Thursday, August 27, 2009
This explanation is so filled with dangerous and damning error, it’s difficult to know where to begin. For starters, one cannot observe Ramadan as a “deeply committed” Christian. Fasting in the Christian tradition is irreducibly Christocentric. It involves praying to the Father of Christ (Mt 6:18) and longing for the return of Christ (Mt 9:15). The meaning and aim of the Muslim fast has nothing to do with Jesus. How can one observe Ramadan in any meaningful sense and do a Christian fast? The answer is that you can’t. If you try, you will end up distorting the Christian fast with syncretistic gobbledy-goop that is no longer recognizably Christian.
I would warn that McLaren is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, but he has dropped the ruse.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Thursday, August 20, 2009
I came across one of his books a few years ago called, "Finding Peace: God's Promise of Life Free from Regret, Anxiety, and Fear," and found it to be an insightful resource. I have written a review of the book and encourage you to check it out. It is a simple read that is practical and biblical.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
What Is To Be Our Response? Living as a Christian in an Obama Administration
In just a few minutes, the 44th President of the United States will be sworn into office. The election of Barack Obama is both historical and controversial. But as Christians, it is time that we begin to think how to respond and interact with the next four years. Barack Obama will oppose most of what social conservatives stand for: pro-life, the protection of marriage, the sanctity of life, etc.
I want to offer a few things that Christians must think of as we embark on the next 4 years.
The first and primary thing that Christians are called to do and that is to pray. Paul wrote to Timothy in 1 Timothy. 2:1 saying, "Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lad a quit and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence." It is clear then, that the response of all Christians, regardless of our leader, to make supplications, to give prayers, to interceded, and to give thanks to them.
Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr shows us how to pray on this day. He begins his prayer with:
We know that you and you alone are sovereign; that you rule over all, and that you alone are able to keep and defend us. We know that our times are in your hands, and that "the king's heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord" [Proverbs 21:1]. Our confidence is in you and in you alone. We come before you as a people who acknowledge our constant need for your provision, wisdom, and protection.
Father, we pray today for Barack Obama as he takes office as President of the United States. We pray that you will show the glory of your name in our times and in these days, confounding the wisdom of the wise, thwarting the plans of the arrogant, and vindicating those who do justice and practice righteousness.
Father, we pray with thanksgiving for the gift of government and the grace of civic order. Thank you for giving us rulers and for knowing our need for laws and ordered life together. Thank you for this nation and the blessings we know as its citizens. Thank you for freedoms unprecedented in human history. We understand that these freedoms come with unprecedented opportunities.
As Christians, we must remember that God brings glory to His name through anyone. I am reminded of King Cyrus of Persia and how God describes him as His "anointed one." It was not because Cyrus was righteous or God-fearing, but that God sovereignly used him to fulfill His purposes. Whenever we pray, it is a reminder that we are not the one that decides elections or chooses a president. God, and God alone, does that.
Paul also commands us to submit to government (Rom. 13). On the surface, this is pretty easy to do especially since we have had a pro-life, pro-traditional marriage, openly Christian president. But what about a president in whom we have very little in common with.
First, we must be reminded that Jesus, Paul, and all of the first Christians never had a leader that agreed with them on anything. Even the apologist Justin Martyr pleaded with Caesar that Christians were their greatest ally because they sought peace and obedience, but they were still being killed.
And so as Christians, we are called to submit to the demands of government even whenever we disagree with them (policy speaking). If taxes are raised, we must pay them. If laws are passed, we must obey them. Why? Because God, in His sovereignty and providential care, has given us our President whether we like it or not. Truth is, God couldn't care less what we think. He has given us our President. Period.
But we must make our self clear. We are to submit to God first. Therefore, there are two instances in which submission and obedience to government must not be done. First, we must not submit/obey whenever government demands we do something that God has commanded us not to do. Secondly, we must not submit/obey whenever government demand we do not do something God has commanded us to do.
Scripture gives us a number of instances where believers did not obey (cf. Daniel, his three friends, Peter and John, and others). However, we must not be falsely looking for occasions to disobey. Chances are, none of us will be put in a situation that directly contradicts our submission to God.
Finally (and this is no exhaustive list), we must be willing to engage the new President and Congress. By this I mean that we must hold our government accountable, celebrate when they are right, correct them when they are wrong, while doing it with an attitude of love, grace, compassion, and concern.
This is perhaps the toughest part of being a Christian in a fallen culture. We are called to be light who place our trust in the gospel first and then politics. Oftentimes we confuse the two. We begin with politics thinking that it will bring about the spreading of the gospel. We must not fall for this trap. Christianity does have political implications, as does all worldviews. But we must begin with the heart, not the tax code.
As we begin the journey toward the next four years, let us act as Christians, not as angry Republicans/Democrats/Libertarians/or anything else. We seek to fulfill the Great Commission to the glory of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Furthermore, let us not forget that we live in a dream world compared to the early Church. None of us have faced death in our country because of our faith. That day may come, but until then, let us not forget that though the early Church faced death, they continued to pray, submit, and engage their culture and their government.
We can learn a lot of them. But learning is only part of the equation. We must also live out what God has revealed. So today, let us pray for our new President hoping that God will glorify His name no matter who is sworn in every four years.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
"Some years ago, a tearful and obviously distraught young woman approached me at a conference where I was speaking. She told me a story I have heard many times. ‘I just can’t seem to live the Christian life the way I should,’ she said. ‘I’m frustrated. I don’t have spiritual victory or a sense of accomplishment. I struggle with the simplest forms of obedience, and I’m constantly defeated. Can you help me?’
I said, ‘What has been your approach to solving the problems yourself?’ She replied, ‘I’ve tried everything, I’ve attended churches where they speak in tongues, have healings, and have all kinds of extraordinary spiritual experiences. I’ve spoken in tongues myself, had ecstatic experiences, been prophesied over, and experienced several supposed miracles. I’ve been ‘slain in the spirit.’ But despite all of that, I’m not pleased with my life and I know God isn’t pleased. I’ve tried to get everything from Him that I can, but I’m not satisfied. I’m still miserable and want more.’
‘I think you have just put your finger on the problem,’ I said. ‘The key to spiritual victory and true happiness is not in trying to get all we can from God but in giving all that we are and have to Him.’
Countless thousands of people today, including many genuine Christians, flock to various churches, seminars, and conferences in search of personal benefits – practical, emotional, and spiritual – that they hope to receive. They do just the opposite of what Paul so plainly emphasizes in Romans 12:1-2. In this forceful and compassionate exhortation, the apostle does not focus on what more we need to receive from God but on what we are to give Him. The key to a product and satisfying Christian life is not in getting more but in giving all." -MacArthur, Romans 9-16, 138-139
He's exactly right. We run around trying to get from God when we should be giving to God. Once we realize that God, through Christ, has accomplished all that we need (salvation, sanctification, holiness, hope, joy, peace, etc.) we must give to God. We must give our lives, our hopes, our dreams, our attitude, our wallets, and even our lives. God has given us all, we must then, give all. How could we not? God gave us His Son, and we think it trivial to give Him our possessions or schedule or plans. God save us from such selfishness!
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Here is what he said:
Our young men are going into the professional fields because they don't 'feel called' to the mission field. We don't need a call; we need a kick in the pants. We must begin thinking in terms of 'going out,' and stop our weeping because 'they won't come in.' Who wants to step into an igloo? The tombs themselves are not colder than the churches. May God send us forth.
Amen! We should go out rather than expect them to come in. This is exactly what Paul says about the local church (Ephesians 4:12). The primary responsibility of the local church is to train believers for the purpose of going out into the world to reach the lost. Those reached then come to the church to be trained and sent out. Let Jim Elliots words ring in our ears tonight.
Sometimes we just need a Divine kick in the pants.
H/T: Between Two Worlds
- What do you believe about...everything?
- Perhaps read through the Desiring God Affirmation of Faith to see where each other is on various biblical doctrines.
- Discover how you form your views. What is the reasoning-believing process? How do you handle the Bible?
Worship and Devotion
- How important is corporate worship? Other participation in church life?
- How important is it to be part of a small accountability/support group?
- What is the importance of music in life and worship?
- What are your daily personal devotional practices? Prayer, reading, meditation, memorization.
- What would our family devotions look like? Who leads out in this?
- Are we doing this now in an appropriate way: praying together about our lives and future, reading the Bible together?
Husband and Wife
- What is the meaning of headship and submission in the Bible and in our marriage?
- What are expectations about situations where one of you might be alone with someone of the opposite sex?
- How are tasks shared in the home: cleaning, cooking, washing dishes, yard work, car upkeep, repairs, shopping for food, and household stuff?
- What are the expectations for togetherness?
- What is an ideal non-special evening?
- How do you understand who and how often sex is initiated?
- Who does the checkbook—or are there two?
- If and when, should we have children? Why?
- How many?
- How far apart?
- Would we consider adoption?
- What are the standards of behavior?
- What are the appropriate ways to discipline them? How many strikes before they’re...whatever?
- What are the expectations of time spent with them and when they go to bed?
- What signs of affection will you show them?
- What about school? Home school? Christian school? Public school?
- Own a home or not? Why?
- What kind of neighborhood? Why?
- How many cars? New? Used?
- View of money in general. How much to the church?
- How do you make money decisions?
- Where will you buy clothes: Department store? Thrift store? In between? Why?
- How much money should we spend on entertainment?
- How often should we eat out? Where?
- What kind of vacations are appropriate and helpful for us?
- How many toys? Snowmobile, boat, cabin?
- Should we have a television? Where? What is fitting to watch? How much?
- What are the criteria for movies and theater? What will our guidelines be for the kids?
- What makes you angry?
- How do you handle your frustration or anger?
- Who should bring up an issue that is bothersome?
- What if we disagree both about what should be done, and whether it is serious?
- Will we go to bed angry at each other?
- What is our view of getting help from friends or counselors?
- Who is the main breadwinner?
- Should the wife work outside the home? Before kids? With kids at home? After kids?
What are your views of daycare for children?
- What determines where you will locate? Job? Whose job? Church? Family?
- Is it good to do things with friends but without spouse?
- What will you do if one of you really likes to hang out with so and so and the other doesn’t?
Health and Sickness
- Do you have, or have you had any, sicknesses or physical problems that could affect our relationship? (Allergies, cancer, eating disorders, venereal disease, etc.)
- Do you believe in divine healing and how would prayer relate to medical attention?
- How do you think about exercise and healthy eating?
- Do you have any habits that adversely affect health?
While at Harvest Bible Chapel, I picked up one of his books, "Restore My Soul: A Fresh Look at Psalm 23." Before we left Chicago, I had read the entire book!
The book, as the title suggests, covers Psalm 23, verse-by-verse. But James has an interesting style. As a pastor, he cares as much as about the original meaning of the text as he does how it applies to one's life. So while he spends time dealing with textual issues, background, and the meaning of the text, he immediately applies it to our lives. MacDonald has an amazing ability to write as if he was writing to me. MacDonald is ready to both exhort the reader to repentance and to encourage the reader to persevere.
Although the book may be hard to find, I strongly encourage you to find it. Among the many books I read each week as we continue to walk through Psalm 23, this is one of my favorites. Keller gives great insight into what it is like to be a shepherd. Lucado gives great illustrations for the text. But MacDonald provides great instruction that springs from the text.
I strongly recommend this book and I encourage everyone to not limit their study of Psalm 23 to just Sunday mornings as we walk through this infamous Psalms. But continue to study, apply, and live this Psalm and we will live in peace in the midst of a chaotic world.
Straight Up Blog
Book Review - "Gripped By The Greatness of God" (probably my favorite book by MacDonald)
"Why James MacDonald Is Not Emerging"
McDonald: I Want the Whole Gospel
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Thank goodness I don't live in Louisville anymore!