30 June 2011

Should Christians be Patriotic?

Yes, with a caveat.

When I hear stories about the corruption in our government or the evils apparent in our society, I feel ashamed for our country.  But when I hear stories of our soldiers using themselves as cover for civilians (often children) in Afghanistan, I can't help but feel patriotic. 

I've seen quite a few opinion pieces about this topic, and many of them were not very helpful.  However, one posted today was both helpful (in that he took a stance instead of waffling) and useful (in the the author has the credibility to speak on the subject...in my opinion of course).  This article can be found here.

I suppose this is a topic where anyone can make a point of their choosing with facts of their choosing.  This always seems to lead to either the idolization or demonization of America, however.  When we hold the state up as our god, that's the only route we have left to take.  But when we view the nation in light of God's revelation, we can see it for what it is in history a bit more clearly, good and bad.

I'll still feel patriotic this weekend, and sing the Battle Hymn and all that, but I'll also worship God in church on Sunday, in spite of the patriotic music.

Here's the caveat. 
  1. Worship God. 
  2. Be thankful for his providence in our national heritage. 

Don't reverse these two things and end up worshiping America and being thankful for God in our national heritage.  If you own one of those "Patriot's Bibles", you may have already done this.

Just sayin'.

28 June 2011

First-World Problems

This is a very funny-but-mainly-because-it's-so-true look at how hard our lives are.

  First World Rap

Multi-Site Churches...Good or Bad?

The whole idea of these multi-campus, multi-site churches is a confusing one.  I can see some very strong positives and some very strong negatives, mixed in with a whole bunch of gray area 'what-ifs' in the concept.

On the one hand, I'd love to sit and hear a Matt Chandler or RC Sproul or Mark Dever sermon on Sunday mornings at my local church.  We continue to be without a pastor fourteen months ongoing, and we've had fill-ins, guest speakers, an interim pastor (for a short time), and so on.  Not all the sermons have been bad, but all have been somewhat disconnected (and some of them have been pretty close to sleep medication).  We've had a few that have been gospel-centered, encouraging, and provoking (thank you, Michael Kelley...want a full-time pastorate?). So the idea of listening to one of these types of pastors on a weekly basis is very interesting. 

On the other hand, it looks to me like we are headed toward a situation with megachurches that looks like the cola wars of the 80s...a few really big churches spending millions of dollars on top celebrities trying to coax huge segments of the population to attend one of their local satellite campuses.  We'll see which pop star goes with which church.  (Hopefully, no one's hair will catch fire this time.)

You have Driscoll's church with campuses in multiple cities (mouse over the 'Locations' drop-down), expanding to more; you have Lifechurch with around fourteen campuses now (click on the 'Select Campus drop-down), and other megachurches interested in getting into the mix.  What happens when Joel Osteen decides to compete with these folks for headcount?  (Just think of the advertising budget he'd have.)  How many lost souls would that facilitate?

I still haven't decided one way or the other on the worth of these multi-site churches, but my gut feeling about them is not good. We need pastors who know their local members.  But we also need preachers who engage their congregations with in-depth gospel preaching.  Are these two things mutually exclusive?

The Unpardonable Sin

I think I may have figured out the one thing that could keep someone from ever getting into Heaven...being a card-carrying member of the TSA.

While this is a bit tongue-in-cheek, every time I read another story of the TSA harrassing American citizens, my anger at the whole mess grows.  I can only hope that at some point in time, those responsible for the kinds of decisions they've made and the kinds of anti-constitutional acts they've committed will answer for their crimes...behind bars.

23 June 2011

But God...

R. C. Sproul has said several times that the most important word in the Bible is the word, 'but'.

I'm reading Trevin Wax's book, Counterfeit Gospels.  On page 98, he illustrates Dr. Sproul's point with this section of text-

  "Because Jesus was filled with horror and cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" we are filled with wonder and cry, "My God, my God, why have you accepted me?
  Because Jesus cried, "Father, forgive!" the taunts we hurled at Him on the cross are transformed into praise for His generous mercy.
  Because Jesus said, "I thirst," we can drink from the fountain of living water and never thirst again.
  Because Jesus said, "Woman, behold your son," and felt the pain of separation from His earthly family, we can experience the blessing of being united with a heavenly family.
  Because Jesus cried, "It is finished!" our new life can begin.
  Because Jesus committed His spirit into the Father's hands, God commits His Spirit into our hearts."

...but God, who is rich in mercy...

Outstanding stuff.

20 June 2011

Creating a Custom Reading List on Logos 4

Here's my first attempt at a training video.  Low-budget, no production experience, and all that.  It's an attempt to explain how to create a custom reading list in Logos 4.

Unable to display content. Adobe Flash is required.

This is more of an experiment than a finished product...I need a lot of work before I start putting these out for public consumption. But the way of things seems to be toward multimedia instruction, so I'd might as well get good at it now rather than be behind the curve.

The software I used to create this was free. It is called Jing, and can be found at techsmith.com.

Youth Ministry From a Youth's Perspective

Here's a great post on the perception of youth ministry from a youth.  Unfortunately, it is a caricature of too many youth programs.

LeBron and the Insanity of Professional Sports

There's a lot of gold hidden in this little YouTube rant.  Get past the first minute or two, and it's well worth the watch.

16 June 2011

A New Blog I've Enjoyed Reading

Sometimes we need to get away from the usual for something different.  I have about 20 blogs I read regularly, and most of them are well-established and popular sites.  A couple aren't that big (yet).  I've pointed you to Pete Scribner's blog in the past, and I'd like to point you to another one now.  I think both will grow, because both are very good.

Aimee Byrd is writing a relatively new blog called, The Housewife Theologian.  I really like the direction she's taking (finding how the gospel interrupts the ordinary in life), and she's a talented writer.  Go check it out.

14 June 2011

Preaching Through the Entire New Testament, Verse-by-Verse

This past week, John MacArthur did it.  He finished, after 42 years at it, preaching through the entire New Testament verse-by-verse.

Click this link and hear Dr. MacArthur talk about what it means to him.

09 June 2011

Why Don't We Know What the Gospel Is?

Last month, Dane Ortlund, an editor at Crossway Books, wrote this blog on 'Do We Need All These Books on the Gospel?'

Well, coming from an editor at a publisher of books, one would expect the answer to be, 'yes'.  After all, they sell those books at a profit, which is the reason the publisher is in business in the first place, right?  Right. 

But it's not that simple.

First, just because a book is published does not mean that it will sell. And if it doesn't sell, it costs the publisher much more than not having published it in the first place.  In other words, the books need a market that has a demand for that particular product.

Dane gives us the reasons why such a market with such demands exists.  I'd summarize his points like this-

  1. The gospel is of first importance.
  2. We default to law, not gospel.
  3. Our culture disputes what exactly the gospel is.
  4. The church is always one generation from losing the gospel.
  5. There are a lot of other books which distract us from or obscure the gospel.
  6. The gospel is the central message of the entire Bible.

Maybe you can roll point six into point one for brevity.  I like what he says in his second point best, because it hits home the hardest: 

"Because you’re going to roll out of bed tomorrow a functional Pharisee. The instincts beneath your instincts, the impulses way down deep inside you, are law, not gospel. A good night’s sleep, not a heretical sermon, is all it takes to forget the gospel of grace."

This whole thing is a good reminder of how so many contemporary churches and denominations have moved away from the centrality of the gospel toward a more 'practical' form of preaching and theology.  This is the result of our own innate humanism, even when we make it look like an application of our religious beliefs.

I like to look for 'keys' or 'fall-backs' when I teach.  I have used these for years in my secular calling (college professor) successfully, and I am finding them more-and-more useful in my Sunday School class lately.  As an example, most of us are familiar with the 'Sunday school answer' of Jesus to any question we don't know the answer.  This one is a bit silly, but the principle is valid.  In my adult SS class, I've started having the class members fall back on God's sovereignty when they are dealing with a difficult passage of scripture that is hard to understand and apply.

This innate humanism is a perfect example of what happens when we fall back on the wrong key.  Any theological disposition which has us (mankind) at the center will always fall back on some humanistic mis-interpretation of scripture, including the purpose of the gospel.  If we think the gospel is primarily about us getting to heaven, our theology will shift toward a humanistic interpretation of everything we find in scripture.  But if we keep God at the center of the gospel, we don't find ourselves slipping down the slippery slope of self-glorification.

I'll have more to say on this later.

06 June 2011


This video is worth watching, again. Remember when our country had a real president?

Sicka Cicadas

Apparently the whole cicada thing in Tennessee is much bigger than we desert-bound folks can appreciate.  I enjoyed this video of the phenomenon.