Thursday, January 31, 2008

Voddie Baucham on the Veracity of the Bible

Voddie Baucham is well known for his Christian messages building up families. This video is from the 2005 SBC Pastor's conference in Nashville, TN. This is a talk he gave where he preached from I Peter and gave an interesting and understandable apologetic for the Bible.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Spiritual Discernment in Marriage

Speaking as someone who is in a successful marriage I can tell you that the ride gets bumpy. Emotions change. Bodies change. We go through spiritually dark times in our lives. We go through dire physical ailments. How many successfully married people are interested in letting others really know what criteria they use to make it work? Here is my list:

Make sure you have someone...
  1. can forgive when (s)he confesses to you of serious sins against you and repents. (...and who will repent when (s)he sins!)
  2. whom you can confess having sinned against, who will forgive you as you repent. (...and you must repent when you sin!).
  3. ...for whom you can set your pride aside to serve sacrificially.
  4. ...who will set aside his/her pride and serve you sacrificially.
  5. ...who will not manipulate you emotionally.
  6. ...who you will not manipulate emotionally.
  7. ...who you can love when his/her health makes it impossible to return your love.
  8. ...who will love you when your health makes it impossible to return his/her love.
  9. ...who will not speak unkindly of you to others.
  10. ...who you will not speak unkindly of to others.
  11. ...who you will love when you do not find him/her very lovable.
  12. ...who will love you when (s)he does not find you very lovable.
  13. ...with whom you share a ministerial vision.
  14. ...with whom you can pray and study the Bible.

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Dawkins Hears the Gospel...

...from AIG-UK's Paul Taylor.

Whether he eventually responds in faith is a matter for the Holy Spirit. At least we know he's heard it.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Well Done, Good and Faithful Servant - Julie Brown

I never met Julie Brown, but I look forward to meeting her on that day. Why does the death of someone I've never known bring tears to my eyes? Yet these are not tears of sadness, but the rejoicing of a life given by God, the breaking of a spirit of sin for the sake of reconciliation with Him, that came to faith. My sister in Christ is with my Lord and He used her to touch the untouchable.

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Answers Research Journal Annoys Naturalists

As though they strive to make my case for me, you can read the comments of the news of a new peer-reviewed science journal here. This new journal is the Answers Research Journal. What is the difference between a science journal reviewed by peers who hold to naturalistic presuppositions and a science journal reviewed by peers who hold to theistic presuppositions? The fact that theistic scientists actually have material to review is an indication that the philosophical divide among scientists has nothing to do with the level of accuracy to which these scientists abide by the scientific method. It also provides demonstrable evidence that theistic scientists are actually doing science despite the claims of the naturalists.

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Friday, January 25, 2008

Two Important Misconceptions in the Origins Debate

Two misconceptions confuse the the origins debate in nearly every argument I read. These too often pollute the arguments made by people on both sides of the issue.

1. Scientific proof is rational.

The truth is that there is no such thing as scientific proof. There are scientific conclusions that involve demonstrable likelihoods using empirical testing and/or observation of evidence analyzed according to a set of philosophical presuppositions. The core of the origins debate is over these philosophical presuppositions. However, debates most often center on the conclusions and fail to address the foundational differences and how they affect the conclusions. In other words, opponents in the debate most often try to convince each other that their presuppositions are true by asserting the veracity of their conclusions. This is backwards.

As it is, a belief in molecules-to-man evolution is founded on naturalistic presuppositions which decidedly deny the influence of anything we have not been able to physically detect and quantify. Intelligent Design generically recognizes that there may be important factors that we cannot yet detect and quantify. Creation science, specifically Young Earth Creationism, specifically identifies an important factor, a Creator, who has made Himself known to us and given us a certain apologetic, not merely for His existence, but for His foundationally substantial influence. As such, it may be recognized that He is not temporally quantifiable although He can be known.

2. Evidence is in favor of one side of the debate or the other, but not both.

Once again, the difference is in the presuppositions, not the evidence. Evidence is evidence. It only lends itself to specific conclusions according to the presuppositions of the scientist analyzing it. Too often I read silly arguments like, “There is at least some evidence for evolution, but none for creation.” This misses the point that the same evidence used by naturalists to support evolutionary conclusions is also used to support the conclusions of creation scientists.

Misconceptions like these frustrate the search for truth.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Humor From Purgatorio

One humorous Christian blog that was left to lie fallow for a time has recently been reactivated. Marc Heinrich sees the value in letting his readers participate in the humor. Let me introduce Purgatorio to you. One of the types of reader participation is "You Supply the Caption". As an example, here are excerpts from the comments from a recent post:

"The rabbi again demonstrated his empeccable [sic] bowling form."

"The Hebrew Hammer’s sensei, a practicioner [sic] of Jew Do."

"An Orthodox master demonstrates the reverse testicle grab and yank, a signature technique of the homegrown Israeli art of self-defense - Jew Jitsu."

"Rabbi Greenpeace’s description of the Palestinian crossing into Egypt yesterday…using interpretive dance."

"Watch how I use this new Tai Chi technique to scratch my back."

"Sure, Matisyahu can rap. But can he do this?"

"Do a little dance, make a little love, Get down tonight. Get down tonight."

"Sadly, the Ninjew has not mastered the invisibility of the Ninja."

"Press release photo for coming movie: Crouching Rabbi, Hidden Hasid."

"I’m a little teapot…"

"Batrabbi takes to the streets of Goyim City in defense of peace, justice and the Hebrew way!"

"And all the goyim say I’m pretty fly, for a rabbi."

"Ay oh whey oh, ay oh whey oh; Walk like an Egyptian"

“The Hassid is in the HOUSE!!!”


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Are Chimps More Evolved Than Humans?

We hear all about how 96% of the DNA of chimpanzees is similar to that of humans. But how is it similar? Is it qualitatively similar, quantitatively similar, or some combination of the two. One single genetic molecule is responsible for progeria, so what kind of differences can we expect to see when we change 4% of the millions of the molecules in our genetic code that define our morphological construction?

But what I really notice from a recent Answers in Genesis article is that Chimpanzees actually have more genetic code than humans. If molecules-to-man evolution is supposed to increase genetic information, then should the naturalists who believe in it not conclude that chimpanzees are more evolved than humans? Think about it.

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Bearing One Another's Burdens and Civil Responsibility

I consider myself a conservative politically and theologically. This means that I believe that government cannot and should not usurp the responsibility of each citizen to contribute positively to society. The freedom we fought for as a nation during the Revolutionary War was the freedom to govern ourselves toward this end. Too much government is corrupt because we as people are corrupt and government is made up of people. Freedom is not the freedom to do what we want - it is the freedom to do what is right. That's why we have separation of powers and a system of checks and balances. Expecting the government to perform my civil duties for me is copping out of my responsibility as a citizen.

We often see the same thing in systems of church organization where the pastor, staff and other hired ministers are expected to to all the ministry or the traditions, rites and rituals of the church are substituted for earnest worship. In today's Saudi Prayer Calendar from the Saudi Advocacy Network, we learn of the feast of Eid Al-Fitr and are encouraged to pray that Saudis would realize that salvation is in Jesus Christ, not in rituals or festivals. This is a prayer that many Christians need as well, because many in the pews of Christian churches are equally as guilty. Too many rely on the pastor or ecclesiological trappings instead of on Christ. For this reason, too many of us stagnate spiritually and abrogate our responsibility to fulfill the Great Commission.

Just as political conservatism looks back at the intent of the writers of the constitution, so conservative Christians also hold a high view of the revelation of God and His intent in the words of the Bible.

Early in our founding days we had statesmen in our legislature. The first Pembertons in the United States were Quakers and statesmen in Philadelphia. A true statesman speaks, not to garner power for himself or the party, but to persuade and encourage people to fulfill their responsibilities. Politicians, on the other hand... Likewise, God has sent prophets, not to be served but to serve; to testify the revelation of God in order to persuade people to follow the true God and not false gods or their own lusts.

The bridge between political and theological conservatism in the United States is evident in the preambles to the constitutions not only of the United States, but also to each of the 50 states in the union. You can read them here. The bridge between fiscal and social conservatism is in the attitude of people to use the wealth they create to help others rather than relying on government. The bridge between law and grace in the life of a Christian is in the desire to serve God, and this by bearing each others' burdens sacrificially. We cannot separate our salvation from how we treat other people. We also cannot separate our civil liberty from how we treat other people. Yesterday I posted about Dr. Martin Luther King. His message was not for blacks only. I would say that his message was not for blacks primarily given the context. How do whites respond to his message? Do they respond with contempt, or with conviction that wrongs have been done and it has been the civil responsibility for the privileged to bear the burdens of the oppressed? That's not only the civil thing to do, but the Christian thing to do. And yet the idea is not to leave a people oppressed, but to raise them up to bear the burdens of others. This means that the oppressed, once released from oppression, have the same obligation to bear the burdens of others.

As such, I take issue with many of my fellow conservatives who argue for others to be responsible for themselves and do not consider their responsibility to help them be responsible. Many people raised in oppression have no idea how to break the cycle of oppressed thinking. It's not present in our public education system and it's getting worse. Once was the day when the classroom was a place of discipline conducive to proper instruction. Students who require special attention were set aside so that the rest could progress more effectively. Speak to any teacher and hear the effect of all the parents today who won't allow teachers to discipline their children. It has had a detrimental affect on the policies of education departments and local schools as well as impinged on the general level of education of the population of the United States. Why is it that the average reading level is the tenth grade even including college graduates?

Consider this, and I've made this point before, that the same people, most often conservatives, who complain about immigrants today not being able to speak English don't know English very well themselves. What level of competency can we expect of immigrants when we don't hold ourselves to a very high standard? As such, I'll leave my soapbox today and close on a lighter note by offering these humorous sites that poke fun of our general lack of English literacy. (By the way, if you don't find these humorous - case in point.)

Apostrophe Abuse
The Abuse Of Apostrophes In Everyday Life
The Apostrophe Protection Society
Literally, A Web Log
The "Blog" of "Unnecessry" Quotation Marks
Grammar Cop
Grammar Vulture
lowercase L
Eek, A Typo!
Grammar/Syntax Errors
Why a Tittle?
Banned for Life
The Gallery Of "Misused" Quotation Marks
Silly Signs
The Grammar Vandal

A few humorous blogs not specifically about grammar issues:

Crummy Church Signs
License to Rant (Bad License Plates)
Say What?! (Curious Signs)

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Monday, January 21, 2008

The Dream Is Still Alive

Happy Martin Luther King Day! I encourage you to read what John Piper has to say to pastors and Sunday School teachers about this day set aside for remembering the dream of racial reconciliation.

Here’s MLK's famous speech on YouTube:

You can read the speech here.

“Let freedom ring… Free at last; free at last; thank God Almighty we are free at last!” True freedom will look like this:

9 After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands;
10 and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, "Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb."
11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God,
12 saying, "Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever Amen." (Revelation 7:9-12 NASB)

Look at the crowd at MLK’s famous speech. Read about the crowd around the throne of God in John’s vision. Take a look at this choir and see a very small taste of the final culmination of this dream. If you can’t handle close quarters with your brothers and sisters of different ethnicities, you might not want to join us on that day. I’ll be there.

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

More On the Pop Media

In one sense it's comforting to know that more churches are taking church discipline seriously. It's not comforting to know that some are not practicing grace. In my church, if an unrepentant sinner is removed from membership, that doesn't preclude them from attending. The thinking is that if they are still willing to show up at church, then they may still hear the truth of their sin, be convicted of it by the Holy Spirit, repent and seek reconciliation. Typically, if someone at my church does something that warrants church discipline, they're going to be too ashamed to come back until they're ready to repent of what they already know we consider sin according to God's revelation in the Bible.

But what can you say when church discipline is reported in the Wall Street Journal? Yesterday, we learned that a 71-year-old woman was ousted for complaining about the new pastor. She wanted him to institute some elders according to the church by-laws. The pastor said the church was too small. Apparently, when he was hired there were only twelve people there anyway. Under him, the church has grown to 70. This woman, a faithful and active member of 50 years, was taken off the roles for her persistence. Afterward, she came to church on Sunday morning. In the middle of the service, the pastor called 911 and had her arrested for trespassing.

From what I've seen, this is the exception rather than the norm. Of course, the norm by definition isn't newsworthy. This normally wouldn't be. I know people who have been fired from their jobs and have lost the privilege of visiting their former workplace except for administrative purposes. This is the exception rather than the norm. Why isn't it ever reported? There's a sense in which perceived vile activities of people who make claims of certain righteousness are sensational at their disclosure. In other words, "those mean Christians just got meaner and here's the proof." It's not slander to report the truth, but the popular news media is never a true picture of the normal world we live in, only a picture of the exceptional items.

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Tonality and Absolute Truth

World On The Web's WorlMagBlog has a thought-provoking post from time to time. Yesterday they sparked a debate about absolute truth and the disparity between Christians and non-Christians in the humanities. Someone mentioned the "major triad" as something for Christians to overthrow in order to prove their worth. He apparently didn't know that the major triad was discovered by a devout Christian: Johannes Sebastian Bach. Here was my contribution to the debate:

Speaking as one educated in music and physics the harmonic series (from which we get the major triad) is foundational. Atonality for the sake of atonality was novel when first tried, but pointless. Even the most complex chord structures and progressions are not atonal and ultimately rely on the harmonic series.

Likewise, as one also educated in philosophy and theology, we must be clear about what we mean when we make blanket statements about absolute and relative Truth. Absolute truth is substantial, foundational and decidedly univalent. The application of such truth in our temporal world is existential and bivalent. Different levels of education merely present the opportunity for different capacities for self-deception. Assent to absolute Truth is not contingent on education. Rather, it is contingent on focus. Study of the humanities is decidedly focused on humans, thus the term. It is fruitful for Christians to study the humanities, but with the understanding that our ultimate focus is not on human endeavors, accomplishment and expression, but on the foundational and absolute Truth for which we believe we have a better revelation. To challenge this belief with any relativistic argument is incomprehensible for if all truth is relative, then one cannot challenge the truth of another for there is no common set of presuppositions from which to make a coherent argument. Therefore, such a challenge betrays a belief in a contrary absolute truth that is otherwise indefensible or it would be purported as a viable argument. Rather, relativistic arguments tend to obfuscate, not clarify. Only when one purports access to absolute Truth can one genuinely plea for the assent of others.

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Men Have Boxes, Women Have Wires?

This is comedian Mark Gungor at a Marriage Resource Seminar:

You can access a slightly longer version of it here.

Essentially he says that cognitively men compartmentalize and women integrate. I have a question to any men who watch this video. Is this true? I understand that this may be a simplistic generalization, but if true, this would explain much: I identify with his description of the female brain. I hear men talk about how they don't understand their wives. I think I understand my wife pretty well, but I'm sure I don't understand other men very well.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Call the EPA...

...someone has evaporated a boatload of phthalic anhydride!!!! I mean with all this end-of-the-world doom-and-gloom global warming, this can't possibly be snow!

My back yard:

The mobile home we rent out:

The shed:

For heaven's sake, think of the children!!!!!

I went to work in this contaminated world and it had covered the parking lot. This is the view from my office:

While I was at it I snapped a couple of photos of the office.
This is the throne from which a thousand indecisions have been launched:

I think it's time to trim the ivy:

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

What is Importance to God?

Do people ever treat your contribution to their world like you smell bad? Do you ever treat others' contributions to your world like they smell bad? That's not really the direction I want to go with this post, but I thought it worthy to throw out.

I have another conundrum along the lines as the last. It's not a contradiction like the other one, but a matter of drawing a balance:

Question: Are we important to God?

Answer: God has given us value in Christ's work on the cross. This is a priceless value. However, God doesn't need us for anything. When it comes to ministry, we can point to the people in the spotlight and say, "We couldn't have done it without so-and-so." These are important people. God doesn't even need us to worship Him. Inasmuch as He was undiminished in creation, He gains nothing from our worship. Worshiping God benefits us. If we failed to worship God, we are told, the rocks would cry out. Indeed they have, for inasmuch as we are genuine Christians our hearts were once stone. Have they not now cried out to God?

Question: Is knowing that we are important enough to God for Him to send His only begotten Son to pay the penalty on the cross for our sins necessary for us to render due service to His glory?

Answer: We know that we love because He first loved us. (I John 4:17-19) We respond to God because he accords us enough importance. Can we stand before God reeking of sin like Asok before the board stinks of unimportance? If the board entertains Asok and his proposal, then they accord him importance. Likewise, as God sanctifies us, He accords us importance.

As a parenthetical, if the pointy-haired boss presents Asok's proposal, the board accepts it because of who presents it. Certainly, our case has been made by the Son before the Father. In that respect we have an advocate. When I was in the Marine Band it was recognized that I had a level of intelligence. For a while, I had the highest GT score in the entire 2D Marine Division Headquarters Battalion. I was an unimportant Lance Corporal, however, and my fellow band members dismissed this gift summarily by saying, "He's book smart, but he doesn't have any common sense." That afforded them the justification they needed to maintain their own self-importance. Once, during a sectional, we encountered a complex set of rhythms. I correctly analyzed the written music and was alone in my analysis. Everyone else completely and hotly disagreed with me. Just then, our Master Sergeant, the senior staff member of our unit, entered and inquired as to the substance of the debate. After studying the music for several moments, he agreed that my analysis was correct. With his authority, it was generally accepted and we were able to move on. He was important. I was not. This despite the fact that I demonstrably outweighed everyone in the room, including the staff member, in cognitive marbles.

Well, we know that human perception is less than wise. Importance is often recognized on anything other than rational terms. For all of God's glory, none of us is intrinsically important. However, God accords us a level of virtual importance. First is that we need to understand our unimportance. Second, in order to respond in love, we must be able to understand our importance to God. My question is this:

What's the balance between understanding our unimportance and our importance with regard to our Creator?

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Monday, January 14, 2008

"Give Us A Shot"

Jesus spent time with sinners (Matthew 9:10-13).  He even drank wine (Matthew 11:19). Yet we must not associate with drunkards (I Corinthians 5:7) or teach people to sin (Matthew 5:19). So what's the balance?


'Give Us a Shot': N.C. Church Hands Out Shot Glasses at Bars

Sunday, January 13, 2008

CHARLOTTE, N.C.  —  To get people to attend his new church campus, Robbie McLaughlin is sending his message out to where the people are.

Next Friday, staffers from Next Level Church of Matthews will go to bars in the Ballantyne area of Charlotte to hand out shot glasses which ask patrons to "give us a shot" and bear the slogan, "Real church for real people."

The idea is to draw people to the Ballantyne campus, which opens next month.

McLaughlin is the pastor, and said he is confident that it will be controversial, but he said the goal is not necessarily to impress people who already go to church. He said it's to impress people who don't.

Next Level is a nontraditional church that encourages members to dress casually and snack on coffee and doughnuts during services.

McLaughlin said the idea has caught on, and in two years, the church has grown from a handful of members to more than 700.

This is just down the road from where I live. Their church is growing? Wonderful! I hope those are genuine Christians on the rolls. I wonder if it's the shot glasses that are so effective? Would it be acceptable, for example, to hand out condoms at a brothel or to give weapons to murderers with the with the words "Give us a shot" emblazoned on them? Is a sin less of a sin because of some naturally derived morality rather than that which is revealed clearly in Biblical revelation? Jesus drank with sinners, but I doubt He condoned drunkenness. He forgave prostitutes and welcomed them, but I doubt he offered them tools to assist them in their sin. No, in fact He called them to stop sinning. Perhaps that's what this church does and the article has left that tidbit out. Nevertheless, I doubt the message to stop sinning is overly effective when sinners are given a symbolic wink at their sin.

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Religiously Atheistic

An atheist who gets it - at least in part:

1:29-2:13 "It's still no more than a belief as with anything in life."

He doesn't drink because he doesn't see the point:

2:44-2:50 "I'm not at all judgmental of other peoples' rights to cloud their morality and impair their recollection skills."

He says he's nut judgmental, but he has little judgment anyway. What's the basis for his morality? Even "natural law" has a basis. After all, why would we be inclined to do unto others as we would have them do unto us? One can argue for a biological need for good sociological behavior, but what's the point if one doesn't get caught? The scary thing is that too many functional atheists already realize this. Nevertheless, he at least understands that he believes something he wants to believe and is willing to claim a false assurance. Otherwise, he wouldn't mind being proven wrong.

He seems like a decent fellow anyway and I pray the truth about God is revealed to him.

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Using God’s Gifts for God’s Glory – A Conundrum

I’m depressed. It happens and I get over it. Right now I’m tempted to bore whoever chances to read this with all the less-than-fully-rational machinations that my mind undergoes to contrive an object of blame for my depression, but I won’t do that. For all I know, it’s just another phase of the moon. Nevertheless, I’m duly motivated to ask a question for which I have no answer, even in moments more pleasant than this.

God has granted us each certain spiritual gifts. He has also provided for the development of skills and talents to use to His glory. Furthermore, according to His sanctification, he provides a certain level of desire to use these gifts to His glory. I have gifts, skills, talents and desire each in abundance. However, I’m frustrated by an apparent lack of venue to use these gifts to God’s glory. So my question is:

Why would God give gifts and the desire to use these gifts to His glory and yet close the doors for doing so?

One may speculate that there is some hidden sin. I certainly confess that I am a sinner. I also see plenty of other sinners able to use their gifts for the glory of God. Does anyone have an answer to this conundrum?

…I almost feel better just for asking.

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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Christmas Concert Video

A week ago I finished editing the video for the Christmas concert series at my church presented on December 7, 8 and 9. I've made the DVD and have uploaded the video. Most of the video is on GodTube, but it's a little buggy. However, YouTube has a nice feature where I can string several videos together in a playlist. I can even create a custom viewer. I've got all the video uploaded now to YouTube. So, if you have an hour and a half to sit back and enjoy a Christmas Concert over the Internet, now is your chance.

Here is the lineup:

Title 0:00:21
Pastor Skip: Opening Prayer 0:01:06
Prelude 1 0:02:51
Prelude 2 0:04:18
Slegh Medley 0:03:48
Joy 0:03:29
Glorious Impossible 0:05:07
O Come All Ye Faithful 0:02:30
Bell Carol Medley 0:04:55
O Holy Night 0:05:43
Carol Medley 0:06:29
John 1 0:05:11
Jesus Messiah 0:06:53
For Unto Us 0:04:14
Sound of the Round 0:04:29
He Came All This Way 0:04:28
Jeff Spry: Gospel 0:06:10
Skip Cartin: Gospel 0:05:35
In Christ Alone 0:05:03
How Great Is Our God 0:07:01
Halleluiah Chorus 0:06:41
Total Time 1:36:22

Here is the video:

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Monday, January 07, 2008


It’s time for another rhapsody of issues and thoughts after the pattern I established last month. For this entry I offer you this father teaching his sons how to communicate through musical improvisation.

My church is deeply involved in bringing the gospel to Muslims. That’s why a story like this one where a Muslim father purportedly killed his daughters for their honor hits close to home with respect to my church’s calling. It is all too clear to devout Christians and Muslims the stark differences between the doctrines we each hold as true. But to the secularists in the media, these differences are often not so clear. That’s why I think this could be used by the media to influence public opinion against all religion in general. They haven’t been keen on criticizing Muslims, however. They may play a double standard, generalize the issue and criticize conservative Christians (they’ll call us “fundamentalists”) instead without implicating Islam in general.

Spiritual discernment is needed to wade through the potential ramifications. Someone who has exhibited great spiritual discernment is our Venezuelan missionary, Ised Portillo. Last year we tried to get her to the United States and she was denied a visa. She was not discouraged, and it was almost as though she expected to be denied. Such as it is, we made an attempt again this year to bring her to the United States for a visit. She has been certain that she will be awarded a visa. This morning, she went to the US embassy in Caracas and was indeed awarded her visa.

Her spiritual discernment has been evident in her work with the church in Cabimas. She has gone door-to-door building relationships and sharing the gospel in mission areas and has had dramatic effects such that there is a new mission area that within a year is ready to form a new church. When she comes, we plan for her to work with our minister of evangelism to make new inroads among people here in Statesville who do not know the gospel.

Interestingly, Ised doesn’t have any formal training in theology, church planting or evangelism. Her heart is for serving the Lord and has studied the Bible diligently looking for places to minister in the name of Christ. When she came in contact with English-speaking Americans coming to Venezuela, she endeavored to earn English and a year later was serving as translator.

Someone else who doesn’t have credentials is blogger Tim Challies. He’s recently written a book about spiritual discernment. His lack of credentials has been hotly debated on Justin Taylor’s blog. I haven’t read his book. It may be good or it may be full of theological error. Timmy Brister endorses this book and I certainly respect Timmy’s opinion.

This was the comment I offered in the fray:

There's a lot of stuff here. My observation:

Peter and the sons of Zebedee were common fishermen. Luke was a Physician... and a one-time slave. John the Baptist was a kook who baptized people who were already Jews (although his father was a priest)! Matthew was a publican. David was a sheep herder. Noah was a wine maker who was chosen to build a big boat and turn it into a zoo. Daniel was the chief astrologer in Persia. Moses left behind Pharaoh's schools to tend goats - and he couldn't even talk straight. Abraham took his inheritance from his father early (count the years of his father's life) and tried to kill his son of promise. Haggai married a prostitute.

Jesus was a mere carpenter.

On the other hand, Paul was a Pharisee of high theological training.

What credentials does Paul say are necessary to have spiritual discernment enough to teach about spiritual discernment?

Credentials are certainly helpful, but they don’t guarantee that one will have good spiritual discernment or the willingness to assent to the truth against our baser desires. Answers in Genesis ran a recent article responding to a question about a lack of scientists once believing that the earth is very old who have become scientists believing that the earth is very young after reviewing the evidence. AiG responded with the personal testimony of Dr. Tommy Mitchell, who changed his mind after reviewing the evidence, and a short list of scientists who have accepted the Biblical account of creation. (I personally know scientists that could be on the list, but aren’t.)

Taking the same evidence and either assenting to the truth or so distorting presuppositions ideologically so as to intentionally arrive at a false conclusion is a matter of spiritual discernment. Having debated origins as well as other matters of truth, I’m well aware that merely proving the truth does not equate to eliciting an assent to the truth. I have destroyed opponents’ arguments hands down sending them away with their presuppositions tucked between their legs yet without denying their flawed presuppositions and taking up the truth.

They lack spiritual discernment. It can be argued that the truth was shown them, but they did not believe it because they do not belong to the One who created the truth. I don’t have a problem with that except that I don’t know that the Holy Spirit wouldn’t use a reasoning that better involves their desire to deny the truth to convict them of their delusions. Perhaps in this case, the Holy Spirit would use a discourse that pointed to the problem of sin in the mind of the unbeliever in order to awaken in them an assent to the truth that the Holy Spirit would use to generate living faith.

This, combined with a disheartening for high-order argumentation, has led me to pursue a more devotional style of writing over the last year and a half. Oh, I still offer dry philosophy and analytical theology on occasion, but I strive to learn those things that will be used by the Holy Spirit to manifest the grafting of new brothers and sisters onto the Vine of Messianic faith.

Apparently Timmy Brister, who I’ve already mentioned, is vying for this very thing. Keep an eye on Timmy as he starts to work his devotional chops. If he learns to write devotionally like he writes theologically, we’re in for some good stuff.

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Friday, January 04, 2008

Does High-Profile Ministry Equate to Significance?

The ministry event is accomplished. While many pitched in and helped there was one person who spent hours upon hours working hard to pull it off. “Chris” was the driving force behind the team. The Sunday after the event, the pastor mentions the success of the event and announces the great sacrifice of time, effort and stress that Chris offered that made the difference between success and failure. The whole congregation erupts in applause and floods Chris with accolades afterward. Later, when a leader is sought to head up another important ministry, Chris will be a good candidate. After all, Chris is successful in high-profile ministry. Chris is… significant.

“Jean” has worked for years in the nursery. She has changed the diapers of a full two-thirds of the congregation. She experiences corporate worship no more than four or five times a year. Few besides the young parents and grandparents see her on a regular basis. The pastor’s kids have long since grown and gone and not even the pastor’s wife knows what Jean is up to. Jean also visits her own mother in the nursing home most days and some evenings. She sits with her although her Alzheimer’s-ridden mother often doesn’t recognize her. Her mother’s roommate knows Jean and welcomes the relatively more sentient company. Jean receives no accolades. As far as most everyone is concerned, Jean’s ministry isn’t really all that significant.

What is significance? Is it the effectiveness of a ministry? It can be argued that Chris’ work is more significant because more people were affected by one big event than even Jean’s changing diapers over the years. Is significance determined by public opinion? This is influenced by public visibility. Chris gets all sorts of encouragement. Surely that’s a sign of significance. Few, if any, notice or care what Jean does. She has received little to no encouragement over the years. Why continue with no affirmation? After all, don’t we often consider affirmation from others a sign that we are doing what we need to do?

Recently Steve at Stand to Reason Blog pondered this. Please read his Christmas experience here.

I suppose it would be helpful to know what God finds to be significant. Let’s look at Matthew 25:31-46.

"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'

"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'

"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'
"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

I encourage any who read this to consider the significance of those ministering around them according to Christ’s criteria here. Go ahead and encourage someone in a high profile ministry, but how much more should we encourage those who labor out of sight in situations that are less than desirable. Are you willing to touch people with the love of Christ when those people can bring you no glory among others?

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Wednesday, January 02, 2008


I don't make New Year's resolutions. I'm simply not goal-oriented. Oh, it's not that I can't make a goal and work to achieve the goal. I was a Marine Corps Sergeant. I can follow orders and accomplish missions. As production controller I make goals for a living and make plans on how to accomplish those goals.

However, making and accomplishing goals is not the driving force behind my life. Neither is maintaining the status quo. We tend to make benchmarks to measure our growth as people. Benchmarks, however, are merely a series of goals. When I ran the physical fitness test in the Marines, I would push myself to pass the next guy as though it were a goal. But the final goal was the end of the three-mile run. Paul said to run as though to win the race. However, there is no end to the race. There is no finish line to cross. Aside from our physical death which happens once and which we do not pursue, we must die to our sins and pursue this daily. Ironically, we must pursue the death we die to our sins until the death of our body after which is the resurrection to glory.

What, therefore, is our goal in Christ? Our justification is not our goal but His. Our sanctification is the goal of the Holy Spirit in us. Therefore, finishing the race is not the goal, but running the race as though to win is our goal. Therefore, I do not pursue goals unduly for the goals are relatively unimportant. What is important is the principle by which I pursue not the little goals, but the goal of pursuit. I will achieve little goals, but not because I have pursued those goals, but because I have pursued the greater things.

For example, I love music. I write, arrange and rehearse music that only I and my Lord will ever hear. Occasionally, the Lord may provide an audience. I may be asked to participate in achieving a goal like putting on a concert. I may even set a little goal for myself like editing the video for and creating a DVD of an event. However, these are merely tangential and have arisen not out of a desire to accomplish the little goal of finishing the concert, but a desire to worship God in every way.

The word, "resolution" has many meanings. We make New Year's resolutions as goals to accomplish over the next year. However, a resolution is also the level of detail in an image. If you increase your resolution, you see things more clearly. That's my continuing resolution: to increase my resolution; to continue to grow spiritually so that I may see more clearly.

One thing is for sure - if I don't have a spiritual understanding yet, then I don't know where to set the goal for understanding. As others have learned and have written what they have learned, then I can read and try to understand. However, the way that this will apply to my life may differ and I may have unexpected applications. It is this element of the unknown that makes the goal of sanctification impossible to plan. No matter where one is in their spiritual walk, there is always room to grow and these ways are nearly always unexpected.

This is a lesson I have learned over the past year and a half. While I cannot detail my walk, I have grown in ways that I have never before considered. I look forward to what God has in store and I trust Him to accomplish His purposes in me. This is my resolution.

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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

There is Hope For Saudis

...The hope of salvation, that is.

Are you interested in fighting terrorism through spiritual warfare, but don't know what to pray for? Are you interested in sharing the gospel with Saudi Muslims?

The Saudi Advocacy Network can put you in touch with resources than can help. There is information to help you pray. Every day since last spring I have been receiving an e-mail from the "Captain Bin" (aka "Happy Camel") called the Saudi Prayer Calendar. I start out my day in prayer for Saudi Arabia. You can sign up for it here. If you are inclined to go and help, you can find out how you can get involved here. We need mature Christians on the front lines, not to kill Saudis, but to offer them true life.

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