30 September 2011

Religion or Relationship?

I've often heard Christianity dichotomized into these two choices, with the right answer being, 'relationship' of course.  But that sentiment has always bothered me, particularly in light of James 1:26-7, and even 1 Tim 5:4 (and a few others, if you dig for them).

How about a tertium quid?*  Stephen Lutz posted this blog post over on the Gospel Coalition this morning, and it makes a lot of sense.  He says,

"Both religion and relationship capture helpful aspects of what 
Christianity is, but neither word is strong enough to fully encapsulate 
what Christianity is about. Only gospel can do that. The gospel alone is 
the power of salvation for all who believe (Romans 1:16); no amount of 
our religious observance or relational feeling has the power to save."

His blog is about college ministry, but this make sense for ministry at any level.  Chalk one more up for gospel centeredness.

* literally,  the 'third this'...Latin for third option

29 September 2011

A Funny Thumbnail

I was reading Dane Ortlund's blog this morning and found a funny irony.  Dane had posted a song clip.  You just have to see what I saw in Google Reader to get it-

You can see from the truncated title why it got my attention!

28 September 2011

Credit Where It Is Due

I erred in not giving credit in my last post as to where I first saw the Voca People video.  I saw it on the Sola Gratia blog (Pete Scribner).  What's worse, Pete is a fellow St. Louis Cardinals fan, and one shouldn't steal stuff from a fellow Cards fan...it's been a hard year.  But we are happy tonight!!

Sorry for stealing your stuff, Pete!

23 September 2011

Singing on the Brain

While the Christian group Acapella (and here) was doing some stuff like this 25 years ago, the Voca People have taken it to a whole new level (albeit not Christian).

Enjoy it while you try to figure out how they do it.

22 September 2011

Where's the Gospel in Hater Vids?

Stephen Furtick, a 'pastor' of a large culturally-relevant gathering called Elevation Church, posted this video a while back.  It's as full of, if not more full of, hate than anything said by those he accuses in the video.

Finally, Frank Turk posted this video response.  It is tremendous.  Watch it, even if you choose not to watch the first one by Furtick (which really isn't bad advice).

16 September 2011

Christian Love vs Self-Love

Recently, the bumbling buffoon Pat Robertson, who calls himself a pastor, but is rather more a pester than a pastor, made an idiotic remark that a man was justified in divorcing his wife after she became ill with alzheimer's disease, and he was lonely.

I agree with another blogger: this is a repudiation of the gospel of Christ.

In contrast, watch this video about a man who left his job to spend all of his time with his stricken wife.

If there's any divorce to happen, it needs to be the divorce between the church as a whole and Pat Robertson (and all the other prosperity-gospel nuts like him).

I made the following comment in my Sunday School lesson last Sunday:  "Barack Obama is not nearly the threat to the church in America as is Joel Osteen."  I thought there might be some disagreement (you see, Obama isn't very popular here in Texas).  There was none.  The first comment I heard was, "Amen.  Preach it."

Now I think I'd be almost as correct to go back and re-state the comment with Robertson's name in place of Osteen's.

15 September 2011

How a Low View of God's Sovereignty Results in Bad Theology

Many years ago, the church I was attending offered a Wednesday-evening 'Bible study' course called Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby.  At the time, I appreciated the opportunity to learn more about my faith and took the course.  Even then, in my immature state of faith, some of what the book taught seemed odd to me.  I couldn't put a finger on why, and certainly couldn't articulate the details of what was theologically amiss, but I know something didn't add up. 

Over the years, I've heard many good testimonies from people about the Experiencing God study, and I've not usually said much, good or bad, about the study.  But when asked my thoughts on it, I usually tried to steer people away.  Over time, I started to figure out some of the theological details that were amiss, but hadn't really developed a full big-picture view of why an otherwise orthodox believer such as Blackaby could come up with such illogical teachings.

I think I'm starting to understand why now.  I think the biggest problem is a view of God which makes him less than the sovereign God that he is.  It turns him from the creator of the universe into a little guy sitting on your shoulder whispering suggestions into your ear. I know that Blackaby would deny that he belittles God and would certainly not appreciate the caricature I just made, and like almost everyone who practices a low-view of God, would say that he holds God as sovereign.  But in practice, and as his books teach, he does not.

A recent pair of blog posts over on the Pyromanics blog has helped me put 2 and 2 together on this topic.  Here's the first post, and here's the second.  Dan Phillips spells out the details much better than I can, so read them both (especially if you've ever done the E-G study or were tempted to buy the book these are posted about).  Here's a quote from the second post summarizing the problem-

"After pro forma niceties about Scripture, the Blackabys assure Christians that what 
they really need for a dynamic, personal, God-pleasing relationship is not to be found 
there. They would send them on a lifelong rabbit chase for which Scripture can offer 
no guidance, because it envisions no such pursuit."

If you want a testimony to what kind of damage the Blackaby theology can cause, read this.

My guess is, there are thousands of other stories out there about how this kind of unbiblical thinking has steered people astray.

Our focus cannot be on experientialism. It must be on the study of God's word instead.  Our faith has a content; a focus.  That focus is Jesus Christ.  We cannot have faith in something ethereal.  We have faith in Christ, and we therefore must know something about the character and nature of Christ.  The only place we legitimately get that is from Holy Scripture.  Any other source of revelation can at best point toward Him; it cannot explain Him.  Many of these other sources will point elsewhere. 

They are like the 7'4", 320 lb. woman.  This is a photo that was circulated a few years ago on the internet.  It was photoshopped, of course, but this was before many people know about the abilities of editing software.  It fooled a lot of folks because it was just odd enough (and interesting enough) that they chose to believe it.  Now, there's no real harm (I suppose) in believing in seven-foot women.   But there is indeed real harm in believing bad theology.  R. C. Sproul spells it out very well in one of his Renewing Your Mind broadcasts- being mistaken in your theology is sin.

So be careful where you choose to get your theology.  Other than natural revelation, most everything else other than Scripture will look good, have some esoteric appeal, or be touted by a hot-shot celebrity, but will not be what it claims to be.   Of this we are explicitly warned in Scripture.

Rushing Through the Reading

Michael Kelley posted a caution on rushing through a one-year Bible reading plan (taken from Spurgeon and augmented).  I agree.  I tend to either rush to keep up, or skip taking the time I need to take to ask and answer questions and meditate on what I'm reading when I follow a one-year Bible reading plan.

For this reason, I came up with a 180-week (that's three-and-a-half years) Bible reading plan.  It moves slow enough I can stop to ask questions (and answer them) as needed.  If I knew how to attach a copy to this blog, I would.  As it is, I don't know how to do that, or how to upload the file to a web server and link to it. (Where's a teenager when you need one?)

Not knowing how to do this makes everything below an experiment with a high probability of (as my boys would say) an 'epic fail'.  But I'll try anyway.

If this works because I'm lucky, here are two files.  The first is a PDF file of a generic bible reading checklist.  The second is an MS Excel file of my 180-week reading plan.  (I like the Excel version the best for printing...it is easier to format to fit on a page.)

File 1- PDF generic Bible reading plan

File 2- MS Excel file- Time, Times, and Half a Time

I sure hope these work.  If the links don't work, send me a comment saying so, and I'll try plan B (when I think of what it might be).  If they do work, send me a comment saying so, and I'll try to remember how I did this the first time for the next time it happens.

08 September 2011

When Writing Seems Futile

I've been digesting quite a few of the bloggers' takes on the 10-year anniversary of the 9-11 attacks.  I've tried to think of something wise or useful to add to the discussion, but remembering back to what I was thinking on that day, I really don't think I have anything to say that would raise the bar for anybody.  It seems futile to try to make sense of the events even ten years later, at least in a communicable way that people can understand and appreciate.

If I can think of something beneficial to add, I'll post it Sunday.  If you don't see anything here, I couldn't.

07 September 2011

In My Seat

Here's a short video of a Pilot, Steve Schiebner, who was supposed to be flying AA Flight 11 on September 11, 2001.  Another pilot took his place.  Incredible story.

02 September 2011

Secularization as a Christian Heresy

“Secularization—that is, the gradual conformity of our thinking, beliefs, commitments, and practices to the pattern of this fading age—is not just something that happens to the church; it is something that happens in the church.  In fact, it’s difficult to think of secularism as anything other than a Christian heresy.” 

When I read Michael Horton, the going is usually slow, and every couple pages, I have to put the book in my lap, lean my head back, and think.  The above quote is from the introduction to his recent book, The Gospel Commission: Recovering God's Strategy for Making Disciples.

It shall be an interesting read.

01 September 2011

Wednesdays Were Pretty Normal

Here is a link to the book trailer (or click through below) for a new book coming out in few months by Canyon, TX native (and current Nashville resident) Michael Kelley.

The Kelley's two-year-old son Joshua was diagnosed with leukemia; this is the story of what it was like to live in and battle through those days, and how the grace of God was revealed to them in diverse ways through the process.

Michael has preached in my church on numerous occasions, and is the real deal...I can highly recommend this book even though I haven't seen a copy yet because I know Michael and know his strength of character and love for the Lord.

Run, don't walk, to get this book when it is available.