Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Led To The Slaughterhouse

I am reading Tempted and Tried by Russell D. Moore. There are many things that are going through my mind as I read this book. For one, he is a great writer. For another, he is very insightful. It is almost like he knows what I am going through. I suppose that is the case because he has experienced temptation himself. Either way, it has been a really good book so far. I will give a full review later, but here are a couple quotes that impacted me (actually, scared me to death!).
"The demonic powers not only will give us what we crave, but they will assist us in covering it over, for a little while. That's precisely the irony. Often you are fueled on from one temptation to the other because you haven't been caught. This gives you an illusion of a cocoon protecting you from justice. The powers, though, don't want you to get caught--not ye, not this early in the march to the slaughterhouse. They don't have a mere seventy or eighty years to live. They are ancient and patient and quite willing to wait until your downfall will bring with it the most catastrophic consequences--for you, for your family, for the kingdom of God, and to the image of Christ you carry. So they'll help you cover it all up, and then they'll expose you--mercilessly. You'll never see it coming around the bend." (57)
Then this . . .
"The issue isn't whether you're tempted, but whether you're aware of it and striking back. You are on the verge of wrecking your life. We all are. Forces are afoot right now, negotiating how to get you fat enough for consumption and how to get you calmly and without struggle to the cosmic slaughterhouse floor. The easiest life for you will be one in which you don't question these things, a life in which you simply do what seems natural. The ease of it all will seem to be further confirmation that this is the way things ought to be. It might even seem as though everything is happening exactly as you always hoped it would. you might feel as though your life situation is like progressing up a stairway so perfect it's as though it was designed just for you. And it is. In many ways the more tranquil you feel, the more endangered you are. As you find yourself curving around the soft corners of your life, maybe you should question the quietness of it all. Perhaps you should listen, beneath your feet, for the gentle clatter of hooves." (59)

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Morning After: Our Values, pt. 2

It is often easy to say that you are something that you are not. It is easy to believe that you are better than what you really are. I am in the middle of a series at our church, Investigating Cornerstone, where our intent is to look at and articulate exactly the type of church we think we are and where we would like to go. In this process, one of my prayers is that we would have a clear view of the real Cornerstone. Last week, I shared the first four Core Values of our church. Then yesterday, I shared the remaining five. These are the things that represent our church. 

Core Value #5: Community
One of the major implications of being created in the image of God is that we long for relationships. When God created Adam, He placed him in the garden to name the animals. After a long progression of weird animals came before him, he probably realized there was no one that was like him. In fact, God said that it was not good for man to be alone. So God created woman. Yes, it was in the context of marriage that man now found companionship, but there is a higher principle. Now there was another human that he could interact with on a regular basis.

The interaction of people, being involved in each other's lives is seen all throughout the OT, but is magnified when the church is started in Acts 2. They met every day and had all things in common (2:42-47). Their hearts were unified in Jesus Christ and they longed to be with each other. Our desire is to have a church that longs to be with each other, to live in community with each other.

Core Value #6: Prayer
Prayer is so extremely important because when we pray we are showing our dependence upon the Lord. We are expressing a heart that acknowledges that unless God does something, we are hopeless. When we pray, we are saying that we cannot do this thing on our own. By the power of the Spirit, through the person of Jesus Christ, we approach our Father begging, pleading, petitioning, and requesting that He do something in our midst.

Core Value #7: Compassion
A real love for Jesus will move us to compassionately love any person in need. That is the point of the account of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). It forces us to wrestle with whether our Christianity is theoretical or actual. Is it only in our minds or does it make a difference in our heart? As I think about a church that is compassionate to those inside and outside their church, I often think of one question: If our church did not exist, would our community miss it? That's a tough question.

Core Value #8: Authenticity
We want to be real. We want to be a place where people can be real. We believe the Christian life is most effectively lived when people are genuine. Of course, the opposite of authentic is fake. Pretending. Putting on a show on the outside so that everyone is impressed with us. That is exactly what Jesus condemns the Pharisees for in Matthew 23. We hope our church is a place where it is okay to struggle. Not content to struggle, but okay to admit because we firmly believe that every person struggles. Everyone!

Core Value #9: Spiritual Gifts
We are committed to helping people identify, develop and use their God-given gifts for the edification of the church body. Every Christian has been given a spiritual gift. We want them to know how best they fit in the body of Christ and then get busy actively using that gift.

If you want to listen to the entire sermon, you can find it HERE. Next week, we will be talking about Church Membership. If you are local and want to find out more about it, please feel welcome to visit us at 10:15 am at Cardinal Middle School in Middlefield, Ohio. We look forward to seeing you and meeting you.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Sex, Marriage, & Fairytales by Jefferson Bethke

Just a few weeks ago, there was a video that blew up the web by Jefferson Bethke explaining why he hates religion but loves Jesus. That video has had more than 17 million hits in the last 20 days. Pretty phenomenal. Yesterday, he uploaded a new poem that he has written on the topic of Sex, Marriage, and Fairytales. Very intersting. What do you think?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

My Thoughts On The Elephant Room, Round 2

Yesterday I attended the Elephant Room, a round table discussion by seven pastors from around the country from different theological backgrounds and philosophical beliefs. I shared yesterday what I was hoping to get out of it, but today I want to share what I did get out of it.

The day was organized around 7 different conversations, with a moderator and two participants. After they received a chance to talk about the chosen topic, the remaining four participants could briefly give their feedback. The forum made for some interesting conversation and some thoughtful advice for pastors.

My Favorite Conversation
The one that spoke to me the most was Conversation 3: A Hard Day's Night (click on the link for a live blog of that session), which was moderated by Mark Driscoll and had Wayne Cordeiro & James MacDonald speaking. Maybe it is just where I am in my life at this point with a new position at church, going through a building project, young kids, a new house; but I often feel the pressure of ministry more than I should. When I read Cordeiro's book, Leading on Empty, I saw myself in several years. I saw where I will be going if I don't think about caring for my own soul and life.

I found Cordeiro so kind and gracious as he instructed everyone on how to care for your own soul and your own family. One thing that I remember him saying in his book is that nobody in your church is going to fight for your family. The pastor has to do that alone. And in many ways, the pastor that is going through things and is struggling feels trapped. How can they share they are struggling and still expect people to follow them?

I do not write as someone who is burned out or feels trapped. But I see that in the future as a very real possibility. One of the keys they said is asking or inviting other men to speak into your life. That's hard, takes humility, but I see the importance.

The Most Disappointing Conversation
This probably will not surprise anyone, but as I have reflected for several hours, I sort of feel like Driscoll and MacDonald punted on the theological issues with T.D. Jakes. Now, let me say something about Jakes before I share my concerns. This was the first time I have heard him speak in any way (but I have read some things he has written and been quoted as saying). The dude has some incredible insights and is very articulate. But in Session 2: Ticket to Ride, Jakes was asked by Driscoll a series of questions:
"Do you believe the Bible is the perfect, infallible Word of God? Do you believe God is Three Persons? Jesus is fully God and fully Man? He died on the cross for our sins? He rose from the dead? He is coming again? Apart from Jesus there is no salvation?
To each of these, Jakes responds, "Absolutely." This was my fear going into the Elephant Room and this is why I was left feeling empty. For someone who has taken a Modalistic view of the Trinity (That God has manifested himself consecutively over time, but not simultaneously at the same time), to simply answer in the affirmative is not quite enough. I wish Driscoll or MacDonald would have pushed him by bringing up some things he has said in the past that contradict his affirmation. I left confused as to which team Jakes is really playing on. I just hope and trust that those men would have had more detailed conversations behind the scenes with Jakes on this issue. And if they did, why didn't they have them publicly. After all, isn't that the point of the Elephant Room?

In addition, the larger elephant in the room is his view on the prosperity gospel which was never mentioned at all.

My Favorite Participant
I remember being a college student at Moody Bible Institute when Crawford Loritts came for a missions conference. From that moment, he became one of my favorite preachers to listen to. I even had an opportunity to take a preaching class from him in seminary. I was once again reminded why I appreciate this guy so much. Every time he opened his mouth, his words were dripping with wise counsel. I would love to have 30 minutes of his time. For instance, in the conversation I mentioned as my favorite, he gave these wise words of counsel to everyone:
I think some of us who mentor younger leaders are partly complicit in this trajectory. Everyone focuses on conference about leadership development, when we need to focus more time on leader development. We need godly brokenness and a focus on our forever need for the Lord. That's been my salvation. My identity is not my ministry. There needs to be a profound simplicity in terms of how we approach these things. God hasn't been using me because I know how to plan and strategize. Stop looking in the mirror and singing, 'How Great Thou Art!' God has been using crooked sticks for years. Younger leaders get on a treadmill of performance, when the truth of the matter is, God breathed on us. Gifts are oversold. It's what He uses. They are not our value. They're like Moses' staff. Stop separating your relationship with God from what you do. Lead with that instead, and that's when the Holy Spirit speaks to our hearts and helps us listen.
The Overall Theme
I would say that there is one thing that I took away from this was to stop stereotyping people by their denominations, but engage them in conversation. I think the way I was trained in ministry has shaped me to be skeptical of everyone until they prove themselves to me, particularly other pastors. When maybe I should be more positive about them and their ministry until I see things that show they do not hold to a biblical gospel.

Will I attend if there is another one? Yea, maybe. I think it raised many questions, but offered little answers. But that is okay. Sometimes I need to work it out with those I work closest with in the confines of ministry.

I would be curious: (1) If You Attended, What Was Your Favorite & Least-Favorite; (2) If You Didn't Attend, What Are Your Questions?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Elephant Room, Round 2

This morning I am on my way to Hudson Community Chapel in Hudson, OH in order to watch a video simulcast of the Elephant Room, which is a point, counter-point discussion on ministry by seven different pastors or church leaders from around the country. It is hosted by James McDonald and Walk in the Word Ministries. This is the second time they have put on a one-day conference like this. On their website, they state their purpose:
"The Elephant Room is more than an event. It is the outgrowth of an idea. The idea that the best way forward for the followers of Jesus lies not in crouching behind walls of disagreement but in conversation among all kinds of leaders about what the scriptures actually teach. We must insist on the biblical Gospel, right doctrine and practice but not isolate ourselves from relationship even with those who believe much differently. 
These are conversations about the most Christ honoring ways of building a church. Our goal is unity, however a true unity cannot be fashioned in pretense or denial of truth nor can it be won among those who prefer sectarianism to the unity Jesus prayed for. To advance Christ's call to unity we must do what men have always done, we must push and prod and challenge and sharpen each others' beliefs and methods. Fidelity and fruitfulness, both matter. No one has a corner on the truth and methods must do more than 'work.'
 The events today bring together men from all over the country, from all walks of life, all different philosophies of ministry, and theological backgrounds to debate seven different topics from the purpose of denominations to what components are essential for the biblical gospel. But there is no doubt that the session I am looking forward to the most, as well as most people I have talked to, is the one entitled "Ticket To Ride." It is a debate between Mark Driscoll and T.D. Jakes on the "majors" of Christian doctrine. 

It has been well discussed in the blogosphere that Jakes is a Modalist (He denies the Trinity). Well, that has been the accusation at least. I just hope that issue is targeted by Driscoll. I can't imagine it wouldn't be a major point of discussion. And I really hope that when the question is asked to Jakes and he says, "Of course, I believe in the Trinity," that Driscoll drops some quotes that Jakes has said in the past to make him clarify his position. This will be a MAJOR disappointment if this issue is not discussed.

The other interesting point about this conference is the timing of James MacDonald resigning from The Gospel Coalition yesterday. Certainly this is no accident in timing. He says in his blog post that his reasoning is that he has a "very different view on how to relate to the broader church and how the gospel must impact every relationship." He says, "I don't want my minor role on the Council to hinder their work as a whole or to give the impression they agree with all God has called me to do." I am trying not to read into those statements, but they do concern me. I have appreciated MacDonald and the Harvest Bible Fellowship and all that it stands for in regards to gospel preaching. But I just wonder what he means by how he relates to the broader church. I thought the purpose of The Gospel Coalition was to rally around the gospel message. Is there a church outside of the gospel?

It should be interesting. Probably what I am looking forward to the most is spending some time with Amos, the young man who is helping with our student ministries. I hope this one-day conference will bring up some conversations for us as I help him work through some philosophy of ministry. I will try to post some thoughts later in the week after I process some of the days events.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Thought About Joe Paterno

As I am sure you have heard, Joe Paterno passed away on Sunday morning. Since his death, there have been many articles written on this man. For so many years, he was the beloved face of Penn State University. He was more than a football coach. He was a trusted ambassador for the university. He was a father figure to so many men. He was a philanthropist who gave millions of dollars to fund libraries and scholarships. I have heard some say he did more for the academic nature of the university than anyone else. He was a loyal coach, a trusted friend, and an honest man.

That is, until several months ago. Amid the allegations that he had knowledge of the sexual abuse of children by former coach Jerry Sandusky, Paterno was fired late in the season. 

As I have read many articles, one question keeps being raised: "How will he be remembered?" Will it be for all the good that he did throughout his years at Penn State or for how things ended? Of course, there are unique situations in play with JoPa, but let me point out to you that this is the question the world loves to ask when someone dies. Does the good outweigh the bad? Isn't that what is in play here? Does all the good that he did his entire life outweigh the bad events at the end of his life?

While we argue about these sort of things when it comes to the legacy of a man, let me also point out this is the not the scale God plays with. Our lives before God will NOT be judged on a scale of goodness, for the Bible says there are none who do good (Rom. 3:9-18, 23). We have no goodness that we can bring to God's great scale. Any person who trusts in their good works to outweigh their bad deeds will be greatly disappointed on that last day. The prophet Isaiah described even the best works that we could accomplish as a polluted garment (Isa. 64:6, actually it is the word used to describe a rag used to clean up a woman's menstruation). Do you find that as gross as I do? That's how God sees even the good things that we do, apart from the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I do not know where Joe Paterno stood with Jesus, but what I do know is that no amount of goodness will outweigh the bad things he did in this life. And neither will any of yours. That is why we need the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ imputed to our account through the means of faith. That is our only hope of wiping away the eternal scales of judgment.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Morning After: Our Values, pt. 1

Week three in our new series at church has us talking about some of our Core Values. This is a list of things that describe what kind of church we think that we are. What are the things that we really care about? There are nine of them, but I dealt with four this week.

Core Value #1: Authority of Scripture
We recognize the Bible as the inspired, inerrant Word of God, the source of spiritual and moral authority and the basis of our teaching and preaching. This simply means that we are a church that doesn't just say we think the Bible is important and then move onto other things. We are, hopefully, a church that makes sure we use the Bible as our authority (2 Timothy 3:14--4:4)

Core Value #2: Evangelism
We resolve to pursue outreach opportunities locally and throughout the world to present the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, the Gospel. As a Christian, why are we here? It has been well publicized in Christian circles that there is only one thing we can do here that we will not be doing in heaven. That is evangelism. When we are saved, we become His ambassadors.

God could save everyone He wants to save by any means we could imagine, and probably some ways we couldn't imagine. But the system God has designed to bring people to saving faith is for His people to consistently and faithfully spread the message of Jesus Christ and His gospel. And our response? We spend five years getting to know people, hanging out with them, never bringing up the name of Jesus, the cross, sin, or salvation--all the while claiming we are working on friendship evangelism. Don't get me wrong, I believe in friendship evangelism. But it cannot be an excuse for never opening our mouth to declare truth into someones life.

Core Value #3: Worship
We will individually and corporately celebrate our love for God with praise to Him for our salvation and for the blessings involved in our daily life. Worship is more than music; it is a lifestyle. All Christians are called to be worshippers. Worship is all day, every day. Everyday this week, every person will face a choice to worship God or worship their idols. And since we are committed to worshipping, and helping others worship God, we will call people to repent of their idols.

Core Value #4: Stewardship
We believe that God is the provider of all we have and that He has entrusted it to us by His grace and we are required to be good stewards by honoring Him from the blessings from Him. Everything that we have is owned by God. We are simply His stewards. That means, our money and possessions should better be viewed through the lens of a steward, not as an owner. The owner will ask questions like, "how much of my money am I going to give back to  God?" The steward asks questions like, "How much of God's money do I really need?"

Last night, I met with a group of people from our church. As we talked about these four topics, the main one discussed was evangelism. What do you think? Which one would you talk about in a group of people? Which one do you think are most difficult for you to fully grasp and live?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Cornerstone Questions: Why 66 Books?

I have been asking for those that are at Cornerstone Bible Church to submit questions each week if there are anything they are wondering or have always wanted to know. Specifically, as we go through our series, "Investigating Cornerstone," I want them to fully grasp who we are and what we believe. I thought I would blog some of the questions and my answers to them as I receive them.

Question: Why 66 books of the Bible? Are there more? Could there be some that we just have never found?

The Bible is the most unique book that has ever been written. It is a collection of 66 books that were written in three different languages (Hebrew, Greek, & a bit of Aramaic) by more than 40 authors over a period of 1,500 years. Yet there is a consistency and accuracy that runs through it like no other book that has ever been written. Each writer of the Bible wrote in his own language and style, yet was moved along by the Holy Spirit so that error did not creep into their work (2 Peter 1:21). It is a book that is without error. It is composed of the Old & New Testament, which are separated by 400 years. In the NT, we have near 300 direct OT quotes and close to 4,000 allusions to events that took place in the OT.

To answer this sort of question, we must understand what is known as the Canon of Scripture, which simply means “rule” or “measuring rod.” It has become known as the list of books that are in deed the rule or measuring rod of our life. They are those books that are from God. There are 39 books that became accepted in the OT Canon and 27 in the NT Canon, forming 66 books in the Biblical Canon. But how did they get there?

It is very important to note this, the books in the Canon were generally accepted to be part of the Canon. There was never a council of people that got together and voted books in or out, as is represented in Dan Brown’s book, The Da Vinci Code. By earliest records the 39 books of the OT were generally accepted as they were written in history. For instance, as Moses wrote the first five books at the end of his life, they were generally accepted by the people of God as authoritative at the end of his life. And so on it went.

What is really interesting is there are 14 books known as the Apocrypha, books that were written during that 400 years of silence between the end of the OT and the start of the NT. While Jesus and other NT writers quote the OT close to 300 times, not once do they cite any statement from the books of the Apocrypha. It was not until 1546 at the Council of Trent that the Roman Catholic Church officially declared the Apocrypha to be part of the Canon.

When we get to the NT Canon, there is one thing that is very important to understand:
“The New Testament books did not become authoritative for the Church because they were formally included in a canonical list; on the contrary, the Church included them in her canon because she already regarded them as divinely inspired, recognizing their innate worth and generally apostolic authority, direct or indirect. The first ecclesiastical councils to classify the canonical books were both held in North Africa—at Hippo Regius in 393 and at Carthage in 397—but what these councils did was not to impose something new upon the Christian communities but to codify what was already the general practice of those communities.” (F.F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable, 22).
From a very early point in time, the 27 books became recognized as authoritative and part of God’s Word. My favorite example is when Paul wrote the book of 1st Timothy, he says “For the Scripture says . . .” and then quotes from Deuteronomy 25:4 & then quotes from Luke 10:7 (with exactly the same Greek words). Paul wrote that sometime in the middle 60’s AD. So the book of Luke had to have been circulated enough so that the church generally accepted it as Scripture.

Could any book be accepted? Well, there were some general guidelines that would have used (this helpful list is taken from Answers in Genesis article, "Why 66?"

1. Apostolic—does it come from an apostle?
The first Christians asked, “Was it written by an apostle or under the direction of an apostle?” They expected this just as the Jews had expected theirs to be underwritten by the prophets. Paul was insistent that his readers should be reassured that the letters they received actually came from his pen.

2. Authentic—does it have the ring of truth? The authoritative voice of the prophets, “This is what the Lord says,” is matched by the apostles’ claim to write not the words of men but the words of God. It was the internal witness of the texts themselves that was strong evidence of canonicity.

3. Ancient—has it been used from the earliest times? Most of the false writings were rejected simply because they were too new to be apostolic. Early in the fourth century, Athanasius listed the New Testament canon, as we know it today and claimed that these were the books “received by us through tradition as belonging to the Canon.”

4. Accepted—are most of the churches using it? Since, as we have seen, it took time for letters to circulate among the churches, it is all the more significant that 23 of the 27 books were almost universally accepted well before the middle of the second century. When tradition carries the weight of the overwhelming majority of churches throughout the widely scattered Christian communities across the vast Roman Empire, with no one church controlling the beliefs of all the others, it has to be taken seriously.

5. Accurate—does it conform to the orthodox teaching of the churches? There was widespread agreement among the churches across the empire as to the content of the Christian message. Irenaeus asked the question whether a particular writing was consistent with what the churches taught. This is what ruled out so much of the heretical material immediately.

Each of the 27 books of the NT Canon passes this test. And any book that we were to uncover today would not pass it. I do not think there would ever be enough evidence that any new book that is found could ever be considered part of the Canon. And ultimately, our last appeal is not to man, not to the early church, but to the providence of God. The idea of the final canon being an accident or any number of books could have ended up in the Canon or that any other books could be added, ignores the evidence that God superintended to give us what He thought we would need.

Do You Think There Could Be Another Book Added To The Biblical Canon? Why?

Video Sunday: Predestination & Evangelism by John MacArthur

I found John MacArthur's answer to a question on balancing evangelism and predestination very helpful. What do you think? I love how he continually points back to Scripture instead of asking philosophical questions. And it is always good to hear MacArthur say that he has no idea how it all fits together. 

If you watch this video, listen very closely and watch until the end.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

When Work & Family Collide by Andy Stanley

When Work & Family Collide is the first book I have read from Andy Stanley. And it was very helpful to me personally. Stanley's main idea in this book is that we are all going to cheat something. There is never enough time in the day to do everything that we need to get done. The main two areas of our life that often compete with each other are our families and our jobs. So, if we are going to cheat, as he argues we all do, why not cheat by design (this book was previously published under the name Choosing to Cheat).

The most common excuse people give for why they cheat on their family with their job is because they simply have to do it. There is nobody else that can do what they are doing. The really good Christians at this point, Stanley points out, will pray that God will fill the void at home while they have to rush off to their job. He points out the error in that thinking:
"First, we are assuming that God could not just as easily fill the void at work as he could the void at home. Second, we are asking God to fill a gap that only we can fill while we scurry off to do a job that a thousand other people could do." (29)
Another error that Stanley points out is that it is not just enough to say we want to be with our family. It is not just enough for us to say things like, "Well, they know my heart." He makes the point that our family can't see our heart, but they can see our schedule (44). Maybe we need to love our families with our schedules more than we do with our words.

His main textual argument in the book is Daniel. When faced with a situation of having to please King Nebuchadnezzar or his invisible King, Daniel decided that he needed to honor the Lord. No matter the circumstances. Drawing out principles from Daniel, he says that when we are in a similar dilemma, we should make up our mind, come up with a plan, and then set up a test.

Maybe the most helpful sentence in the book is when he shared this question:
"What change would your spouse like you to make in regard to your schedule?" (96)
That's not just a good question to ask your spouse. That's a great question! To further that thought, he says later in the book:
"Let's face it. One day you'll come home from the office for the last time. Nobody retires from his or her family to spend his or her final days in the office. Your last day may be at sixty-five when you retire or at thirty-five when you're laid off. Either way, you're coming home. What and who you come home to will be determined by how you live out your priorities between now and then." (130)
This book is easy to read, filled with stories of successes and failures. It is a book that can be read in a few days (or hours) if you give it time. Whether you struggle with balancing work or family, or think that everything is okay, this book could be helpful. His principles are biblical and convicting, which makes them very helpful. I would highly recommend it to you.

I received a copy of When Work & Family Collide by Andy Stanley from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group for review.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Should Rewards Be A Proper Motivation For Godly Living?

I have been thinking this past week about that ultimate REVIEW when I will stand before the Lord and give an account of my life as I lived it here on this earth. It is a sobering thought. But it is also a motivating thought. (If you are interested in reading the previous three blog posts, you can find them: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3).

I want to finish this thought today by asking the question, "Should rewards be a proper motivation for godly living?" I mean, should the rewards we will be given be what moves us as Christians to walk with Christ, read our Bible, share the gospel, be generous with our money, and so on. In thinking about this, I had to consult Randy Alcorn's little book, The Law of Rewards. I would highly recommend this book. Here are a few of his thoughts:
"Despite prevailing opinions to the contrary, the prospect of rewards is a proper motivation for the Christian's obedience--including the generous sharing of our money and possessions. If we maintain that it's wrong to be motivated by rewards, we bring a serious accusation against Christ. We imply he is tempting us to sin every time he offers rewards for obedience! When he offered us treasures for ourselves in heaven, was he tempting us toward sin? If rewards are a wrong motive, then he was luring us to do wrong. This is unthinkable. Since God does not tempt his children, it's clear that whatever he lays before us as a motivation is legitimate. It's not wrong for us to be motivated by the prospect of reward. Indeed, something is seriously wrong if we are not motivated by the promise of reward made by our God . . . But here's the incredible thing, the factor that turns the entire debate on its head--it wasn't our idea that God would reward us. It was his idea! Satan didn't make up the idea of incentives. Our sin nature didn't make it up. A corrupt world didn't make it up. God made it up. He designed us to need incentives to motivate us to do our jobs and do them well." (103-5)
Later he writes,
"It is certainly true that desire for rewards should not be our only motivation. But it is also true that it's a fully legitimate motive encouraged by God. In fact, the two most basic things we can believe about God are first that he exists, and second that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him (Hebrews 11:6). If you don't believe God is a rewarder, you are rejecting a major biblical doctrine and have a false view of God. I encourage you to go back tot he Scriptures and ask God to open your eyes to the truth about his nature and how he motivates his people." (116)
He makes some really good points. I am particularly impacted by his use of Hebrews 11:6 that says we must believe that He exists and that He is the rewarder of those that seek Him. Could it be any clearer? God will reward and maybe, just maybe, some of our problem with living our Christian life is that we have failed to realize the glory of receiving rewards from our King Jesus.

Do You Think Rewards Motivate You For Godly Living?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

What Will Be Given At The REVIEW?

Over the past two days, I have been trying to articulate some of my thoughts as I have been conducting annual reviews with those that work at Cornerstone Bible Church. At first, I asked the question, "Are you ready for the only review that matters?" While we may get worked up at our review by our employer, it is nothing compared to the ultimate review we will have with our Savior. The second day, I tried to dig a little deeper by trying to figure out what exactly will the review entail. We will give an account as stewards of all that God has given us.

Today, I want to add one more aspect to this thought. What are the rewards? What will we be given at this great review? First off, I am not sure I can fully answer that question. I can answer it to the best of my understanding of the Biblical text, but I am not going to say there are not other things that Christ might give as a reward (for instance, maybe positions of leadership in the Kingdom). But as I search out the Scriptures, there seem to be five different crowns that are talked about being given.

1.  The Incorruptible Crown
"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified." (1 Cor. 9:24-27)
The assumption is that this crown is for those who are disciplined in their Christian life like those who are disciplined in athletics.

2.  The Crown of Rejoicing
"For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy." (1 Thess. 2:19-20)
Many people say this is a reward that is given to the evangelist, who faithfully shares the gospel and wins others to Christ.

3.  The Crown of Righteousness
"Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing." (2 Tim. 4:8)
This seems to be given to those who love or look forward to the return of Christ. And of course, that sort of living will in fact purify our life, move us to deeper degrees of personal righteousness.

4.  The Crown of Life
"Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him." (Jas 1:12; see also Rev. 2:10)
This is given to those who love Jesus more than anything else in their life, even their own body. So that even in temptation and pain and suffering, they choose Jesus over their physical flesh.
Revelation 2:10

5.  The Crown of Glory
"Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory." (1 Peter 5:2-4)
This obviously seems to be given to the faithful shepherds who give their lives to shepherd the flock of God. 

Will there be other rewards? Probably. Even as I write this, maybe the issue should not be the exact reward, but that it is coming from someone who knows us perfectly. I can just imagine that it will be even greater than we can ever imagine, whatever the reward happens to be.

Stay tuned until tomorrow for one last thought on this subject of rewards: Is it a proper motivation?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What Will The REVIEW Actually Entail?

Yesterday, I asked the question, "Are you ready for the only review that matters?" In the end, every Christian will stand before Jesus and give an account for what we have done while we were alive, both good and bad (2 Cor. 5:10). We know it is not a judgment of condemnation, because the Bible tells us that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1). So what exactly is it?

I said yesterday that it is a judgement of rewards. But let me explain that a bit more. I believe at that time, when we look our Savior in the eye, we will be judged on how we used our time, talents, resources, possessions, and gifts that He had given us. Will we be given a reward because we truly were storing up treasures in heaven (the good) or will we miss out on the rewards because we were too busy storing up our treasures on earth (the bad)?

In Matthew 6, Jesus contrasts those who do things to be noticed by other people and those that do them to be noticed by God. Jesus explains that if our motive is to be seen and accommodated by others, then our reward for that righteous act is simply the applause of man. We will have our reward in full. But if we want a greater reward, the Father would reward those who do things in secret, not wanting to be noticed by man (things like prayer, giving, deeds of righteousness, and fasting). And then Jesus hammers home His point:
"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matt. 6:20-21; see also Luke 6:35 & Matt. 10:41-42)
It is passages like this that make me think that while the Judgment Seat of Christ will not be condemnation, it will not necessarily be a pleasant place. I say that because of the reality of our selfishness and unwillingness to actually store up treasures in heaven. We too much want our treasures now. I would assume there will be shame, embarrassment, humiliation as a response to not receiving some rewards. I can only guess that we will have wished we would have taken things a bit more serious in our Christian lives when we stand before Jesus.

If we think we will feel that way someday, what is stopping us from doing something about it today? Why don't we live in light of that coming judgment of rewards? Why don't we stop investing all of our resources and time into things that are only going to burn up and start investing in those things that will produce kingdom rewards? Why don't we live for that great review when Jesus looks at us and hopefully says, "Well done, good and faithful servant." That's what I want, don't you?

Tomorrow, I will share my understanding of five different crowns that are talked about in the New Testament. Maybe they are the specific rewards that we will receive.

Question: What Is Stopping You From Investing In Eternity?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Review That Matters Most

Over the past week, I have been doing annual reviews with those on staff at our church. While this might sound somewhat strange, I have always enjoyed review time. It is often good to hear things that we don't want to hear. That is how we grow. That is how we change. That is how we can work towards a better year. We can grow stronger in our strengths and even shore up some of our weaknesses.

As I have thought about these reviews, my mind has continually been reflected back to the ultimate review that will take place for all Christians at some point. The Apostle Paul makes it very clear that every one of us will stand before Jesus to give an account.
"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil." (2 Cor. 5:10)
Am I ready for the only review that matters?

This is sometimes referred to as the Bema Seat of Christ (for the Greek term that is used for judgment here is 'bema'). When Paul says that we will appear, it has the idea of being turned inside out. It means that I will be stripped completely open and my true character is being revealed. All of my hypocrisies will be revealed. All of my secrets that are easy to hide from a boss will be exposed. All of my intimate sins will be scrutinized by Christ.

I am fairly sure at this point I will be grateful for memorizing Romans 8:1, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." I will cling to that promise when the One who knows me better than anyone finally looks into my eyes to give me my final review. 

Can you imagine? Do you even want to imagine? What will it be like to look into the eyes of your Savior, the One who died for you, the One who loves you with a love that is so uncompromising that He died for you when you were still His enemy. To look at His scars on His hand, to think about the crown of thorns that He once wore and to know that you are completely laid open to Him of all your secrets, all your masks, everything you want to hide from everyone; they will all be fully known to Jesus.

It will not be a judgment of built-up anger, for the anger of God has already been poured out upon Jesus for all of my sins. So what is it? I think we get the best clue into what this is when we understand the word that Paul uses for "bad" in 2 Corinthians 5:10. It is a term that refers to being worthless. I think Paul is saying that we will be judged on the good things and the worthless things we do in life. It is a judgment of rewards, not condemnation.

And while it is not a judgement of condemnation, I still cannot imagine that it will be pleasant. Later this week, it is my plan to write a bit more on this subject. For while we are often eager to do things to please our boss or those we work with, how much more should we be eager to serve and take advantage of every opportunity we have for our King Jesus?

Are You Ready For The Only Review That Matters?

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Morning After: Our Doctrine

I am now in the middle of a series that I have called Investigating Cornerstone. I am taking six weeks to talk about our church. Who are we? What kind of church do we want to be? What is the purpose of church? And many other questions. Last week, we dealt with our mission statement, that we exist to glorify God in all things. Yesterday, I moved on to talk about doctrine. Specifically, I wanted to share with everyone why I feel doctrine or theology is extremely important in the life of a church. 

I simply define doctrine as what someone believes about some particular topic about God, religion, or the Christian Faith. In that case, everyone has a doctrine. Everyone is a theologian. The questions is not whether we have views of God; the question is whether those views are biblical or not. Are we a good theologian or hold to some false doctrine.

Of course, we wanted to take some time to walk through our doctrinal statement. But more than that, I wanted to take the time to explain why doctrine matters. The bulk of my message was trying to convince people why every Christian should not be scared of the term, doctrine, but should be actively studying it. I gave three reasons.

First, We Should Study Doctrine In Order To Obey Jesus' Command. Some of the last parting words of Jesus to His followers is known as the Great Commission. Jesus briefly explains to His men that as they go throughout the world, they are to be baptizing people in His name. This certainly assumes a conversion experience, which would mean they would have to know something in order to be saved. But then once someone is saved, the process of making a disciple is just beginning. They are to be taught to do all that Jesus commanded them. Jesus commands us to teach others, which inherently means that we are to know all that He commanded. That's the study of doctrine.

Throughout the early church, they took seriously the teaching of God's truth. They wrestled with it. They sought to defend the truth of God. Why? Because that is what Jesus had commanded them to do. And as we give ourselves to study the truth of God, we are taking the first step towards obedience to the commands of Jesus.

Second, We Should Study Doctrine In Order To Love God With Our Mind. At one point in the ministry of Jesus, He summarized the Law by saying that we should love God with all our heart, soul, and mind (Matt. 22:37). We live in a culture that is continually trying to dumb us down. We live in a world that focuses more on what we feel than what we think. We live in a world that makes excuses that didn't even exist until a couple generations ago. We live in a world where we are inundated by technology and moving graphics that create in us short attention spans. And in this world in which we live, we want things easy and fast.

So to study doctrine, which is hard and slow, usually takes a back seat and is left for the experts. But maybe that is exactly what we need. We need to be challenged to think more critically about God and our life.

Third, We Should Study Doctrine In Order To Grow Spiritually. We always live out of what we know. The only way I can fully love my wife is if I know her more and more. It would seem ridiculous to tell her that I do not want to know any more of her, but am content with my knowledge. How much more ridiculous would that be of our relationship to God? Spending time getting to know God allows us to love Him more deeply. It allows us to serve Him more passionately. It allows us to give more generously. It allows us to honor Him more reverently.

We cannot love that which we do not know. The Puritans used to say that we should never study doctrine, but we live it. It is practical. It all speaks into our life. Our view of the Hypostatic Union should speak into how I live my life today. It should help us grow.

I believe that doctrine matters. I did spend a bit of time at the end of the message walking through what our church believes. You can find the message at our church website. 

What do you think? Do you think that doctrine is important for the life of the church?

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Gospel Project

One of the problems I have noticed in the different positions I have found myself over the years in different churches is the abundance of really bad curriculum. And a lack of really good curriculum that focuses on the gospel in every story. The story of Jonah is not just about a fish. The story of David is not just about a Goliath. They are true stories that have been recorded to tell us historical accounts, but also to teach us something about God and the gospel of God. Our kids need to learn that. In fact, our parents need to learn that as well.

Just a few months ago, Lifeway began the process of developing a new gospel-centered curriculum designed for kids, students, and adults. It is called The Gospel Project. After reading just a bit about what this is going to be, I look forward to seeing more and learning more. This is how they describe the project:
"The gospel didn't begin in the New Testament. It was there, 'In the beginning,' at the genesis of everything. Across the whole of human history, God's grand narrative of love and redemption has been unfolding, a love gloriously displayed at the cross. This is the story of Jesus, and all history and Scripture point us to this good news. 
The Gospel Project is a Christ-centered Bible study resource that deeply examines the grand narrative of Scripture and how it transforms the lives of those it touches. Every session immerses participants--adults, student, and kids--in the gospel through every story, theological concept, and missional charge from Genesis to Revelation."
The project is being led by Trevin Wax and Ed Stetzer. If you are interested in finding out more information, please check their website: The Gospel Project. As well, you might find it interesting to watch this Bible Story Video that they have put together, as it seems like it will be a piece of what will come in the future. Lastly, you might want to watch this short video by Matt Chandler as he explains a bit about the gospel in David & Goliath and why he likes the gospel project.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Heart of the Matter

I was just spending some time reading the Bible this morning as part of my daily reading plan and came across a passage that is very familiar, but maybe I needed to hear once again. Jesus is in a part of His ministry when He is continually battling the Pharisees and religious leaders of Israel. They are asking Him questions like, "Why don't you wash your hands in a ceremonial way before eating." This is something they invented, an external rite or ritual that they said made them holy. Jesus responds by asking them, "Why are you disrespecting your parents in the name of religion?" But then He gets to the heart of the matter when He points out their hypocrisy. He quotes the prophet Isaiah and says:
"This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men." (Matt. 15:8-9)
As I read that, I wondered how frequently Jesus could say this of me. Or our church. Or the people I worship with. Or the Christian community at large. Or you. How often do we give lip service to the worship of Jesus, but our heart is far from it. Or let's get specific:
  • How often do we sing the songs at church, but we really don't care what the words are even saying?
  • How often do we leave church telling the pastor it was a good sermon, but we really have no plans of applying anything to our life?
  • How often do we carry our Bibles to church as if it means something to us, but we never crack them throughout the week?
  • How often do we think that we are better than the adulterer, but we live with a secret life of lust?
  • How often do we say that we love Jesus, but we hold bitter grudges against His followers?
  • How often do we say that Jesus means more to us than anything, but we would honestly much rather watch Tim Tebow than anything else?
I think you get the point. The list can keep going. I think the older I get, the more I realize it has very little to do with the external appearance. I care much more about what God thinks of my heart than I do about what others think of my actions (I am not trying to disregard actions, but exalt the heart behind the actions). I want to not do religious deeds, but love Christ from the heart!

Question: What Are Some Other Examples Of Lip Service To Jesus?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Learning From My Son

Okay, I will admit it. I am competitive. I love to win whatever I am playing. There are few things in my life that hurt like losing. I guess it is just the competitive nature in me. It really doesn't matter what it is, I hate to lose. It might be a card game with friends, a board game or video game with the kids, or even a sporting event I am participating in. I hate to lose and love to win. In no way am I saying that this is a good thing. I am just confessing publicly how competitive I am in life.

But I never thought my son would be the one to teach me perspective on competition. Last night was a real learning experience for me. My youngest son, JT, is playing 3rd-4th grade basketball with the local recreation team. And he does really well. His team had their second game last night and for the second time, they lost just by a few points. In their first game, they lost 18-16 in overtime and last night they lost 21-18. It was tough to handle and I just kept telling myself throughout the game, "Thad, it is just 3rd-4th grade basketball."

A few things about the game before we get into the lesson I was taught. The game was very close going into the last quarter when the other team took a lead. The coach kept setting up plays for the point guard to come down and get JT the ball and then he was to beat his man and take it to the basket. This means he was shooting almost every time down the court. And he scored a bunch of points. As a parent, I never want my kid to be what I call "The Chucker." You know, the kid who shoots whenever he gets the ball. After the game, I went to the coach to ask him if he was designing those plays for JT to shoot just about every time. He said he was going to the hot hand and he wanted JT to carry the team last night. I felt better that JT, and the team, listened to the coach. But it still felt weird that my kid was shooting so much. I wish he would have been told to pass it more.

But onto the lesson. After the game, I asked JT if he was disappointed in losing. You know, there is a bit of me that would like him to never get content with losing. That way it will drive him to get better and better. When he said that he was not disappointed, I was somewhat shocked. Who's kid is this? I mean, I think I was more disappointed in the loss than him. Then I asked him, "why not?"

His answer put me in my place. He said, 
"Dad, haven't you ever seen Facing the Giants? Remember we should praise God when we win and when we lose. I am just trying to praise God when we lose."
Yep, he said that! Monique looks over to me and says, "Karsten would say, 'you've just been schooled.'" I guess I was. I went to the school of a kid who is growing into a young man who has a soft heart towards God. I just hope I don't get in the way of what God wants to do in his life.

By the way, here is the short clip of the part of the movie that JT was referring to:

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Philippians by Matt Chandler

I have grown to really appreciate the teaching ministry of Matt Chandler. A couple years ago, an organization called The Hub put out a 12-week teaching series by Chandler on the book of Philippians. I purchased it back when it came out, looking for an opportunity to watch it myself or maybe to use it for a small group.

One caveat: I really am not a huge fan of DVD curriculum for small groups. If I have the time to invest into a group, I like to do it myself. Draw the people out. Make them think and engage in them instead of having them sit and listen to a preacher for 30 minutes and then discussing.

But this is a GREAT alternative. At the end of September, I began to meet with our college and young adults on Monday nights. They wanted some sort of Bible study. I really did not have the time to invest in another study, so I thought this would be a great place to try out this series by Matt Chandler on Philippians. And they have loved it. And I have greatly enjoyed it.

His preaching style is unique and lively. He is engaging, yet very helpful. This is a 12-session study, with each one being about 30 minutes long. Obviously, he does not have time to go into depth on all the book of Philippians. That means, you will find that he jumps over some huge portions of the book, maybe the ones that you would like to hear him discuss. But what he does camp on is really challenging for your life.

One other thing. It comes with a study guide that we have not really known what to do with. It is a bit confusing as to what role the study guide should play each week. There are questions that are meant to be answered after each session and we do it together as a group. I think there are very few that go home afterward and actually fill in the book themselves. I would recommend that the leader have the study guide in order to help with some questions after the study. But honestly, I think a group could get just as much out of it without purchasing it for each participant.

Over all, I love it. I have grown personally through it. Below is a preview of the study. Who knows, maybe it will lead you to buy it as well.

Philippians Trailer from The Hub on Vimeo.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Morning After: Our Mission

I was so excited to start this series at church yesterday. It is somewhat different from what I normally do, since it is more topical in nature. But I thought we were at a good point in the life of our church that we take some time to discuss what kind of church we are. I want everyone in our community to become crystal clear on who we are as a church. We began yesterday by looking at our Mission Statement:

We exist to Glorify God by leading people to KNOW Jesus, GROW into His likeness, and GO make Him known to others.

Our ultimate goal is to give glory to God. In all things. At all times. In every interaction. Glory to God. It is our primary objective every Sunday to pull back the curtain that we might all rejoice over the glory of God. It is not about any person. It is not about a pastor. It is not about doing things to attract people. It is about revealing God to those that are here and then trust God to expand the church.

Now, we feel we do that by accomplishing three things: First, By Leading People To KNOW Jesus. We want to introduce people to Jesus Christ. After all, He came to dwell among us, revealing the glory of God (John 1:14). We want to talk about Jesus more than any person. More than any topic. More than any sports team. More than any business. More than any actor. more than anyone or anything. Why? Because God has highly exalted Him and said that at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow (Phil. 2:9-10).

The second way we can glorify God is By Leading People To GROW Into His Likeness. It might sound strange, but I really do not want our church to be a place where someone can feel comfortable never growing in their faith. I want them to move from milk to meat.

The third way we can glorify God is By Leading People To GO Make Him Known. It has been the calling of the church from the beginning of church to take the message of Jesus to a lost and dying world. It started in Acts 2 and has progressed throughout the world to us today.

That's our church. This is the rudder that hopefully guides our church. If you want to listen to the entire message, you can find it HERE.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Am I Really A Christian by Mike McKinley

Some people are just good writers. Mike McKinley is one of them. He is clever, articulate, and witty. His illustrations are alive and inspiring. But most of all, his use of the Scriptures is insightful. Am I Really a Christian? is a helpful book for all Christians to read. Not just those who might be struggling with their assurance. It can (and should) be used as a tool to help evaluate a person's heart as to whether or not they are truly saved. After all, the Apostle Paul says that we should examine ourselves; that we should test ourselves to see if we are truly in the faith or are just deceiving ourselves (2 Cor. 13:5). This book will help with that.

Books like this could potentially lead someone to thinking they have to work for their salvation. That is not what he is saying. It could lead someone to think that it is impossible to know whether you are saved or not. That is not what he saying. It could lead someone to feel beaten up and condemned that they are not working hard enough on their sanctification. That is not what he is saying. He is simply saying that,
"It is possible for you to honestly believe that you are a follower of Christ, but not actually be one . . . Merely checking a box and calling yourself a Christian doesn't mean that you really are a Christian . . . It is true that we need to make a onetime decision to follow Jesus. But a true onetime decision is followed by the everyday decision to follow Jesus." (22-3)
He is just asking everyone to not trust themselves. We are prone to self-deceit. He is saying that we should trust the Scriptures and then trust our friends in our church to help us evaluate our lives.

I think one of the most helpful statements he makes in the book is really not that profound. I have heard it many times. I have even said it. But for some reason as I read this book, it figuratively leaped off the page for me. He said,
"Literally the word Christian means 'a follower of Christ.'" (29)
I just couldn't help but think this entire book could be summarized like that. When people struggle with assurance or with determining whether they are saved or not, maybe the question that needs to be asked is "are you following Christ?" 

The bulk of the book is simply broken down into several short chapters. At the end of each chapter are some very helpful questions to help you reflect about your life. It would make a great study to go through with a small group, as long as everyone was willing to honestly look at their own life. Here is the list of chapters:

You are not a Christian just because you say that you are
You are not a Christian if you haven't been born again
You are not a Christian just because you like Jesus
You are not a Christian if you enjoy sin
You are not a Christian if you do not endure to the end
You are not a Christian if you don't love other people
You are not a Christian if you love your stuff

I would highly recommend this book. Read it and use it to evaluate your heart. You might also like to check out their website, www.amireallyachristian.com, for some more helpful information.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Faith & Creation

I am reading through Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology with my elders at Cornerstone Bible Church. Last night, we dealt with his chapter on Creation. It was a hearty meal, 52 pages of deep creation and evolution debates. As I read this chapter, I was reminded about the faith it takes to come to your view of the beginning of the world.

None of us were there when creation happened. It is impossible to replicate in an experiment. That means whichever view you take is going to take some level of faith. Doesn't it take more faith to believe that we have somehow evolved over time from a pile of slime than it does to believe that God created all there is simply by speaking it into existence. In this thought, Grudem gives one illustration of an alternate view of the beginning of everything and then explains why people might come to such a conclusion. He says,
"Francis Crick, who won the Nobel Prize for helping to discover structure of DNA molecules, proposed in 1973 that life may have been sent here by a spaceship from a distant planet, a theory that Crick calls 'Directed Panspermia.' To the present author, it seems ironic that brilliant scientists could advocate so fantastic a theory without one shred of evidence in its favor, all the while rejecting the straightforward explanation given by the one book in the history of the world that has never been proven wrong, that has changed the lives of millions of people, that has been believed completely by many of the most intelligent scholars of every generation, and that has been a greater force for good than any other book in the history of the world. Why will otherwise intelligent people commit themselves to beliefs that seem so irrational? It seems as though they will believe in anything, so long as it is not belief in the personal God of Scripture, who calls us to forsake our pride, humble ourselves before him, ask his forgiveness for failure to obey his moral standards, and submit ourselves to his moral commands for the rest of our lives." (285-6)
I have long been taught and have said myself that the battle for the beginning is really a battle for the end. If we can strip God of being the Creator, then we will not have to face Him as judge. We are not accountable to Him. But if He did create all that there is, including me, then I am accountable to Him in the way in which I live.

The Bible makes it clear that He did create all. We are accountable to Him.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Prayer For My 12-Year Old

I have a 12-year old. Ouch. That just hurt to even type. This past Sunday, Karsten, my oldest son, celebrated his 12th birthday. Yes, he is our millennium baby. It is hard to describe how much I love this young man. He is so special in so many ways. A little over a year ago, I tried to explain why he was so special to me (My Oldest Son: Karsten Lee). No matter how many times I read that, I am reminded of my relationship to him and how I continually need to be affirming him in what he does.

Twelve. We are starting to hit a different point in life now. This is the point when he starts to not to want to be a boy anymore. He wants to be a man. He wants to be with the adults (actually, he has always wanted to be with the adults). He thinks he should be allowed to do adult sort of things. As he grows older, my prayers grow stronger for him. I'm not sure if that is right or not. Maybe my prayers should have been stronger when he was younger. But as I see the imminent future, I realize once again that it is nothing I can do to save him and secure him for the future. I cannot make him love God more than anything else in this world. I cannot make him love the Scriptures. I need God to do that in and through him.

I was thumbing through the Valley of Vision the other day and came across a prayer entitled, "A Christian's Prayer." I have taken that prayer and restructured it so that someone like my son could understand it. This would be my prayer for my son as he turns twelve. 


Blessed God,
     Ten thousand temptations are his inside and outside, protect him.
     When laziness and apathy seize him, give him views of heaven.
     When sinners are attractive to him, give him a dislike of their ways.
     When sensual pleasures tempt him, purify and refine him.
     When he desires worldly possessions, help him to be generous.
     When the pride of the world ensnares him, let him not plunge into new guilt                     and ruin.
     May he never be too busy to attend to his soul.
     May he never be so engrossed with time that he neglects the things of eternity
     May he not only live, but grow towards You.
     May he seek after an increase of diving love to You.
                          after a clear understanding of Your will.
                          after a deeper love for other people.
                          after patience in his soul.
                          after a heavenly disposition.
     May he seek to please You in public and in private.
     Draw on his soul the image of Jesus, for he is 
           Your workmanship created in Christ Jesus,
           a letter written with the Holy Spirit
           a tilled soil ready for the sowing, then harvest.
 I praise you for His life.


What do you pray for your children?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

My 2012 Bible Reading Plan

Last week, I posted a brief summary of the different blogs talking about Bible reading plans. I thought I would briefly share what I have chosen to do this year. I am using a modified version of all those I have found. I will be reading 4 chapters out of the OT and 2 chapters out of the NT every day.

There are 929 chapters in the OT, which means, I will make my way through the OT 1.5 times. There are 260 chapters in the NT, which means, I will make my way through the NT almost 3 times. I hope that this plan this year helps me stay engaged and reading and learning the Bible. Of course, in the position I am in, this will all be in addition to the study of several passages and books throughout the year.

One twist on this plan is the family element. I am asking my boys to be reading the NT part of the plan with me at the beginning. My plan then is to reserve every Tuesday night at dinner to talk about the reading as a family. I hope that this will help us as a family engage the Scriptures.

What plan are you doing? Does your family talk about it together?