Tuesday, February 26, 2008

It Was Only A Dream. However...

I don't remember many of my dreams anymore. The ones I do remember are often bizarre: crawling on a spider web stretched horizontally over a great glowing chasm, maze-like buildings filled with people I don't know, or the time I escaped the grim reaper by flying off the roof of a 3-story school building somewhere in the Midwest. I had a dream last night. I'm sick right now and my dream was made rather lucid by the combination of drugs and fever. You would think I'd have another bizarre dream.

It was actually a rather normal dream. I was younger, perhaps an adolescent, and so was my younger brother.

We were visiting a small town that had two churches. We had been to one church and found the congregation welcoming and the teaching sound. We liked it there, but my brother wanted to visit the other church.

It was an independent fundamentalist (indy fundy) church. My brother went in as people were seating and tried to find a seat. The building was small and there were only a few inches between the outside ends of the pews and the walls. (I don't know why the fire marshal ever approved that. But, hey, it's only a dream.) Therefore, the only way to get into the pews was from the center aisle which at the moment was congested with people making their way to their pews. As is typical, the coveted positions are right next to the pews so the first people to sit often sat right on the ends next to the aisle. As is also often typical in may churches, people had places that they preferred to sit.

As I walked into the back of the church I saw that my brother had tried to sit in a pew and was being forcibly removed by the owners of the pew. I came up and told him that we'll just find another pew. This became easier as people cleared out of the aisle and into the pews. However, all the ends of the pews were filled. There was space in some of the pews, but the owners of the pews were set against getting up and letting us in so we could sit down. There was even one man who blocked the way to an otherwise empty pew who refused to even make eye contact with me.

I told my brother we would just leave and go back to the other church. Then I called out and said, "We're leaving now! Bye!" The sad thing to me was that many people responded, "Ok. Bye!" Just as we got to the back of the church I heard a lady call out, "Wait! We have some room on our pew!" It had to be the fullest pew in the house. Her whole family was in it. They were scrunching together to make room for us.

It's a good thing it was only a dream. However, it's not implausible. My dream didn't really have to be about indy fundies. It could have been about anyone. I had a brief conversation recently about acquiring a taste for an indy fundy service. Add to that yesterday's post about false professors and you have the makings of an indy fundy dream.

I've had good and bad experiences with indy fundies. My dad's dad was a Southern Missionary Baptist preacher. I don't understand the association between the churches that he served, but it seems that he was always preaching in a different church. There was one church near his home that he ministered in regularly. So, each of the churches may have been associated somehow - would you call that "independent"? Even the Independent Baptist churches I know seem to be associated. So, I don't know. Nevertheless, he was as close to an indy fundy as any I've ever heard preach.

I sang the indy fundy circuit with a trio once. I had been adopted by a family of wild indy fundies a couple of years before I was married, and we used to sing together. This was a good experience. However, I was still a Lutheran at the time. The pastor of one church found this out afterward and said that he wouldn't have let me sing in his church if he had known I was a Lutheran. That was a bad experience.

Fundamentalism has a bad rep. Theoretically, fundamentalism holds a good foundational view to theology, which is good. However, many fundamentalists are not very foundational. Take the preacher in the next video for example. TomintheBox called his approach to exegesis "Sqirmeneutics" and I agree. For those who don't know, hermeneutics is the set of rules we use in order to properly understand the scriptures. Squirmeneutics, according to TomintheBox is "1. the science of misinterpretation, esp. of the Scriptures, to such a degree that it causes listeners with any common sense to squirm" or "2. misinterpretation of the Scriptures so absurd that it causes one to question whether or not it could possibly be for real."

This preacher has issues. First of all, unless he would call boys "men", he needs to consider that those who urinate against the wall include boys. "Males" is appropriate. Second, the males that are referred to here are not being referred to in a favorable light. They are marked for destruction. Thirdly, the expression "[urinate] against the wall" was an ancient Hebrew idiom for "males", not an admonition for men to stand up when they urinate. His conclusions are completely unfounded. Therefore his fundamentalism is nothing of the sort.

The point to this article is that Whether you're an indy fundy or some other breed of church member, we tend to become rooted more in our ecclesiological habits than in seeking to glorify God. We need to learn to recognize the difference.

There are so many expressions of worship, whether corporately or otherwise, and different styles of preaching that are legitimate to get stuck on a single routine. I love to see the exuberance of African worship or the intricate synchronization of Messianic circle dancing. I love to see the poignant dramas of Hispanic churches and hear the cries of prayer of a multitude of people calling on God at once. I love the sound of large choir and the singing of a lone soul in mourning. I loved the glottal punctuation of my papaw every time he breathed as he preached. I love the natural flow of words as a preacher speaks off-the-cuff from notes or the careful wording when he has written the sermon out ahead of time. I love a congregation that is involved in worship.

I hate sermons that are vapid and vacuous or simply untrue. I hate worship that is full of pretense and self-aggrandizement. May we all seek the better things.

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Monday, February 25, 2008

False Professors

Dusman at Triablogue wrote an amazing article about church members who profess to be Christian, but are not.

Ask yourself if you are faithful in the following areas of the heart. Don't be surprised if you find yourself in one or more of these descriptions.

  1. Immorality - pornography and adultery run rampant in evangelical churches. Christian men will desire to kill this sin and put it to death. False professors will covertly look for ways to continually hide it...
  2. Impurity - pop evangelicalism is generally devoid of people with chaste and pure behaviors and motives.
  3. Sensuality - pop evangelicalism, Christian Contemporary Music, and modern emergent "preaching" is rife with limelight guys and sultry chicks in tight garb, wiggly hips, complete with sassy, red-hot lyrics and lowbrow messages.
  4. Idolatry - many pop-evangelicals have traded the biblical Jesus for a functional savior that only gives them temporal hope and joy. This functional savior can only last so long and when their creeping unbelief shatters that idol, a major paradigm shift takes place and they either outright leave their former profession in the dust or they jump from the frying pan into the fire by trading in their kit-car Jesus for another idol.
  5. Sorcery - horoscope hunters and rock-rubbing pop-evangelicals and emergents are cool with mixing New Age mysticism, medieval monastic mysticism, and other sorcery with their "custom-fit" Christ.
  6. Enmity - false professors always show a general hostility towards the true Christ of Scripture, His message, and His people (Rom. 8:7-8).
  7. Strife - the false professor enjoys creating contention by pointing the finger at everyone else's sin as a means to show that they possess superior sanctification (Matt. 7:3-4).
  8. Jealousy - some false professors are not happy with your natural display the fruits of the Spirit, and they want the gifts without submitting to the Giver of the gifts.
  9. Outbursts of Anger - this is a chief characteristic of many false professors, as they have not the deep God-given desire nor the ability to control their anger when their idols are assaulted or their egos are exposed by the light of Christ.
  10. Disputes - they enjoy a good fight for the sake of a good fight; whether its intellectual, verbal, or physical.
  11. Dissensions - the false professor is a contentious quarreler. They love the fight and if you think they don't then just try to lovingly confront them with their divisive behavior and watch the sparks fly upward!
  12. Factions - one of the characteristics of some false professors is that they are theological nitpickers who use very minor theological differences between believers as a reason for avoiding biblical accountability and discipleship.
  13. Envy - since they really can't have Christian love, joy, peace, patience, . . . . self-control, et. al. because they don't have the spiritual equipment needed to produce these fruits, then they don't want *you* to have them either.
  14. Drunkenness - because they lack self-control, some false professors show that lack by abusing alcohol and recreational/prescription drugs or they use their prescription drugs as an excuse to avoid being sober-minded.
  15. Carousing . . . and things like these - the life of the false professor is characterized by a libertine lifestyle.

Go here to read the whole article.

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True Leadership

It occurs to me that the people widely regarded as leaders have two things in common. First, they tout the strongest opinions. Second, they have a charisma that inspires others to confidence in their decisions.

People are often confused about opinions. A belief that holds something as true for everyone is not an opinion. For example, there are those whom I tell that "Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life and no one comes to the Father but by Him" who would balk by saying, "Everyone is entitled to their opinion." It's not an opinion, it's a theological doctrine that I may believe whether I prefer to believe or not. If I go diving in shark-infested water, I may believe that my life is in danger. I don't want to believe that my life is in danger, and my belief may be warranted or not. However, my belief that something is true is not opinion. Rather, opinion is preferential. For example, someone may ask, "Do you like the red or the blue better?" If I answer with either one, I have given my opinion.

People who voice opinions the loudest are seen as those with great leadership potential. If a cat needs to be skinned, the goal is to skin the cat. There may be 10 different ways to skin the proverbial cat. Two people approach the cat to be skinned and one person starts to skin it. The other person asserts, "That's no way to skin a cat. You must skin a cat this way!" And then proceeds to skin it some other way. The first person follows the second with the understanding that it doesn't matter how you skin the cat; only that the cat is skinned; and an argument with the bull-headed one is counterproductive. The second person is seen as the leader for no other reason that he had a stronger opinion.

I use "charisma" for lack of a better term. More technically, you would think that this was the spirit of a person. However, while it speaks of the perception of a person by others, it elicits in others a certain confidence. I offer a true story devoid of detail for illustrating this:

In an early meeting planning something one person said, "We should do ABC because XYZ." The other people in the meeting summarily ignored him.

Later in the same meeting, another member spoke up and said, "We should do ABC because XYZ."

The other members turned to him and said, "See. This is why you should be the leader of our group."

If asked, I doubt anyone would realize that they ignored the first man's decisive statement. What was the difference between the two men? One said it first, but the second found himself favored. The difference isn't in the information I gave. In fact the only difference in the actual account that I could tell is in the charisma of the men. In this case, the charisma boils down to a person's mannerisms. If you say "confidence", then that confidence must be communicated behaviorally. If you say, "manner of speech", then you are referring to behavior. If you say, "the look in his eye", you are talking about behavior.

As someone skilled in acting, I know that these are behaviors and can be effected. However, one who does this is disingenuous. I know because I've done this as a leader of men in the Marine Corps. I did it because it was necessary to be a leader in a time of war. In the Body of Christ, leadership should be much different. In physical combat we fight with the sword and wield it with the strength of our bodies. In spiritual combat, we wield truth. However, we set aside our strength for God to use His strength in us.

Why do we follow the patterns of leadership established by the world and fail to recognize the patterns of leadership established by God. The kind of leadership carried out not from a position that appears powerful, but one of ultimate power carried out in One dying on a cross. Worldly power would have exhibited itself in the issuing of a command to 12 legions of angels awaiting to free the One from having to die and issue judgment on an unredeemed world.

True leadership did not exercise the power available and withheld that command.

The angels stood silent. The power of the death of the One was evident as a storm brewed, an earthquake disturbed the Passover, the veil was torn and dead men awoke and walked about town. No longer did the charisma of His behavior draw the crowds to His teaching. He drew only scorn to His lifeless body.

The One hung limp.

The True Leader did not escape death. He went through it..He defeated it yet not by power, but by His relationship with the Father as the Creator and bought the people who would follow Him with His own sacrifice.

Who do you look to for leadership?

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Jesus: More Than Sunday

Why is it that men's ministry in most churches goes through cycles where it is revived with some event designed to elicit participation in meetings or fun activities of some sort and quickly devolves into meeting on a Saturday to listen to a civil leader of some sort or mow somebody's yard? Now listening to civil servants or mowing people's yards are not bad per se, but men do not easily gather to hold each other accountable to spiritual growth and the pursuits of righteousness.

This past Friday, perhaps 250 men met for steak dinner, worship, three talks given by our ministerial staff, and a call to commit to personal Bible study and to become the spiritual leaders of our homes and families according to God's call. Offered for a continuing ministry is one-on-one discipleship, Bible study in small men's groups and a class series in our Equipping University. Each table for the meal was led by a deacon or other spiritual leader in the church. They will be following up with the men at their table to encourage them in fulfilling their commitment to God and their families.

These are the links to the three talks:

Skip Cartin Reading Your Bible: A Man's Magnificent Obession (Proverbs 2) MP3 5.58 MB (24:23)
Brian Burgess How to Have a Quiet Time (Psalm 119) MP3 8.99 MB (39:17)
Jeff Spry Family Devotions: Being the Spiritual Leader of Your Home MP3 9.63 MB (42:04)

Have you considered the likes of Abraham or Moses? These great men of faith merely fulfilled the purpose to which God called them. He's calling you to fulfill the purpose He has given to you. Become the spiritual leader in your home. Open up the scriptures and study them on your own. Then open up the scriptures and study them with your wife and children. Put a plan into practice for doing these things and your home will be transformed.

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Value of a Man - A Parable

The value of a man is like a good man that has two $100 bills. Thirsty, he purchases a bottle of rainwater for $1, but the water seller doesn't have $99 in change so the good man tells him to keep the change. Later, he meets an elderly man who possesses a jewel of great worth. The old man tells him that robbers are threatening to come and take the jewel from him. Having belonged in his family for generations the jewel is priceless to him, but he has no children to whom to pass it. He gives it to the good man to keep, desiring that it not fall into the hands of evil men. Honored, the good man gives the old man his second $100 bill.

Who determines that the bills are worth $100?
Which $100 is worth more to the good man?
Which $100 bill are you?
How do you spend your $100 bills? (goats and sheep)

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

How Ethics Differ in Students with Diffeent Worldviews

Philosophers are resorting to actual experimentation to answer moral questions. Recently an experiment was conducted to see if the worldviews of different students made a difference in their ethical approach to testing. As though to prove the quote I lifted from Voddie Bahcham correct, the data from the experiment indicated what anyone with the good sense God gave a sheep should instinctively know; that students who are taught that they are meaningless bags of electro-charged biochemicals won't have a problem cheating to answer questions correctly. The control were students who received no such indoctrination.

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Friday, February 15, 2008

How Do You Do Church?

I don’t mean to keep harping on the Regulative Principle, but the matter of ecclesiology keeps pegging away on the radar screen of my intellectual air space and I can’t help but to think that if I write about it it’ll go away and leave me to write about other things.

Tominthebox News Network continues to use exquisite humor (with the caveat that this compliment comes from someone whose sense of humor has been described recently as “corny”) to illumine our penchant for theological error. A recent article shared the pamphlet of a fictional church that combined a poor hermeneutical principle with the Regulative Principle to produce some interesting ecclesiological (how we do church and why we do it that way) results.

Hermeneutics are the principles we use to understand what the Bible means. For example, we use hermeneutics to determine if the word “all” in a passage means everyone everywhere, or just all of a certain type of people (population of a city or faith affiliation), or all ethnic groups but not everyone of every ethnic group. Perhaps you’ve heard a preacher refer to the number of times the Bible says something. I’ve heard this with regard to the teachings of Christ. It is noted by good teachers of the Bible that Christ mentions eternal condemnation at least as much as He mentions the kingdom of heaven. This isn’t necessarily a bad observation, but it makes for a poor hermeneutical principle. In other words, all Christ had to do was mention it once for us to know about it. Multiple mentions may indicate emphasis, but not necessarily.

In the case of this fictional church, they took this principle and counted the number of times different types of worship were mentioned in the Bible to determine their importance in worship. If it’s mentioned in the bible, it’s fair game as far as the Regulative Principle is concerned. If it’s not in there, don’t do it. Here’s the breakdown according to this pamphlet:

  • Singing: "The Bible mentions "singing" 20 times (NIV)."
  • Lifting Hands: "Not coincidentally, the Bible also mentions the lifting of hands 20 times (NIV) proving that the lifting of hands is equally important as singing."
  • Dancing: "In the Bible, dancing is referenced 14 times in the NIV. It's referenced 19 times in the KJV! So hop to it!"
  • Ripping Clothes: "Mentioned 29 times in the NIV (32 in the KJV), individuals would "tear," had "torn," or unashamedly "tore" their clothes as a sign of humility [in worship]... Why not participate in an activity that is 50% more important than singing or hand lifting and up to 100% more important than dancing? Sackcloth is available in the foyer for 1st time visitors."

The logic sounds plausible, but the conclusion is silly. So what’s the answer?

Dusman has posted a couple of articles [one and two] at Triablogue regarding the form and function of church. These articles are a response to a theological error fueling a movement of house churches called the New Testament Reformation Fellowship. There’s nothing wrong with house churches, but it’s erroneous to think that meeting in homes is the only legitimate way to do church. (Tominthebox has addressed this one as well recently.)

Dusman’s articles trace the form of church back to the conversion of believers. Soteriology (the gospel – the area of theology that deals with our salvation) is the crown jewel of theology with Christology as it’s setting and Theology Proper (the doctrine of God) as the crown itself. This means that Christ’s work on the cross is singularly important to our being able to know God. Pneumatology, Anthropology, Harmatology, Bibliology, etc. all encircle this crown jewel and are unknowable without the gospel. The act itself, written accurately in the passages of Holy Scripture, transcends the capacity of mere words to convey the depth of God’s self-cohesion.

This cohesion is to be illustrated in our local fellowship as we bear one another’s burdens. Dusman argues therefore, that the function of a local fellowship follows conversion. Only then do we derive the form of church – from the function. Whether a fellowship of believers is a small house church or a megachurch, the form must bring believers together for the sake of propagating the gospel. He offers an abbreviation of 58 “one-anothers” found in the New Testament for our consideration:

In sum, we promise to…
honor one another,
be members of one another,
live in harmony with one another,
build one another up,
be like-minded towards one another,
accept one another,
care for one another,
serve one another,
bear one another's burdens,
be kind to one another,
forgive one another,
abound in love towards one another,
comfort one another,
encourage one another,
stir one another up to love and good deeds,
confess our sins to one another,
be hospitable to one another,
greet one another,
fellowship with one another,
submit to one another while
not passing judgment on one another,
not provoking one another,
not envying one another,
not hating one another,
not slandering one another,
and not bearing grudges against one another.
We do all this because Christ has loved us in each of these ways and this frees our hearts to love one another as He has loved us (John 13:34; 8:32).

And He loved us sacrificially. Consider this: do you focus on the form or the function of the church with regard to the glorification of Christ and the ministry of the gospel? Do you treat your fellow Christians like this?

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The Responsibility of Understanding the Truth

I'm a production controller. That means I handle communications from Order Entry, Project Managers, Product Engineering and Master Scheduling and plan the resources of my plant to produce what is needed to fill the orders. If it sounds boring, it is.

One of the many things I do is provide feedback on the quality of information I receive. For example, Product Engineering provides drawings, creates the bills of material and the order details. Our Computer Numeric Controlled (CNC) router operators use the drawings to program their routers to make necessary cutouts. It helps that I've worked in both Product Engineering and CNC Programming for the turret presses in another of our plants.

Our CNC router operators do a great job with no more training than they have considering that they have to program the machines on the fly. With this in mind, they require a certain balance between simplicity and detail to the drawings they receive. Having engineered the products and drafted their drawings, I know intimately what is required. The engineers have argued that the operators should be able to figure out what they need from the drawings. I argue that the engineers have a higher level of education than the operators and must draw according to the operators' ability to understand.

I have three kids aged 11, 9 and 4. When my oldest was 4, he was still learning to tie his shoes. I had to do it for him. He could get his shoes on, but couldn't tie them yet. Now, he ties his shoes just fine. My current 4-year-old can't tie his shoes. When we are going out the door, I tell my 11-year-old to put his shoes on and get in the van and he does it. I can even tell him to tie the shoes of his little brother. What I don't do is tell my 4-year-old to tie his own shoes. I'm going to make sure that he's not left behind just because he can't tie his own shoes.

I believe the Bible when it says that God is unchanging. There are infants in the faith that cannot handle this truth yet. I have to ask myself why God has inspired the human writers of the Bible to anthropomorphize Him from time to time as though He changes His mind. The reason is that He fully understand that different Christians are at different places on the long path to spiritual maturity and understanding. How does a young believer think to pray to a God who will not change? Nevertheless as he learns who God is and how to approach God for effectual prayer, he can be challenged with greater and more difficult truths and doctrines.

Here is the challenge for those who would instruct the young in faith. We must be willing to work with someone where they are and vie to improve their understanding as they mature. The level of discourse of some Christians who seek to provide a sure apologetic would poison the faith of those whose faith is weak by requiring them to tie their theological shoes before they are able. We must be careful not to do this. All of us were young once. Just like it is incumbent on my engineers to draw for the level of understanding of the operators, it is incumbent on the Christians with stronger faith to deal theologically with those who are weaker on a level they can understand in order to strengthen them over time.

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Something Light for V-Day

For many years I had a difficult time understanding members of the fairer gender. Here are a couple of examples recently found in the comics:

Earlier in my life I was baffled by the fact that the girls I knew claimed to want nice guys and would pursue bad boys. Perhaps they didn’t know that nice guys were watching and saw that their actions didn’t comport with what they said. In the BC strip it’s a good thing the guy keeps walking. The girl doesn’t really want him. She only wants him to give her the opportunity to have the upper hand. In Peanuts, Violet doesn’t like either Pig Pen or Charlie Brown and is confronted with the need to raise the bar from one to the next so that she is justified in her preferences.

Aren’t we all a little bit like this? We all need love, but we tend to give it rather conditionally. What we don’t realize is that people are often watching. It's nice to give love unconditionally, although you still don't know who is watching.

My wife, Lois, is in Alabama this week with the kids and Ised, our missionary from Venezuela, so my V-Day will be spent working on a project… alone. Sunday night after the church service several people were talking afterwards. I forgot I was in church and spoke one of my love languages to Lois. My love languages are affection and words of affirmation. (Lois’ love language is service.) Anyway, many of the Venezuela team were standing around talking to Ised, and Lois and I were standing a short ways off getting ready to pack everything and everyone up and go home. Lois had turned with her back to me and I reached around her shoulders from behind and gave her a peck on the neck. I heard a series of hoots and whistles from the team. You never know who’s paying attention.

Happy Valentine’s Day!!!!

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Monday, February 11, 2008

The Tale of Two Movies - True Masculinity

I watched two movies with my wife this past weekend. The first is the classic 1942 movie, Holiday Inn. I've seen it a few times, but my wife had never seen it. So late Friday night after the kids were in bed we watched it together.
Saturday evening my wife and I had a Valentine's date. She's taking our Venezuelan missionary to Alabama this week so she won't be around for V-day. I took her for a movie and a nice dinner. We saw the new movie 27 Dresses. Katherine Heigl has a classy look about her that seems to be in style these days.

I enjoyed the movie but it has today's moral setbacks. The alcohol use in the movie is little different than that of Holiday Inn. There were a few mild vulgarities used as expletives. There are more considerate ways that I demonstrate for my kids to display disdain, but these were not exceptionally burdensome. There was the normalization of illicit sex among consenting adults alluded to, which is something I didn't appreciate. June, the main character, was known to not do such things although the OSS was between her and one of the two love interests.

So you've never heard of an OSS? I'll make a parenthetical and explain it to you. OSS stands for “Obligatory Sex Scene”. These are often written into novels and screenplays without adding any meaningful movement to the plot. If you've ever heard the commentary from directors as to why they cut scenes from movies, you know that the primary reason is that some scenes interrupt the flow by not contributing anything to the movement of the plot. Think of the OSS in any less-than-X-rated movie you've ever seen. Take, for example, the car scene in Titanic when you see the sweaty hand smear the rear glass. It added nothing to the plot or character or relational development. The relationship between Rose and Jack had already been established and didn't need this for any emphasis. Most OSSs are implicit, but some don't leave much to the imagination. The fact that you are led to imagine anything is indicative of the intent to normalize illicit sex in our culture.

I couldn't help but to think that it's not cool to dance like Fred Astaire anymore. Today that kind of dancing isn't considered to be very masculine. When I told people that I took my wife to see 27 Dresses, it was generally assumed that she talked me into going to it when I actually wanted to see it! I asked my wife about this. She said essentially, “Don't get me wrong: you aren't the macho type. The guys who are the macho type tend to be mindless.” (Thank you, Dear!)

I know who the macho types are. I see them at the gym. They're kind enough because those are the rules at the 'Y'. I've been recovering from a pinched nerve and have been strengthening a wee little muscle in my right arm that has atrophied. I'm fair in enough exercises, but just as I had built my bench press of ten reps up to 115 lbs, the pinched nerve had dropped it down almost to the bar weight of 45 lbs, all because of a little shoulder muscle. I know these guys look at me pressing the bar and struggling with 65 lbs chuckle at my wimpiness.

Machismo existed back in the 1940s, but there was no doubt that men who refused to act macho were still masculine. Today, if I got up and started dancing like Fred I wouldn't receive much applause. I might receive some funny looks and many would assume I was light in loafers. What happened to respected tailors, chefs, bakers, etc? Oh, they still exist, but now we have to make it acceptable by putting the word “iron” in front of it and turning it into a sporting event. Does anyone want to try the fish that the Iron Chef turned into ice cream? Sure, if you have an iron stomach.

The reason I bring this up is that we observe that masculinity is on the decline today. But how can this be when we had the likes of Fred Astaire in the limelight in the 40s? I suggest that this is the reason machismo is increasing today. Have you seen the pictures of bodybuilders back then versus bodybuilders today? Forget the development of steroids. There's a reason men puff themselves up physically and egotistically today. They are less secure in their masculinity.

My wife is right, but it's not so much that the macho are mindless. Confidence is worn like Jane wears her weddings in 27 Dresses. The confidence of the macho is a struggle for acceptance. Even the “metrosexual” are following a trend. True confidence for a man is being secure in the masculinity that God has given him. But it goes beyond this.

[Warning! There is a spoiler in this next section if you haven't seen 27 Dresses!]

In Holiday Inn, Linda is willing to marry either Jim or Ted. She would prefer to marry Jim, but will marry Ted who has demonstrated a willingness to commit to her. In 27 Dresses, Jane has spent years desiring to marry her boss, but although she's in a position to win his heart, she viscerally decides he's not the one and runs after Kevin, who she had dismissed, now feeling that he is the “right one”. Of course, it's a cute story and we, the audience, agree that she should marry the other guy.

What I notice here may seem subtle, but I think it’s the worst part of the trend. In the 1940s, one could better trust that another committing to marriage would be inclined to keep their commitment. There was divorce then, but it was much rarer. Today, the divorce rate is high enough that one could only insecurely hope to remain committed. 27 Dresses pointed to the fact that couples put all kinds of resources into big extravagant weddings and fail to put the same sort of care into the marriage. Jim wouldn’t marry Linda until he had enough money in the bank to properly care for her. His life as a performer focused on events and no doubt he could have put on a huge bash of a wedding, but his purpose with Linda was the marriage afterward.

True godly masculinity is when a man is devoted sacrificially to others. Today’s machismo is when a man is devoted to himself. When Jim went to Hollywood to win Linda back, he wasn’t going for his own sake alone, but in the knowledge that Linda really wanted the life he had to offer. When Jane realized that Kevin loved her enough to leave her to her own decision, she realized that he was demonstrating a respect for her that indicated his capacity to commit. What is missing in many men (and I dare say women) today is the maturity to look beyond one’s own desires and seek what is best for someone else. That's true masculinity. It provides the security that women desire: a security that mere machismo can only imitate. A security that says to a potential mate, "I'll be there for you, support you and husband you with all that I am. I'll pursue your needs and best interests first. I'll seek the wisdom to guide you so that you can grow to your full potential as my wife."

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Friday, February 08, 2008

Voddie Baucham on Education

I've just found my favorite quote on education:

"...if we continue to send our children to Cesar for their education, they'll continue to come home as Romans."

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Regulative Principle and Theological Focus

I first saw the following video before the ordeal with Timmy Brister’s question to Mark Driscoll. I’ve posted my thoughts on this before. The Regulative Principle of Worship that only those elements explicitly permitted for worship in the Bible are permissible for worship. The converse is called the Normative Principle of Worship which is that everything not prohibited in worship by the Bible is permissible. The Regulative Principle is like the old German philosophy of law where everything is prohibited except where explicitly permitted and the Normative Principle is like the old Italian philosophy of law where everything is permitted except where explicitly prohibited. (It seems anymore these days in most places in the world that everything is permitted even where explicitly prohibited as long as you can get away with it.) That said watch this video and tell me if this falls within the Regulative Principle camp.

My purpose here is not to persuade anyone for or against either of these principles, but rather to ask where our focus is. The purpose for limiting worship in the Regulative Principle is to consider that God has the right to specify how He should be worshiped. The benefit of holding to the Regulative Principle is to ensure that he is worshiped in truth. Liturgical churches as well as contemporary churches are full of elements not specified in the Bible. These very elements have proven to divide us and draw us into the forms of worship while lacking the substance of the truth of God.

However, even the elements of worship that god has ordained have been compromised. Without adherence to truth, even these elements can serve the same purpose. The pre-messianic Jews were warned by the prophets that God wasn’t interested in their sacrifices because their hearts were far from God.

And the Lord said: "Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me… Isaiah 29:13 (ESV)

Jesus taught the Samaritan woman:

19The woman said to him, "Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship." 21Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." John 4:19-24 (ESV)

Paul taught the Romans:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Romans 12:1 (ESV)

So what principle does Paul teach?

What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. 1 Corinthians 14:26 (ESV)


For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh- Philippians 3:3 (ESV)

It seems that he gives a good foundation for this principle in the gospel itself as he expounded in Hebrews 9. I encourage your to read the whole chapter, but Ill only include a couple of verses here (quoted from the ESV):

1Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness. 2For a tent was prepared...

11But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation)... 15Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance,

Christ, therefore, is not in the outward elements of worship, but in our submission by the spirit to His truth. Paul admonishes us in I Timothy 2 to be modest and have self-control in worship. However, if worship is spiritual then we must always consider ourselves in worship. If God is omnipresent, then we must consider that we who are His people are always in his presence. Therefore, we must always consider ourselves in worship, not only when we gather with our brothers and sisters in Christ for corporate worship.

I say this to bring up another issue. The satirical Tominthebox News Network, recently ran an article that one commenter labeled “stealth satire”. The title announces another book by N.T. Wright entitled, “What Moses Really Saw: Did Moses Really Meet with God on the Mountain?” I can’t claim much knowledge of N. T. Wright’s beliefs. It would seem on first blush that this merely satirizes liberal theology. I think it goes deeper that that.

Almost daily I see new Christian (some good, some bad) books being announced. We look through these hoping for some new nuggets of understanding that we didn’t previously have available to us in the pages of Holy Writ. I blog some of my own observations and read the blogs of others for the same reason. It’s a good thing to learn and encourage each other by teaching the truth. It’s easy, however, to lose focus.

I think the debate between Regulative and Normative is one of those areas. The reason is that the focus of the debate is the external elements rather than on the person of Christ. The Regulative Principle has much to teach us about moderation and modesty. The Normative Principle has much to teach us about Christian liberty. The purpose of worship is to exercise our submission to Christ. Inasmuch as we do this constantly and consistently on our own, we will do this corporately. This means that we must submit not only in those ways only covered by scripture, but in everything we do. The Regulative principle, in this light becomes permissive as long as we follow the rules and the Normative Principle becomes merely expressive. Both fall short.

Therefore, we must be careful how we handle theology that we don’t get caught in a debate between two schools of thought that are equally inadequate but appear to cover the spectrum of theological thought. We can avid this when we maintain Christ as the focus. And we can do this without compromising the truth. Are you hungry on the Sabbath? Let’s glean a little wheat why don’t we? (Matthew 12:1-8)

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Lessons From the Moravian Church

There's a Pastor's Conference going on at Desiring God right now. This morning, Monroe Brewer, international director at the Center for Church Based Training, gave some lessons from the Moravian Church. This list concerning Christian parenting and missions was among them:

  • A child's brain is meant to be used. Respecting children includes taking their minds seriously.
  • Parents are the best teachers for their children. When others are involved in kids' education, it is still the parents responsibility.
  • Moral discipline follows mental discipline.
  • Children are special objects of Christ's concern. They have gifts like faith, humility, curiosity, and memory that adults have often largely grown out of.
  • Music is a significant teaching tool. It is often better to sing than to lecture.
  • Preparing a child to go on the mission field begins at birth or sooner through prayer.
  • Though not everyone will be missionaries, everyone should be prepared to be.

As a Christian homeschool dad and musician with a heart for missions, this resonates with me.

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The Power of Humility

My brother in Christ, Lionel Woods, has one of the best articles I've read recently, and I've read many great articles. He shares with us his growth as a minister of theological debate on the Internet. Some excerpts:

I originally started blogging due to my frustration with the Health and Wealth movement. I was utterly abused by Legalism, Word of Faith teaching, and a slew of false doctrine. I used to spend all of my time as a lion looking to pounce on the first lonely sheep that disagreed with me. I would love to get into debates at barbershops, with family, and love to tell my wife how much I disagreed with Jakes, Olsteen, Meyers, Price, Dollar and their affiliates. I enjoyed destroying their doctrinal positions and anyone who would side with them. Okay I really, really enjoyed it. I would take my arguments to church and debate with anyone who would defend even an ounce of this doctrine.

As I looked back over all of the dead bodies, and the body count report came back, I realized that there were friendlies in the count. Not just a couple, but just as many friendlies as there were enemies. I started to look at the bridges I burned, the relationships that I sacrificed in the name of truth, and the hearts I broke standing for “God’s truth” and my heart became heavy... The babies (young in the faith) the elderly (those who were helpless), and even friendlies (those who agreed with me, but were not ready to split but would rather be patient seeking prayer over division).

I thought that I could go on there and infuse truth, but I would find myself falling back into sarcasm and condescending remarks. I enjoyed being a “Heresy Hunter” because it made me feel better about myself, by expressing my disdain for them (I guess). As long as I got one enemy I didn’t mind taking out 5 allies!

Father, if I have written anything with “selfish motives”, or vain conceit, I repent and I pray that you would fix my mess... So going forward I pray that this blog will proclaim the Glory of Christ above anything else. I pray that as you read this blog, your heart is warmed and you want to proclaim the excellencies of Christ even more. Finally I hope to engage in critical (but ultimately loving) dialogue with those who disagree.

Lets proclaim the truth of God in love.

Read the whole article here.

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Friday, February 01, 2008

The Importnce of Apologetics to Evangelism

So, in other obscure articles, I find two interesting articles about how Muslims should "evangelize" Jews and Christians and how Christians should evangelize Muslims. The first is from Ibnabeeomar at muslimmatters.org. For those tempted to paint all Muslims with a broad brush, there are different sects and approaches to Islam among Muslims, just like there are among Christians and Jews. This is the advice from one Muslim on how to share the message of Islam. Follow the link to read the whole article. Here are a few key quotes from the article:

"Before initiating a dialogue with the People of the Book, Muslims must first familiarize themselves with who they are, and their history."

"Muslims must learn the message that was given to the People of Scripture and how they responded to it. This is essential to understanding why we need to have dialogue with them in the first place. "

"The People of the Book are the Jews and Christians entrusted with the previous revelation,"

"The covenant Allah took from them is the same as the message of Islam"

"Instead of holding steadfast to this covenant though, the People of the Book broke it and committed crimes against what Allah entrusted them with."

"Their greatest transgression committed by The People of the Book was the crime of shirk. They claimed that Allah was a part of a Trinity and that He had taken a son, thus disbelieving in the message sent to them."

"The sincerity held by the pious amongst them must be recognized. These qualities are mentioned to show their nearness to the message that Muslims must invite them to. By reminding them of their positive qualities, it eases taking the next step into accepting the message."

"The People of the Book work to mislead and deceive the believers. They do this because they will not be pleased until everyone else follows their way of life,"

"The Muslims though, view the People of the Book with balance and respect... Allah Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aala commands the believers to have good manners with them and to call them with the best of argument and dialogue."

"Dialogue starts by asking them to come to a statement that should be an issue of commonality between both parties, worshipping Allah alone without any partner. This is also a commandment given in the Bible."

"As the believers start this
dialogue, it is expected for the People of the Book to respond as well. Allah Subhaanahu Wa Ta’aala has given instruction on how to respond to their assertions. The believers are not only given the responses, but also commanded to stop after conveying the message."

"They will find ways to criticize the believers for following the Message sent to them."

"As with any debate and discussion, Muslims are commanded not only to defend themselves against accusations, but to be on the offensive in their
dialogue as well."

"Once the dialogue is finished, a conclusion must be reached. For the believers, it requires understanding the responses of the People of the Book in light of their past history... They differ despite the clear evidences conveyed to them... This behavior is not new, but is something that has been manifest numerous times. The primary example of this is their rejecting and covering up the prophecies of the Prophet
[Jesus] Sal Allahu ‘alayhi was-Sallam in their own Scripture... Unfortunately, not all immediately recognize the truth, and someone engaged in dialogue with them must always be prepared for this... It is up to them to choose the path of success."

The second article is from John Piper at Desiring God.

There are as many answers to this question as there are ways to do good and not wrong. “Love does no wrong to a neighbor” (Romans 13:10). “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:4). Here are some things that, it seems to me, need to be emphasized in our day.

  1. Pray the fullest blessing of Christ on them whether they love you or not.
  2. Do good to them in practical ways that meet physical needs.
  3. Do not retaliate when personally wronged.
  4. Live peaceably with them as much as it depends on you.
  5. Pursue their joyful freedom from sin and from condemnation by telling them the truth of Christ.
  6. Earnestly desire that they join you in heaven with the Father by showing them the way, Jesus Christ.
  7. Seek to comprehend the meaning of what they say, so that your affirmations or criticisms are based on true understanding, not distortion or caricature.
  8. Warn them with tears that those who do not receive Jesus Christ as the crucified and risen Savior who takes away the sins of the world will perish under the wrath of God.
  9. Don’t mislead them or give them false hope by saying, “Muslims worship the true God.”

Don't let the similarities lead you to commit the logical fallacy that would make you believe that we're all just alike. There are similarities, but it is important to be able to understand what is true and what is not. This is why sound apologetics like we hear from Voddie Baucham in my last post are so important. It's not that we look for whatever visceral reason we can or that we are merely trying to justify belief in a "magic man" as I've seen so many atheists say, but that many have come who earnestly desire to know what is true. In the discovery of truth, one apologetic stands out among all others as being marked by our Creator as His Truth. Go back and listen to Dr. Baucham and get a primer on the certainty of our faith.

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