Wednesday, May 31, 2006

I've Got An Idea

Here's something I'd like to pitch to the network TV executives -- a national theological spelling bee. What with all of the interest now in the national spelling bee, it seems like it would be a natural. Yes, the sarcasm meter is on!

Contestants would have to spell words like:
ordo salutis

And for those who are less theologically inclined, words like these:
James Dobson
Joel Osteen

Just a thought.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Are They Related?

At Costco recently, I saw a book entitled 23 Minutes In Hell sitting in a large display of beef jerkey (right in front of one of the bags). Are the two related? Is a statement being made about the relative merits of that particualr brand of beef jerkey? Does the author of the book think Hell was like beef jerkey? Was it a Freudian slip of some kind? Just wondering.

Book Buying

I went on a book-buying binge today (I should probably see someone about the problem, but I don't really want to!). Here's what's on my summer reading list:

Blue Like Jazz, by Donald Miller. It comes highly recommended by quite a few people -- we'll see.

Their God Is Too Small, by Bruce Ware. It's a theological response to Open Theism. I bought it primarily because Bruce was one of my professors at Western -- an excellent one at that.

America: The Last Best Hope, by William Bennett. This is the first volume of a history of the United States (1492-1914).

Confessions of a Reformission Rev., by Mark Driscoll. Driscoll pastors Mars Hill Church in Seattle. I've listened to a couple of his sermons and have loved them.

God of Promise, by Michael Horton. This book is a survey and explanation of Covenant Theology. I've enjoyed most of Horton's writings and assume I will with this one, too.

Monday, May 29, 2006

If We Confess Our Sins

Private confession of sin is one thing (I don't do enough of it, I know that), but public confession of sin seems to be entirely another.

Many of us seem to be content with the notion that confession is good for the soul, but only if it's done individually. The corporate confession of sin sounds, well, too "Catholic" for many of us. But should it? I don't think so. Public confession of sin, which is followed by absolution (or the assurance of forgiveness) has a long history in the church. Although it's been largely ignored or forgotten by the contemporary evangelical church, I think it's something we need to get back to.

By the way, the "public confession" I'm talking about doesn't involve going up and down the pews, standing up and confessing the previous week's sins. I'm talking about a general confession that's spoken in unison with time given for silent, private confession.

Philip Ryken, pastor of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, has written a sample confession that was used there. It's convicting - personally and corporately. Here's where you can find it.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Memorial Day

Have a great Memorial Day! In the midst of all of your grilling, visiting, eating, drinking, and recreating, make sure to take time to give thanks to God for those who have given their life in service to our country, and for those who serve now. We owe them a lot. If you know someone in the military (or even if you don't), express your gratitude! It doesn't take long and it'll mean a lot.

Just A Thought

More people need to find their inner adult.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

A Slow Spirituality

I came across this quote from Paul Ford while going through a stack of papers and notes. I don't know where it came from (a book or an article or something else), but it's good and makes me think about my own journey of following Jesus.

"The English style of spirituality is a rhythm of worship, work, reading, and leisure. This is an unfrantic response to who God is. What we see in (C.S.) Lewis is the steady place of his parish church; the quiet regularity of his Bible-reading and prayers; the natural place for his main work of study and writing; the large blocks of time for lesiurely conversations with special friends; and the importance of letter writing, especially with those who sought his help in the matter of Christian pilgrimmage. His life was marked by a spacious, unfrantic rhythm or worship, work, conversation, availability, and intimacy."

That's definitely worth thinking about! Our North American busy, busy, busy lifestyle doesn't lend itself to this kind of Christian pilgrimmage. We have to be more "intentional" as they say in order to make it so. Lord help us!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Old Double Standard

Did you happen to notice the type of coverage that was given to The DaVinci Code by the press before it's release? Glowing. Supportive. Enthusiastic. Almost gleeful. Other adjectives could be used here, too. It seemed that reporters and hosts were falling all over themselves to get an interview and bask in the glow of Tom Hanks and Ron Howard (a little less so for Ian McKellan). I would describe the coverage as overwhelmingly positive. Sure, those of us who have problems with the thesis of the book were given snippets of attention here and there, but nothing significant (at least in the mainstream media).

Contrast The DaVinci Code coverage with that of The Passion of the Christ. What type of coverage did Mel Gibson and the movie get? Anything but glowing, supportive, and enthusiastic. In fact, much of it was downright hostile. Gibson himself and the premise of the film (the last twelve hours of the life of Jesus, which included a graphic depiction of His suffering and death on our behalf) were questioned, attacked, and derided. A considerable amount of time was given to detractors and protesters (maybe more). Gibson's mental health was questioned.

The coverage of these two films is so different that it can't be missed. Tim Graham of the Media Research Center has put together a study of it called "The Trashing of the Christ." It's worth a read.

Is Christianity Dying?

Boundless magazine writer Drew Dyck asks an interesting question in his latest article - Is Christianity dying out? Will the church become part of the ash heap of history? Dyck has another view (a good one!). You can read it here.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Thinking 101

I was thinking about thinking today (sounds odd, but it's true). When we engage in the practice of thinking, it's important that we follow the Three Rules of Critical Thinking. If we follow them, we'll be able to critically evaluate just about anything we read or hear.

The Three Rules can be asked in the form of questions:
  1. What was said or written? Be very careful to accurately represent what you're hearing or reading. Find out what is being claimed - what's the point?
  2. What evidence was used to support the claims? Look for how the writer or speaker backs up their point.
  3. Does the evidence actually support the claim? At this point, evaluation comes into the picture. If evidence was presented, did it make their point (makes their case) or not?

If you work through these three questions/rules, you'll be able to think your way through most anything you come across. Not only that, you'll be able to amaze and astound your friends!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

My Only Comfort

Question 1: What is your only comfort, in life and in death?

Answer 1: That I belong - body and soul, in life and in death - not to myself but to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ, who at the cost of His own blood has fully paid for all my sins and has completely freed me from the dominion of the devil; that He protects me so well that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; indeed that everything must fit His purpose for my salvation. Therefore, by His Holy Spirit, he also assures me of eternal life, and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for Him.

What you've just read is the first question and answer of the Heidelberg Catechism. It was written in 1563 by Caspar Olevianus and Zacharias Ursinus to be used as a catechism and statement of the Reformed understanding of Scripture. This catechism is one of my favorites because of it's structure - it's organized around the broad themes of first guilt, then grace, and finally gratitude. (I think "guilt, grace, and gratitude" is an excellent summary of the Gospel and the Christian life.)

The first answer resonates with my every time I read it. That really is my only comfort in life and death. I belong to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who has delivered me and keeps me, and the Holy Spirir gives me assurance and the desire to live for Him. My only hope is bound up in those facts, which gives me great comfort.

Check out the Heidelberg Catechism. You'll be glad you did!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Christians and Political Involvement

I ran acroos something interesting on the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals website the other day. They posted on article called "Five Basics for Political Involvement" by the late James Montgomery Boice. As usual, his thoughts are excellent. I'll give his main points, and if you want to read the entire arrticle, please go to the link above.

1. Church and state must be seperate from each other, in the sense that the church must not control national policy nor the state either establish or limit the free exercise of religion. But this does not mean that either the church or state is independent of God.
2. Christians are free to seek elected office, and some should be encouraged to do so. But elected officials do not have to be Christians to be effective leaders, and merely being a Christian does not in itself qualify one for office.
3. The Bible gives Christians guidelines for approaching national and social problems, and Christians should seek to be consistently biblcal in all their thoughts and actions. But the Bible does not necessarily give specific answers to problems, and reasoning from a biblical principle to a specific policy must be carefully done.
4. In attempting to advance a specific proposal, Christians must depend on moral suasion, asking God through prayer to give their reason favor with those having different points of view. But they must not retreat from this high position to tactics of mere naked pressure of coercion.
5. Christians must think, work, and pray effectively, trying always to place their specific programs within the framework of and overall Christian world and life view. And they must strive no less personally to model the reality suggested.

That's quite a bit to think about, but I think Boice has hit the nail on the head.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Another Point to Ponder

"If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don't like, it's not the gospel you believe, but yourself." (St. Augustine)

Saturday, May 20, 2006


It's been said before, but I'm convinced that we need to beat it into our heads - God calls us to be faithful. He doesn't necessarily call us to be great, or to make history, or to be famous. God calls us to be faithful in whatever we're doing and wherever we are.

Faithfulness should be our strongest desire as followers of Jesus Christ. As a writer named Jonathan Daugherty put it: "Faithful to Jesus, our spouse, our parents, our children, our neighbors, and our enemies. Aspire to faithfulness, not greatness."

DaVinci "Codes"

The much-anticipated movie opened yesterday (no, not "Over the Hedge," yes, "The DaVinci Code") to less than stellar reviews. Marc T. Newman has some good thoughts, as does Andrew Coffin of World Magazine. Reports say that some of Brown's claims about the church, the Bible, and Jesus have been watered down. We'll see.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Here He Goes Again!

Pat Robertson is in the news again (surprise!). This time he says God told him that a tsunami or something like it would hit the United States sometime in the next year. In particular, he said it would hit the Pacific Northwest (where I live). You can read all about here.

Robertson has made a habit of sticking his foot in his mouth for some time, and it would be nice if he'd stop it (or at least think before he speaks). His statements make those of us who are evangelical followers of Jesus Christ look really bad - not to mention those of us in the ministry.

I certainly believe that God can - and does - speak to His people. That's not the issue. However, before we ever go public with it, we need to be absolutely positively certain that it really was the Lord who spoke (and not the result of a bad burrito the night before). That's always led me to the conclusion that if we want to hear God speak, all we need to do is open His Word - the Bible. I know that I can be absolutely positively certain that He has spoken to me when I read His Word.

I wonder if anyone will hold the Reverend Robertson accountable for his prophecy?

Focusing on Jesus

Gary Burge has written a great article for Christianity Today, which was posted on their site today, called "Jesus Out of Focus." In light of all of the books about Jesus lately, this article deserves to be read.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Matthew 6:19-21

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth and rust destroy, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

The phrase, "store up for yourselves treasures in heaven," jumped out at me as I read it. We've got a pretty good handle on storing up "treasures on earth." For most of us, the acquisition of "stuff" never ends (always the newest, latest, and greatest). We know about making earthly investments, but what about making a heavenly investment?

An investment in heaven - storing up treasure there - is doing something that nobody else ever sees, it seems to me. Obviously, this isn't all it means, but it's a good start. Things that are done quietly and without fanfare fit into this category. Taking someone a meal, visiting a shut-in, driving someone to an appointment or to church, praying for or with someone, sending a note or card, paying a bill, mowing someone else's lawn, and donating to the local foodbank are just a few of the illustrations of investing in heaven. These things are treasures that will never fade away.

"For God is not so unjust as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints." (Hebrews 6:10)

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The DaVinci Code Cracks

Greg Koukl of Stand To Reason has devoted his bi-monthly newsletter "Solid Ground" entirely to a discussion of The DaVinci Code. In specific, he deals with several of the most egregious claims Dan Brown makes. I bring it up because it's brief, thorough, and fabulous. You can find it here.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Great Quote!

"You can say any foolish thing to a dog, and the dog will give you a look that says, ''re right! I never would have thought of that!'" (Dave Barry)

Church Non-Attendance

I want to know who cut Hebrews 10:24-25 out of the Bible and when they did it? The verses in question say, "And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near."

It seems that huge numbers of people - even those who make a profession of faith in Jesus Christ - don't take this command very seriously at all (which led to the question of whether or not they even know it's in the Bible, jokingly suggesting someone took scissors to their copy of God's Word). We have the statistics to back it up, too.

Courtesy of the Gallup Poll, here are the percentage of members who attend church weekly or almost-weekly:

Church of Christ (68%)
Pentecostal (65%)
Southern Baptist (60%)
Nondenominational (54%)
Roman Catholic (45%)
Methodist (44%)
Presbyterian (44%)
Lutheran (43%)
Episcopal (32%)

Even before I was a pastor, I never understood how people could make gathering together with other believers optional - if they have time for it, if it fits into their busy schedule, if they don't have anything else to do that day, if the weather's not too good (or too bad), if they don't have company, if they don't have other plans, or if the big game isn't on. In my mind, if you're a follower of Jesus Christ, you're in church on Sunday unless you're providentially hindered (by illness or some other mitigating circumstance). I wouldn't miss it, and I'm not saying that just because I'm a pastor!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

No Censorship Here, Tom

Tom Hanks, star of the DaVinci Code movie to be released on Friday, had some thoughts on the movie's detractors. One sentence stands out to me - "We always knew there would be a segment of society that would not want this movie to be shown."

I'd like to know who those people are, Tom. I don't think you could find more than two or three. No one is saying the movie shold not have been made - that would be censorship. What we are saying, Tom, is that we strongly disagree with many of the ideas falsely presented as "facts" in it. We want the chance to rebut it, not censor it. There's a huge difference between censorship and disagreement (not matter how strong). By the way, disagreement does not equal hate, either.

Bonds Apathy

I'm not sure what to think of Barry Bonds' chase of Hank Aaron's home run record (755). Not too long from now, he'll pass Babe Ruth's 714 (if he hits another two home runs this year, which is up for debate). I thought I would be more interested, but I'm not. The historical significance hasn't moved me, and neither has my love for baseball.

Bonds himself has a lot to do with it. It seems abundantly clear that he has taken performance-enhancing drugs (including steroids) for a number of years. This taints his achievements and records. In short, he cheated. It doesn't matter to me that "baseball" as an institution didn't crack down on them, it's still wrong. We wouldn't receognize a one hundred meter dash world record by someone who put a jetpack on their back - it's an unfair advantage. Bonds and others had an unfair advantage. His name will obviously go in the record books, but it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

A sign at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia expresses my thoughts well (I wish I would have thought of it) - "Babe Ruth did it on hot dogs and beer. Henry Aaron did it with class. How do you do it?"

Saturday, May 13, 2006

McCain's Tin Ear

Senator John McCain was the commencement speaker at Liberty University today. Liberty's founder is the Reverend Jerry Falwell, whom McCain had less than kind words during the 2000 Republican primaries.

Why did McCain go to Liberty? It's possible that he went to mend some fences with Falwell (which would be a good thing). It's also possible that he went in order to win the hearts and votes of evangelicals (probably more likely).

The problem with the second reason is not necessarily the intent (that's politics), but the result. I'm an evangelical and I vote (that might look good on a bumpersticker), but McCain making the "pilgrimmage" to Lynchburg, Virginia doesn't do anything to convince me to vote for him in the 2008 presidential primaries. Why? Because Jerry Falwell doesn't speak for or represent me as an evangelical follower of Christ. Neither does Pat Robertson, for that matter. There are other high-profile leaders who would have more of an influence on me than either of these two. There was a point in time (1980's maybe) when Falwell and Robertson did represent a large number of evangelicals, but that isn't the case anymore. In my opinion, McCain and his advisors are about 20-25 years behind the curve of current evangelical thinking and activity (so are most Democrats and most of the media, too). This kind of thinking and strategy is 8-Track in an iPod world.

"Who are you to judge?"

If you've been a Christian for any length of time, you've heard the statement, "who are you to judge?" Of course, the person who says this is quoting one of the only verses the non-Christian actually knows - Matthew 7:1 ("Do not judge so that you will not be judged." In fact, most people quote it in the KJV - "Judge not lest ye be judged.") How do we answer that and understand Jesus' words? Gary DeMar gives a brief but good response. It's not a full treatment of the idea (especially in regard to the context of Matthew 7:1), but it'll help us give a good start. You can find it here.

Friday, May 12, 2006

What's In It For God?

Mike Horton, professor at Westminster Seminary in California writes:
"The older theology tended to produce character. By the end of the twentieth century, we have become God's demanding little brats. In church, we must be entertained. Our emotions must be charged. We must be offered amusing programs. We give up a lot to become Christians and what little teaching we do get must cater to our pragmatic, self-centered interests. Preaching must be filled with clever anecdotes and colorful illustrations with nothing more than passing references to doctrine. I want to know what this means for me in my daily experience. Have we forgotten that God is a monarch? He is the king, by whom and for whom all things were made and by whose sovereign power they are sustained. We exist for His pleasure, not for ours. We are on this earth to entertain Him, please Him, adore Him, bring Him satisfaction, excitement, and joy. Any gospel that seeks to answer the question, 'What's in this for me?' has it all backwards. The question is, 'What's in it for God'"

He's hit the nail on the head - sadly. We're far more interested in what we get out of knowing and serving God rather than what God gets. What is the chief end of man? It's not for God to give me things that I might enjoy them forever. The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. We have to keep that straight.

Summer Reading List

No, it isn't summer yet, but it's never too early to start thinking about what to read when the weather is warm and the living is easy. I can't recommend "The Call" by Os Guinness highly enough. I think Guinness is one of the greatest Christian thinkers today. If you've ever wondered what God wants you to do with your life or whether or not what you do as a vocation matters to God, then this book is one you need to pick up and read. Check it out at The Call - By: Os Guinness - Knowing our callings is vital to living life before the face of God.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Meditation on Luke 6:27-36

If you haven't noticed, society is a lot less civil than it used to be. I'm not one who "pines for the good old days," but things have changed for the worse.

Peter Post, an instructor on business manners for the Emily Post Institute, said that because of a number of factors in society, there are "more chances for people to be rude to each other." Almost 70% of those questioned in an Associated Press-Ipsos poll said that people today are ruder than they were twenty or thirty years ago.

Peggy Neufield, the founder and president of Personal Best, said many parents today don't stress the importance of manners or etiquette. In the Associated Press-Ipsos poll, only 13% admitted to making an obscene gesture while driving, and only 8% said they had used their cell phones in an annoying manner around other people. However, 37% said that had used a swear word in public.

While the trend is clear - society is ruder and cruder - how should we respond as followers of Jesus Christ? No matter how strong the temptation, we cannot respond in kind. It's wrong for us to "sink to the level" of the culture around us. God has called us to a higher and holier standard as we live "coram Deo" (before the face of God).

Let what Jesus said sink in: "But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who mistreat you. Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. Give to everyone who asks you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be like the sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful." (Luke 6:26-37)

Not much room for obscene gestures, bad manners, or crude language is there? This is one area where we can stand out and be salt and light in our world - we need to take advantage of it. Long live civility and faithfulness for the glory of God!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

A Man After My Own Heart

Erasmus said, "When I get a little money, I buy books, and if any is left I buy food and clothes."

Responding to "The DaVinci Code"

As followers of Christ, we all need to be ready to respond to the claims made by Dan Brown in his book The DaVinci Code. Unless you've been on a deserted island without the benefit of media, you know the movie by the same name is set to open May 19th. In order to respond intelligently, though, we need information (and good information at that). Pastor Mark Roberts' website is where you need to go to get a fabulous FAQ on all things DaVinci.

We can't bury our heads in the sand and pretend this book, movie, and the ensuing cultural phenomena doesn't exist. It does and we have to address it. Good stories that are well-told have tremendous impact, especially if they're in the form of a movie. Like it or not, this movie will shape the thinking of many people. Life is too short for bad doctrine.

In terms of blogs, Pastor Mark's is an uberblog! You da' man, Mark!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The New Archie Bunker

Andrew Sullivan has provided us with an example of anti-Christian bigotry in his latest column in Time magazine. Oops! I forgot that it's OK in today's society to be bigoted against Christians - just not anyone else (sarcasm mode is on, sort of, here). If you care to read Sullivan's screed, you can find it here. Tolerance is probably a virtue that Mr. Sullivan believes in strongly. But based on what he's written, it doesn't extend to those he doesn't agree with. I bet he loathed Archie Bunker, too.

If the link above doesn't work, go here.

Why is "The DaVinci Code" Important?

John Fischer, in his daily devotional, makes some good points about why we should care about "The DaVinci Code" movie directed by Ron Howard (which is based on the novel by Dan Brown). After all, we might think "it's just a novel - why all the fuss?" Truth matters, and mingling truth and fiction has a way of diminishing both.

I've always enjoyed John's music and his writings. He challenges and encourages me, and I hope he does you, too.

Monday, May 08, 2006

"Burdens are lifted at Calvary" Or are they?

A sad article was posted today at Christianity Today's website. Sad, because it's never good to see churches - made up of sinners saved by God's grace - warring amongst themselves. Very little good comes out of it, and it can take decades to heal.

The story (read it here) revolves around the goings-on at Calvary Albequerque (a church affiliated with the Calvary Chapel movement).

Part of the problem involves polity (meaning church government). Consider the following from Rob Moll's CT article:

"Chuck Smith founded the Calvary Chapel movement in the '70's when he left a
denominational church. Smith had resisted the oversight of his
denomination, and he now teaches that the senior pastor is solely accountable to
God. 'The pastor is ruled over by the Lord and recognized by the
congregation as God's anointed instrument to lead the church, with the board
guiding and directing,' Smith writes in Calvary Chapel
. Though there is no standard for church government, most
Calvary Chapels follow the so-called 'Moses model,' which gives the senior
pastor extensive authority to run the church as he sees fit."

To much authority without accountability is a dangerous thing - even when it's given to a man of God.

A bigger problem, however, isn't so much the model of church government as it is the people who serve in church government. We're all sinful and subject to various and manifold temptations. No form of government is a "magic wand" that will solve every problem and guarantee a healthy and well-balanced church. The New Testament gives the church some wide latitude when it comes to church government, in my opinion. The issue, ultimately, is not elder-rule vs. presbyterianism vs. congregationalism vs. episcopalianism vs. the "Moses principle" - it is who those leaders are. Godly, mature church leaders will flourish and rule well regardless of the polity in which they serve.

Point to Ponder

"The heavens declare the glory of God. The streets declare the sinfulness of man. It's important to reporters to observe the world around them and write truthfully about the ugliness they see. Only then is the need for a Redeemer apparent." (Marvin Olasky, Editor-in-Chief of World magazine)

Sunday, May 07, 2006

The "Idiot Box"

Sometime last year, I caught a speech by Michael Medved on C-SPAN (yes, I watch C-SPAN from time to time!) dealing with the subject of television. His main point was that television destroys the foundation of civilization, particularly the pillars of civilized society.

He offers four specific pillars:
  1. Patience and Perseverance - Television constantly tells us that we must have what we want right now, which destroys the virtue of delayed gratification. Problems are always solved in 21 or 42 minutes (when commercial time is removed). Attention spans have been destroyed.
  2. Self-Confidence & Optimism - The message of televison is one of powerlessness, self-pity, and negativity. This is one of the reasons that good news isn't considered legitimate news. Dennis Prager says that "TV gives you a proctologists view of America." This has helped to make whining and self-pity national pasttimes.
  3. Family & Community - Television has severely damaged group gatherings like churches, bowling leagues, neighborhoods, fraternal orders, etc. Marriage and family are especially harmed.
  4. The Courage to Be Different - Television tends to homogenize (to make us all fit into the same mold) rather than encourage individuality.

(These are my notes on the Michael's speech, therefore any fault in representing his thoughts are mine and not his.)

I appreciate Michael because he goes beyond the slogans and gets to the deeper matters of a subject. This may help give some answers to the question, "Is television a bad thing?" If we think it is, we ought to be able to give an answer that's more thought-out than "I just don't like it, therefore it's wrong."

What do you think of Medved's comments? Is he right, wrong, or a mix of both?

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Quote to Consider

"Christianity has not been tried and found wanting, but rather tried and found difficult." (G.K. Chesterton)

Wouldn't That Apply To You, Too?

Here we go again with the "keep your religion out of politics" rant!

Donald Clegg writes a once-every-three-weeks column for the Spokesman-Review (the Spokane, WA daily newspaper) which appears on the "Faith & Values" page. Clegg is a humanist who rotates with a retired pastor who's a mainline liberal and an evangelical pastor. In this week's column, Clegg echoes the claim that religion and religious beliefs have no part in politics. We should just check our values, beliefs, and convictions at the door of the polling place, evidently.

Point to ponder, Mr. Clegg: If those with religious convictions are not supposed to be guided by those religious convictions when they vote, lobby, or attempt to persuade in the public arena, then does that apply to your religious beliefs and convictions, too? If you're going to be consistent, the answer has to be yes. You should keep your religion out of politics, Mr. Clegg.

"Keep your religion out of politics" means "I don't want to hear an opinion that is different from mine. If I don't like your opinion, you should be quiet." This kind of charge is usually levied against conservative and evangelical Christians (the "religious right" - cue the scary music) by those who hold different and competing religious convictions and values. If their thinking is carried to it's logical conclusion, a member of the "religious left" may promote their ideas which are motivated by religious beliefs, but a member of the "religious right" may not promote their ideas which are motivated by religious belief. Curious, not to mention non-sensical.

Here's are some questions for Mr. Clegg (and people who repeat this statement): Do you think conservative and evangelical Christians have the right to freedom of speech and freedom of thought in our society? Should conservative and evangelical Christians be able to promote and support their beliefs in the public arena - as any other person or group can? Does freedom of speech and thought apply only to those who agree with your viewpoint or hold your religious beliefs? Have you considered the fact that you are promoting your own beliefs in a manner that, evidently, you would deny to others? "Free speech for me, but not for you," doesn't have a very good ring to it, does it?

We need to know how to respond when someone we know (or don't know) makes a statement like Mr. Clegg's.

Friday, May 05, 2006

John Calvin on Discouragement

As I've been preparing a sermon on the subject of "Dealing with Discouragement," I've thought a lot about it, especially as it relates how pastors (including myself) are often beset by discouragement and even depression. John Stott has said that "discouragement is the occupational hazard of the Christian ministry." He's right.

Even the great Reformer John Calvin suffered from discouragement. He made the following observations:
~ "Today hardly one in a hundred considers how difficult and arduous it is faithfully to
discharge the office of pastor."
~ "The crushing effect of a general though false consensus against us is a hard temptation
and one almost impossible to resist."
~ "I am entangled in so many troublesome affairs that I am almost beside myself."
~ "You can scarcely believe what a burden of troublesome business I am weighed down
and oppressed by here."
~ "In addition to the immense troubles by which I am so sorely consumed, there is almost
no day on which some new pain or anxiety does not come."
~ "The wisest servants of God sometimes weaken in the middle of the course, especially
when the road is rough and obstructed and the way more painful than expected. How much
more, then, should we ask God that He never withdraw the aid of His power among the
various conflicts that harass us, but rather that he instill us continually with new strength in
proportion to the violence of our conflicts."
(William Bouwsma, "John Calvin: A Sixteenth Century Portrait")

Most pastors have experienced some, if not all, of what Calvin observes. We definitely need your continued prayers.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Sounds of C.S. Lewis

Have you ever wondered what C.S. Lewis sounded like? I know I have. I've read many of his books (and I hope you have, too) and have been curious about his voice. The British Broadcasting Corporation produced and broadcasted a number of talks done by Lewis duirng World War II. Only a few of them have survived the intervening years. You can find these rare recordings here and here. Enjoy!

Website and Blog Recommendation

Stand To Reason is a fantastic organization headed up by Greg Koukl. Greg's desire is to help Christians think and reason in a way that glorifies God. STR provides all sorts of resources that help us be good ambassadors for Christ. Through the website and radio program, I've learned a lot aboout apologetics (defending the faith), reasoning, and critical thinking. Make sure you visit this site.

Stand To Reason also has a great blog, which can be found here.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

All Religions Are The Same?

No doubt you've heard this one before: "All religions are the same," or "all religions teach basically the same thing." That statement couldn't be more wrong! Yes, there are some obvious similarities between various world religions, but the differences are what matter. "Modern Reformation" magazine has a helpful chart that shows a few of the most important differences.

Point to Ponder

"God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him." (John Piper)

Read this book!

My wife and I just got through reading, "Through Gates of Splendor," by Elisabeth Elliot. She tells the story of her young husband Jim and his four fellow-missionaries (Pete Fleming, Ed McCully, Nate Saint, and Roger Youderian) and their attempt to reach the Aucas with the gospel of Christ. On January 8th, 1956, they were speared to death by the people they hoped to reach. As a result, their story has become known worldwide. It's embarassing for me to admit that I'd never read the book (or any other about it), which is a shame.

You need to read this book! It's inspiring, encouraging and motivating. You can order it here or here. Elliot paints a tremendous picture of God's providence and provision. Tolle Lege!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Why Blog?

Why blog? That's the question. Why would someone spend time typing words on a computer screen that go out into cyberspace and, possibly, be read by no one other than the one who wrote them?

Because words mean things. Words are important and they carry weight. God inspired a whole bunch of words which were put together in a book called "The Holy Bible." Obviously, words are important to Him. They should be important to us, too.

In today's day and age, the Internet is one of the greatest sources and vehicles for words, thoughts, and ideas. Yes, there is a lot of junk on the Internet (some have called it "world wide weirdness"), but it's also a fabulous tool for communication, persuasion, and information. Christians shouldn't run from the Internet, but neither should we approve of it uncritically. The Internet, including blogs, should be used for the glory of God (just like the printing press, newspapers, radio, and television). "Whether, then, you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all for the glory of God." (1 Cor. 10:31)