Tuesday, October 31, 2006

John Calvin on the Lord's Prayer - Part 6

"Remit us our debts, as we remith (them) to our debtors."

"By these words we ask that grace and remission of our sins be made unto us, which remission is necessary to all men without exception. And we call our offenses 'debts' inasmuch as we owe to God the penalty thereof as the payment of a debt. And we could not meet it in any way if we were not absolved through this remission, which is a gratuitous pardon because of his mercy. We ask that this be done to us as we do it to our debtors, that is to say, as we forgive those by whom we have been wounded, in whatever way, or iniquitously outraged through deeds, or offended through words. The condition, however, is not added as if by forgiving others we deserved the forgiveness of God. But this addition, 'As we remit them to our debtors,' is simply a sign offered to us by God to confirm us in the certainty that the Lord receives us to mercy as we are certain in our conscience of exercising mercy upon others, if our heart is well purged of all hatred, envy, and revenge. And vice versa, it is a sign that God effaces from the number of his children all those who, being inclined to revenge and unable to forgive, keep enmities rooted in their hearts so that they do not undertake to invoke him as their Father and to ask that the indignation which they nourish against men may not fall upon themselves." (Instruction in Faith, p. 63)

Monday, October 30, 2006

The Influence of Blogs

If you don't think blogs can have much influence in our society ("full of sound and fury, signifying nothing"), Joe Carter at Evangelical Outpost begs to differ (so do I!). His article is called "The 5/150 Principle." Joe even makes reference to Malcolm Gladwell's book The Tipping Point (which is a plus as far as I'm concerned).

Sunday, October 29, 2006

That's a Good Question

Maybe this has happened to you. You're talking with someone about Christianity and all of a sudden, they ask you a question you weren't prepared for at all. "Did Mary ever to spank Jesus?" "Why don't Catholics eat meat on Fridays?" "When he was on earth, did Jesus know about molecular biology?" "What does the Bible say about tatoos?" "If a baby dies and goes to heaven, will he or she stay that age for all of eternity?" The list could go on and on!

Assuming the question is an honest one (and not a smokescreen), how should we respond? We most definitely should not try to bloviate our way through an answer (which would probably turn out to be wrong anyway). If we don't know the answer, or if we've never thought about it before, we should simply say so. It's a lot better to give someone a good answer - even if it isn't immediate - than to give an answer that's wrong and could even be harmful. Just say, "That's a good question. I don't know the answer to it, but I'll get back to you with an answer." In my experience, the person asking the question will respect you a lot more if you say you don't know rather than pretending you do because your pride won't let you not know the answer to every conceivable question.

In short, if you don't know, say so. By doing that, you may have earned another hearing from the one who asked the question in the first place.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Careless with Our Language

John Humphrys has written a book - Beyond Words: How Language Reveals the Way We Live Now - in which he argues that we should take our language far more seriously than we do presently and calls for a return to more formal language. He says, "If we are careless with our language then we are careless with our world." I couldn't agree more. I haven't read the book, but it sounds quite interesting.

We followers of Jesus Christ seem to get careless with our language, too. "Christianese" is just one example. We might ask someone we presume is not a believer if they are "washed in the blood of the Lamb?" We (as Christians) know what we mean by that, but non-Christians don't. Therefore, when we're speaking with those who don't know Christ, we need be careful with our language. But I think we need to be careful when we speak to each other, too. We say "God told me...," but I'm not certain that what we're saying and what we understand are necessarily the same thing. Is someone saying that God actually spoke to them in an audible voice, or are they saying that a thought, idea, or impulse popped into their head that they attribute to God? (or something else altogether?) I agree with Humphrys that we need to be more careful with our language.

One phrase I could live without ever hearing again is "I don't want to lie" (or its variation, "I'm not gonna' lie"). I'm glad you don't want to tell a lie, but the assumption all the rest of us have is that when you make a statement, you're telling the truth. Therefore, announcing to the world that you're not going to lie is completely unnecessary. Not only that, it makes me wonder - since you have to preface your statement - if you make a habit of not telling the truth? My guess is that someone who says that is simply lazy with their language and repeating a phrase that's become vogue.

Be careful out there!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Asking the Right Question

Sometimes we ask the wrong questions.

When things go wrong in our life, or get tough for us, we often ask "How did I get into this mess and what can I do to get myself out," or "How quickly can I solve this problem," or "Why did this happen to me?"

As tempted as we may be to pose these questions, the best question is "How can God be glorified in this situation?" That changes our perspective. "The sorest afflictions," said Brother Lawrence, "never appear to be intolerable, except when we see them in the wrong light." If we see our trials in light of how God may be glorified through them, we'll see things in the proper light.

Three episodes in the life of Jesus illustrate this principle. In John 9, the disciples of Jesus asked about a man born blind -"who sinned, this man or his parents?" (9:2). Jesus told them that they had missed the point entirely. He said, "It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him" (9:3), or that God might be glorified in him. In John 11, Jesus stated that the sickness and subsequent death of Lazarus was "for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it" (11:4). The turning point of John's gospel is the twelfth chapter because it's here that Jesus' ministry moves from public to private. He begins to talk more and more of His upcoming death. In 12:27-28, He said, "Now My soul has become troubled, and what shall I say, 'Father, save Me from this hour?' But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name." Then a voice came out of heaven: "I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again." Jesus understood that the right question is "How can God be glorified in this situation?"

J. Hudson Taylor said, "I know He tries me only to increase my faith, and that is all in love. Well, if He is glorified, I am content."

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

John Calvin on the Lord's Prayer - Part 5

Give us today our daily bread.

"By this petition we ask generally all the things that are necessary to the indigence of our body under the elements of the world, not only concerning food and clothing, but all that which God knows to be useful to us, in order that we may eat our bread in peace. With these words (to say it briefly) we recommend ourselves to the providence of the Lord and entrust ourselves to his solicitude, in order that he may nourish us, maintain us, and preserve us. For this good Father does not regard it as unworthy to receive even our bodies in his custody and care, this in order to exercise our trust in him by means of these light and small things, so that we expect from him all our necessities, even to the last crumb of bread and one drop of water. now, as to asking our 'daily' bread and for 'today,' it means that we must not wish of it except what is necessary for our necessity and for living day by day. And we must have this trust that, when our Father shall have nourished us today, he will not fail us tomorrow either. Whatever abundance we may have at present, it is fit always to ask our daily bread, acknowledging that all actual possessions are nothing, except in so far as the Lord, by the infusion of his blessing on them, makes them prosper and come to profit, acknowledging also that the actual possessions that are in our hands are not ours except in so far as he dispenses to us their use at every hour, and distributes to us a portion of them. As to our calling this bread 'ours,' the goodness of God appears to be even greater; for that goodness makes to be ours that which was by no right due to us. Finally, our asking that it be given us signifies unto us that is a simple and free gift of God, from whatever source that bread may come, even though it seems to have been acquired by our industry." (Instruction in Faith, p. 62)

Monday, October 23, 2006

John Calvin on the Lord's Prayer - Part 4

Thy will be done as in heaven so also on earth.

"By this petition we ask that altogether as it is done in heaven, so alos on earth he may rule and guide everything according to his good will, leading all things to such issue as shall seem good to him, and subjecting all wills to himself. And by asking that, we implicitly renounce all our desires, resigning and promising to the Lord all that which there is of affections in us, praying him to lead things not according to our wish, but as he knows it to be well for us. And even we ask that he not only make vain and of no effect those desires of ours that are contrary to his will, but even more that he create in us new spirits and new hearts, extinguishing and annihilating ours, so that no movement of greed may arise in us, but only a pure consent to his will. In brief, that we wish nothing from ourselves, but that his Spirit may will in us, through whose inspiration we may learn to love all things pleasing him and to hate and to detest all that which displeases him." (Instruction in Faith, p. 61)

Sunday, October 22, 2006

John Calvin on the Lord's Prayer - Part 3

Thy reign come.

"The reign of God is God guiding and governing his own by his Holy Spirit, in order to manifest in all their works the riches of his goodness and mercy, and, on the contrary, ruining and confounding the reprobate who are unwilling to be subject to his domination and prostrate their cursed arrogance, in order that they may clearly appear that there is no power that can resist his might. We pray, therefore, that God's reign may come, that is to say, that the Lord may from day to day multiply the number of his faithful believers who celebrate his glory in all their works, and that he may continually spread on them more largely the affluence of his graces, whereby he may live and reign in them more and more, until, having perfectly conjoined to himself, he may fill them wholly. Similarly we ask that from day to day he may through new growths spread his light and enlighten his truth, so that Satan and the lies and the darkness of his reign may be dissipated and abolished. When we pray thus: 'my the kingdom of God come,' we desire also that it may finally be perfect and accomplished, that is to say, in the revelation of his judgment, in which day he alone will be extolled and will be all things in all people after having gathered and received his own glory and having demolished and completely overthrown the reign of Satan." (Instruction in Faith, pp. 60-61)

Saturday, October 21, 2006

John Calvin on the Lord's Prayer - Part 2

Hallowed be Thy name.

"The name of God is the renown whereby he is celebrated among men for his virtues, as are his wisdom, goodness, might, justice, truth, mercy. We ask therefore that this majesty be sanctified in such virtues of his, not that his majesty may increase or decrease in itself, but that it may be esteemed as holy by all, that is to say, that it may be truly acknowledged and magnified and that (whatever God may do) all his workings may appear glorious as they truly are. So that, if he punishes, he may be held as just; if he forgives, he may be held as merciful; if he accomplishes his promises, he may be held as veracious. In sum, that there may be altogether nothing in which his glory be not as engraved and resplendent, so that praises to him may resound in all spirits and on all tongues." (Instruction in Faith, p. 60)

Friday, October 20, 2006

John Calvin on the Lord's Prayer - Part 1

Our Father who art in heaven.

"First of all this rule is presented to us: All prayers must be offered to God in the name of Christ, as no prayer in another name can be pleasing to God. For, since we call God our Father, it is certain that we understand beneath it the name of Christ also. Certainly, as there is no man in the world worthy to introduce himself to God and appear in his sight, this good heavenly Father (to free us from this confusion which should have rightly embarrassed us) has given us his Son Jesus to be our mediator and advocate toward him, by whose leading we may boldly approach God, having good confidence that, thanks to this intercessor, nothing which we will ask in his name shall be denied to us, since the Father cannot refuse him anything. And, since the throne of God is not only a throne of majesty but also of grace, we have the boldness to appear frankly in his name before that throne, in order to obtain mercy and find grace when we need it. And, in fact, as we have the ordered law of invoking God and we possess the promise that all those who will call upon him shall be heard, so there is also a special commandment to invoke him in the name of Christ and the promise given of obtaining what we will ask in his name (John 14:13; 16:23)."

"It is added here that God our Father is in the heavens. His marvelous majesty (which our spirit according to its rudeness cannot otherwise comprehend) is thus signified, inasmuch as there is nothing before our eyes more excellent and full of all majesty than the sky. The phrase 'in heaven' is equivalent to saying that God is lofty, mighty, incomprehensible. Now, when we hear that, we must lift on high our thoughts each and every time that God is mentioned, in order not to imagine of him anything carnal and earthly, not to measure him according to our comprehension nor to subordinate his will to our affections." (Instruction of Faith, pp. 59-60)

Instruction in Faith was written by John Calvin in 1537. I definitely recommend this little book.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

More Politics

Melinda Penner, affectionately known as "Melinda the Enforcer" by Greg Koukl, has a good post on the Stand to Reason blog called "Political Fasting." It deals with David Kuo's new book called Tempting Faith and follows very closely Doug TenNapel's comments on Tony Campolo. No, followers of Jesus Christ should not fast from politics, especially in the next forty days.

Monday, October 16, 2006

"Red-Letter Christians"

Doug TenNapel has a good response to Tony Campolo's comments about starting a group of "Red-Letter Christians." Doug's observations are excellent! (Be aware that Doug's blog is a bit raw and edgy in spots - fair warning.) One more thing - check out his post called "Intolerance of the Tolerant." Well said, Doug!

Secularism is the Problem

Gary DeMar from American Vision has posted an article entitled "Secularism is the Problem." It's very good and argues against the idea that Christianity in specific and religion in general is the root of all problems in the world.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Faith is not something you do alone

How important is "community" in the life of a Christian? Very, according to Donald Miller in his book Blue Like Jazz. On page 175, he writes:

"Before I lived in community, I thought faith, mine being Christian faith, was something a person did alone, likes monks in caves. I thought the backbone of faith was time alone with God, time reading ancient texts and meditating on poetry or the precepts of natural law and, perhaps, when a person gets good and godly, levitating potted plants and pitchers of water.

"It seems that way in books. I had read a Christian book about the betterment of self, the actualization of the individual in the personal journey toward God. The book was all about focus and drive and perspective. It was all stuff you did in a quiet room. None of it had anything to do with community.

"If other people were part of the Christian journey, they had small roles; they were accountability partners or counselors or husbands or wives. I hadn't seen a single book (outside the majority of books in the New Testament) that addressed a group of people or a community with advice about faith.

"When I walked into the Christian section of a bookstore, the message was clear: Faith is something you do alone."

Miller's point in the rest of the chapter is that the Christian faith is not - and was never intended to be - something you do alone. We can't do it by ourselves. We need each other. We're not monks in caves. We're the body of Christ, with emphasis on the word "body." Thanks for the reminder, Don.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Books Mean Things

Al Mohler has posted some comments on books and personal libraries in his blog called "By Their Books We Shall Know Them." He says, "The books we collect, display, and read tell the story about us. This may be especially true of Christian ministers." You can read it here - it's the third posting down.

I agree with Al and the article he quotes. I like to check out other people's libraries - it really does tell me a lot about them.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Things I Don't Like About Church

Donald Miller, in his book Blue Like Jazz, begins a section by saying:

"Here are the things I didn't like about the churches I went to. First: I felt like people were trying to sell me Jesus. I was a salesman for a while, and we were taught that you were supposed to point out all the benfits of a product when you are selling it. That is how I felt about some of the preachers I heard speak. They were always pointing out the benefits of the Christian faith. That rubbed me wrong. It's not that there aren't benefits, there are, but did they have to talk about spirituality like it's a vacuum cleaner. I never felt like Jesus was a product. I wanted Him to be a person. Not only that, but they were always pointing out how great the specific church was. the bulletin read like a brochure for Amway. They were always saying how life-changing some conference was going to be. Life-changing? What does that mean? It sounded very suspicious. I wish they could just tell it to me straight rather than trying to sell me on everything. I felt like I got bombarded with commercials all week and then went to church and got even more."

Those are great comments - ones I need to hear as a pastor. Like Miller, I don't like the selling of Jesus, and I don't want to be part of an infomercial, either.

I'm currently reading Blue Like Jazz, and I'm enjoying it. (This doesn't mean, by any stretch of the imagination, that I agree with everything Miller writes. It simply means that it's a good read.)

Monday, October 09, 2006

Top 50 Books

Christianity Today has published an article in their latest edition listing the top 50 books in evangelicalism's last 50 years. They surveyed a number of evangleical leaders to come up with the list. Most of the fifty books should be on the list, I think (and I have most of them, too). I did notice, however, that there were no books written by Joel Osteen or Pat Robertson (which is a very good thing if you hadn't figured it out already). What do you think of the list? Would you add or remove any?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Just Say No to Demonizing

Do we demonize those who disagree with us - even as Christians? Too often, the answer is yes. It shouldn't be that way, but it is. Michael Craven has written an article called "Demonizing the Lost" which can be found here.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Promise Keepers

This last weekend I attended my first Promise Keepers event. To answer my wife Karen's usual question, yes I would go again (whenever we go somewhere new to eat, we'll ask each other if we'd go there again - you get the picture). The Spokane Arena was almost completely filled with men worshipping God, hearing His Word, and being motivated. The theme was "Unleashed: Releasing the Raw Power of your Heart." Here are some of my thoughts (in no particular order of importance):

  • The music was great! Loud, but great (maybe that's my "advanced age" kicking in!). The PK7 worship band is very, very good.
  • Most of the worship songs were God-centered. They weren't easy to remember or memorize, though (they reminded me of Integrity Hosanna songs in that respect). A few were quite complicated, in fact. It's a step in the right direction that most of the songs were not focused on me ("Here I am praising God" songs), my desires, or my needs. Having said that, music that is God-centered needs to do more than simply string together a whole bunch of references to the various attributes of God. That's good, but what does it mean that He is our Redeemer?
  • It was encouraging to see so many fathers and sons attending together.
  • Bob Reccord gave a gospel presentation that was Arminian to say the least. Several hundred men responded to it - praise God! Good lesson here: God saves people who hear the good news of Jesus Christ and respond in faith even if the message is not as "pure" or perfect as I'd like it to be (imagine that!).
  • It's hard to describe how wonderful it sounds when 9-10,000 men are singing together.
  • Don't come by yourself (which I did). You get more out of it if you're with some friends.
  • A "Nooma" video presentation about discipleship was shown (called "Dust"). It was excellent until the last 90 seconds or so, when a seriously wrong turn was taken in terms of the meaning of an episode in the life of Jesus and His disciples.
  • "God wants to do something in your life. Will you allow Him to do it?" That type of question was asked quite a few times during the conference. The false idea behind it is that we have to allow God to work in our life - He really wants to do something, but we have to give Him the go-ahead, so to speak. I realize that this kind of talk is common in the evangelical church, but it limits God's sovereignty and His power. I think if people thought about what they were saying, their language would change (and would realize that God isn't sitting around waiting to be given permission to act).
  • A Promise Keepers event is a good opportunity to be motivated in your commitment to Christ and to see that you're not the only one trying to follow Him (a problem Elijah had, too). It's as if the Lord said, "I have many people in this city," to me like he did to the apostle Paul.
  • I learned that a "mosh pit" is now called a "worship pit" (at least in a Christian context).
  • I learned what the word "aye" means (not in the sense of "all in favor say aye," but as it's heard today) - it's a conjunction of "all right."
  • There was some bad theology. Not all bad, but some. But when it was set next to the heart and the desire and the attitude of those attending, it was a very small thing. I wouldn't have been able to say that even a few years ago, but I can now. The vast majority of men attending this weekend sincerely desire to follow Jesus Christ and to love Him with all of their hearts, minds, souls, and strength; to be the man God wants them to be; to be the husband and father God wants them to be; and to reach out to a lost and dying world. To that, I say AMEN even if I don't agree with every single one of them on every single point of doctrine. We're brothers in Christ - a band of brothers who need to stand shoulder to shoulder for God and His kingdom.

I have some other thoughts, but I'll save them for another time. In short, it was a good time that I really needed.