Saturday, October 31, 2009

Repost: "The Great Regression: A Shocking Reality About Recent Giving Trends"

I recently wrote an article regarding the giving trends in the SBC from the Great Depression to today. Even though times are tough economically now, things have not gotten as bad as they have been in the past. It is a sad testimony that the generation that experienced the Great Depression gave more to missions than the present generation. I am as guilty of this as anyone.

The real issue here isn't our financial giving, but what this says about our attitudes regarding the lost. If we truly wanted to see God's glory in the salvation of souls, then Southern Baptists, and Christians in general would be giving more to missions, not less. Yet the more we prosper, the less we give. May God open our eyes and break our hearts!

Here is the article:
"The Great Regression: A Shocking Reality About Recent Giving Trends"

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Fruit of the Spirit - Goodness

This was a short series and since our discussion on Kindness was only 1 week, I will include that in here as well.

Goodness Sermons:
October 18, 2009 - 1 Peter 2:21-23 - Christus Exemplar and the Goodness of God
October 25, 2009 - Galatians 6:6-14: Selfless Goodness

Book Recommendations:
Weekly Recommendation: "When Bad Things Happen to Good People"

Theodicy as Evidence of a Theos
"I Am so Easily Satisfied With Just Going About" - A Gut Check

Kindness Sermon:
October 11, 2009 - 2 Samuel 9: Costly Kindness

For more:
Fruit of the Spirit: Patience
The Fruit of the Spirit: Peace
The Fruit of the Spirit: Love
The Fruit of the Spirit: Joy
The Last Week of Jesus: From Triumphal Entry to Triumphal Grave Series
Basic Christianity Series Revelation Study

October 25, 2009 - Galatians 6:6-14: Selfless Goodness

No audio is available, only notes. To download the notes, click here.

Weekly Recommendation: "When Bad Things Happen to Good People"

I rarely recommend books in which I disagree with the entire premise, but this books popularity and argument draws us to at least take it seriously. In recent weeks we have discussed God's goodness and our call to be good.

I have written a review of the book and was constantly reminded of how Rabbi Kushner's book, "When Bad Things Happen to Good People," is an attack, not just on the goodness of God, but on the gospel. Let us not forget about Christus Exemplar in all of this. Kushner's basic argument is that when bad things happen, its not that God is bad, He just isn't powerful enough to prevent it. That is an attack on the gospel and nothing else. I encourage you to read the book and see it for yourself, but remember that Kushner presents an argument that undermines the cross of the Christ and nothing less.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

"I Am so Easily Satisfied With Just Going About" - A Gut Check

I have been doing a lot of studying on the subject of godly goodness and came across the following quote that really spoke to me:

I read, in a book, that a man called Christ
Went about doing good,
It is very disconcerting to me,
that I am so easily satisfied
With just – going about
-Poem by Kagawa of Japan as quoted in Stephen Winward, Fruit of the Spirit, 151

Am I the only one guilty of this?

Lewis on the Accident of Evolution

I was doing some studying on creation for this Sunday morning as we look at day four of the Creation account in Genesis. I came across the following quote by C.S. Lewis regarding the accident of evolution:

If the solar system was brought about by an accidental collission, then the appearance of organic life on this planet was also an accident, and the whole evolution of Man was an acdient too. If so, then all our present thoughts are accidents - the accidental by-product of the movement of atoms. Adn this holds for the thoughts of the materialists and astronomers as well as for anyone else's. But if their thoughts are merely accidental by-products, why should we believe them to be true? I see no reason for believing that one accident should be able to give me a correct account of all the other accidents. -Lewis, God on the Dock, 52-53

Lewis makes an excellent point. Evolution is built around an entire series of accidents. If everything is an accident, then our very thoughts are accidents. Therefore, how can I trust the accidental thoughts of a biochemist over the accidental thoughts of a factory worker? In one paragraph, Lewis raises an incredible challenge to the evolutionary worldview.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Theodicy as Evidence of a Theos

I have been studying, in great detail, the question of God's goodness. If God is good, then why is there so much evil and suffering in the world? The common riddle goes something like this: If God is good, He cannot be All-Powerful because He cannot prevent evil and suffering in the world. If God is All-Powerful, He cannot be good because He refused to prevent evil and suffering. God therefore, is either good or All-Powerful, He cannot be both.

I have sat in secular university philosophy classes and listened to this argument. To most Christians, they are left stunned by this predicament. The Bible clearly teaches that God is good and All-Powerful. So how can these two concepts be true if there is so much evil and suffering in the world? The answer goes beyond this post. To begin, the Christian worldview must go back to Genesis 1-3. In chapters 1-2, God created everything and saw that it was good. It was good because it came from He who defines good; God. But in Genesis 3, the Fall took place and destroyed the goodness of the Earth. Death, suffering, evil, violence, natural disasters, and pain are the result of Genesis 3.

But does the problem of theodicy disprove God? Interestingly, even the most hardened atheist are not running to the problem of theodicy as they used to. The world's best known atheist, Richard Dawkins, in his book, The God Delusion, points out that this issue does not necessarily disprove God, it only disproves the goodness of God. Though I disagree with his conclusion, one cannot miss what Dawkins is saying. Evil and suffering does not disprove God.

So, how does such an issue prove God? C.S. Lewis explains in the clearest and most powerful language:

My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of ‘just’ and ‘unjust’? . . . What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? . . . Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too – for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my private fancies . . . Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. -Lewis, Mere Christianity, 38

Lewis is right. The very idea that we speak of evil and suffering implies that we have an inherit standard of evil and good. Where does this inherit idea come from? Why is murder, death, destruction, violence, abuse, and natural disasters bad? By what standard do we measure these things? Evolution implies (though many naturalists may deny it) that death and suffering brings forth the fruit of evolution. Things improve when the weaker become extinct and die. Death is good. And yet naturally, we are repulsed by this. Evolution morality implies relativism. What is true? What is right? What is moral? Without a Divine standard such questions are determined by culture and opinion polls.

Let us remember Lewis' words. When we see suffering and pain, we ought to weep and mourn, not because God seems non-existent, but because we know that God is present. In a world of pain and sorrows, God reminds us of His standard of good. When we see such pain God is calling us to heal what has been wounded, to fix what has been broken, and to united what has been separated. We do this because that is what God has done for us. Upon the cross Christ took upon Himself our evil and sin. On the cross, Christ fixed what we broke, united what we separated, and healed what we wounded.

But the beauty of the cross isn't just in Christ suffering on our account. The beauty of the cross takes us to the empty tomb. Their is always hope and restoration on the other side of pain, suffering, and evil. Christ conquered and so can we.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Weekly Recommendation: "Battle For the Beginning"

In youth during Sunday School, we have been discussing creation. Each week, we look at the next day of creation. Next Sunday, we will look at day 3. One of the main sources that I refer to in understanding what the Bible says about creation is John MacArthur's book, "Battle for the Beginning." MacArthur's goal is simple: lay out clearly what the Bible says about creation. The author is not concerned with dealing with all of the assumptions and arguments of evolution and other origins theories. Though certainly he dibunks evolution throughout the book, his goal is not to destroy the theory. MacArthur calls on believers to affirm what Scripture says.

One must respect MacArthur's goal here. While it is tempting to begin with science and show why the Bible remains relevant and accurate, MacArthur assumes Scripture's accuracy and truth and then shows how science has proven what the Bible has already declared.

MacArthur is a young earth creationists, as I am. Though he provides a number of arguments in favor of a young earth, that is not his concern. He is most concerned with the text of Scripture. It is impossible to make billions of years to fit the Biblical record. The world, according to Scripture, cannot be more than 10,000 years.

Though at this point, many would write MacArthur off as a lunatic and Bible thumper, fundamentalists who has completely lost his mind. But if you read his argument and if you know MacArthur's credentials, this is not the ramblings of a fool. MacArthur is well-read and his book is well research and should be taken seriously.

I encourage everyone wanting to know what the Bible has to say about this critical issue to give MacArthur a read. He has been a major influence in my life and I have devoured many of his books.

Luther and the Necessity of Theology

I have recently written an article regarding the necessity of right theology in order to have right living. This was the launching pad of the Reformation from Luther's perspective. He uncovered the gospel and understood that the immorality of his day was due to bad theology. Right theology ultimately leads to righteous living.

I encourage you to read the article.


A few quotes:

Recently, I came across a few quotes worth considering:

"Bad doctrine is a thousand times more harmful than a bad life."

"Where doctrine is not right, it is impossible for life to be right and good: for life must be prepared by doctrine and must follow it." . . .

Luther understood that the answer to the Church's problems wasn't more morality, but an undiluted gospel. These words of Luther need to be heard and understood. Today, most Christians are callas regarding theology. We hate division and seek to get around debate. We all too often find issues of theology not worth our time. As Luther saw in his day and as we see in ours, our bad theology shows . . .

What we need is a return to right theology. What we need is to uncover, once again, the pure gospel as revealed in Scripture. That is where the power of the Spirit lies: the gospel. If we really want to change the world, it won't be through politicians and trying harder and doing better next time, it will be whenever Christians return to the cross and right doctrine and allow the Spirit to change us through the power of the cross and the empty tomb.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Operation Christmas Child Video

Here is a promotional video from last year regarding Operation Christmas Child. I really want us to participate in this. During Sunday School on November 1, the youth will be packing their shoeboxes.

I know this is the U.K. version, but it was the best I could do on short notice.

October 11, 2009 - 2 Samuel 9: Costly Kindness

To download notes, click here. To download the audio, click on the title.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Fruit of the Spirit: Patience

We have just completed the fourth Fruit of the Spirit: Patience. I failed to recommend books each week and did not post any other articles. Therefore, I only have links to the actual messages.

September 6, 2009 - Faithience: When Faith and Patience Collide
September 13, 2009 - Genesis 13:1-18: The Biggest Loser
September 20, 2009 - Genesis 15:1-18: The Patience of Our Deliverer
October 4, 2009 - Genesis 16: Impatience

For more:
The Fruit of the Spirit: Peace
The Fruit of the Spirit: Love
The Fruit of the Spirit: Joy
The Last Week of Jesus: From Triumphal Entry to Triumphal Grave Series
Basic Christianity Series Revelation Study

Mephibosheth and the Sanctity of the Disable: God's Glory In the Face of Deformity

This upcoming Sunday, we will be looking at the fifth Fruit of the Spirit: Kindness. We will be looking at 2 Samuel 9 which gives us the account of how David showed kindness toward Mephibosheth, son of Jonathan and grandson of Saul (David's enemy). The fact that David would do this is quit astonishing. Typically, in ancient times (and somewhat today. When there's a new President, he rarely keeps anyone from the previous administration), whenever a new dynasty would take the thrown, anyone perceived to be a threat to the new king's throne or anyone who might be considered an heir to the previous king's throne would be immediately killed, exhiled, enslaved, or imprisoned.

But David did the complete opposite. Saul, the king, was dead. His likely heir, Jonathan (David's closest friend) was also dead. Upon taking the throne, rather than killing all potential threats and challengers, David goes out of his way to show kindness to someone who should be his enemy.

But there is another aspect of this story that we can't miss. Mephibosheth (try saying that 10 times fast) is handicap. 2 Samuel 4:4 tells us why. He was essentially dropped by his nurse after his father (Jonathan) and grandfather (King Saul) died in battle. His nurse feared that they would be coming for him and so fled. She then tripped and dropped him leaving him lame. Since the crowning of David, lame Mephibosheth lived in Lo-Debar (which might mean "No Pasture"). Lame, without any family, and lost of his prestige as the grandson of the king, Mephibosheth had to assume that his life would be worthless. He had lost everything he had and was born with.

To be handicap like this was no small issue in ancient times. There was no disability check coming. Oftentimes, family members would require their handicap relative to beg for money (usually at the Temple where people are feeling most generous; see Acts 3) in order to contribute to the family funds.

Furthermore, the disabled were rather outcasts in society. If a Levite was disabled, they were not allowed to go into the Temple or near the altar. Leviticus 21:16-23 reads:

And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to Aaron, saying, None of your offspring throughout their generations who has a blemish may approach to offer the bread of his God. For no one who has a blemish shall draw near, a man blind or lame, or one who has a mutilated face or a limb too long, or a man who has an injured foot or an injured hand, or a hunchback or a dwarf or a man with a defect in his sight or an itching disease or scabs or crushed testicles. No man of the offspring of Aaron the priest who has a blemish shall come near to offer the LORD’s food offerings; since he has a blemish, he shall not come near to offer the bread of his God.

In other words, one born to be a priest and yet handicap, would not be able to fulfill their role as a priest. And so the hopelessness of the disabled continued for centuries.

But this story does make one incredibly important point: God has a purpose and has revealed his grace even to the outcast and disabled. The story of Mephibosheth is one of kindness, grace, mercy, and love. Mephibosheth becomes a metaphor of us. We are all like Mephibosheth who, as a result of our sin, are seperated, disabled, and helpless before God. We deserve nothing but death and hell. And yet God showed His great love, mercy, kindness, and grace towards us by not giving us what we deserve, but in giving us what we don't deserve: salvation.

Furthermore, Mephibosheth is an example that even those handicap and disabled are beyond God's reach and purpose. The ancients would oftentimes leave disabled babies for dead in the wilderness because they considered them unworthy (such as the Spartans). Both Plato and Aristotle favored infanticide and believed that the State should have a greater role in deciding who should live and who shouldn't.

But the Judeo-Christian worldview is quit different. All life is sacred and not beyond the grace and purpose of God. Even the most handicap reveal God's goodness and grace. Yes, even though disability reminds us of the affects of the fall, God shows his grace even though deformaty and pain.

Recall the healing of the man born blind in John 9. The text begins by showing us that even this blind beggar has a purpose in God's eyes:

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" Jesus answered, "It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." -John 9:1-5

Did you notice that? The reason this man was born blind was so that God might be glorified. All life is sacred not because we say it is, but because God's glory is revealed in all of life. The fact that even the worst of deformities can still bring God glory is a constant reminder that God is still on His throne and is still good.

In a culture that is exterminating those with Down Syndrome, we need to hear this message. Yes, God even has a plan, purpose, and is glorified greatly even in the disability of Down Syndrome. A secular culture that has replaced God with Darwin misses this. Life becomes an issue of economics and "happiness." If the handicap are a burden on the parents or society, it would be best if they didn't exist at all. After all, resources are limited.

That's what I love about this story. Without Mephibosheth's handicap, we would never had such a wonderful picture of God's grace, mercy, love, and kindness toward us and the call to mimic God's goodness by being good towards others, and we would miss the fact that even in a fallen world that results in producing horrific and unfortunate disabilities and handicaps, God has not removed Himself from us. Beauty can be found in the midst of deformaty and disability to the glory of God.

Let us not forget this important lesson. Isn't it wonderful that even in the face of depravity and the consequences of our sin, God's glory is revealed. The light really can outshine the darkness. And beauty really can outshine the deformity.

For more:
Get Religion: The patriotic duty to die
Colson: The March of Death
Hitler Is Alive And Well: Repeating the Mistakes of the Past
Colson: Deadly Trend
The Lust For Blood: The Culture of Death and Infanticide
"Freedom is Dead, And We are It's Murderers" - Nietzsche Was Almost Right
Colson: What Would Darwin Advise?
A Return to Rome: When Death Becomes Entertainment
Another Terry Schiavo Condemned to Death
Mohler: The Death Culture Strikes Again
Albert Mohler - The Death Culture Strikes Again
Mohler: A Threat to the Disabled . . . and to Us All
Mohler: The Rise of Infanticide?
Colson: Thirty Pints of BloodWhere the Logic of The Culture of Death Will Take Us
Euthanasia: A Good Death?
Albert Mohler: That Was Then . . . This is Now? A Nazi Nightmare

Friday, October 2, 2009

Me Church

This video is hillarious, but is too true. This goes along of what we said during Homecoming about what sort of church do we want to be? And what kind of church does God bless? A self-centered church? Or a cross-centered church?

H/T: Lifeway

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Why Membership Still Matters

I want to point everyone to an important article regarding church membership. There is a growing trend in modern Evangelicalism to consider this issue as unimportant. Baptist are known for emphasizing church membership, and yet in recent years have themselves lost the importance of this issue. Kevin Deyound, author of the book, Why We're Not Emergent: By Two Guys Who Should Be, offers a number of reasons why church membership still matters.

1. In joining a church you make visible your commitment to Christ and his people.

2. Making a commitment makes a powerful statement in a low-commitment culture.

3. We can be overly independent.

4. Church membership keeps us accountable.

5. Joining the church will help your pastor and elders be more faithful shepherds.

6. Joining the church gives you an opportunity to make promises.

This is a good list of reasons why membership matters. But in the end, I hope we take this issue more seriously and consider what the Bible says about the issue.

For More:
Why Membership Matters