Thursday’s Thoughts…

1.  The 3650 Challenge

Before Christmas Tim Challies mentioned the 3650 Challenge by Professor Grant Horner of the Masters College English Dept.  In a nutshell, it’s a Bible-reading system where you read 10 chapters a day.  However, instead of reading consecutively through a book you are reading from 10 different sections of the Bible.  I will admit to struggling with consistency in my Bible reading.   I’d hear people talk about what they’re reading and I’d secretly wish I was in that part of the Bible instead of where I was.  This system meets that need for me and then some.

The following is a link describing the program and how it works, etc.

http://www.scribd.com/doc/12349985/Professor-Grant-Horners-Bible-Reading-System

Here’s Tim’s information about it.  He’s also created a FaceBook group to help folks keep on keepin’ on.

http://www.challies.com/christian-living/ten-chapters-per-day

2.  A Friend’s Take on Modern Hymnody

Brian Fuller, pastor of Trinity Baptist in Concord, NH explains to his church family how they decide what music to use in their service.   I especially love the Spurgeon quote.

3.   Turning 50

Well, this month I turned 50.  It really is just a number to me but it’s been lots of fun.  I’ve had 2 surprise parties and lots of other goodies.  My real goal is 52 and no heart surgery.  My dad had his first bypass surgery when he was 51 so I want to pass that number and then keep going.   I’m grateful to the Lord for all of His mercies to me.

Thursday’s Thoughts

1.  Do we really need to be bold about sex in the pulpit? or on the rooftop?

“The Bible’s refusal to reduce sex to physical acts is surely one of the reasons why it uses poetry to describe it.”  Carl Trueman’s thoughts on the current phenomenon of talking about sex from the pulpit, etc.

Ed Young sinks to new depths of pastoral immaturity with his latest stunt to encourage believers to enjoy sex.

2.  And you thought your name was bad/embarassing/strange, etc?

Whenever we see or hear a strange name I always pipe up and tell my girls “that name’s on the list.”  What list you ask?  The “Don’t Marry a Guy with That Kind of Last Name” list, of course.  There are few rules for the list; it’s mostly subjective.  Movie credits are always great places to find these kinds of names.  However, the news this week provided a prime example of a name that jumped to the top of  “the list.”  This one is so good (or bad) that I’ll leave it for you to click the link to enjoy it’s grand status at the top of the list.

3.  An encouraging article about “relevance” as it regards the church

I think the author of this article really hits it.

4.  JC Ryle’s advice on how to read the Bible

A great reminder from a famous 19th Century pastor that there should be purpose when we read our Bibles.

Thursday’s Thoughts

1.  Hymns are hip

http://www.holyrenaissance.com/Holy_Renaissance/Blog/Entries/2011/9/2_Hymns_are_actually_hip.html

2.  Andrew Murray on humility.

I’ve long had Murray’s Humility on my bookshelf.  I purchased it for myself because I was aware of my own needs but I’ve always struggled with Murray’s style–always felt like I was slogging through it and never really getting it.  Recently I found this book in audio format and downloaded it (free from BooksShouldBeFree.com).  Once on the iPod I began to listen to it in my car.  What was “slogging” in the book was very moving in audio.  I was very impressed with what (IMHO) was his very simple premise throughout the book–if I make much of Christ in my life, I will not make much of me.  Humility is simply keeping myself aware of Christ.  I’ve been trying to apply it in several ways:  1) I’m trying to read my Bible more.  It’s not always for study but just to help me keep my mind thinking Christ-like thoughts;  2) I’m reminding myself to pray more over little things.  I believe the more I express my dependence on Christ, the less inclined I will be to make myself the focus of events; 3) I’ve been trying to be more mindful of others.  By showing the love of Christ to others, I’m reminding myself about Him and His priorities.

3. OT Sacrifices-why if they didn’t DO anything?

A friend of mine recently asked about the OT sacrifices.  “Why go through all that if OT saints are saved the same way we are.  If the blood of animals didn’t have the power to pay for sin why do it?  What about people who didn’t sacrifice?

The short answer is that the OT sacrifices were expressions of faith, not just ritual reminders or blind obedience that earned salvation.  OT saints were saved just like us–by grace through faith.  However, they expressed their faith by offering the sacrifices.  Yes, they were instructive and anticipatory of Christ’s sacrifice but immediately they were steps of faith and obedience.  The blood didn’t DO anything, but their obedience in the costly blood sacrifice showed their faith in God.  Yes, some could be just going through the motions and not really expressing faith, but that’s not any different than what we see today in those who profess Christ but really place no faith in Him.  The same goes for those who didn’t sacrifice.  They were probably thinking that being an Israelite was good enough.  Today, we have those in Christian families, good churches, Christian schools, etc. who are just there but really never show any expressions of faith.  Like the Israelites who didn’t sacrifice they probably have no faith, just a form of it.  “Without faith it is impossible to please God” isn’t just a neat turn of phrase.  It’s a declaration that the ones who come to God MUST believe that He is (which makes them accountable to Him and His commands) and that He rewards those who seek Him, not those who merely add Him to their lives or culture.

Thursday’s Thoughts…

1.  John Piper and Rick Warren

Why, Why, Why???  Without belaboring this point too much I just have to wonder why Pastor John Piper feels the need to stick up for Rick Warren.  [Caveat–I am not saying that Rick Warren is an unbeliever.  PLEASE!!!  He’s given no reason to anyone for that conclusion.  We may not agree with his methods but let’s not go crazy here.  We don’t/can’t know his heart or motives (1 Cor. 2:11) so that’s not ground to tread on in any fashion.  His actions do not display the characteristics of an unbeliever (at least I’ve not heard anyone level that charge). ]

Dr. Piper’s recent interview with Rick Warren really didn’t answer any questions to anyone’s satisfaction.  Many of us are still concerned over his handling of Scripture and he said nothing to alleviate those concerns.  Many still question the benefits of the Purpose Driven Life culture being spawned.  As one writer brought out, the only person benefiting from Rick Warren getting endorsement by John Piper is Rick Warren.  He’s not bringing anything to the table for the groups with which Dr. Piper is associated.

I read the transcript and was trying to figure it out.  I wonder if this is just a case of Dr. Piper trying to be generous and gracious to someone who receives a great deal of criticism.  Piper knows what it feels like to be kicked around.  He got blasted for having a rapper “sing” at his church.  His recent leave of absence occasioned much ungenerous speculation, etc.  He may be just trying to be a good friend.

I have to admit that I look at it and just see another lapse in judgment with good intentions.

2. Birthday Month begins for the wife

If you don’t know our family very well you should know that we have at least one interesting tradition.  For the adults (meaning me and the wife) we celebrate “Birthday Month.”  This means we give cards, gifts, etc. all of the celebratory month instead of trying to cram everything into one day.  Of course, we have the obligatory party on “the day” but having birthday month allows us to do lots of things all month long.  It really is a lot of fun.  It can be just a candy bar or a drink, a hand-made card or a note on the mirror.  We try to do things like this all the time but Birthday Month is a concentrated effort.  The kids complain because they want the same treatment, but alas it is not to be.  I’ve told them that when they have their own homes, families, then they can have a birthday month as well.  For now, they get a day, maybe a weekend tops.  They will leave me one day, my wife is in it for the long haul.  Who do you think I’m really going to try to please????

BTW, No, I am not using this post as a revelation for the age of my darlin’ wife.  Simply put, she’s old enough to know better and yet she has stuck it out with me for over 22 years.  She’s an amazing woman!!!

3.  Every Sunday is Memorial Day

As we sailed through the end of May and I was looking forward to vacation I jotted down this note:  Every Sunday is Memorial Day.   As believers we gather to worship God and to memorialize the resurrection of Jesus.  He died to purchase our eternal salvation and each Sunday our gathering is testament to that.

4.  Patriotism and the Gospel

There are some things that hurt to do but really are necessary for the Gospel.  One of these things has been not making a big deal of patriotic holidays at church.  We do it so subtly or so naturally that I don’t think we realize the possible consequences.  Please understand–I love my country.  My father was career military.  My best friend in the world (who is not my wife) is an Army chaplain.  I’ve worn the uniform and lived the culture.  We fly the flag at our home.  However, church transcends patriotism and nationalism.  I hated to do it but I had to ask our secretary (an Army vet) not to put out flags around Memorial Day.  We’ll observe the same at July 4th.  As a staff we’ve discussed this and concluded that we don’t want to communicate that you’ve got to be “American” to be Christian.  As a church we should welcome anyone from any nationality and the moment we are perceived to place USA and Christ on the same level we’ve lost our opportunity to minister.

Many of us are careful not to be the “abortion” church or the “KJV only” church.  Do we remember that we also are not the “USA first” church as well?

Thursday’s Thoughts…

1.  Much of the NT is a collection of forgeries.

Bart Ehrman’s book, Forged, makes this sensational claim.  Story here.  Unbelievers have been making these kinds of claims for a long time.  Ehrman is the current mainstream denier of Christianity.  I’ve been to one of his debates and he seems like a nice enough guy.   It’s amazing that he’s considered a Bible teacher in secular circles even though he’s a Bible denier.

2.  Egbert’s Explanation

Harold Camping (middle name Egbert) just can’t stop himself.  First, he predicts a 1994 rapture, then OOPS, it’s 1995.  Then it was last weekend.  Now we find that the “judgment” occurred over the weekend but it was a “spiritual” judgment (see this WAPO article).   The poor man just can’t stop himself.  He says he was right about what happened even though he was wrong about what happened.  There was no Rapture on May 21st so he was wrong.  He said the “judgment” was to be 5-6 months later, not a spiritual judgment that happened on May 21st.  Now we’re supposed to point to October for the annihilation of the world.  Of course, when questioned about his finances he said he was keeping his stuff since he’d need a place and stuff up until the end.

I’m going out on a limb here to say that this man might once have been a Gospel preacher/teacher.  I’ve heard his name over the years but never remembered the context.  Here’s my observation and I hope it doesn’t sound too “snooty” or arrogant.  What we have in Harold Camping is a man with no formal Bible education, no training in the languages, and an incredible lack of spiritual maturity.  I’m not saying he’s not smart.  You must be intelligent to become a licensed civil engineer (my wonderful, godly father-in-law was a civil engineer).  However, this man doesn’t respect the Scriptures enough to take them for what they say in their own context.  He had to find some novel way of calculating time that no one else has ever figured out to KNOW something that Jesus Himself said that no human being can know.

What’s really interesting is how he’s actually receiving “kid glove” treatment because of his age.  I get that he’s 89 and physically feeble but it would appear that his mind is pretty good considering how he’s danced around all the questions put to him.  Plus, let’s not forget that he was a spry 72 when his 1994 prediction was also proved to be false.  Harold Camping is a false prophet.  He should be denounced and called to repentance.  It’s a free country and no one can stop him from broadcasting, taking donations, etc.  BUT, the Christian community should call him what he is and deal with him accordingly.  He has brought reproach on the name of Christ.  No, the attention now being given to the Rapture does not justify his actions.  If more of us lived and walked according to the Gospel, the name of Christ would get all of the good publicity that it should have.

Believers should REPAY their parents

At one time or another, most of us have “borrowed” money from our parents.  The loan may have been the proverbial advance on the allowance or a promise to do extra chores in return for extra cash, but most of us at least tried to get a little extra at some point.  And, if you are like most kids, you never repaid any of those debts.

In I Timothy 5:4, Paul tells Timothy “children… [should] requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God.”  “Requite” literally means “to repay, recompense, or render back.”  In other words, adult children have a responsibility to care for their parents in their times of need.  Specifically here, Timothy was to instruct children to care for their mothers who were widowed instead of shoving the responsibility on the church.

In Paul’s day, a widowed woman would have been destitute or close to it.  In most ancient societies, no husband also meant no income, no food, and a very bad (and short) outlook on life.  If members of the extended family did not take the widow under their care she was helpless.

The issue of widows must have been a hot topic since Paul devotes more than 10 verses to clarify the matter and give Timothy some parameters within which to operate.  The church did have a benevolence responsibility to true widows; however, the first line of defense for these women was to be their own families and specifically, their own children.

For believers today this is an interesting topic.  Life spans have increased.  You have 70-year-old children with 90-year-old parents and their 50-year-old grandchildren/children are trying to figure out how to care for both groups.  What does “repay” look like for those of us in these demographics?  How do we balance the “repaying” while caring for our own families?

The first thing to remember is that inactivity is not an option.  The principle in Paul’s command is unwavering.  You are responsible to do something, or at least try to do something.  Even if you don’t have Christian parents you still need to do this “repaying.”  When your parents are in need, you need to find a way to help.  Financially, you may not be able to do much but it’s your responsibility to try.

Government programs and assistance for retirees can certainly be helpful and there may be more help available than you realize.  You may need to take some time to explore benefits and eligibility requirements.  Don’t be shy about looking for assistance.  Your parents/grandparents probably worked all their lives and contributed (paid taxes into) to these programs.

Have you considered helping them pay for long-term care insurance?  No one likes the idea of a nursing home but your parent’s physical needs may be beyond your abilities.  Skilled care may be the only solution and there is insurance to help pay for that eventuality.  You also may need to consider moving a parent in with you so that you can care for them in a loving environment.  An apartment added to your home may be less expensive than paying for assisted care at a professional facility.  If they don’t need help now they may later.  You really need to start thinking about it before the situation is emotionally charged by severe illness or urgency.

In the meantime, how are you “repaying” them right now?  Are you faithful to call your parents?  Little things like cards on birthdays and holidays make a big impact.  Do you visit and make sure they know their grandchildren?  If they can handle a computer you can email or Skype them.  If they are local you can help with home maintenance.  These are practical ways to “honor your parents” and, as Paul says, this is “good and acceptable before God.”

Our parents are our responsibility. 

BTW, one word of advice to parents reading this…

Thursday’s Thoughts…

1.  The death of Osama Bin Laden and hypocrisy

When or why did everyone decide it’s not OK to rejoice at the death of a mass murderer and enemy?  After he’s dead NOW we’re concerned for his soul?  Really?  He was a wicked unbeliever who hated God.  God gave him space to repent and he rejected that offer.  He’s been on the run for 10 years.  I’m sure he knew he was being hunted.  I’m also sure that God was at work in his life convicting him of his need.  Now, we see folks quote the phrases from Ezekiel where God says, “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked.”  In both those contexts God is using the threat of judgment at the end of life as the impetus for the sinner to “turn and live.” (Ezek. 33)  I have no information to believe that he turned to God and for that I am sad.  However, God’s “no pleasure” is not directed at the judgment–it was righteous and ordained. (Jude 4 tells us that condemnation is the God-determined result of rejection.)  God’s “no pleasure” is at the lost opportunity for repentance.  But since God determines the end of those opportunities, He knows what is best.  Those who are rejoicing that the temporal part of God’s judgment that has fallen upon Osama are not horribly unspiritual people.  They are rejoicing that a leader of mass murderers has been removed.  We can safely rejoice in whatever additional measure of safety has been procured.  I don’t know anyone who’s actually rejoicing that this man might be in Hell for all eternity.  I am very surprised to find so many soul-conscious people all of a sudden.

2.  Thoughts from Obadiah

I’ve been studying through Obadiah in preparation for a sermon and have really been challenged by the deceptive nature of pride.  Pride clouds our minds and keeps us from seeing the real dangers around us.  Self-focus sets us in direct opposition to God.  The worst part of the deception is that the law of sowing and reaping comes into play.  “As you have done,… it shall be done unto you.” (verse 15).  I realize that every action has consequences but God makes a strong point to tell the Edomites that their prideful actions (based on old bitter grudges) will come back to get them and they don’t even see the trap.  On a humorous note, it reminded me of an old ditty I remember and found on YouTube

3.  PCUSA now approving ordination for homosexuals

I’m always on the lookout for information about ordination to the ministry.  It’s the subject of my dissertation (otherwise known as “That which is always on my mind” or “that weight I am ready to lose”).  The NY Times released this story yesterday about the change.  One of those interviewed said they’ve been discussing this issue for 33 years.  Seriously???  If it wasn’t right back then (33 years ago) what has changed?  Sad to say, the only change is people and their perception of the Word of God.  New hermeneutical models and “open-mindedness” have brought about this change.  To be fair, it really was only a matter of time before they made this change.  They have already chosen to ordain women which the Bible does not teach.  If women can be ordained, why not homosexuals?  They are seeking to be consistent because the one definitely leads to the other.

4.  Misquoting the Bible

I remember in college a freshman came to me and asked about a Bible challenge he was preparing.  He knew I was taking Hebrew and wanted my opinion.  According to Psalm 53:1 “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.'”  He noticed that in the KJV the phrase “there is” was in italics which meant that the word was supplied rather than being in the mss. text.  He wanted to know if it was OK to say that by taking out that phrase the text really meant the fool was saying NO to God instead of denying God’s existence.  I explained that the Hebrew text used a particle that communicated non-existence but since they had to express the meaning in a phrase they italicized the words they added.  Since the text was translated accurately, even with the supplied words, I told him that he was going down the wrong trail.  Unfortunately, he went there anyway.  That story came back to my mind when I read this story.  Talk about finding something that’s not in the text…

Thursday’s Thoughts…

1.  Euthanasia–“the ultimate right of the 21st century”????

A recent advertising campaign in Boston has labeled physician-assisted suicide as the ultimate right of the 21st century.   The backers of this campaign, the Final Exit Network, say that they aren’t encouraging anyone to end their life but that they “support them when medical circumstances warrant their decision.”

2.  Palace Guards

Ever wonder about those funny-looking hats worn by the guards at Buckingham Palace.  Here’s the explanation.  Like most things in England, there’s a history behind the hats….

3.  Rob Bell

This thing gets worse the more Bell gives interviews.  He gave an interview on NPR (here) in which he refers to “hells on earth,” says he’s in the tradition of C. S. Lewis and Billy Graham in his position, and says that he is trying to recapture the historic good news that God loves everybody and Jesus came to announce that love–“the pure beautiful message.”  He likens anyone who disagrees with him to the Pharisees who were the established religion that Jesus stood against.  A God who punishes people in hell isn’t a god he wants to trust.  He’s gone beyond being misunderstood to being too plain for mistake.

4.  “Repaying” your parents

Many of us now find ourselves in a position of giving care to our parents and grandparents.  This is one of the most noble deeds a believer can perform.  Paul tells Timothy in 1 Tim. 5:4 that adult children giving this kind of care is “good and acceptable before God.”  He’s referring specifically to widowed mothers and grandmothers but nowadays, with longer life spans, this would apply to our own aged parents whether or not they are widowed.  The word Paul uses, “requite,” literally means “to pay back.”  I’m sure some would say their parents never did anything for them (and they might be right) but Paul doesn’t say that we only “pay back” good parents.  Who would be the arbiter of what “good” is if there’s a dispute?  That sounds strangely like the Pharisaical practice of Corban which Jesus blew away in Matthew 7.  Believers should never be accused of disregarding their families.   It’s in this context that Paul says someone who won’t provide for his own has denied the faith and is worse than an infidel.  [It surely applies to a man who won’t work but the judgment in the text is pronounced on children who won’t care for their parents and grandparents.]  This probably means we need to do some advanced planning with our parents if they’ll allow it.  More on this topic in a full post.

Thursday’s Thoughts That Interest Me…

1.   The Passing of Jona Torres

Jona was a student at Bob Jones Academy where my daughters attend/ed high school.  He died this morning after several years of battling cancer.   He was a very kind, outgoing guy with a ready smile.  During these last few months his cancer began to cause him a lot of pain and it was during these times that his testimony to the grace of our Lord really stood out.  He bore the difficulties with a settled faith in Christ and sought to encourage others.  He attended classes in between treatments and I never heard anyone say that he sought anyone’s pity or attention.  He was faithful unto death and he has now received his crown of life.  My girls’ opinions of their friends have normally been spot on.  Both of them always spoke well of Jona.  I’m grateful that he was a good testimony to my children.

2.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer

I have to admit that I don’t understand the recent fascination with Bonhoeffer.  I believe it’s mainly due to his emphasis on not being religious but instead living out Christianity in the world as part of the world and not being cloistered away from the world.  “Missional” is the buzzword of the day and many might consider that Bonhoeffer was calling for a missional perspective to the world.  Believers certainly need to keep their focus outward as they serve Christ instead of developing any kind of “ivory tower” mentality.

I guess my concern is that Bonhoeffer’s theology is muddled at best and neo-orthodox to liberal at worst.  Though not a full-blown disciple of Barth he was influenced by Barth’s theology.  His involvement in the plot to assassinate Hitler, while laudable politically, isn’t exactly the behavior I’d want from my pastor.  He was imprisoned for his connection with the German resistance movement against Hitler.   Hitler later ordered his death when documents proved that he was complicit in the assassination plot against Hitler.  I don’t want to sound revisionist but that’s not martyrdom, it’s dying as a political prisoner who happened to be a Christian and who wrote letters while in prison.  As a martyr he makes good reading, but I have real reservations about lifting him up as a wonderful theologian and role model.  John Bunyan he was not.

3.  The Hobbit movie

I was very excited to hear that shooting has begun on the Hobbit movie being directed by Peter Jackson.  There’s even a 10 minute video out giving you a walk around some of the sets and showing how production began down in NZ.  I know it’s still a couple of years away from being done but I’m sure it will be worth the wait.

4.  Reading List

I was excited as I began to compile my list of books to read this year.  The problem is I keep finding more to read.  I’ll try to give reviews  of some as I complete them.  Some of the books still on my list for this year are Well-Driven Nails by Yawn, Is God a Moral Monster? by Copan, Preaching by Miller, The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment by Challies, and From Eden to the New Jerusalem by Alexander.  Others are on the list and not all are ministry minded.  I’ve already made my way thru a few other books already this year.  I’ve updated my Goodreads site to reflect what I’ve read so far.