Archive for October, 2008

Children going around with their friends and/or families to their neighbors homes all on the same night, laughing and having a good time while households share treats and goodies, smiles, and kind words with those that come to their doors?  Shame on them.

How should the church respond to the one time of the year when nearly every neighbor family comes out of their homes to interact with their neighbors? Separate itself of course. Don’t interact with your neighbors and certainly don’t participate in the community activity. Turn off the lights, take your family to church, and be suspicious of any neighbors that enjoy decorating for and celebrating Halloween.

There was a period of my life when I responded to Halloween in similar ways. This is unhealthy behavior for Christians. We should be making the most of this opportunity to connect with our neighbors. This does not mean that we need to adopt the beliefs of our culture, or participate in satanic rituals. Frankly, I think one of the worst things that happens on Halloween is the acceptance and perpetration of consuming large amounts of sugar. But most Christians don’t care about that, and if they do, it too can be handled in an appropriate way to achieve moderation. Maybe we could display Christ-like character during this Halloween by being hospitable to our neighbors, not just handing out candy, but inviting our neighbors to join us for chili (or some other good Fall food) after they take their kids trick-or-treating.

What ideas can you come up with to display Christ to our neighbors?

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Came across this while perusing JI Packer’s Knowing God. Thought you might enjoy it too.

“We need frankly to face ourselves at this point. We are, perhaps, orthodox evangelicals. We can state the gospel clearly; we can smell unsound doctrine a mile away. If asked how one may know God, we can at once produce the right formula: that we come to know God through Jesus Christ the Lord, in virtue of his cross and mediation, on the basis of his word of promise, by the power of the Holy Spirit, via a personal exercise of faith. Yet the gaiety, goodness, and unfetteredness of spirit which are the marks of those who have know God are rare among us–rarer, perhaps, than they are in some other Christian circles where, by comparison, evangelical truth is less clearly and fully known. Here, too, it would seem that the last may prove to be the first, and the first last. A little knowledge of God is worth more than a great deal of knowledge about him.” (JI Packer, Knowing God, 25-26)
I wonder in which category we happen to find ourselves: Knowledge of or knowledge about. Think about it.
Soli Deo Gloria!
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I guess these folks, Steve and Kathy, have been doing their thing for a while now. I only heard about them because Christian Post did a story. I don’t really care one way or another what they do with their time and money, but I was just wondering about something after I read the story and watched one of their, uh, videos (which according to my powerful sense of discernment was racially insensitive). The CP story has this paragraph:

Aside from his book, Gray has also been addressing the issues of his “absurd religion” through The Steve & Kathy Show, a Christian comedy TV show featuring skits that are often critical of megachurches and the emergent church movement.

One skit, titled “Seeker-Sensitive Mega Church Guy,” which spoofs the megachurch phenomenon in America, has attracted over 49,000 viewers on YouTube as well as a recently-won Emmy award.

My question is, I wonder what happens when Christian Comedians, who are clearly despised by the ADM crowd, make fun of the people that the ADM crowd despise? I wonder how the two can co-exist without there being some sort of black hole opening in the universe and causing the failure of all life as we know it? Worse, what happens when the comedian apparently is the pastor of his own megachurch and apparently has a very strong urge to be Rob Bell?

I’m just wondering…

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Happy HalloweenIn preparation for Halloween Reformation Day (same difference), perhaps it is time to look at -

THIS DAY IN HISTORY – October 27, 1553

From Wikipedia:

As Servetus was not a citizen of Geneva, and legally could at worst be banished, the government had consulted with other Swiss Reformed cantons (Zurich, Bern, Basel, Schaffhausen), which universally favored his condemnation and the suppression of his doctrine, but without saying how that should be accomplished. Martin Luther had condemned his writing in strong terms. Servetus and Philip Melanchthon had strongly hostile views of each other. Those who went against the idea of his execution, the party called “Libertines”, drew the ire of much of Christendom. On 24 October Servetus was sentenced to death by burning for denying the Trinity and infant baptism. When Calvin requested that Servetus be executed by decapitation rather than fire, Farel, in a letter of September 8, chided him for undue lenity, and the Geneva Council refused his request. On 27 October 1553 Servetus was burned at the stake just outside Geneva with what was believed to be the last copy of his book chained to his leg. Historians record his last words as: “Jesus, Son of the Eternal God, have mercy on me.”

Happy Reformation Day (a few days early), Michael!

[Please do note, that Calvin requested that Servetus be decapitated, instead of burned at the stake. So don't ever say that the creator of the so-called "doctrines of grace" was a heartless, graceless guy...]

HT: VV, with more here.

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* Sarah Palin has said nothing about the clubbing of innocent baby seals.

* Every year over 200,000 baby seals are clubbed to death for their fur.

* Headline reads “Sarah Palin joins the ranks with seal clubbers!”

I know, I know… that is absolutely asinine. Why would anyone ever make those jumps in logic? Well, apparently one writer over at CRN has decided to do so. Here’s the logic found in this article

* Rob Bell has made few definitive statements about homosexuality.

* The Gay Wisconsin City Cream Choir, an organization that doesn’t claim to follow Christ, is singing songs that are not theologically correct.

* Headline reads “Rob Bell Sing the siren song of the Self”

WHAT!?! How on earth do you make those conclusions and connections!?! It’s absolutely incredible that someone who calls themselves a researcher and a mouth piece for God himself would make such wild and strange statements. If you have some type of vendetta against Rob Bell, then I guess anything and everything pagan could and should be tied to him.

So much for solid research.

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I am currently reading Eugene Peterson’s newest spiritual theology Tell It Slant. Peterson is full of wisdom and his insight into Scripture is masterful. He has a way of cutting to the quick and laying out his argument with short, terse, and dead-on statements.You should read Eugene Peterson–a lot.

In the threads here, we often find ourselves in ‘conversations’ that devolve into ‘arguments.’ One person says something, another responds. Back and forth it goes. Someone is then called out and then they begin the justification of their statements. Threads are often derailed in this fashion. Peterson has fine words for this in commenting on Luke 10:25-37, and especially the scholar’s need to ‘justify himself’:

We feel the need for justification only when we sense that we are not quite in the right. Maybe there is more to life than orthodoxy. Self-justification is a verbal device for restoring the appearance of rightness without doing anything about the substance…We don’t like being thought bad or inadequate or stupid. (39)

Well, these are short thoughts, so that’s all I’ll give you. It’s just something to think about on your journey and in your conversations and in your interactions with those of Christ and those not.

Soli Deo Gloria!

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Here’s a short thought for today. I think it speaks for itself.

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PS–I thoroughly love he work of Eugene Peterson.

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I will continue to add to this post items that are of interest and or pertain to the comments.

Increasingly I’ve noticed a growing trend on social network sites to put a stake in the ground, a line in the sand, for whatever cause you are passionate about. Unfortunately I’ve seen the good and the bad of this technology. Recently I came across a group on facebook that has the following as their description.

As a saddened resident of Iowa, I find it is my duty since no one else seems to be standing up against it to MAKE A STAND in the direction of Jesus Christ and stand against not just homosexual marriage but in particular CHURCH SANCTIONED homosexual marriage! I don’t care if its a hate crime, I don’t care if I am kicked off facebook or anywhere else, I don’t care if my car is vandalised or I get threats; I don’t CARE if I’m hauled off to jail for some insane hate crime. I have a passionate anger (a BIBLICAL RIGHTEOUS anger mind you) against these creeps and perverts who do what was formerly a hanging offense now IN PUBLIC and are disgustingly proud of their unGodly and anti-Biblical practise. Even worse is the sad state of the church that actually upholds and sanctions this type of union. Sadly one of our own churches in the Des Moines, Iowa area has done so. This is huge and I will make the largest possible scene I can against it. I am on fire for GOD and HIS PRINCIPLES which do NOT include homosexual marriages!
Without sharing my thoughts; I’m curious as to how our readership perceive this?
What of this thought?

George Barna, president and founder of Barna Research Group, commented:

“While it may be alarming to discover that born again Christians are more likely than others to experience a divorce, that pattern has been in place for quite some time. Even more disturbing, perhaps, is that when those individuals experience a divorce many of them feel their community of faith provides rejection rather than support and healing. But the research also raises questions regarding the effectiveness of how churches minister to families. The ultimate responsibility for a marriage belongs to the husband and wife, but the high incidence of divorce within the Christian community challenges the idea that churches provide truly practical and life-changing support for marriages.”

According to the Dallas Morning News, a Dallas TX newspaper, the national study “raised eyebrows, sowed confusion, [and] even brought on a little holy anger.” This caused George Barna to write a letter to his supporters, saying that he is standing by his data, even though it is upsetting. He said that We rarely find substantial differences between the moral behavior of Christians and non-Christians.

bold emphasis mine.

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Some thoughts for all of us from Matthew provided by Michael J. Wilkins in his NIV Application Commentary (pp. 761-768). For those in leadership positions, especially preaching, I recommend reading the whole of the content from that section of Wilkins commentary.

I believe that we as Christian leaders may be more like the Pharisees than we want to admit. I don’t say this in a totally negative way, for the Pharisees had many good things about them: their personal godliness, their commitment to the Scripture, their belief in a coming Messiah and in a resurrection, afterlife, and spirit world, their leadership role in the synagogue, their desire to be separate from the sin of this world. We should all relate to those characteristics.

Nevertheless, one of the most humbling aspects of reading the Gospels (Matthew in particular) is recognizing that many of the criticisms that Jesus lodges against the Pharisees can also be lodged against us. This is especially true of Christian leaders. We have seen how Jesus pointed out many troublesome, indeed sinful, characteristics: pride, public showmanship, one-upmanship, bull-headedness, politicizing of one’s position, and, of course, hypocrisy.

  1. Live by example God’s message of grace (23:1-4)
  2. Earn respect and honor, don’t demand them (23:5-7)
  3. Wear titles lightly that point to God (23:8-10)
  4. Serve God’s people to empower them to advance the kingdom of God (23:11-12)
  5. Be a signpost to the doorway to the kingdom (23:13)
  6. Make converts to the kingdom, not to yourself (23:15)
  7. Maintain personal accountability (23:16-22)
  8. Major on the majors of the kingdom (23:23-24)
  9. Promote motives for leadership-ministry from the inside out (23:25-26)
  10. Develop personal identity as a leader from the inside out (23:27-28)
  11. Choose carefully the traditions you will represent (23:29-32)
  12. Listen to God’s other messengers, because leadership has stricter condemnation (23:33-36)
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A friend of mine from my days at Milligan College 20 years ago (or so) and I recently got back in touch via Facebook. While we shared a passion for music, working on a number of small projects together, we disagreed (sometimes vehemently) on the subject of politics, with me swinging to the (hard) right and him to the center-left.

Over the years, I think we’ve both moderated a bit (which age does tend to do), and I’ve come to respect a number of points he used to make (regarding social justice). Recently, he recommended a link to an article from the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, NJ, called (link fixed) When is it Acceptable for a ”Pro-Life” Voter to Vote for a ”Pro-Choice” Candidate?, subtitled “The Golden Rule should serve as a guide to those weighing a vote for “pro-choice” politicians.”

As he said in recommending the article, it contained a good deal of food for thought. The author, Gerard V. Bradley, first academically dissects many of the terms used in the debate of abortion, choice and life. He then does a careful job of providing ethical parallels, to help guide those who are struggling with their decisions on whom to vote for (if you choose to do so):

This question about the fairness of lethal side-effects is in the news almost every day now. Not because of abortion, but because of U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Almost every day there is news of an American air attack or ground operation which results in a substantial number of non-combatants’ deaths, or there is news about a post-mortem analysis of an earlier deadly attack. (Some days there are both.) The basic scenario and the recurring moral question are always along these lines: suppose that there is a wedding feast in Northwest Pakistan. Among the 100 guests are two high level Al-Qaeda operatives. The military reality is that any attack intended to kill those two puts everyone present at grave risk of being killed. Would it be morally right to launch the airstrike, thus endangering 98 innocents to get two who are not?

I do not know for sure whether, all things considered, the strike should be ordered. I do know, however, that any right answer to the question must go through the Golden Rule, precisely so that we do not unfairly off-load fatal effects upon people who are not like us. Precisely to avoid that form of unjust partiality towards ourselves and those like us, we must ask: would we order the airstrike if the feast were in Zurich? Or in Dublin? Or if the feast were taking place in South Bend, Indiana (or your home town)? If the answer to any of these questions is “no” then it is pretty clear that, if we nonetheless order the strike in Pakistan, we would not be acting in accordance with the truth that every innocent has an equal right not be killed. We would not be acting in accord with the Golden Rule.

We need to apply the Golden Rule in a very similar way to the question: when is it morally right to vote for a “pro-choice” candidate. I propose to do so by testing the three best arguments that “pro-life” voters voting for “pro-choice” candidates have made to justify their decision.

He then goes through the three key arguments in weighing this decision – Attacking the Root Cause of Abortion, Weighing the Balance of a Candidate’s Issues, and Women’s Equality – many things we’ve discussed here in the past.

All in all, this article is a very good read, which avoids the overuse of religious jargon and emotional appeal, rather dissecting the issue from an ethical, logical manner.

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