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Archive for April, 2008

Just Wondering

Did Jesus ever ask, “What Would I Do?”

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A group of us from school went to see Ben Stein’s documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed on Monday. It’s an excellent movie and I highly recommend you see it (and take some people with you).

The movie is a documentary-style investigation into the systematic persecution and banishing of anyone who dares to support or even say a kind word about Intelligent Design (a strong challenge to the accepted and politically correct view in the scientific community – naturalistic Darwinism) by those in the media, academy, and even the government.
Expelled is fair in it’s presentation, unlike Michael Moore’s practice of ambushing the subjects of his interviews. It raises awareness about a problem Stein sees as serious (I agree) and issues a call to action at the end. The call to action featured a nice touch (and a nostalgic one) when Ben asked, “Anyone? Anyone?” That, of course, is a flashback to his role as an Economics teacher in the move Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. 

Richard Dawkins, one of the atheists interviewed, got under my skin. I found myself wanting to yell at the screen that I thought his line of argumentation was a complete pile of garbage. At least he was honest – I’ll give him that. It was fascinating, though, when Stein asked several questions of Dawkins that moved him from total certainty that God does not exist to possibly about half certain. Dawkins also admitted that he thought life on earth began because a more advanced and intelligent (!) alien civilization “seeded” it upon earth. It takes a lot more faith to believe that than it does to believe Genesis 1:1. Dawkins is a fool (see Psalm 14:1 and 53:1).
It seems clear that the science establishment has changed the definition and practice of science. Naturalistic Darwinism is the only answer one may come to – nothing else is allowed. That’s not science, it’s propaganda and indoctrination. It’s as if you can come up with any answer you want regarding the origin of man and the universe, except one (that God had anything to do with it). That’s like a police department investigating a murder and being told by the District Attorney, “Arrest the person the evidence points to, except not if it’s the Sheriff’s son.” Ridiculous!
Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed probably won’t win any awards, is not a romantic love story, doesn’t have a car chase, and doesn’t have special effects that will knock your socks off, but you still ought to see it. As one interviewee says, this is a worldview issue and the stakes are high.

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Luke 16:10 just hit me right square in the forehead. After I had answered a phone call from a guest about the time of our continental breakfast, I was hit with the realization that I need to answer every call the way I just had – with politely and pleasantly.

I remembered what Jesus said, “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.”

I’ve referred to that verse several times in my Bible classes this year, but it didn’t strike me the way it did last night.
To be honest, I see my job at the hotel as “a very little thing” – something not all that significant, a means to the end of a paycheck. But if God is to entrust me with more, I need to be faithful in the “very little thing.”
I understood that concept before last night, but the Lord brought it to my mind suddenly and made its application very clear.
May I be faithful in the “very little thing” and trust God for the “much.”

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That’s what yesterday was. I dealt with a loud, hostile, and verbally abusive man for nearly 45 minutes at the hotel. He was not a guest and I had to call the police to have him removed. To top the night off, my truck was broken into sometime during the night. I spent the whole day getting it taken care of and missing a day of school in the process.

The past 15 months have been hard – very hard. Right now, God’s providence is mainly dark, but there are several bright rays of light – school, a marriage that’s still intact and good, friends, and a good church.

Life is hard and God is good. They’re both true, but the second one seems hard to see sometimes (in all honesty). Although I don’t believe it’s true, I understand how some may think that difficult times are a punishment from God.

Faithfulness to God is required of us, but it’s never easy. Pray for us.

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My pastor recently preached a sermon in which he brought up a good application in an unusual way. He asked, “Are there any bullets in your gun?”

Here’s what he was talking about: All of us face various temptations every day (usually lots of them!). How we handle them is very important. We shouldn’t be like Mae West who made the famous, or infamous remark, “Whenever I’m tempted, I give in.” We should, on the other hand, have ammunition. We should have bullets in our gun.
Psalm 119:11 says, “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.”

Jesus exemplified that verse and having bullets in your gun when He resisted Satan’s temptations after He had fasted for forty days in the wilderness. He answered all of the evil one’s attempts with Scripture – the Word of God. He treasured His word in His heart so that He did not sin, and treasured it so much that He could quote it even while under pressure.
We should do the same. When we’re tempted to sin against God in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, quoting memorized Scripture is a whole lot better than throwing a Bible across the room and saying, “I know it’s in there somewhere!”
Here are some practical examples: 
If you are tempted to sin by the things you look at, Psalm 119:37 is your bullet – “Turn away my eyes from every worthless thing, and revive me in your ways.”

If too much chocolate cake (or anything else in which you might overindulge) is tempting, Galatians 5:23 is your bullet – “But the fruit of the Spirit is…self-control.”

Wives may need this piece of ammunition – “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord” (Colossians 3:18).
Husbands may need this one – “Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them” – when they’re tempted to get bitter with them (Colossians 3:19).
When a bad attitude begins to creep in, Philippians 2:14 may be the needed piece of ammunition – “Do all things without grumbling or disputing (or complaining).”
The biggest bullet, or most effective one in my opinion, may be Romans 8:28. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” is useful when we’re tempted to think God isn’t at work, or if He is that He doesn’t know what He’s doing.
These are just some of the ammunition we have at our disposal as God’s children. Don’t be like Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show – who had a gun, but the bullet was in his pocket, and then only one. Have a full arsenal of ammunition and some bullets in your gun!

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The other day I read a verse again for the first time. I’ve come across it before, but this time it jumped out at me.

Ecclesiastes 7:14 says, “In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: surely God has appointed (ordained, created, or made) the one as well as the other, so that man can find out nothing that will come after him.”

Solomon explains (Proverbs-style) in chapter 7 what he has learned from adversity. It’s proverbial in that he provides general truths about life in concise, memorable statements. And it’s based more on life in the “minor key” – death, suffering, and pain rather than success and prosperity.

It seems that Solomon has summarized our response to all of life (or, at least what it should be). When things are good, we can be joyful and thank God for the blessings. When things are bad, we should consider.

Consider what?

We consider, or reflect upon, the sovereignty of God (“surely God has appointed the one as well as the other”). God rules and reigns in His universe. He ordains the good and the bad. “But out God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases” (Psa. 115:3).

We consider the goodness of God. “Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! His mercy endures forever” (Psa. 136:1). Everything God is and does is good. We can trust Him in both the good and the bad times.

We consider the love of God because He loves His children and delights in us far more than we could ever imagine. Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:17b-19a is “that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height – to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge.”

No matter what the circumstances – good or bad – a sovereign, good, and loving God has ordained them for my good and His glory.

God used that verse to encourage me recently – praise Him! Maybe I’ll use it in a future sermon.

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The reformation21 blog has posted a great video called “The Gospel in Six Minutes” featuring Pastor John Piper. You can check it out here.

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How can we build deep relationships with one another if we’re fixated on a “microwave” lifestyle? It’s extremely hard if not impossible. But we can take steps in that direction, writes Shawn Young. Her article “The Lost Art of Lingering” is well worth a few minutes to read and get us thinking. You can read it here.

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The Seattle Public Schools is arranging to take students, by bus, to hear the Dalai Lama speak this Monday at Key Arena at a “Seeds of Compassion” event.

The Dalai Lama, by the way, is the leader of a religion – Tibetan Buddhism – that has adherents all over the world. He’s also considered the leader of the nation of Tibet.

Using taxpayer money to transport students to an event that will obviously have religious overtones isn’t a good idea. At least it shouldn’t be if they (the Seattle Public Schools) want to be consistent. Would they ever consider taking the kids to see Pope Benedict XVI? We know what the answer would be – it’s rhetorical.
We know they wouldn’t.

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It’s been a while, but I’m getting back to blogging “The Gospel and Personal Evangelism” by Mark Dever. If you’ve read the other posts, you know I think it’s a great little book.

Chapter 5 is entitled, “What Isn’t Evangelism” (emphasis is the author’s, not mine). Dever states that many of us have mistaken ideas about what constitutes evangelism. I think we tend to put all sorts of things into a category called “evangelism,” and it’s not always a good thing – especially when the Bible calls it something else.

According to Dever, evangelism is not imposition. When we evangelize, we’re not imposing, or forcing, our beliefs upon anyone (although it may seem that way at times). Dever says, “In biblical evangelism, we don’t impose anything. In fact, we really can’t. According to the Bible, evangelism is simply telling the good news. It’s not making sure that the other person responds to it correctly” (p. 70). I’ve heard it put by someone else that we, as Christians, don’t impose, we propose. That’s a good distinction.

Evangelism is not personal testimony, according to Dever. What God has done in our lives contributes to evangelism and certainly adds a personal element, but it is not the Gospel. The core of the Gospel is the perfect life, sacrificial death, and victorious resurrection of Jesus Christ on our behalf – in our place. Testimonies can be very powerful, but in the process of telling them, we may not accurately or adequately explain who Jesus is or what He’s done in time and history. I don’t know how many people I’ve heard say something like, “Just give them (the unbeliever) your testimony – they can’t argue with that. Keep doctrine out of it.” People need to now what God has done in our life, but when we tell them we can’t confuse it with proclaiming the Gospel. The Gospel “is the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16); my testimony is not.

According to Dever, evangelism is not social action and public involvement. Social action and public involvement commend the Gospel but they do not communicate the Gospel. We should be involved publicly and politically as Christians, an issue which I think is a settled one. There are obviously many, many problems in our fallen and sinful world and they all deserve our attention. However, we can never confuse anti-abortion activism, for example, with a clear proclamation of the good news of Jesus Christ. “Preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15) does not mean, “Clean up the environment,” or “stop drinking and smoking,” or even “stop human sex trafficking.” By themselves, these causes are not equivalent to the life-changing gospel of Jesus Christ.

Apologetics is not evangelism. We’re commanded to “be ready to give an answer for everyone who asks about the hope” we have (1 Pet. 3:15). We should be able to define and defend what we believe and why we believe it. Defending the faith is crucial to the church. Having said that, though, apologetics is not the same thing as evangelism because it may or may not include a clear presentation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In other words, we can explain to someone the many reasons to believe that Jesus was actually and literally raised from the dead, but never mention why He did, why it’s important, or what the best response to it is. Apologetics is very useful and helpful – it commends the gospel – but it isn’t evangelism.

Evangelism is not the results of evangelism. The best result of evangelism is the conversion of someone from death to life, from darkness to light, from self and Satan to the Lord Jesus Christ. Evangelism is not simply “seeing others converted.” Dever adds to this misunderstanding by saying that it leads to another misunderstanding of evangelism – namely, that it is within our power to convert someone. That leads to a mistaken focus on results by many churches and ministries, which can easily lead to manipulation and pressure. Evangelism is proclaiming the goood news of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, trusting God for the results.

So, says Dever, once we understand what evangelism actually is – and we’ve done it – what do we do next? That’s in chapter 6.

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