Friday, July 03, 2015

The Law of the Lord

"I just don't know how God could condemn him. He's such a good person."

"He is kind and helps others. He gives money to the homeless and volunteers at the soup kitchen."

"She has been to other countries to help orphanages."

I am sure you have heard many similar platitudes describing people you know. I have heard these types of statements made about people who do these nice things for others but aren't Christians. In fact I have heard these things said about people who are outright pagans and mock Christ and those that believe in God's Word, His church, and believe it is all true.

Even in our own circles of Christian friends I know many people who believe God is saving every "good" person simply because they do nice things for others. For example, Ellen DeGeneres is lauded for the nice things she does for people. As a celebrity with a network television budget, she is able to frequently give away gobs of money and, taking after Oprah, every Christmas spends time giving the whole audience presents. I've seen countless times when someone is sick or has a life problem, Ellen will hear about it and surprise them with monetary help. Many Christians I know believe Ellen will one day occupy heaven because she does nice things for so many people.

So, what about it? Are there really non-Christians, people who do not hold to the teaching in Scripture, who are kind, helpful, good, and nice who will be in heaven with those who lived their lives following Christ, His teaching, believing in Him, having faith, struggling with sin, striving to overcome it, and persevering to be what Scripture has called us to be?

Unfortunately, I don't believe that is true (and I'm not just talking about Ellen or homosexuality). In fact Scripture explains this dichotomy really well.

When Moses brought back the commandments of God, he also reported to the Israelites that God had heard their cries. He wanted to help them. It is why they were rescued from Egypt. God also longed for His people to remember always their love for Him.

"Oh that they had such a heart as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever!" -- Deuteronomy 5:29 [ESV]

Our God said yes! He would free them! But, He also wanted them to remember how much they loved and want to obey Him. He knew they would forget. So, He had Moses there and spoke more to him about what was next and Moses reported:

"Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." -- Deuteronomy 6:4-9 [ESV]

God knew His people would forget. But, these were things that were natural, perfect laws. They are just, right, and good. God wrote these laws on our hearts. Even still, He commanded His people to write these commands everywhere so that they would see them all the time and be reminded. [At this time, I am brought to mind that in this country, we are removing these commands as monuments from our city and county squares because people don't want to see it...irony of ironies.] God also commanded that these be taught diligently to our children and we should speak of them all times of the day so that their entire families will be familiar and knowledgeable about His commands.

The author of Hebrews (in chapter 8) reminds his readers that God's commands are written on all our hearts. It was God's covenant. For those who are arguing that this was the old covenant and it no longer applies, I appeal to Paul's words to the Greeks at Corinth. He spoke of the old covenant written on stone, but that the new covenant, spoken with words from flesh and bone, written by the Spirit, is also written on tablets of human hearts (2 Corinthians 3:2-3).

He also writes to the Roman church that God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5).

God's commands; His law, is written on our hearts.

When Paul writes to the Roman church:

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. -- Romans 1:20-21 [ESV]

he is reminding them that God has written His will on our hearts including those who do not obey Him. So, what about the good, kind, and helpful people who do not follow or obey God? What does this have to do with them?

Those "good people" do good things because deep down, they know what is good and will do some good things. It is written on their hearts. It is only natural. Even the most despicable people have done good, kind, and nice things for others. You'll often hear of someone who does something really horrible and the news reporters ask their neighbors if they ever saw anything. Their neighbors usually say something to the effect of, "No, they were really quiet, but nice to me every time I saw them." "Good people" also do bad things. Some do very bad things and are unrepentant for it. They think their good will outweigh their bad. Thus, they have no need for a Savior. They will do life on their own.

God's people embody and reflect the fruit of the Spirit. Not just some of the fruit. All of the fruit. It comes from a life living for Him and a life that is daily being saved by Him. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I have yet to meet someone who lives all nine of these attributes who does not follow Christ. Believers do. And when they fall short, they repent.

Are those people really good? Even Jesus did not call himself good. When the rich young ruler asked Jesus:

"Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone." -- Luke 18:18-19 [ESV]

Jesus wasn't trying to ask a trick question. He was serious. Why are you calling someone good simply because they do good, kind, helpful things for people? Our works do not make us good. They are a reflection of the Spirit living in us; the fruit of the Spirit. An unbeliever cannot reflect the fruit of a Spirit they ignore.

Finally, Paul's words to the Romans about "good people":

"None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one."
"Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive."
"The venom of asps is under their lips."
"Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness."
"Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known."
"There is no fear of God before their eyes."
Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. -- Romans 3:10-20 [ESV]

We all sin. We all have faults. We all need Jesus. It is only in Him that we find eternal life. Our friends who are unrepentant in sinning are not saved simply because they are nice people, tell funny jokes, like the same music as us, watch the same television shows, are fans of the same sports teams, and might some day perform a grand gesture to someone that might make a Christian look foolish in comparison.

Lying, gossip, sexual immorality, stealing, murder, disobeying our parents, homosexuality, filthy language, envy, slander, and a host of other sins are all wrong and God will be the only one who will decide our sentence. But if we don't care and don't repent, we won't be saved. Telling people we accept them as they are and never telling them they are wrong is not kind. It is not good. It is not helpful. We are just as guilty when we "tolerate" sinful behavior. We should always be gentle. Always be loving. Always be kind. Our gentleness, love, and kindness (fruit of the Spirit) must be tempered with faithfulness, patience, and self-control along the truth of God's Word. We speak in Spirit (from fruit) and in truth. (John 4:24)

People are in our lives for us to share the Good News of Jesus' saving grace. Unless we do, they will not spend eternity with us nor with Christ. Share the Gospel with every person you meet.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Book Review: Be The Dad She Needs You To Be

I have to admit that this book brought me to tears. As a Dad of a beautiful, funny, and very smart little girl I don't always feel like I live up to the expectations to be the best Dad I can be. I fail a lot and it always hurts.

Dr. Kevin Leman has written a very good book on being a Father to girls. Be The Dad She Needs You To Be isn't a list of things you should follow and if you follow it to the prescribed "t" you will be a great Dad. Leman gives encouragement and sound advice for when you are feeling insignificant and helpless.

He helps give advice for the mundane things in life all the way to very important and significant topics like sex and dating and when you are fighting with one another.

I want my daughter to make good choices in life and be a great Christian woman. Dr. Leman helped me see how I can improve what I am already doing and those things I am not doing. I shed some tears when I would read parts and feel broken; like I have failed for good and cannot turn things around. But then I would turn the page and see light around the corner for how to improve.

"There's no doubt that dads have a lifetime impact on their daughters. What do you want yours to be? You might be a young dad, or a planning-to-be-a-dad-soon guy, or one with a few gray hairs (or a lot) on your head. You might be one of those dads who has been able to hit on all eight cylinders with his daughter and only wants to tweak the carburetor a little. Or you might have realized, in the course of this book, that you are an MIA dad and want to change that. No matter where you are in your relationship, I guarantee that the daddy-daughter connection can grow stronger. You can make an indelible imprint on your daughter's heart. You can leave a lasting legacy for the next generation." (pg. 227)
I have to recommend Be The Dad She Needs You To Be by Dr. Kevin Leman. I give it 5 out of 5 stars.

I received this book free from the Harper Collins BookLook program. I was not required to write a favorable review. I was only asked to be honest. The words are my own.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Book Review: Rules For Radicals

Rules For Radicals by Saul Alinsky is the primer many community voices have used in the 20th century as their guide to organize labor, industry, and education. Ironically, Alinsky claims some sense of Christian ethic yet uses a quote from Lucifer in the opening of Rules (though he seems to reject Christianity because he believes it is all part of the bourgeois class structure that got us where we are today--and he isn't praising it--so there is a bit of confusion from the get go).

Alinsky suggests that power is corrupt yet his goal is to teach the organizer how to gain more and more power (pg. 10). So, like Marx and Engels teach in The Communist Manifesto, he teaches against something he himself wishes to have because in his mind, having power is bad unless he gets it because he would use it the benevolently. As we know though, Marx was a contemptible person who abused his power. I doubt Alinsky would have used his power well. He admits several times his crimes and his frequency in jail.

Alinsky also speaks like a relativist and outright claims that the organizer begins without truth--because truth is relative and changing (pg. 11). A person of Scripture would disagree with this statement as Jesus and his disciples after him frequently made truth claims.

Another value Alinsky has is to eliminate freedom and the will of governing oneself. He speaks again from Karl Marx's playbook that "The greatest enemy of individual freedom is the individual himself...People cannot be free unless they are willing to sacrifice some of their interests...(pg. xxv from the Prologue)."

I found it quite interesting that much of what Alinsky writes has been, at least in part, directly used and quoted by President Barack Obama, confirming what many know is true--he is a Marxist, and he is very familiar with the tactics Marx, Engels, and Alinsky use to usher in political, social, and theological ideals that run counter to everything we hold to be true. "But those who know the interdependence of man to be his major strength in the struggle out of the muck have not been wise in their exhortations and moral pronouncements that man is his brother's keeper...He is beginning to learn that he will either share part of his material wealth or lose all of it; that he will respect and learn to live with other political ideologies if he wants civilization to go on (pg. 23)."

The problem with this thinking is the many political and theological ideologies are completely different and run counter to one another and cannot coexist in our world. Most ideologies hold the belief that their ideology is correct and cannot work with others. Other ideologies hold at their core belief the desire to destroy anyone who holds a different ideology. They then cannot "learn to live with" other ideologies, though the truly benevolent, loving, and tolerant do.

Yet civilization goes on. It goes on because of the worldview of justice and lawfulness and the civil society that only a few are willing to hold and maintain in our world. It is those that believe in freedom and justice who lead by example and prohibit this Marxist ideology and others like it from gaining ground. It is no wonder then that the Radicals ideology fails. Because if it were to become the majority ideology, we would all be in serious trouble. Because of successful societies (say the United States' for example) we prohibit people like Alinsky from stealing from his neighbor for the good of the many, though that is also becoming more prevalent.

In our society, many see Alinsky's as a viable ideology in part because of Alinsky's own tactics. Rule 13 is how the radical organizers have achieved this disheartening of the people: "Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it (pg. 130)."

Instead of having a rational discussion about issues; instead of looking at reasonable data; instead of arguing principles we have name calling and smear campaigns. If you think President Obama was very even keeled and didn't resort to smearing opponents, then you were duped. Any disagreement with President Obama is immediately countered with "racist" smears even though most of those who disagree with him do so because of principle, not his race. He makes sure this happens while he sits back and says not a word.

We can see that this will be the meme when Hillary Clinton runs for President in 2016, only then it will be "sexist/war on women". Yet, we never heard this come from the Republican side when Clarence Thomas was smeared, Condoleezza Rice on Iraq, Herman Cain for President in 2008, Allen West from Florida, Sarah Palin in 2008, Michelle Bachmann, et al. I could go on all day and include Ben Carson who is currently getting attacked from all sides because of his opposition to the ideals of the President.

Alinsky is no Christian (and he would agree) but he is no scholar either. His cry of hypocrisy is steeped in hypocrisy and misuse of context throughout. It is the way of Alinsky to live and breathe his own ideology which lives in continual contradictions which actually runs counter to his own rule #4: "Make the enemy live up to their own book of rules (pg. 128)." We see this from many today who cry that the world, church, culture is unjust and recites out of context quotes which they do not understand.

I urge everyone to read Rules For Radicals in order to know and understand what we are up against. This ideology is now the vessel that the coming generations will be using to oppose any moral compass whether it be political or theological. I see much of Alinsky's thoughts in the church as well. Shane Claiborne, Brian McLaren, and Jim Wallis have used similar teaching and that should disturb any student of the Word of God.

I'm not going to give this a star rating. I think it is good information to have but I do not endorse any of what Saul Alinsky writes.

I realize there are dozens of printings of this book and no two are the same. The version I own and read is the Vintage Books edition from 1989 and the page numbers quoted reflect this printing. Your copy will likely have different page numbers depending on size of print and page.

Book Review: Building A Ministry of Spiritual Mentoring

I was thrilled to receive my copy of Dr. Jim Grassi's book Building A Ministry of Spiritual Mentoring and begin reading immediately.

Dr. Grassi is convinced, through his research at Men's Ministry Catalyst, that "if pastors/ministers aren't committed to promoting and supporting dynamic men's programs, their churches will tend to grow slowly (if at all)" because "when a man comes to faith, 93% of the time the entire family will come to faith and become participants in the church (pg. 5)."

He also insists that a group of guys meeting at a local diner once a week for Bible study or once a month for a pancake breakfast does not constitute a vibrant men's ministry (pg. 6).

I agree. And this is why Dr. Grassi has written this book. He wants men to step forward and lead their families and their churches. "Unfortunately, too many men in the church today have become spectators leading undisciplined lives instead of being active participants in partnership with the Holy Spirit in studying and applying God's Word (pg. 23)." Men need to be challenged. It is part of their nature and they need mentors; other older men who are actively discipling and training them for leadership.

I don't want to give away the myriad of great things Dr. Grassi has written by filling this review with too many quotes. It is best to get them in context with his overall point. I found myself underlining many passages in his book.

Building A Ministry of Spiritual Mentoring is full of practical, how-to advice on building a vibrant men's ministry. I think this book would serve any church leadership with ways to begin a new men's group or even enhance an already existing men's ministry.

I have already passed this book along to our church's minister. He is getting a copy he can pour through and highlight. If you don't believe in exclusively male spiritual leadership, you may not like or agree with this book. But if you're willing to explore his arguments, I found him to be very sound in his teaching.

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars. Very helpful and it spoke to me as a man on what I would like in a men's ministry (and we're already doing some of the things in the book in our congregation).

I received this book free from the Harper Collins BookLook program. I was not required to write a favorable review. I was only asked to be honest. The words are my own.

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Rundown - 10

Here is how my week is going:
- We don't watch movies right when they come out in our home. It's too expensive. So, with Netflix, we catch movies when we have time.
- Just saw Moneyball. Great movie.
- Then watched Knuckleball! a documentary about MLB pitchers who have used this pitch.
- It will be tricky in the Fall when Gotham premiers at the same time Big Bang Theory is on. CBS has Thursday night Football until the end of October, so they moved BBT to Mondays. Gotham has to compete with BBT. Fox likes to cancel shows within a few weeks if people aren't watching. I predict Gotham won't make it to 2 seasons. It will join the ranks of other Fox shows like Firefly and Terra Nova that get cancelled too soon.
- Our zip code is changing. First time that has happened to us. I guess the population is going up around here.
- For all the useless information Jeopardy! contestants know, they NEVER know the Bible questions and they are usually in the form of the Catholic church vocabulary and that's sad...and there's probably a commentary about our society in this somewhere.

And for the more serious:
- It seems to me (my opinion) that the most accepted theology isn't coming from the most intelligent minds. By that I mean that it isn't necessarily coming from a place of trying to find the best and most reliable scholarship. The most accepted theology I see is coming from what people already believe and want to force into Scripture to make it right. And it's coming from smart people, don't get me wrong. I don't mean the people bringing it aren't intelligent. But it is coming from the people that are most liked rather than folks that may not have a large "fan" following.
- We have this need to create new perspectives when the old ones aren't necessarily problematic or wrong. Change for change's sake?
- This summer, our main adult Bible class is going through John MacArthur's book Twelve Ordinary Men on the apostles. Each class is going to be taught by different people. I am teaching 2 classes: Judas Iscariot and another (I haven't chosen yet). Blessed to be given the opportunity to teach the Word.


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Gospel and Grief

I have some hesitation in making this post. It is something I believe in very strongly, but I don't know how it will be received. I don't want to give any hint that I have no sympathy for those who grieve. I have great love and respect for my family and for anyone who has lost a loved one. I know I won't completely cover every aspect and angle of this so it is incomplete. I am a sinner and a flawed human being. I recognize that. But as I discuss this concept with people I trust, I am finding that there is something huge here.

It has been nearly a year since my Mom passed away. From time to time I will have a moment of grief and shed some tears, but overall I feel like I have a grasp on my grief. Others seem to be having a difficult time with their own loss. It makes me sad to watch them deal with it so hard. I know everyone deals with grief differently and in their own time frame. I recognize and respect that. I freely give room for that.

However, I made some observations about the differences I have. It made me realize something about the theology of those who teach a social gospel and a "Kingdom of this world" theology. When we make the gospel "...Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven..." and social justice, we focus on here and now. It doesn't give those who have lost everything the faith and hope of tomorrow. They will see their loved ones again if they have faith in Christ which is why we need to share that Gospel (The only true Gospel) with people more than the social gospel of a romanticized love which accepts sinfulness at any cost. True love "...does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth..." (1 Cor. 13:6) and John's account of Jesus says that "[His] kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews...” (John 18:36)

I know too many in our churches that feed at the well of social justice as primary news. This missional theology wants us to lessen our focus on saving people's souls and think about how we change this world now. I have witnessed this teaching give those in grief no hope for tomorrow. They have lost their faith. They have lost their way. We can read loads of articles on how we can better reach millennials who are not interested in the answers we used to have. The cynicism that is created is helping our friends and family run from Christ. And the solutions they seem to give are just more of the same nonsense that will lead to deeper despair or worse, lead us to accepting sin without repentance. The latter is rampant in our world today.

What does scripture say about those who teach? That they are judged more severely (James 3:1). These men and women who teach this need to think about what they are promising people in their "gospel". We absolutely should take care of the poor, the needy, the desperate, the sinner. But when we substitute that as the Gospel instead of the fruit of the Gospel (Gal. 5:22-23), we leave people to deal with life's traumas on their own.

I sometimes still have moments of sadness when I think about my Mom and how much I miss her. But only if I dwell on just that aspect. When I think about heaven and seeing her again, and knowing she is no longer in pain, I rejoice. Also, knowing the large number of my friends in Christ's Church who pray for me makes my faith even stronger. I don't get desperate. I don't despair. I think about how lost the grieving are when they don't have the true Jesus who heals. It is sad but it makes me angry with the teachers in our brotherhood who have been given a huge responsibility and don't find this message urgent enough so they teach this other "gospel" and they do it in the guise of scholarship and "a better understanding". They misuse scripture when it suits them but when you use their own methods on their theology, they get mad or say it's not the same thing. They are hypocrites. It's Pharisaical.

Strong words, I know. But I'm tired of it. They are stealing hope from people who need it. And our brotherhood eats it up. Where are our elders and leaders who have knowledge in the Word and the strength and perseverance to stand up and say, "Enough!"? They've been charged with protecting the flock from wolves and they are asleep in the fields while the sheep are carried away.

I, for one, am not an elder but I am a leader and I'm calling out the hypocrisy and the false religion being substituted for the Gospel of Jesus. You are hurting Christ's people and I will continue to teach the truth.
*As I prefaced, this isn't everything. It doesn't encompass all of what grieving people deal with. I understand that. I'm not saying this is all of it. But, it is definitely a large part of it from my perspective and experience and we need more people willing to stand up boldly and say it out loud. I know I am not alone. I talk to brothers and sisters ALL THE TIME who agree with me and struggle with the same thing.


Friday, May 23, 2014

The Rundown - 9

Here are the random ramblings my brain yelled at me this week:

- I had a great time seeing my brother and his family this week. We got to talk about a lot. He and I generally have similar minds. I think it is why I am so close to him.
- I was reminded this week that without the care and love of a church family, there really isn't much hope when times are difficult.
- So, suddenly, a lot of people are big fans of the pope. Many of them hated the previous popes. I don't think they like this one because he is making Christianity clear and true. I think it is because it is the first time a pope is making Christianity more palatable to a sinful world. This pope is willing to sacrifice clear Bible teachings to gain acceptance from the world. Not surprisingly, the world is reciprocating and willing to love a man who will defend sinfulness and false teaching. There is nothing new under the sun.
- When we lay down for sin, we stand for nothing.
- A verse I keep coming back to is 1 Corinthians 13:6 " rejoices in the truth..." There's a lot in this.
- I am content in knowing that I will never be accepted among my peers for my point of view. I feel sorry for my detractors, but I'm okay with it. I know Whom I believe in.
- I am feeling a bit melancholy for Father's Day this year. Not really looking forward to it. I'm glad to be a dad, but it is the year marker now for when my mom passed away.
- It has been difficult for me to really pay attention to my favorite sports teams lately. First, it is because we don't have cable and a lot of sports are being sent to cable channels rather than the networks as they were in the past. Second, it is because all my teams are not local so they don't show them here. Third, it is because I'm too busy and tired to focus on a game.
- That said, I am excited for the return of football. Chicago has some great draft picks this season.
- First Smallville, then Arrow. Now there will be The Flash and Gotham. Marvel may have the monopoly on great comic book movies, but DC is killing it with comic book television.

What is on your mind this week?


Saturday, May 10, 2014

Mother's Day Without Mom

This will be my first Mother's Day following the death of my Mother. It will be difficult, but I am thankful for her. It will be a day of remembering how she loved me, helped me grow up, showed me faithfulness, encouraged me when I was sad, took me to numerous doctor appointments as my body grew extremely fast as I got older, and explained the attitudes a good adult man should have with others.

My Mom and I didn't always get along. I was a good kid and didn't really get into much trouble, but as an adult we drifted in some of our political and theological beliefs. She was supportive of my work in ministry and loved to hear me talk about the things I was working on. She loved that I found leadership important and saw when bad leadership by others bothered me. And she was encouraging.

On Sunday, I will be attempting to lead worship on Mother's Day. I know I will get through it. I count myself among the numerous people who find Mother's Day difficult, but I am going to celebrate. I have a wonderful church family full of Mothers. I have a wonderful Mother-in-law. My wife is an awesome Mother to our two kids. We will all honor moms together because Jesus Christ made it possible for us to reunite again.


Friday, May 09, 2014

The Rundown - 8

Here's what's on my mind this week:

- Jack is Back!!! 24 is back and it is great!
- I've been watching the reboot of "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" and to be honest, it is not the same. I don't know what it is. Maybe the guys have lost a step for being away from it so long that they just aren't as funny as they used to be. Maybe it's the CW. Maybe the new host...not a fan of her. I liked Drew Carey and the easy target he was for jokes from Ryan. Colin is the funniest on the show. Maybe their audience isn't as good. Not sure.
- We saw Tim Hawkins last Thursday. He was awesome! My cheeks and torso were sore the next day from all the laughing.
- Speaking of performances, my daughter was amazing in her first school musical, and I must say, is a better singer than most of her peers. I am her dad, but I'm not just saying that. She really is good.
- I love my break from Facebook. I am having some great theological conversations through email with my friends. I am glad to hear so many (men and women) are in agreement on some of the items I have brought up lately. It gives me hope. But, they don't want to say anything. I understand their hesitation.