. The author was a professor at Notre Dame for fifteen years in philosophy, and now is involved in practical ethics in workplaces it seems, if I understand correctly. And he delves into removing the charge against Christian theists that the incarnation is not coherent (divine and human). Some important distinctions are made on Jesus as God (being God), but not God 'simpliciter,' according to Chalcedonian historic orthodoxy. What does that mean? That is to say I am guessing from this, that when you talk of God, we also mean the Father, and Holy Spirit as well. So God is not exhausted by only one person of the Trinity, but all three persons are God. One God, three persons; though he doesn't spell this out. He also explores the use of the 'indiscernability principle' to talk of how to distinguish divine and human properties …

B.B. Warfield on how heresy happens

I was reading BB Warfield researching another topic. I came across a very good chapter that touches on apologetic method that is called "Heresy and Concession." (672, Selected Shorter) It describes how the world comes at us very confident, never admitting its views are "opinion" or asking us to use the "touchstone" of the Word of God for input. Rather it calls its views scholarship, prestige, and right. But we must always be confident upon the Word of God. We must realize the definition of heresy that Warfield, that classic preacher and teacher, said: "the very essence of 'heresy' is that the modes of thought and tenets originating elsewhere than in the Scriptures of God are given decisive weight when they clash with the teachings of God's Word, and those are followed to the neglect or modification or rejection of these." (677, Selected Shorter) He says that apologetics (defense of the faith) often takes the attitude that we "su…

DA Carson's Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church

Well, I have pressed ahead through Carson's Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church. It is a worthwhile read. I highly recommend it. Basically what Carson does is bring biblical considerations to bear, biblical themes, that don't fit in the framework of the major "hard postmodernists" books or articles. If we are to take Scripture as our authority, then there has to be a change, we need to go with what God has revealed rather than culture. Carson is right. He approaches two authors, one major US postmodern-emergent author and one from the United Kingdom. And then examines their beliefs so as to show that they don't match major biblical themes. He then has sections of Scripture where he lists things like knowing and certainty from the Bible, and shows how overwhelming these ideas are. Scripture portrays us with the ability to know for certain on doctrines of Christian truth. Whereas some (some, not all!) authors in the emerging church tend to abandon absolute…