Jimmy made me aware of this as addage to the cross in the closs. Here's the title at Overstock.com: "Sterling Silver & Cubic Zirconia Phat Bling Christ Pendant". And the cost? Only $34.99 (List price $80). Yes, blinging with Jesus, my homeboy. A crown of fake diamonds and a fake Jesus for our culture. This is how much Jesus is to the world. How much is he worth to you?
Thursday, March 31, 2005
Unreasonable Fundamentalists and the World Out Yonder
I am concerned that the majority of the world is being written off by many Christians. I have, for the past six months or so, had the privilege of getting to know much of this world who I have ignored for the past four years. It appears to me that evangelical Christians have settled into their ghettos and dug their stakes, set up their billboards, and developed their television programs all the while forgetting to go across the tracks. This mentality has been promoted through what I call "unreasonable fundamentalists" for at least the past 100 years. After the civil war, modernism arose and the philosophies of Kant, Hegel, Marx, and Nietzsche came on the scene along with Darwin in science and Freud in psychology. This assault on the foundations of the Christian faith caused conservative Christians to retreat from the secular universities where they would teach and study alongside these other disciplines. But out of fear of being poisoned and overcome with these ideas, they withdrew and retreated into their own schools and universities and no longer held any discourse with the rest of the world and the rest of the discplines of study. This process eventually trickled down to the churches and created a huge Christian sub-culture. This subculture is our security blanket and safety net - with Christian radio, Christian television, Christian bookstores, Christian concerts, Christian cruises, and on and on down to Christian testaments and cartoons. We who have the truth and should have boldly confronted the ideologies of the world and shown Christ to be Logos and One True God, yet we have shown ourselves to be unreasonable and incompetent to hold any discourse with the world. As a result, Christians are considered as hay-seed idiots who are blind followers and bumbling dogmatists. We have prefabricated our gospel to a few verses and spiritual laws and left evangelism to something like an altar call. We expect them to come to us and have worship services catered to the lost (while I may add that lost people are not found in the Bible going to church . . .we are to go to them!). So we reach out only to those who are most inclined to religion - the gullible, the hurting, the religiously inclined. We are only as agressive as one night's visitation for a few hours and considering that we have done a find job if the numbers deem it so. Yet the point is this: Chrisitians are not called to "visitation" but rather "cohabitation". The world doesn't need to hear another cheesy presentation; they need an authentic demonstration of Christianity. And they won't see that as long as we are in our ghettos complementing ourselves of the work of our hands, the buildings we have built, and the programs that we busy ourselves with. There is a big world out there, and it is right across the street. Christianity will continue to be marginalized and deemed irrelevent as long as we continue to do what we do. We have become so concerned that we should not be "of" the world that we are no longer "in" the world. Rather, I would dare say that Christians have become "of" the world and not "in" the world, becoming tail-waggers to the culture and panting after worn out fads of our day. Dialog with the rest of the world needs to resume. 150 years of retreat is long enough. Programs and billboards are not justification. The world needs Christians; Christians who are not propped up by the sub-culture and ghetto mentality. Maybe this retreat mentality is why so many churches are going goo-goo over numbers; we want them on our side of the fence. Why can't it be the other way around? Are we supposed to be going to them? No, cohabitation means that we will have to be exposed and accountable, our lingo be deprogrammed, our crutches removed, and our unreasonableness for the world to see. We dare not do that. We will just reach the people who are at arm's length, the people who are like "us", and well for the rest of the world, a hearty "God bless you." Those others just think too much, have too many questions, are "unsavable" and irksome to us because our programming doesn't fit them. So see ya. And when you get a chance, read this tract and come to our church and sing our songs, and oh as a result of your "visit" here is a Christian testament and candy bar for having come to be a part of "us".
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
Next in this saga of culture's despisal of life, there has been this new theory of determining personhood of an individual. Scientists and bio-medical experts and bio-ethicists have now come to say that an individual who is not cognitively active or conscious no longer has personhood; therefore, they are expendable and should not live. To them, they are not really alive. Science and their so-called experts have now arbitrarily determined degrees of existence in order to presume upon an individual a lack of personhood in their estimation. The quesiton comes then, "Who determines whether or not a person possesses personhood or not?" Here's the point: culture and liberals who have dictated culture have made laws that promote the taking of life at its beginning (abortion) and at its end (euthanasia). Now they are wanting to take the life of those whom they determine to not have personhood. And the rights and rule of law is determined arbitrarily in the court system run by amoralists and degenerative ideologs who are bent on the agenda most suitable for death. God has said when a person is a person. He breathed into humans the breath of life, and they became human. A human does not cease to be a human simply because he or she may not have worth or productivity in this life. This thinking is a product of our modern day pragmatism. Life is only worth something if it pays. In the situation of Terri Schiavo, she is a cost to society and no longer considered a person, so let's just starve her to death. And the travesty is that CHRISTIANS ARE GIVING WHOLE-HEARTED APPROVAL OF THIS! Polls have shown the abscence of a moral conscience programmed by the Word of God and dictactes of the sanctity of human life given that all humans are created in the image of God and as a result of that, have ultimate worth among the most conservative Christians and evangelicals. Rather, we are programmed by limited information filtered through a liberal media bias and conformed to the acceptable trends of our time. It is not a matter of usefulness or cost or personhood according to so-called experts in biological and anthropological studies; it is purely a theological matter, and God has spoken on this matter. The personhood of God is stamped on the person of every being, and to take the life of one made in the image of God is to take the Creator's masterpiece and smite the Creator. So what's next on the landscape of death? The poor? The AIDS victims? Or how about even those whom are aliens in thought against the world's system? I don't know, but those who care about life and the sanctity of need to stand up on this hill on which to die upon. For the National Review article, click here: http://www.nationalreview.com/smithw/smith200503290755.asp
Monday, March 28, 2005
Could You Put That Old Rugged Cross Back in the Closet?
Time are quickly changing, and many churches and Christians are working hard to keep up with the times in the theology and practice. Some theologians are opting for a crescent moon next to a cross next to a ying-yang, next to the star of David, all wrapped up in a Karbalah bracelt for $28.95. The cross is symbolized and the Christian church is marginalized. In attempt not to offend the seekers, we are singing songs about spiritual experiences and not time-tested truths grounded in Scripture. Our theology has become mystical with this new emergent junk that attempts to make the Christian life congruent with the eastern mystical faiths and New Age movement. Christians now talk about karma with the same knowledge as they do grace. And the cross, well that is to be kept in the closet. In attempt to compromise, we appeal to a glossy, shiny 24 carat gold cross suspended from elegant beads rather than the executionary tool that suspended the sacrifical Lamb. The bottom line is that this new attempt to reinvent the Christian message is to say that we are nothing less than ashamed of the gospel. It is offensive yes, but it is glorious and life-changing too. You neuter the gospel, and you have lifeless Christians who feed themselves on the theraputic self-help and self-fulfillment techniques, never having known the cross they were supposed to carry when they met Jesus. Christianity without the cross is life without blood. I would rather have that old rugged cross where the King of Glory died. This I will cling to in the days of shifting sands of compromise and ecclesiological demise. Where others may roll the dice and play bingo for their spirituality ("give me those garments, I want them!" said the soldiers), may the Christ-followers be found surveying the wonderful cross.
Friday, March 25, 2005
One Would Dare to Die
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one would scarcely die for a righteous person--though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die--buit God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:6-8 One dared to die for radical sinners. Only One gave himself for the filth of the world that we can have garments of white. Only One can love so freely, so unconditionally, so fully. A death that smothered wrath and brought us mercy. A death that was predestined before the ages to bring sons and daughters to the Father. Mediating peace and forgiveness, His death satisfied sheer holiness and accomplished complete righteousness--yes, a Lamb without spot or blemish, slain from the foundations of the world, who takes away the sins of the world. His name is Jesus--"the One who would save His people from their sins." He died. He arose. He lives forevermore. Each year, yea each day testifies to the resurrection of Christ Jesus and victory through suffering. My lips were crying, "Crucify!", yet the one who would dare to die cried, "Father, forgive them." Amazing love, how can it be? That you my God should die for me! Love so amazing, love so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all. May our hearts be riveted by the radical life and death of Jesus of Nazareth, Heaven's Treasure, our Savior, and the One who lives forevermore.
Thursday, March 24, 2005
A Cry for Christian Renaissance
My heart bleeds for a renaissance of the Chrisitian faith. For the better of part of two centuries, Christians have appealed to the lowest common denominator of thought and dynamic while preachers brag out bottom-shelf preaching. Our form and diction displays repudiates rigorous and thorough practices, and the closing of the evangelical mind has resulted in astronomical consequences. There was a day when Christians where the innovators of their day, on the forefront of the academic disciplines in study, skilled in the arts, framers in political life and governmental affairs, and maintained a spirit of excellence in living a skillful life in the fear of the Lord. I think of the Puritans who were probably the greatest Christian society in history, or the first century church and the church fathers, the leaders of the Great Awakening and founders and presidents of Ivy League schools, shapers of modern doctrine and revolutonaries with a pasionate pen and pure life as in the days of Luther, Calvin, Owen, Melanchthon, Huss, Knox, and others. Education was preeminent over sports and leisure, and accomplishments accompanied lives that were well spent. Today, we have been confined to our evangelical ghetto eating our cotton-candy religion that tastes great but doesn't fulfill. We don't need another revival meeting per say, or even a trendy program to appeal to the masses; rather, we need a renaissance of epic proportions - one that will have staying power and enduring legacy for generations to come. Right now, we Christians are content to be the off-brand of the secular world, praise our second-rate skills and hand-me-down agendas that are the worn-out products of yesteryear that have been simply refurbished with a glossy, spiritual appeal. Like gum already chewed and spit out, we pick it up and hope to find some flavor only to be disappointed that once again, we have become the laughing stock of those ahead of us. We don't want the honest truth, because honesty doesn't sell - at least not on the front shelf. We have replaced catechisms of old with little acronyms and cliches; we have concerned ourselves with keeping up with the times rather being a prophetic voice against the times; we have tried to reach the world only to find the world has reached us . . .and done so on our own territory, the church. There is much to be done, and I don't know where to begin. I am hurting over this. People tell me to "keep the main thing the main thing" and don't get sidetracked over this because it's not worth it. Yet we rush into instant gratification and don't know how to live for a cause that may not find its fulfillment until the dash declares it so. Like Michaelangelo who spent his entire life on a painting, or Origin whose life work was in the Hexapla, or William Carey who spent his life translating the Bible in over 40 langauges, we look and say, "How does that benefit us now? What's the point?" And this is why I cry for a Christian renaissance. A new way of life. Of elevated thinking and dynamic devotion. Disciplines that drive us to "run in such a way so as to win," and leveraging life for a Kingdom that cannot be shaken. We can learn much from those who have gone before, and as we look ahead for ages and generations to come, what will be said about us? While we should be expectant towards Christ's return, we have become so gullible that this eschatological crazy has enamored believers to the point that they can fathom doing something that may last for centuries, for they think that we won't be here next week. And history tells us that in almost every generation since the first century church, people have thought that Christ was to come back in their time. And here me, He may come today, but does that mean that we should embark upon trivial pursuits under the sun? I hope not. Yes. A renaissance affecting every aspect of life. A rebirth of holy affection of Christ glorified in all things for the joy of all peoples. A resurgence of undying fervor to rise above this subnormal state of low living and embrace the call to change the world one thought at a time, one word at a time, one person at a time, for times to come. May it be according to the good pleasure of God.
Wednesday, March 23, 2005
Where Fools Rush In
Two things I would like to propose two pieces for those who think my provocations might be out in left field. One, a new book edited by John MacArthur, a well-respected and world-renown expositor and preacher. It is called Fool's Gold. This is a summary from BAMM's website: In an age of open-mindedness, many believers have forfeited biblical clarity, exchanging it for confusion and compromise. They accept too much with too little discernment. But God's Word makes it clear that not everything that glitters is gold. Doctrinal error is at every turn, and the temptation to embrace it is great. God calls us, as His people, to discern what's good and what's bad. In this hard-hitting, uncompromising book, the contributors lay a foundation for biblical discernment and use these principles to assess several current Christian trends. Readers will find honest, biblical analyses of some of today's most popular Christian books, music, and ideas. They will be equipped with a foundation for biblical discernment that will enable them to make careful distinctions in their thinking about truth.
This book has just been released (March 2005), and I look forward to reading it. Maybe we can share input and ideas and read it together. Let me know if you plan on doing that. The publisher is Crossway, and the price is around $12.99.
Second, Derek Webb, former lead singer of Caedman's Call has an album out called I See Things Upside Down. This album, along with most all Webb's songs are provocative and profound, laced with Scripture and allegory and filled with insight and inspiration. I encourage you to get it and listen carefully to the words in songs that actually have weight. For instance, here are the lyrics of one below which are indicative of today's church growth movement:
ballad in plain red(words and music by derek webb) i’m robbing peter, i’m paying paul i’m changing my name back to saul i got to them and you know i’ll get to you i’m turning shepherds into sheepand leaders into celebrities it’s holy sabotage, just look around you ‘cause everything’s for sale in the 21st century and the check is in the mail from the 21st century don’t want the song i want a jingle i love you Lord but don’t hear a single and the truth is nearly impossible to rhyme but i know the songs with all the hooks and i know some lies that will sell some books so grab ‘em fast, i’m running outta time just keep selling truth in candy bars on billboards and backs of cars truth without context, my favorite of all my crimes what works verses what's right hey what's the difference tonight? take out the sign, forget the meal we’ve got a gym and a farris wheel i swear it's just like the country club down the block ‘cause you can make your life look good you can do what Jesus would but you’d be surprised what you can do with a hard heart i think you’ve got trouble in the 21st century so welcome to the struggle, it’s the 21st century i never thought i’d make it to the 21st century Lord, i love the 21st century i write these words from the grave ‘cause it’s the only place that i’m safe and only the dead are permitted to speak the truth Hope these two pieces prove to be enlightening and informative to you. These won't be on Lifeway's Bestseller list (because most people buy into half-truths) or on the Top 40 Christian pop music; however, for those who find such guideposts, they will find direction and discernment along life's way. So where fools rush in, may God's people be thorough in thought and practice so as not to be trapped by fads and trends that stigmatize us with superficiality.
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
$11.95 and a Cure for Myopic Vision
The other day I went to redeem my little Books-a-Million gift card and decided to go with a little pocket-size book called Atlas A-Z. In this little atlas is a whole world, one which most Christians, especially American Christians know little about. Only when a tsunami hits can we speak of Indonesia or Sri Lanka or of Sudan when there is genocide; yet in this vast world in every corner there are Chrisitians giving their lives, anonymously heroes, men and women who the world, yea even some Christians, are not worthy. For most of us, our vision goes no farther than our zip codes can take us, and yet the arms of God's love extends to every people, every tribe, every nation for the glory of God. This "myopicy" can be cured if but believers would do a "Where in the World is God" search and become what missiologists call a "world Christian". This is what I want to be, and I am far from it, but with this atlas I hope to know more about the mosaic of the Redeemed and be better informed and prayer about God's work around the world. One more thing, there is a book called Operation World by Patrick Johnstone that is simply amazing. Next to your Bible, I recommend this book - that is, if you have a heart for the nations and want to see the peoples satisfied with the pleasures of God. Jabez can wait, trust me, and if you are looking for that elusive "purpose-driven life", you won't find it in the pages of a book, but the commentary of missionary lives' given for the cause of Christ around the world. Let's join them, and see a thrust take place that will reverberate and shake the nations.
Sunday, March 20, 2005
This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.
Do not trust in these deceptive words, says the Lord (Jeremiah 7:1-4). What's the deal with this? Israelites thought since they had the temple, they were good with the Lord. As long as they had the building, they were in like flynn with Yahweh. Yet their lifestyles were full of hypocrisy and concerned with matters weightless to God. It is easy to trust in the wrong things, trust in deceptive words. Sometimes we think if we are a part of a local church that has a building program and things seem to be going great, we can be proud of ourselves. We think have incurred God's blessing because of increased numbers and bigger campuses. Isn't this what Israel was trusting in? Yet what really mattered to God was the widow, the orphan, and faithfulness to the One true God. Today it is no different. We can build the biggest house of worship but the LORD doesn't want to come in. Until the church begins to function as the church and deal with the sin within, our trust in deceptive words such as "the temple of the Lord" will only prove to be a crutch and idle chatter among contemptible characters. May the LORD choose to dwell among His people who are repentant in their actions, compassionate towards the poor, widow, and orphan, and undeniably faithful to Him who alone is King.
Friday, March 18, 2005
Arbitration and Terry Schiavo
It is a sad day for those of us who believe in the sanctity of human life. Every human ever created was done so in the image of God. Each person is God's handiwork as Creator and Sustainer of life. It is He who breathed in us the breath of life, and each breath is sustained by the creative work of God. In the case of Terry Schindler Schaivo, human beings have acted as arbiters against God and assumed the rights to determine when those breaths can stop. This is an act of undermining the sovereignty of God and clearly an example of human insurgency. Our days were numbered before we were born by the decretive will of God, and for a judge or illigetimate husband to decree the death upon a woman who clearly has life in her is a pronouncement with eternal consequences. We all must stand up and stand against this arbitrary nature of mankind to rule outside the governing and judicial will of God. In the end, yes, God's rule will stand and his verdict will be carried out, but we are representatives and mouthpieces of His truth to speak what He has already spoken in His Word. We must see this situation for what it is - arbitration against God. As this dear lady starves, may every breath we take and every meal we eat bear in mind the gift of life that God gives us and pray for those who are having theirs taken away. May God have mercy on those perpetrating this barbaric act and comfort Terry with His peace and loving care. For the whole story of Terry Schaivo, I encourage you to listen to today's broadcast of Glenn Beck radio show. You can find it on his website (http://www.glennbeck.com/).
Getting Use to the Dark . . . Ages
Consider this a sequel to the 'would you rather blog' blog. For a recap, I mentioned that what Dan Rather has in common with many preachers is that they do not what to be held accountable for what they deliver as to be 'truth'. Both want us to just take them at their word and believe it; after all, they are the experts. In many churches, for a church member to test the teaching of their pastor would be dubbed a mutiny. He or she would be stigmatized as a combative church member, trying to stir up strife, and "cause the devil to get involved and ruin the church." Preachers and teachers, like Dan Rather, use scare tactics and threats to church members saying that their pursuit of the truth is not only wrong but rebellious and the work of the devil. But how is this so? Aren't preachers to be the first to have sound doctrine, precise theological statements, and a faithful presentation of Scripture. Unfortunately, this adherence is words without weight. I find it intriguing that people call these good Bereans as being a part of the devils work. Think about it. The devil is quite a theologian. He knows how to quote Scripture. I would say he probably knows it better than most of us. Yet he is also the father of lies and a deceiver. So you can see how he would use the Bible to deceive people and corrupt the truth. Isn't this what false teachers and the devil have in common? They don't want the truth to be told, for if that were to happen, then they would be exposed for who they are. Today you can hear believers say, "God said it; I believe it; that settles it." And now it can be said that they say, "My pastor said it; I believe it; that settles it." No investigation. No discernment. No testing the teaching with the Word of God. I submit that the Berean willing to hold his or her pastor/preacher accountable is never more like a New Testament believer - not the devil!!! The devil works in secret, in deception, behind closed doors. The New Testament believer proclaims from the rooftop what was told in the secret and operates in true transparency in doctrine and in life. Today there are more resources available for in depth Bible study and spiritual growth than ever. Concordances, Bible dictionaries, encyclopedias, lexicons, grammars, surveys, and so on. Yet there has never been a time where believers appear to be so naive, theologically inept, biblically illiterate and irresponsible, and bad stewards of the mysteries of God (1 Corinthians 4:1). We have become more devil-conscious when it comes to theology than God-conscious and automatically assume that anyone questioning someone's theology (especially a leader) is working as a cohort of the devil. Where did this come from? Why do they say this? Are they afraid of being true to God and His Word? If the questions are legitimate, then they should be answered. And if the person questioning is wrong, then they should learn from their pastor. But what if the pastor/preacher is wrong? That cannot be the case because it would appear that the lay member is more studious and serious about the matters of doctrine that their spiritual authority. But aren't we all a part of the holy priesthood and all accountable to our doctrine? Today, we are more content to know God minimally that know him rightly and truly. We cannot know him fully because we are finite beings, be we can know him truly, and this should be the aim. To accuse anyone of being in that enterprise of being the devil is only tactic and ploy to deter from the reality and fact that we would rather live in the dark ages. There was a time when the believers did not have a copy of God's Word. The priest would teach them the Bible, and the only thing the person knew was what the priest told them, so they assumed it to be true. Interpretation and study was left to the priest until the Gutenburg press came along and mass Bible production came into being. More and more persons began reading the Bible for themself, and soon, a man named Martin Luther came upon the scene and taught the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers and held the battlecry of Sola Scripture. This was the ending of the dark ages and the beginning of a Reformation to which we all are indebted to. Yet I am concerned that even though we all have our own Bibles (some a whole collection), we want to go back to the dark ages and leave theology and doctrine up the so-called priest (preacher/pastor). Theology is relegated to the spiritually elite in theological academia or higher education rather than every who calls Christ their Lord. The Puritans were a people who held everyone including their children accountable to knowing God arightly. With catechisms, confessions, and intense Bible training, these people sought God together. Many historians have said that their society was the greatest Christian society our world has ever known. On the other hand, today, we are getting used to the dark. More interested in Oswald Chambers and popular preachers comedy than a preacher teaching the deeper truths of the Christian faith. Happy with milk, we prefer to be babes and be coddled with the comfort of a padded pew. All the while the modern day Martin Luther is being taken to court and discinplined for having a passion for knowing God. These Bereans intimidate the Laodiceans who have become lukewarm and apathetic to theology and the study of God. To these and others who have felt the pressure to conform and cower down to the preachers and teachers who would rather threaten than be transparent, I understand where you are and have been there. I call upon the Reformer himself and his words as the conclusion and cry of our heart: "Here I stand. I can do no other. So help me God." May we never get used to the dark and go back to the dark ages. History and the Author of it will hold us accountable as to how we represented God in truth and in our transformed lives.
Wednesday, March 16, 2005
Scott Peterson and the Sentence of Death
Today, one of the most publicized cases finally came to a close. Scott Peterson, guilty of murdering his wife and unborn child, has been sentenced to death row. I have thought about this, and how much this case has stirred the nation. Many issues, like the rights of the unborn, the destruction of the marriage covenant, and the viability of the court system have all been at play in this trial. Not that justice has been served, many feel a sense of relief and that the right thing has been done. Then I thought? What if, while in prison, God revealed himself to Scott Peterson and used him to change many people's lives? What if God appointed this man to declare the gospel message with boldness to everyone he meets? I know it sounds wierd, but is that not similar to what happend with Saul? While on the road to Damacus, Saul had no idea and no plans to be God's instrument to take the gospel to the nations. Rather, he was on his way to persecute and kill more Christians. Then God rocked his world. But would the Christian community and the world around him believe that God truly saved him and called him to now preach the Word? Anyone can see how hard it would be for us to let someone like Scott Peterson be a spokesperson for a Holy God. Yet, if you think about it, Moses, David, and Paul all were murders, and those hands which were guilty of someone else's blood also penned a major portion of Scripture. This I say, speaks of the mercy and grace of God. Then I have to look to myself. Who am I that God would save me and use me for His kingdom? What inherent goodness and worthiness is there in me that God should see fit to save me and call me to himself? Nothing more than Scott Peterson. I conclude with what Paul said of his life to the Corinthian church. He, who brought the sentence of death on Christians, now as he puts it, faces the sentence of death for the cause of Christ. This is the transformed life. This is the heart of the gospel. This is the power of God. "For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again." 2 Corinthians 1:8-10 I don't know what God is up to concerning Scott Peterson. I pray that God saves him and uses him for what is left of his life. I wonder, if there was a Saul who was converted, a man who murdered Christians who lived his life to destroy the Church, if he would be accepted in the Christian community today. Something I must think about and hope others do too.
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
Would You 'Rather' Blog?
I was in the shower a few minutes ago and was thinking, "I wonder if Dan Rather has his own blog now?" I know that sounds mean, but really, think about it. A man whose career of a quarter century of being on top of the world of broadcast news was toppled by people he thought he could dupe. "Who are these guys?" he must be thinking as he exited his office for the last time. And isn't that the case for many on top? They think us earthlings are too ignorant and uninformed to know the difference between objective truth and bias-driven propaganda. What bloggers did was give a voice in media for the common man. The media elite had become so detached from mainstream society that the mainstream media no longer represented mainstream thought. Therefore, people have sought other mediums of getting the information and news they want from a source more credible and trustworthy. This has to be a good thing, and I wonder if this could be transported in the realm of the spiritual. I mean, Rather for the first time was held accountable for what he pontificated from the pulpit of his news chair, and when what was investigated was found falsified, he was ousted. Then, to make matters worse, he denied and retreated rather than own up to the truth. The fact is this: truth can and should be investigated; it can and will stand up against the toughest of scrutiny; and if it is found to fail the test of investigation, it would not be true and therefore not authoritative. The point is made that today preachers have often gotten away with making just as dubious statements as Rather's from their own pulpit, and because theology and right thinking about God has been relegated to theological academia, most of these erroneous comments go unchecked and unaccounted for. This seriously hurts the credibility of the message, and this is what concerns me. We can't afford to have a superficial adherence to truth in that we nod our heads and say "Amen!" when the suit and tie spokesman gets excited. We must investigate the truthfulness of the message with the authority of God's Word. And for some reason, blogging seems to be a voice once again for Christians to hold our brothers and sisters to the light of God's infallible Word. When I say, "Would you rather blog?" I am saying more than one thing. Some, if not many, Christians have sought alternative mediums to have God's truth communicated to them and are looking elsewhere than the local pulpit. And this is wrong. But then again, God's message will come from whomever and whatever He chooses - even an ass. I fear that many preachers don't want to be held accountable for the fidelity and accuracy of their message and doctrine, and like Rather would deny and retreat and resist and confrontation, making charges that we are "touching the Lord's anointed" or "causing division and strive" among the brethren. But what is the worth of unity if we are unified around hot air? And I know that the "publishing" of my thoughts are open to your scrutiny, and if I am wrong in my theology or thinking, I will be the first to admit that I am wrong and hope to sharpen my understanding of life, God, and His Word. Yet this must be done. The Christian message has been marginalized far too long, and this has come from years where the Christians have not "tested everything" as the Bible commands us to (1 Thessalonians 5). Unlike good Bereans, we have not searched out the matter carefully to see where the things are so (Acts 17). We have not taken pains in ourself and our teaching so as to preserve us and those who hear us (1 Timothy 4). God's Word is true and Jesus, the Living Word, is the embodiment of truth. And if there is ever a people who have a true message worth telling, it is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet this message has been clouded in philosophical presuppositions, cultural accomodations, and personal interpretations so that what was once clarion has become clouded. And I fear that like Rather, many of our preachers will be written off and ignored just like Rather. Instead, they would choose to rather blog or something else to hear the truth. Maybe there can be modern day Lukans who "followed all things closely to write an orderly account that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught" (Luke 1). If this happens, we could be on the brink of a feast rather than a famine of the Word of God in the land.
Monday, March 14, 2005
Get It Right Mr. Schuller
Tonight I was watching Larry King Live who had Reverend Robert Schuller on to talk about the heroic witness of Ashley Smith, the lady who was a hostage and talked Brian Nichols into turning himself in. It is interesting that those who can write books called "The Purpose Driven Life" and their mentors cannot rightly account for the purposes of God. With his warm fuzz view of God, he says that God had nothing to do with the murders and the events that culminated in the apartment of Ashley Smith. The fact of the matter is this: in just 24 hours, the world was captivated by the rapant evil manifested in the muders done by Brian Nichols. Everyone was on edge, clinging to every news briefing on the next freak event. With every eye and every ear tuned in, the climax took place. What happend? A widowed woman, "randomly picked" spent seven hours in hostage sharing the Word of God with a murderer. She told him of his sin; she explained to him his need for getting honest and getting real with God and taking ownership for his sin. She spoke of Jesus. She bowed her knee to the Father time and time again, displaying her radical trust and unyeilding submission to the will of God. And in the end, the evil was overcome by the power of God's Word and His witness. She was a mouthpiece of truth in the chaos and brought order through the proclamation of righteousness. It was not the power of M-16's or militia or police and sheer might; it was the power of the voice of Almighty God that drove this man to surrender. The police chief said that the reason he turned himself in was because he was overwhelmed by force, that he had no place to go. I tell you, he was NOT overwhelmed by force of might, but trembling at the truth of God's Word. It is the same word that was spoken to calm the sea and tame the winds, the same word that calls forth the dead from the grave, the same word that make changed lives. Did God ordain the murders? Absolutely not. It is antithetical to his nature and his goodness. But he did allow them to happen. He was neither blind nor powerless to keep this evil from happening. He who is sovereign over all, including the will of every human being on the face of the earth, providentially rendered these occurances so that the ultimate outcome would to bring glory to Himself. So there was a purpsoe in the whole of events that occured this weekend. And this needs to be told. More than Brian Nichols, more than Ashley Smith, more than the deaths and the families involved (not to minimize the grief and pain they are experiencing), this weekend was all about the glory of God. God knew beforehand what was going to take place, and knew the outcome that would happen. He is being glorified through the testimony and faithful witness of His child. She did not know what was going to happen that night, but God prepared her for it. He was before this, in this, and worked through this to glorify Himself. Yes, it was an evil weekend, but God works all things after the counsel of His perfect will. No, we don't understand it all, and we would be foolish as to explain God's purposes away in attempt to conform to what our culture things is right. Yes, God was involved in every aspect of this weekend, and if your view of God is not big enough for God to be sovereign of both good and evil, your view is not a faithful, biblical view of God. And this is where Reverend Schuller got it wrong. Did God cause the tsunami? Most would say absolutely not. But think about it. The same word that has so much power can tell the techtonic plates, "Shift!" And they shift in accordance to the word of His power. He tells the winds, "Roar!" And they roar. He tells the waves, "Roll!" And they roll. The devastation was colossal. But think about what the news is not reporting, and the purposes of the tsunami from a more theocentric perspective. Many of those killed in the tsunami were from a militant Islamic fundamentalist stance who have been murdering Christians for hundreds of years. The blood of the martyrs have been crying out for centuries for vengeance. Having left room for the wrath of God and entrusting themselves to Him who does justice, God says, "Vengeance is Mine; I will repay." God has perfect control of all creation and can do as His wishes. He doesn't consult with us, and it is arrogant to think he needs to. He doesn't need to explain to grasshoppers what He providentially does. Yet, as a result of the tsunami, Christians are going into regions of the world that for 2000 years have been kept out. They are preaching the gospel to people groups who have never heard of Jesus. Delivering disaster relief and aid, Christian workers and missionaries are sharing the love of Christ to those who in their hate, murdering the previous generations of Christians. Isn't this amazing? God is good, and in the midst of the turmoil and grief, God is bringing comfort and salvation to a region of the world oppressed by evil and in bondage to falsehood. Praise God from whom all blesings flow! Praise Him all creatures here below! Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost! God's purposes are clear in His Word. He will work all things to glorify Himself, to bring salvation to the ends of the earth, to vindicate His name and His people through acts of justice and righteousness, and will ultimately in the end be feared by all. Truly, this is a great God, a great King to be feared above all Gods. Let the earth tremble before Him. Let all mouths be silenced at His sovereignty. And let God's ministers and mouthpieces stand up and speak the whole truth of who God is and what He does. The tsunami and Brian Nichols are both in the palm of God's hands as much as those who put Jesus on the cross were in the first century. Nothing is hidden from his sight. There is nothing that God cannot do, nothing that He does not know. Yet He does allow evil to exist, and has providential reasons for doing so. And we must wrestle with the events we see to understand God's ways from a biblical and theocentric manner. This I am sad to say, won't be on Larry King Live.
Sunday, March 13, 2005
Gripped by Gravity
Tonight I heard the testimony of a missionary who has been working in Indonesia and head over the human needs and relief work there. He showed slides and gave very graphic information about the disaster of the tsunami which was devastating. But once the immediacy of the tsunami update was over, he began to speak of the mission work being done there, of the persecution taking place, of the churches being planted, and the many Muslims being saved. My heart melted. This morning, I preached about treasuring Christ. Tonight, I heard again and again living demonstrations of what I preached, of lives lived and deaths died for the glory of God and furthering of His kingdom. My words seem only rhetoric to the realities they face everyday. These Christians in Indonesia live heavy lives, grounded in a sense of ultimacy in everything they do. Compared to them, everything here seems to light, so easy, so transient. I don't know. I just feel that my soul has been brought low, brought in brokenness, in burdening for the peoples who have never heard, for the those who would have us Christians as their firewood. Story after story, I was paralyzed by the powerful manifestations of modern-day Pauls who "die daily" (1 Corinthians 15). The gravity of their glorious lives speak from their tombstones, many martyred, others left to themselves for survival in the mountains. I don't want my life to be flighty, to be frivolous to the sake of Christ, to be trivial to the King, to belittle His worth and greatness. I wrestle. I struggle. And yet I know that He has plans for me, and in His sovereign will, He will guide me to do that which most brings Him pleasure. O that He would be pleased to use me to speak of the glory of Christ to the savages and heathen. Jesus, I live for your smile.
our excursion to paynesville, ky
this morning, i was given the opportunity to preach in a church where a friend of mine is the pastor. it is called first baptist paynesville. don't ask me where it is. i just know that it is near the border of Indiana and close to the Ohio River. anyway. i preached on matthew 13.44-46. this is a text near and dear to my heart because i want to treasure Christ with all that i am. i am convinced that the kingdom of God is advanced the same way it is entered--treasuring Christ. It says that Jesus is better than what life can offer now and what death can take later. Yeah, I know what some of you are thinking . . .treasure Jesus? Why not money, sex, power, fame? I mean, he was born in a feeding trough, a homeless man, a Nazarene for crying out loud ("can anything good come out of Nazareth?), rejected by men, ridiculed by others, despised by many, and abandoned by all, including the God the Father at the cross (eloi, eloi lama sabathani). Charged of committing the most heinous cimes of treason and blasphemy, it eminently appeared that his mission was a waste. SO THE SURFACE SAYS. Yet, what cannot be seen is beneath surface, where the human eye cannot see. Like the treasure dug deep within the ground, the Treasure of the Christian faith is seen only with spiritual eyes. "The natural person does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand it, for they are spiritually appraised." As the song goes, "Open the eyes of my heart, Lord, I want to see you." Unless the Spirit of God opens our eyes to see the glory of Christ we will remain blinded by the god of this world in our minds so that we would not be able to see the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. This image we must see. This image we much savor, in savoring Him there is eternal satisfaction and pleasure forevermore. YET THE WORLD IS BLIND. They treasure the things of the world, for it is all they see. How will they treasure Christ in whom is infinite worth and surpassing value? How are to be exceptinally desirous for the King whose kingdom is unshakable and eternal? I tell you, today's mere nominalism won't cut it. We are advertisements for the kingdom of Christ, and if our life was one billboard, what would it say? If Christ was not risen, would our lives have an distinguishable difference? Or would it be life as usual? You enter the kingdom treasuring Christ, not merely "accepting Jesus" or "nailing it down". You don't enter forced but rather overwelmed by the grace of God. Having been ravished by the Treasure, the enveloping satisfaction overrides and overcomes all sacrifices, so that with sheer joy "goods and kindreds can go, this mortal life also." Why? Because His kingdom is forever. JESUS IS LIFE. Not a way of life. Not a slice of life. Not a compartment of life, but life. For Paul, nothing he did or was made since apart from the resurrection of Christ. And so it should be with us. We of all men too should be most pitied if Christ is not risen. Having forsaken all and freely sold "all that we had", we hold no reserves, have no plan B, and bank our entire lives on the worth of spending our lives for the advancement of the kingdom of God. THY KINGDOM COME, THY WILL BE DONE ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN. So our prayer comes and the pursuit continues. SEEK FIRST the kingdom of God . . . As Hosea said, "Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord;" or as Paul says "I pres on toward the upward goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Alright, I am getting carried away. I could go on, but you get the point. Those who don't treasure Christ will sell out (and they do have a sell out point). For Judas, it was 30 shekels of silver; for the rich young ruler, it was to "sell all that you have" and distribute it to the poor; for the enemies of the cross of Christ, is was embracing the cross, their tool of executionary tool. But for those who treaure Christ, they are sold out. Consider the 3 Hebrew boys, the fisherman who left their nets, father, and boat to follow Christ, Mary who spent all she had to anoint Jesus feet, the widow who gave all she had, Moses who considered the "reproaches of Christ of greater value than all the riches of Egpyt", etc. Lines have been drawn. Either you treasure him or you don't. And when God's people treaure Christ, the world will know and wonder, and the worship of the redeemed will be a fragrance that will draw many to treasure Christ as well. So for this I hope and pray, even now, that in my life, the aroma of Christ may arise and arouse others to see what their eyes cannot see and savor Him who is the Bread of Life that satisfies. O taste and see that the Lord is good!
A Different Flavor
For those who might think that I am a serious guy, there is another blog that I have created for the fun, satirical, and even entirely goofy side of me. You can catch it at http://www.xanga.com/home.aspx?user=OutpostMinistries. Anway, I shall try to stay consistent with the theme of this blog and hope to add stimulation and contemplation on matters that I wrestle with. Let me know what you think about the other blog, and no, I am not schitzophrenic. Thank you very much.
Saturday, March 12, 2005
a blog for you, a blog for me
here it is. i can't believe it. i am actually blogging. well, the whole idea of this is to express to others what has been impressed upon me. hence, i have given it the title of provocations and pantings. provocations is a slight hijacking from a compilation work of Soren Kierkegaard, and pantings, well, are simply the overflow of my heart. sometimes my heart breathes, other times is spews, yet in all this, i desire to have a heart authentically ravished by truth and exceptionally desirable for my Treasure - Jesus Christ. so with that, i welcome your comments, critiques, questions, and thoughts. don't worry about disagreeing with me or not jiving with my sayings, for oft this has been the case. unorthodoxy can be a bad and good thing at same time. i would say that i am orthodox in my theology but unorthodox in my practice. what i say is typically general and raw, and i try to keep from the censorship of those who would legislate Christianity and those on the other hand who would like to pilfer the grace of God. so come with it. come and join me for the pursuit of excellence in leveraging life for the glory of God and embracing the maximalist mentality of being sent and spent for the advancement of the kingdom of God. thanks for visiting. hope to see you again.