30 September 2010

Not 'Just Sayin'

I've noticed a new fad lately.  It's probably not all that new, but things move slowly around here.  The fad is to use the phrase, "just sayin'" after a remark.  The remark would usually be considered rude or inappropriate.  Then the speaker tags it with, "just sayin'" and everything seems fine.

It's not fine.

People, saying, "just sayin'" after a rude remark does not make the remark any less rude!!

It's like the much older practice, here out west, of adding, "ole" before an insult to make it a non-insult.  If you called somebody "that ole poker cheat", everybody laughed.  If you called him a "poker cheat", you got shot.  The difference between then and now is, the 'ole' was added to the front of the expression to indicate that no offense was intended.  The 'just sayin' is added after everything's been said, and then only to cover one's tracks after the damage is done.

Good grief.  If you are one of the 'just sayin' folks, grow the heck up and quit acting like a fourth-grader!

Just sayin'.

23 September 2010

Finding Christ in the Old New Testament

I hope the title, 'Finding Christ in the Old New Testament', is catchy, because the irony there is important for understanding a subtlety we often miss.

My Sunday School class is going through the books of First and Second Peter this year.  We are still in 1 Peter 1, and have not yet reached verse 13 (that's next week).  The importance of verse 13 is that it is the first time a command is issued in the book of 1 Peter.  Peter spends the first 12 verses of his letter (I know he didn't write it in verses, but that's the easiest way to refer to it) proclaiming the glory of God and Christ, and our place in Christ.

I constantly remind the class that being a Christian is not about finding a way to write God into their stories, but about finding a way to write themselves into God's story.  We often hear about 'finding Christ in the Old Testament' but we take for granted that we'll find Christ in the New.  Not necessarily so...we can often too easily pass over the proclamation of the gospel to get to the commands (passing over the indicative to get to the imperative) since we want to put 'shoe leather' on the text.  That passing-over is a mistake, and a serious one.

I need to get a patent on a new line of wrist bands called, "WHJD" ('What has Jesus done?'), but I'm guessing somebody already has.  However, I have a funny feeling that they wouldn't sell nearly as many as the old WWJD bands, simply because the reality of the focus of the gospel isn't nearly as important to many people, believers or not, as is living a moral life.

And that's exactly why we struggle so much trying to live up to God's requirements for us...we take the focus off of Christ and put it on ourselves, as we are woefully bent to do.

21 September 2010

How Porn Really Isn't a Victimless Crime

This summer, the First Things First blog published a fantastic article on the effects of pornography on society and on individuals. The article, here, is rather long for a blog-type post, but is well worth the read because of the multifaceted approach it takes to the dangers of this media, especially on the young.

Having teenagers at home makes this issue a lot bigger than it was a few years ago, personally.  With the recent brain research showing how adult images can re-wire the brain in ways that make normal relationships with people difficult to impossible, it gets even more scary.  (See this article, for example, citing how the exposure can make teens more rebellious.)  Add to that, porn now seems to be a growing problem among teenage girls and young women (see this article from Christianity Today).

This raises the whole question of the new media again...not just adult-related material but the whole concept of rapid access to shallow bits of information.  How is that process affecting our kids' ability to reason?

I don't have the answers, but some smart folks are working on it.  Hopefully, they'll have more answers sooner rather than later.

20 September 2010

Bookmarks Are Killing Me

Over time, I have managed to collect thousands of bookmarks in my various web browsers.  They've all come together in the latest version of Firefox, which I now use almost exclusively.

Here's the question...how do I efficiently go about browsing through all those bookmarks and then determine which ones I want to keep?  If anyone out there has a good way to do this, please let me know.  I dread the thought of actually clicking on each one to see if it still works, and then trying to decide if I need it anymore.

OK, I'm just being lazy, but if you know of any good organization methods for internet bookmarks, I'd love to have the reference.

16 September 2010

Sojourners a Leftist Fifth Column Organization

We already knew Sojourners leaned to the left, kinda like the Tower of Pisa viewed from the southeast.  But this puts the icing on the cake-


I hope any of you with any ties to Sojourners immediately junk them.  Despicable.

14 September 2010

I Really Do Hate the Prosperity 'Gospel'

My Sunday School class had a discussion on the prosperity gospel last week.  They all know how I feel about it (I hate it), but not all have heard many explanations beyond the very brief as to why I hate it.

This short video clip is from John Piper, and illustrates through a video-style interpretation a short clip from one of his sermons on the problems with the prosperity gospel.

I don't think I can make it much clearer than that, other than to try to get folks to read all the passages replete in both testaments of scripture on how suffering is part of God's plan, and not punishment for sin or lack of faith.

11 September 2010

Remembering 9/11 With My Kids

My 6th-grade daughter was tasked by a teacher with watching a History Channel special this weekend on the 9/11 attacks. (Thanks to DVR...we had four baseball games today!)

It was a very interesting and well-done show, focusing more on personal relationships between a handful of survivors, but building the story around their day.  I was worried about the appropriateness of the content for an 11-year-old, but there were no problems other than the expected intensity of the fear during the time before the towers fell.

It sure did bring back memories.  Those are not far from the surface, but the images bring them back all the stronger.  I was in my car on the way to work at Missouri Baptist University in St. Louis when I heard a DJ come on and say a plane had hit the WTC.  It didn't seem like a big deal, and they went right back to music.  Then, about 15 minutes later, the second plane hit.  It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what was going on.  I remember spending much of the day with TVs in the classrooms, watching the coverage with the students.  It was one of those never-forget mornings.

The most intense time for me came four days later.  I vividly remember going out early Saturday morning and getting on my lawn tractor to mow my 3-acre lawn.  I was busily mowing away, thinking about the situation, when for some reason I noticed the sky.  I had to stop the tractor.  There were always a dozen or more contrails in the bright Missouri sky, but on that day, there were none.  That moment the reality of what had happened hit me.  I literally turned off the engine of my tractor and had a good cry.  It was both weird and fulfilling at the same time.  But one thing I knew, the world I'd been living in was never going to be the same.  I had all four kids then, and Ryan, my youngest, was just 18 months old.  It made me sad thinking about the innocence they lost that day without really knowing it.

Now, the special on TV made for a great 'teaching moment'.  I was happy to be able to discuss some of the important things about the attacks and the world we live in with the kids.  I'm sure we'll watch it again (since it is on DVR) and there will be more questions to answer.  These questions are a privilege...after all, when they say, 'We will never forget', how do you suppose we'll make that happen if we don't talk about it with our kids?  Especially in this day, when our own president goes around apologizing for our country, it is all the more important to make sure our kids know the ramifications of what 9/11 means, and how they'll need to deal with those ramifications as they grow up.

I hope millions of kids had a good discussion today with their parents and learned a little something about freedom, good and evil, and family.

08 September 2010

Burning the Quran is Wrong (But For Other Reasons Than You've Been Told)

I can't think of anything that makes me more angry (the kind of deep-seated, moral anger) than churches who do the wrong thing and do it on a pedestal for all to see.  You can be sure that the secular media will take every advantage to help make idiots who profess faith to look even more idiotic than they actually are.

The first example is the (so-called) church in Kansas (which I refuse to name or link) that protests at the funerals of soldiers, sailors, and marines killed in action.  But that's a whole other blog post...I'll stay focused here on the current controversy.  (And thank God for the Patriot Guard Riders!)

The church in Florida (again, I'll leave it unnamed and unlinked) that plans to have a 'Burn the Quran Day' on September 11 is making a big mistake.  Others have gone on-and-on about how it is un-American or intolerant or some violation of some sense of decency (and they are mostly right about that).  The problem I have is a bit different.  I haven't heard it put my way on the national media, but that doesn't surprise me...the national media isn't really worried about the gospel, after all.

That's the key: the gospel.  The church in Florida should be focused on their mission to glorify God through worship and the proclamation of the gospel.  Instead, they are bogged down in some type of moralism, expressed through political posturing or protest.  If they were concerned with ever having any kind of credibility with Muslims who might be in their community, they would obviously not engage in such provocative behavior.  I understand that Muslims often don't respect the Bible, and treat it with contempt.  But to respond likewise with the Quran is just the opposite of what the gospel demands.  The action will have no constructive effect.  No Muslim anywhere will look at this and say, "Gee, maybe we are being too hard on those other religions...we should lighten up."  More importantly, no Muslim will say, "I'm curious about this Jesus fellow...I think I'll find some people of the book and inquire about him further."

The bottom line is this- no person of islamic faith or tendency will ever be reached with the gospel by provocation.  The media attention makes it even worse; the barriers to the gospel won't be felt in Florida alone, but in various places all over the world.  That does not bring glory to God.

And that's why 'Burn a Quran Day' is wrong.

07 September 2010

One Use for Wish Lists

My 46th birthday is coming up on Thursday.  I have a wishlist at amazon.com, just in case you were wondering what I might want.



01 September 2010

Why the ESV?

I've been using the NIV bible for about 25 years now.  I started, like many, with a KJV, and when I found out I wasn't able to smoothly read King James-era English, looked for a more modern translation.  The NASB was OK, but not great; the NEB and similar paraphrases weren't good enough; but the NIV was good enough and was certainly easier to read (the NIV is on a 6th grade reading level, compared to a 16th grade level for the KJV).

So why would I suddenly switch to the ESV after using the NIV for so long?  Well, first, it wasn't all that sudden a switch.  I've been aware of some issues with the NIV for several years.  None of them are fatal issues, and assuming I stay away from the terrible tNIV, I really don't have a big problem with the NIV.  But it isn't quite good enough any more.

Watch this short video clip from John Piper for an example of why.

It's pretty simple.  Like John Piper, I want a version with all the words, but I still want one that is readable and has some flow to it, and in a modern version of the English language.  The ESV excels at all these things.

I have two strong recommendations for anyone looking for a new study bible, and willing to try the ESV, or looking for a better version than the NIV, NASB, or other recent translation.

First, I'd recommend the Reformation Study Bible.  It is edited by R. C. Sproul, and the study notes are fantastic and very much conservative and gospel-focused in their character.  The bible is relatively compact, as the notes are not copious, but sufficient.  There are other study aids included, and especially good are the half-page essays on biblical concepts important in the reformation and important to our understanding of the doctrines of grace today.

Second, I'd recommend the MacArthur ESV Study Bible.  This one is brand new.  I've used the MSB in the NKJV for a number of years.  You won't find a more balanced but conservative approach to study bible notes than this one.  Dr. MacArthur especially holds firm on the doctrine of creation in his notes.  Now that the ESV is out, I'll be retiring my NKJV for a new copy in the new translation.

Thirdly, I will recommend the ESV Study Bible, though not as strongly as the first two.  It is much larger, has many more notes, and has outstanding graphics (maps, charts, etc.).  The downside is, it is heavier and bulkier, so isn't as easy to carry around.  And the notes are not quite as conservative as either Dr. Sproul's or Dr. MacArthur's notes.  Nothing bad that I've found, but not quite as firm on some issues of importance to me.  Don't get me wrong...I have a copy of the ESV Study Bible on my desk at work.  But I don't carry it to church on a weekly basis like the RSB or MSB bibles.

If you are looking for a better study bible, get either the RSB or MSB...you won't regret either.

[FCC notice, as required by a stupid, big-brotherish, overbearing federal law:  I have received nothing from any of the publishers of the above bibles for this review.]