Monday, July 30, 2007

A Letter to My Daughter

My oldest child is about to start High School in a few weeks. I can hardly believe it. Is she really that old? Am I? This milestone has made me think of another milestone that seems like only yesterday - when she transitioned from Elementary School to Middle School. At that time, I wrote the following letter to her sharing my hopes for her as she moved on to middle school:

Now that you're becoming a beautiful young woman and are headed to middle school, I want to share with you my hopes for your future.

First and foremost, I pray that you will always love God and honor Him in all that you do. Read His word every day and go to Him in prayer. We can do nothing worthwhile in life apart from God so we must stay in contact with Him daily.

Secondly I pray that you and I will always be close. Feel free to come to me with any question, problem or good thing you need to share. I'll always be there for you.

Thirdly I pray that you will choose your friends wisely. Maintain close friendships with other Christians. Your sisters in Christ will be some of your biggest helpers as you go through middle school. Treat non-believers you come in contact with the way Christ would have you treat them, influencing them but never being influenced by them.

Finally, I pray that you will take the talents and gifts God has given you and use them to the best of your ability to honor Him and share His message with the world. Choose what you do with your life not based just on what you want to do but what can most effectively serve our Lord. Don't worry, if you choose that way, it will be fun too!

I couldn't love you more if I tried! I trust God for your future and ask you to always remember His love and the love your mother and I have for you as you go through life.

May God richly bless you in middle school!



John 15:4-8

God through His Grace has seen us through the Middle School years with these hopes in many ways realized. As I look towards the High School years with some apprehension, I will again have to rely on the Grace of God and pray that my daughter does the same. Over the next few weeks, I'll be working on the 'going to High School' letter. I pray that when I look back on it four years from now with College staring us in the face that I can again be thankful for God's Grace in my life and the life of my daughter.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Emerging Motivation

Phil Johnson has posted a series of satirical posters patterned after those motivational posters you see in various business contexts. These, however, are from the point of view of the emerging church. Here's my favorite:

The rest can be seen here.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Sanctity of Canine Life

Gary DeMar has an excellent commentary on the Michael Vick situation. Vick has been thorougly villified for his participation in the barbaric practice of dog fighting while the barbaric practice of abortion goes on day by day in this nation with the full support of the government, media and educational institutions. The same people who are horrified at dog fighting, many of whom won't wear fur or eat meat, routinely support the right of a woman to murder her unborn baby because the child is an inconvenience. You have to wonder what kind of compartmentalized lives people like that must live in order to make such a world view work for them.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

It's A Woman's Pulpit?

Recently a Baptist Church in Decatur, Georgia associated with the theologically liberal Cooperative Baptist Fellowship hired a woman pastor. This has resulted in no few comments in the media since it’s the first time a Baptist Church, at least one nominally affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, has allowed a female senior pastor.

Of course these comments are mostly sighs of relief that the Neanderthals of the SBC have finally wised up and gotten with the program, etc. Such was the case recently when Dick Yarborough saw fit to comment on it in the Gainsville Times

Mr. Yarborough took to task Al Mohler of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for daring to take the position that the Bible teaches differing roles for men and women and that one of the roles God has reserved for men is that of pastor. Of course Mr. Yarborough did not provide any Biblical support or theological analysis for his position. However, what he lacked in theological precision he more than made up for in snide comments and anecdotal “evidence”.

I won’t go into all the reasons here that orthodox Christianity has for hundreds of years viewed the pastorate as an office for men only. The burden of proof in this case is on people like Mr. Yarborough who want to overturn the orthodox position.

So what did Mr. Yarborough offer in support of his position? Gems like these:

“Methodists have had female ministers for a long time.

Well, yes, true enough, longer, for example than they’ve had homosexual or lesbian ones but how exactly does that bear on whether the Bible supports the legitimacy of a female pastor? I mean just because I’ve done something for a long time does that mean God approves of it?

“Now these many years later, there are a host of crackerjack female ministers in the Methodist Church, and we haven't been zapped by lightning yet.”

Oh, OK. So as long as we’re not immediately struck dead by God when we do something, we can take that as His approval for whatever it is we’re doing.

Then there’s this wonderful of theological insight:

“Do you have any divorcees in your church? Read what the scripture says about them (Matthew 19:9). And, finally, are there any women in your congregation wearing gold or pearls and/or plaiting their hair (1 Timothy 2:9)?”

I’m not really sure what he’s getting at here but he seems to be saying for one thing that he views Jesus’ emphasis on the sanctity of marriage to be over done and that it is just as passé to consider a person who remarries after an unbiblical divorce to be involved in adultery as it is to insist that pastors be men. The belief that divorce (with certain exceptions) is a sin and that remarriage after divorce is adultery is a position, supported by scripture, which has also been taught by orthodox Christianity down through the centuries. However, once you’ve eliminated one Biblical teaching by filtering the Bible through the lens of 21st century feminism, what’s a few more, right?

“Let's face it: God is a lot smarter than we are”

I have to give him credit for getting this one right. However, what Mr. Yarborough fails to understand is that God is smarter than we are even if what He tells us offends our 21st century egalitarian sensibilities. The Bible tells us in Proverbs that there is a way that seems right to us but in the end it leads to destruction.

That’s not necessarily immediately being struck dead, by the way Mr. Yarborough.

Decision Making & The Will of God

"Decision Making and the Will of God" by Gary Friesen is the best book on 'discerning' God's will that I've ever read, also the most Biblically sound. The author refutes the common belief that we can (and should) determine what he calls 'the dot' or God's specific will for our individual life. He shows that God's will has been revealed to us in scripture already and that we're free to make decisions consistent with that revelation without having to worry about 'missing a blessing' or inviting a curse because we're not living in God's 'perfect' will for our individual life.

For example, per the scriptures God's will is that I marry another believer, however, God does not tell me specifically which believer. As long as my marriage is to a believer I'm in God's will (at least where my marriage itself is concerned) and don't have to worry that I've missed marrying God's perfect match for me.

He also discusses the issue of a 'call' as it relates to missionary service, the pastorate, etc. Many, if not most, Christians today would say that the Lord often issues specific instructions to someone He intends to be involved in missionary service. Friesen disputes this saying: "rather than waiting for some kind of mystical "call" from God every believer should respond to the revealed will of God by giving serious consideration to becoming a cross-cultural missionary." Later he says: "We don't need a call, we've already been commissioned."

Friesen covers several other topics of interest to every Christian who wants to be a faithful servant of the Lord such as choosing a school, choosing a vocation, giving, as well as how to make decisions when believers disagree on non-essentials.

I would highly recommend this to anyone who's struggled with finding God's will for their life, especially if they've been told by well meaning Christians that they should be hearing from God specifically about day to day decisions. For someone wanting an overview of this topic in more compact form, Jim Elliff's little book Led By The Spirit: How the Holy Spirit Guides the Believer is an excellent choice covering the basics of the topic in only 48 pages.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

One Nation Under gods

It takes a lot to surprise me these days but I have to admit I was shocked that the United States Senate allowed a Hindu 'chaplain' to stand in its well and offer up a prayer to his pagan gods last week. I suppose it should not have surprised me, this nation abandoned the one true God many years ago.

Make no mistake, this is a sign that we are in dire straits in this country. Its one thing to ignore God as we've done for many years as a nation. It's quite another to pro-actively worship false gods and idols. I read an article not long ago relating how Christianity is leaving the United States and Western Europe and beginning to flourish in the so-called Third World. Is it any wonder that the Lord is calling His Church elsewhere with this kind of idolatry openly celebrated in our nation's capital?

And what has been the reaction of our citizens to this abomination? For the most part its been a non-event. The people of this country by and large couldn't care less.

"And Elijah came near to all the people and said, "How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him." And the people did not answer him a word." - II Kings 18:21

Sadly we're like the people of ancient Israel during Elijah's day. We don't mind a little 'Christianity' mixed in with our yoga or as one element of our 'faith journey'. However, let someone take a stand for Christ as the one and only way and suddenly there will be plenty of people puffed up with righteous indignation.

I'm sad when I look back at what this nation once was and even sadder as I look forward to what it will be for my children. For unless the Lord grants revival, things will get far worse before they get better. I'm thankful, however, that we serve a God who is faithful to His people and that our trust and security ultimately do not rest in the state of affairs in the United States but in the hands of the Sovereign of the Universe. Whether God sends judgment or revival to this country He is still on His throne. Nevertheless, I pray that He will be gracious and grant us repentance as a nation before its too late.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

The Gospel Blimp by Joseph Bayly

"The Gospel Blimp" makes up about half of the little book The Gospel Blimp and Other Modern Parables which is a collection of Joseph Bayly's best loved short stories. Several of the stories, modern parables really, are excellent commentary on contemporary American Christianity but none is better or more hard hitting than "The Gospel Blimp".

The story begins with a group of people trying to determine how to reach their next door neighbors for Christ. They notice one evening while sitting outside that the neighbors, also sitting out on their patio, pause from their card game and beer drinking long enough to look up as an airplane passes low overhead. This gives our budding evangelists an idea. Why not develop a 'gospel blimp' that would fly over the town declaring the Word of God for all to see on banners and via a powerful sound system?

The remainder of the parable is about the development and outworking of this 'ministry'. Not surprisingly, an undertaking of this magnitude takes up enormous amounts of time and resources and because of its high profile presence in the town requires significant public relations efforts, none of which is directly related to simply sharing the Gospel with the original neighbors who sparked the idea. Bayly's point is that this kind of emphasis on infrastructure, facilities and public relations characterizes many ministries and even churches today. The amazing thing is that Bayly wrote this in 1960! I can only imagine what he'd say today if he saw how the evangelical landscape of this country is dotted with mega-blimps from coast to coast.

In the end, one of the original founders of the 'ministry' begins to see it for what it is especially after the ministry leadership decides to partner with secular organizations, agreeing to couple the message of the Gospel with some non-Gospel related messages in return for increased donations to the ministry. He realizes that the 'ministry' has become primarily about the continuation of the ministry above all things.

After leaving the the Gospel Blimp 'ministry' this man and his wife end up helping win their neighbors to Christ (the original neighbors from the beginning of the story) by pursuing a relationship with them and being intentional about sharing their faith.

This parable is a scathing indictment of the church in America today. It behooves all of us to ask ourselves periodically if we're more concerned about the 'blimp' or the Gospel. It is very easy to begin to place importance on the trappings of ministry and to let real ministry go by the wayside as a result.

I would highly recommend this book, it should in fact be essential reading for ministry leaders and pastors. In addition to "The Gospel Blimp", "I Saw Gooley Fly" and "Rehoboam's Gold Shields" are also great little parables about the integration of our Faith into our lives and are worth reading and taking to heart.