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Monday, February 27, 2006

Take the Time to Read This

If you've come to my blog at all (not sure how else you'd get here if you haven't), you may have noticed there is something dear to my heart that it seems I regularly miss in articulating.

Check out this post as I think it hits it right on the head!

Just one more reason why I can't wait until:

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Experimental Theology

Yes, I'm stealing the title from Jason, but I can't think of a better title to describe it. I've had this concept bouncing around in my brain for a couple of weeks and would like to see the response. This is not intended to be a dogmatic statment, but rather a concept that I would love to hear your feedback about. As the Body of Christ, we should sharpen one another, not just in practice, but in the reason's below the practice as well.

Here's how it will work. I'll make the statement, give you some background, provide possible application, and present any hangups I see. Tell me what you think.

God loves His righteousness more than me.

BACKGROUND: There are a number of factors that play into this view:

1. I heard a preacher (through radio) make a comment about how God couldn't tolerate sin, but He couldn't tolerate living with out us even more. Huh? While that view creates a highly romantic view of our relationship with God, it seems to make it sound like God would be lonely without me. I just can't justify that view with Scripture.
2. Man-centered evangelism. Very closely related to the first point, I think the modern Christian movement has created a gospel presentation that places man at the center of the universe. I do not exist because God needs me. As the "I am" He is totally self-sustaining. Too often the message seems to be presented in a way that makes it sound like God was in big trouble if He didn't create a way to redeem us. We were in big trouble. We're very fortunate to have a kind God Who acted on our behalf, even though He had no obligation to do so.
3. Righteousness highlighted. It seems that many misunderstand what had to take place on the cross. It isn't that God can be nicer regarding sin because Jesus was selfless. It is that God maintains His righteous standards because my sin has been paid for and I have received the rightesousness of a Perfect, Holy God.


1. Maybe you don't use this statement in evangelism, but does it encourage us to do more God-centered evangelism?
2. Similarly, does it remind us of our place before God (Ecclesiastes 5)?
3. Does this perspective help prevent treating God like a puppet? It reminds me that I am here to glorify Him, He is not here to glorify me.


1. While it is obvious that God loves Himself more than me (Maybe that's not obvious in today's teaching. I think I smell another post.), can He love an attribute of His character? Then again, is God God if you take away His righteousness? Can the two be separated?

What do you think? Clear as mud?

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Quit H8n

Can someone please explain to me why people don't like JJ?

I just wish I could get him a copy of Humility rather than the "book" he's been reading this year.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Red Letter Error

Have you ever had a discussion with someone who replies to you, "Well, I choose to focus on the words of Jesus"? It sounds great. It sounds quite pious. Who better to focus on that the Perfect Son of God? While I am all for studying the life and teaching of Christ (Obviously. Our youth group is walking through Luke now, and loving it), I think an over emphasis on the gospels, to the neglect of the rest of the Scriptures, is a dangerous practice.

In the Scot McKnight article I've referred to previously, he states that the Emergent Movement has typically focused on the gospels for doctrine and focus. He encourages that they will eventually need to address Paul's views of government (as one example) if they are really going to grow in wisdom and application. I would even argue that they will need to approach other passages even for clarification on many of the initial doctrinal issues to face.

Here are some reasons that it's important to not put too much emphasis on the gospels alone:

1. Jesus intended for his ministry to be covert. (Yikes, that's the most NT Wright-like statement I've probably made.) When Jesus was questioned by the disciples about His usage of parables, He explained Himself by saying, "To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is in parables, so that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand." (Luke 8:9-10) In God's sovereign wisdom, He knew that the misson and teachings of Jesus would need to veiled for Him to accomplish His purposes. That's why passages like the Sermon on the Mount are some of the most difficult to understand in all of Scripture. (In many ways, I think a focus on the more difficult passages of Scripture tickle the ears of the proclaimed postmodern. Rather than working from clear Scriptures to the more difficult, it's more fun to start with the difficult and excuse the idea of discerning specific application.)

2. We don't have much of Jesus' personal training with the disciples. John 21:25 reminds us that the teachings and actions of Jesus recorded in Scripture are only a small fraction of His ministry. Take a look at most of His teachings. Almost all that we have recorded were public events (with some exception, like John 13-17). Even when addressing His own disciples, often the audience is much larger. Again, we must consider that many of those texts are intended for most of the audience to miss the meaning.

3. The Epistles are meant to explain what we see happening in the gospels. If one were to base their soteriology strictly from the gospels we would find Luke 18:18-27 quite perplexing. However, we have passages like Romans 1-4 to help explain to us what Jesus was doing. Without clarification, we may think that Jesus was saying the man simply needed to obey the Ten Commandments. But with clarification, we realize Jesus was exposing the man's sin to himself...he couldn't live the Ten Commandments. Generally, the gospels record the actions and teachings of Jesus (similarly, Acts primarily records the actions and teachings of the apostles); the epistles explain those events and teachings to us.

4. Other Scriptures are devalued. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 reminds us that all Scripture is inspired by God. Understanding the doctrine of inspiration means that every writing is from God, regardless of the author. We do not more highly value an educated king over an uneducated farmer. The Holy Spirit carries along the authors so that they record the Word of God as He intended in it's original form. When we think words in Scripture are more important because they are Jesus' words, we underestimate God's ability to work in other authors' lives.

There's nothing wrong with a red-letter Bible, and certainly it is highly beneficial to study the words of Jesus. However, if we think those red words are more inspired than others, we are short-changing God's Word. And if we are strictly defining our doctrine and practice out of the gospels without examining the rest of Scripture, we highly run the risk of improper exegesis.

I hope for the EM's sake, they continue to strive to live like Jesus, but they examine more of the words of Paul (and others) to see how to do that.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

More Emergent Discussion

Justin Taylor points to a Scott McKnight article that deals with understanding, and investigating the Emergent Movement.

He seems to take a pretty non-biased view. Take a look at the article, and tell me what you think.

Gospel Journey--Week 3

Over at our GOSPEL Journey blog we've been addressing the thought: Our sin separates us from God. In case you missed it, we looked at these five statements:

Sin enters humanity.
Satan is a proud sinner.
Sin brings death.
Sinners sin, that's what they do.
God is always offended.

We also wrestled with these questions:

What is holiness?
What is sin?
Did God make sin?
Does hell make God seem evil? (Thoughts directly from Greg Stier.)
Why is separation eternal?

This next week we'll tackle: Sin cannont be paid for by good works.

Check them out and comment if you want!

Review: Grace College

I took a couple of students up to visit Grace College this week. I'm not one of those insanely obsessed people with the college (if God is calling you to be an engineer and you can get into MIT or GMI, by all means, go there!) but I did make a few observations:

1. College is expensive. As I'm sitting through a financial aide meeting with my students, I hear a representative from the school mention the yearly price. My mouth hit the floor as I heard the price was over $10,000/year more than it was 9 years ago. Then, he follows that point by stating that Grace is still one of the cheapest Christian colleges in Indiana. (Ouch! I'm not looking forward to three in college at once!)
2. There are some nice buildings. My college life pretty much consisted of Beta, Alpha, Philathea and McClain. These are all old worn down buildings. But now they have Kent, Indiana, Rec Center, Mount Memorial and Westminster. There are some really good looking buildings on campus. I've even been told that the library is nice. I should check it out some day.
3. Campus life has developed. It sounds like they have a great intermural program and have really found ways to plug students in. Campus life was good when I was there, but it sounds like it's even better now.
4. Restaurants. We had Ponderosa (a couple of years) and a few fast food places. Now they have Applebees, Hacienda, Ritters Frozen Custard. All kinds of good stuff.
5. Beards. What's up with that? It seemed like everywhere I turned there were beards. Not just gotees or a soul patch, I'm talking full beards. Fortunately, the trend hasn't caught on with the ladies yet.

Overall, I guess it was pretty cool to see the alma mater doing well!

Oxymoron: Self-Righteous Gospel

This post originally would be a comment to a previous post. However, I realized it would be way too long, and that there is probably more clarification that needs to be made.

Oxymoron: Self-Righteous Gospel

I know it's poor-form to use the word in the definition, but let's breakdown the phrase "self-righteous" one more time. Self-righteous literally means a "righteousness generated from self." It is a belief that you, of your own merit, have acheived a proper moral standing before God. The "self" element indicates you are pursing this apart from Christ, or even possibly "in cooperation with Christ."

However, the gopel is very clear that salvation comes apart from any element of self. The gospel message is void of all elements of self. It cannot even be that I cooperate with grace. No grace, purely defined, is that i have receieved unmerited favor. Even the faith that I place in the work of Christ is a gracious gift from God. Left to myself, I never would have even thought to look to him (Romans 3:10-11).

Therefore, for a believer who has truly submitted to the gospel, it should be IMPOSSIBLE for him/her to preach the gospel accuately with a self-righteous attitude. (Matthew 7:22 paints a terrifying picture of some who may preach the gospel, and are doing it with self-righteousness, but only because they never truly knew God and believe their works...including preaching the gospel...will attain righteousness for them.) But how can it be self-righteous to declare I am not righteous?

A couple objections to consider:

1.) Self-righteousness is not the same thing as confidence. I John 5:13 reminds us that it is possible to know that you are saved. It is not self-righteous to tell someone you know the truth, especially when that truth is that you are not righteous on your own!

2.) Love must be mingled with preaching, however, I do not have to have a long standing relationship with someone to prove it. Scripture is peppered with people sharing the gospel with strangers. I am not saying that we don't show love, but I am saying that developing a long standing relationship with a person is hardly necessary in every situation. In fact, I could probably make a Biblical argument that it is more loving and Scripturally accurate to present the gospel very early in a relationship, and then follow that with love, regardless of their response.

3.) Speaking the truth in love does not mean it all has to be pleasant. If that is difficult for you to swallow, review the preaching you see in the book of Acts. Today, our society sacrifices so much on the altar of "self esteem." We are bombarded with the message that we are good enough and we deserve favor. It may need to be very harsh and direct to show a person they are not good enough, but it must be done, and it must be loving.

4.) A proper understanding of the doctrines of grace prevents self-righteousness. Consider even just the doctrine of "total depravity." If I truly believe the Scriptures which say I am not even capable of turning to God apart from a special action of grace on His part, then I do not view my conversion as something that happened because I was smart or more holy and therefore understood the message. No, I know that my salvation only came because God removed the veil from my eyes. Therefore, when I share the gospel with someone, I do not view their resistance to the message as evidence that they are stupid or extraodinarily unholy. I understand that they are dead (just like I was) and that God must work in their heart for the message to even make sense. Preaching the gospel should always remind me of my own depravity.

5.) The person's response is not the gauge of whether I am self-righteous. The message will offend some. This does not mean I need to be abrasive in my presentation. But it does mean that there will be times that a person will be offended by the gospel message, regardless of the humiltiy expressed in the presentation. Also, much of the church misuses the term "self-righteous" so we have to assume the world will misuse it too. Therfore, if someone makes the accusation, we really need to be diligent to see if their claim has any truth. Just because you are being accused of being self-righteous doesn't mean you are. But if you don't examine to see if their claim is true, that may be a sign that you are being self-righteous.

Again, if I have trusted my life to Christ and the righteousness He imputes upon me, and I am acurately preaching that message, there is no way for me to do it in a self-righteous way. If I am accused of being self righteousness, I must either conclude that the person is wrong, or that I am not a believer and am depending on my self-righteousness, or that my presentation was not accurate.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Cliff Notes to Spotting False Teachers III

Ocassionally, I like to post easy ways to spot false teaching. It's important that we are all diligent to spot it, because it could creep in from any of us (myself included) if we are not kept in check with the Word of God and the accountability of the Church searching the Scriptures to make sure teachings are true.

Does the message preach worldwide?

While there are a million things wrong with the prosperity angle of gospel preaching, one easy way to spot it is asking if the message speaks to all Christians worldwide. While the message that God wants to give me a better car, healthy kids, a larger house and a career advancement seems to match the message for suburban America, it falls short across the globe.

Ask yourself the question: "If I handed this to a brother in Rwanda, would he be offended to read it?" Warning: You may find a favorite book of yours referred to here. If so, run it through this test. If you think I'm off base, don't worry about it. (Also, acknowledge that I may not even know about your book, since I don't read as much as I should, and therefore the correlation may be accidental) How would a brother who's watched his family die because of his faith accept the idea that God wants the person potential to be maximized all while finding great self-fulfillment because God is just waiting to open the "storehouses of heaven" while you dream big? Would he be offended to know you think the reason his life is difficult is because his not claiming his goods from God?

America is probably breeding more false teaching within Christianity than any other country. It's typically very easy to spot...as long as you're willing to think outside of the boundaries of America.

You may think it's no big deal. You find it uplifting, so people should quit being so picky. Allow me to encourage you to consider two thoughts:

1. 2 Timothy 3:12 says that "all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted." Just wanting to be godly (not even having to fully acheive it) will mean that you won't be living your best life now.
2. In fact, that's the problem. Your trials should only be ensuring that your best life awaits you in heaven. Paul encourages us in Philippians 3:10 that our suffering actually deepens our intimacy with God, an intimacy that won't be fully realized until heaven.

You see, an Americanized, live-for-today's-prosperity message isn't selling you more. It's selling you short.

Just ask your persecuted brothers and sisters around the globe. They'll tell you they are living for so much more!

Who is the Self-Righteous? He who doesn't preach.

I've had some interesting conversations lately with those who believe their actions alone are enough to please God when it comes to evangelism. As I was trying to explain to one guy that I believed action and speech must cooperate together, I got clever responses back to me like: "I thought my actions do the speaking" or "I'm more worried about my own sin to point out the sins of others."

But my favorite response came from one who challenged me that it is quite self-righteous to think that I could challenge someone about their beliefs. I don't know if the guy had read my blog before and new that the self-righteous card would get my ire up, but it worked.

Are we being self-righteous when we preach the gospel?

1. Are you kidding me? How can one be self-righteous while proclaiming that your only righteousness is found in Christ?
2. Doesn't proper evangelism call the listener to see their personal sin, but at the same time, can't I do that as a fellow sinner?
3. Isn't it more self-righteous to believe your life is so clearly displaying the gospel that it is unnecessary to preach the message? If I say I don't need to preach, that means I'm living perfectly? No, I preach the gospel because I know my sins prevent me from being the perfect display of the gospel. In fact, part of my gospel presentation is that I don't have any righteousness of my own.

I feel bad for Francis of Assisi. If he had known that "Preach the gospel, and when necessary, use words" would be so badly abused, I think he would have held those words in.

Let me also again encourage you to very cautiously throw out the title of "self-righteous" upon someone. Self-righteousness (believing that you have your own merit to earn God's favor) condemns people to hell. If find it ironic that those who condemn the gospel preacher for not being sensitive to others, is in reality telling that preacher he's heading to hell.

Keep preaching the gospel! For it is God's Word alone that tells us we are not righteous on our own!

Friday, February 17, 2006

Christian Fanatics?

Excitement over the gospel should be natural. (If it's not, you may want to check whether you have a spiritual pulse.) We've been called to be ambassadors, so that means we should be passionate about the cause of Christ.

But fanatics?

According to Winston Churchill's definition, we should be. Thanks to one of my widgets on my mac, this quote came to my computer last night: A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject. (Winston Churchill, NYT, July 5, 1954)

Forget Churchill though, Paul says the same. In I Corinthians 1:20-31 Paul says that is God is choosing to use that which is foolish and base to accomplish his task. Guess what is foolish and base are? Us.

And later in the same letter (I Corinthians 3:18-20) Paul says we must become a fool before we can obtain salvation.

I'm baffled at how this corresponds to what we see in modern day Christianity. Now, we are to appear as normal as possible. I'm not to share my faith right off the bat, for then people may think I'm crazy. It gets so easy to bow at the altar of cool. Acceptance becomes the god that we worship. Rather than fear that a person's soul is destined to hell, I fear that they may not think I'm a neat guy.

I'm not saying that I'm ready to paint myself scarlet and emblazzon a big "J" on my chest (although, if that brought people to Christ?), but I wonder how long a person should be around me before they notice my faith in Christ. How passionate do I appear if I'm afraid to discuss it?

I guess I should consider that given much time around me, people are going to gather that I'm a moron anyway. I might as well let them discover I'm a fool for Christ.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Gospel Journey--Week 2

Over at our GOSPEL Journey blog we've been addressing the thought: God created us to be with Him. In case you missed it, we asked these six questions:

Can you prove that God exists?"
Who was God talking to?
Who made your eyes?
Were you created by God?
Who are you?
Was God lonely?

We also tackled these five statements:

The Bible defends and attacks evolution."
The Original Jurassic Park
The earth, like Dick Fisher, may not be as old as you think.
Seth met his wife at a family reunion.
Lonliness in perfection"

This week we tackle: Our sin separates us from God.

Check them out and comment if you want!

Book Review

Humility: True Greatness by CJ Mahaney

It has been nearly three months since my latest book review. This can be explained by three reasons:

1. The sin of laziness. I'd been waking up later than I should and watching more TV than I should.
2. Craziness of life. Ironically, I was doing that at a time when leisure was at it's greatest premium. With the holidays, moving into the new building, announcing our church's staff transition and more, my schedule has been full. And God has been so good!
3. I was about 80% through a book that was getting stale. It started strong, but then was getting redundant by the page. I've committed to trying to finish what I've started (with books) and just can't seem to keep content straight when I read a few books at once. Therefore, everytime I considered reading I felt it needed to be that book. Thanks to Dee for encouraging me to just put the old one down and get reading again.

Now to the book, well, almost.

I knew I was going to like this book before I opened the cover. I've been hearing CJ on various radio interviews and in conversations with the other guys preparing for theTogether For the Gospel Conference. But I was more impressed by a man CJ has discipled. I contacted this guy, who didn't know me from Adam, and asked his advice regarding some issues involved with our transition. He had been through a similar change, and it's worked beautifully for them, so I wanted to glean some of his wisdom. He immediately offered to send me CJ's book along with another resource. His Kingdom mindset and desire to see God glorified regardless of denomination or affiliation (as long as God was truly glorified by the gospel being the gospel) was a tremendous encouragement. I figured if this guy could have such a gospel-perspective, surely God has graciously allowed CJ to do some things right.

Ok, now to the book.

Get it! That's the most I can say. Without a doubt, if you are short on time and can only read a small bit per day, read Scripture. But if you can read a little more, I would then encourage meditating on Scripture, by reading works that are immersed in it. This book continually reminds you to get to the foot of the cross.

CJ uses so much Scripture in context that he can't help but his theology to be accurate. Though I don't agree with all of his positions, he is so clear that regeneration comes only through the work Christ, by faith given by Christ because of the grace of God in Christ. By taking you to the gospel continually, he does not keep things at the entry level (as some might assume) but actually calls you to dig deeper than most believers probably go.

However, this is not a doctoral dissertation, splattered throughout with difficult to understand words and concepts that are difficult to apply in everyday life. Near the end of the book, he gives suggestions for cultivating humility. One of his suggestions is "play more golf." After just a week of seeing how many of his suggestions do cultivate humility, I'm actually thinking of getting my clubs out of storage and giving it a try. Of course, I think that's probably more humiliation than humility.

CJ's life is graced with an infectious smile and joy. His book is a joy to read as well. But even more exciting, by God's grace, I have discovered that humility is not a painful Christian obligation, but an amazing joy.

I praise God that He has begun cultivating humility in my life and pray that He continues to do so (for I've got much much further to go). I am thankful to CJ, and the man who gave me this book, because God used it to reveal His Word to me and cultivate a heart that wants humility. I'd strongly encourage you to check it out!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

ePharmaceuticals and evangelism

I'm still training the email program to spot junk mail on my G4. Therefore, I see all the mail that is coming through with it highlighting what it believes to be junk. This, of course, means that I see the spam mail about pharmaceuticals. Just a couple thoughts that have crossed my mind as I see these enter my email:

1. Who would buy perscription drugs online? I would think that it would be scary to be buying a substance you place in your body when you don't know where it comes from. You may get ripped off, paying for something you aren't getting. But scarier yet, you may get more than you paid for. I'd be terrified of what I may be ingesting.
2. They're certainly persistant. First, there's the creative names they use to bypass your filter. Names like "Fundamental Graphite" or "Peppermint C. Briefcase." Then they spell the drugs in creative ways. This morning, their drugs of choice were spelled the following ways: "Vlipagra, Levitora, Cialkis, Imitrhex, Fnlomax, Ultraam, Vioaxx, Ampblem, VaIioum, Xantax, Soema, Merindia." At least I hope they are intentionally misspelling things to bypass filters. Scarier yet, maybe they are sell "knock offs" by these names. Yikes!
3. If we at least get one sale!" Mass emails for garbage like this is are why we have filter programs. I imagine in the business world a program that sends out mass emails is probably relatively cheap. You can probably justify the expense that if just a couple of people respond, you've made your money back.

Can we respond the same way with the Gospel message? Using the same principle, can we approach evangelism with the same attitude? If a method offends or shuts most people off, but has even the remotest chance to reach someone, is it then a productive evangelism method? If I get junk mail for a perscription drug, I can filter it and never go there. If I approach someone about the gospel in a way that turns them off from futher conversations, isn't the harm greater?

Do we change the name? On the flip side, do we ever change the message or terminology slightly to try to bypass a person's filter? Then once the conversation is entered we reveal our real views. Is this just the spiritual "bait and switch" method? Can't we just frustrate people even more?

Lately I've seen some pretty interesting conversations about evangelism online. I strongly believe we must ACT AND SPEAK the gospel message (for that is what Scripture clearly says). The gospel message is pretty clearly mapped out for us (in Scripture, yet conversion is out of our control. There will be times people will be offended at the message, regardless of the grace we extend with it. I also know, if I'm not walking in the Spirit, I may try to manipulate a situation where God is not working.

I'd much rather stand before God and confess that I was at least trying, and lately I've felt much conviction to start doing some much more intentional things to evangelize (dare I say: tracts?). But I pray that in the midst, people know that the desire of my heart is to see God glorified and that they would enjoy Him for eternity. Not that I"m looking to make a heartless sale.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Weekend Rapid Fire

Just giving a quick shot of some of my thoughts from the weekend:

1. Wonder why I keep hammering taking the Word seriously? Because this kind of thing happens when you don't! (If you can't figure out the problem with the verse under the name of the church in the top banner...check the context. Who are they quoting?) Thanks, or is it blame, goes out to Justin for pointing this one out. (UPDATE: Thankfully, some people contacted the church and they decided it was a bad idea to quote Satan for their life verse. They had placed Luke 4:8 just below the name of their church. Since they corrected it, I broke the link to the church.)
2. I am loving Humility by CJ Maheny. I say loving it. There will be many posts to come from this one. Did I mention that I love it?
3. I am so grateful to God for the privilege to preach on grace this morning. I had a blast doing it, and however it turned out for everyone else, I had a great time of worship as we looked at Ephesians 1:3-14. Afterwards, I received a marvelous compliment from a visitor who said there was a humility and meekness visible in all the staff who shared today. Of course, it was more fun to say "thank you" and then remind her that apart from the grace of God, that would not be said of me, for He placed whatever meekness was there in my heart!
4. So far my Olympics viewing has been pretty slim. At this point, I've watched because nothing better was on. Again, I just can't get pumped for this.
5. I have a very limited knowledge who Kanye West is, or why he was mentioned in the comments of this post. At first, I felt terribly bad about that (I know my "cultural head" is stuck in the sand much of the time), but several of my students didn't know anything about it either. I'm not sure if that's a good sign or a bad one.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Don't Point to the Cartoon Reaction

Ever since 9/11, we’ve been inundated with the declaration “Islam is a religion of peace.” Recently, the riots in response to the cartoons depicting Mohammed have called that claim into question. Should the reaction of some be regarded as the standard for their religion?

I remember when Shareef Abdur-Rahim fought with a guy. Comments were made questioning whether Islam is really peaceful with Rahim out there throwing punches. I felt that accusation was quite unfair. Though Rahim seems to be the classic player that puts up great stats on terrible teams, he has been a model citizen off the court. Should we consider every believer in the NBA who’s been in a scuffle to be proof that Christianity is not a religion of peace?

We are appalled when professing believers bomb an abortion clinic. We blush when a popular Christian figure says something completely callous about homosexuality. We sigh when a group of believers choose to make a major fuss about a movie produced by the world. But these examples don’t define Christianity.

Your doctrine defines your faith. I still don’t buy that Islam is a religion of peace, but not because of the cartoon riots. There are deeper issues to expose:

1.) The Qu’ran regularly calls for violence to be imposed upon those who refuse to submit. Comments suggesting physical force are peppered throughout the book, without any explanation for not taking those orders literally.
2.) Their religion includes politics. One thing that shocked the Jewish contemporaries of Jesus was that He did not focus on the government. He instructed, as does Paul, that we should submit to the government we are placed under. Islam, however, calls for the merging of faith and politics. Therefore, issues of political power, war, crime and punishment are brought right to the fore in their faith. Violence cannot be avoided, and even must be imposed to continue order and avoid anarchy.
3.) Mohammed and his disciples killed thousands. “Ah, but Christians killed during the crusades,” you say. However, there are a couple things to consider.
a. Those who claimed they were representing Christianity in the crusades would not have our endorsement. We can find no support for the actions of those who claimed to be fighting a Holy War. Believers may have participated, but we would argue they were deceived if they thought it was a war for our faith. You will not hear a Muslim make a similar concession.
b. The Crusades happened well after the life of Mohammed and even further from the time of Christ. Both groups had the potential to see their faith system corrupted. Again, we claim that is the case. Islam does not.
c. Christ died on a cross. Each of the disciples suffered for their faith and all but John were killed for it (and John didn’t experience a picnic.) Mohammed and his disciples killed others. We can’t say the Islamic disciples were acting outside of what their faith accepts, for their own leader responded the same way.
If a Christian were to act out in violence over outrage of the way any member of the Trinity was portrayed, I could easily point to Scripture to expose the error of the person’s ways. I could condemn them, not because it’s uncivil, but because it’s against our Holy Book.

The Muslim may be horrified at the lack of civility of those outraged over Mohammed’s portrayal, but he does not have the luxury of confronting his brother on the basis of his holy book.

The cartoon riots only point to a greater problem, they need to meet the Prince of Peace.

Almuerzo Loco

We decided to run to Steve and Barry's (a must shop for college sports fans). I picked up two sweet hats, one Duke, and one OSU. (That's not a bandwagon thing, remember, this is the "Year of the Bou".

Anyway, after the purchases, we decided to grab lunch at a restaurant. My wife isn't usually too anxious to eat out, so I knew I better pounce on the opportunity. I suggested Mexican, since it wouldn't be fast food, but is typically cheap.

The solution: El Sombrero. Little did we know it would include entertainment.

First, my oldest began to protest when I told her El Sombrero meant "the hat." Last time we ate Mexican with the kids, I tried to force her to eat a taco that was way too spicy, so I thought that might be why she was upset. After a little conversation, however, I realized she was upset because she thought we were going to eat a hat. Gotta love the literal mind of a child.

Second, my youngest decided to grab my wife's plate just after the waiter informed her it was quite hot. That will teach our 5 month old not to listen!

And not to be outdone, our son immediately grabed the window curtain and brought it down. When it was time to go, perhaps inspired by the Olympics, he decided to show the entire restaurant his skills in the 100 meter dash.

We finally gathered them together and strapped them all in the car. As we pulled away, I saw a crew of three reconstructing the "danger zone" that was our table. We left a good tip, so I hope that made up for it.

I think I've finally learned to relax a little when we're at a restaurant with the kids (as long as they aren't ruining meals for others). It may have made for a crazy lunch, but what should I expect? It may not be sane, but it is a good time.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Ronald Reagan Killed the Olympics

Tomorrow begins the next Winter Olympics, hosted by Italy. I used to rearrange my schedule to catch the Games. This year, I doubt I will see much.

Would we still call it the Miracle on Ice if the US had defeated Latvia?

Why doesn't my patriotism burn when I see Russia like it used to when I would see CCCP.

I used to view Czechoslovakia as another communist enemy. Now, I see Czech Republic and feel sorry for the chaos communism has left in its wake.

I could root against the Scandanavian Countries. But that seems so rude. Let them dominate the Winter Olympics, that's about all they have got.

I could root against "Nations that aid Terror" but desert countries don't seem to represent well in the snow.

When Reagan coerced Gorby to let curtain fall, I had no idea it would also mean the excitement of the Olympics would fold.

The Cold War may be dead, but I guess I can still do one patriotic thing. Root against France.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Join Us on the Journey

At SHAKE, we are using Dare2Share's video curriculum, The GOSPEL Journey.

The series runs through the gospel in six points:

God created us to be with Him.
Our sin separates us from God.
Sin can not be paid for by good works.
Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again.
Everyone who believes in Him alone will have eternal life.
Life that's eternal means living with Jesus forever.

Along with the video, we've opened a blog that will be offering daily devotionals and thoughts that match the weekly theme. Feel free to stop by and check it out.

Piper Passionate? You betcha'!

I downloaded the mp3 from John Piper, "J. Gresham Machen's Response to Modernism" from an article on Pyromanics entitled How J. Gresham Machen helped (and revolutionized) a young convert. (mp3 is at the bottom of the post). At the end of his message, he offers 12 lessons we can learn from the life of J. Gresham Machen. I was stuck by point two:

"Machen alerts us to the utter doctrinelessness of our day and the fact that we almost take it for granted that utilitarian thinking is the only hope for success, and that preaching or teaching doctrine is a prescription for failure. This skepticism about the value of doctrine is owning to bad preaching that is not passionate and clear and interesting and suspenseful and authentic about the glories of God and his way of salvation, and how it all connects with real life. The Dogma is the Drama Dorothy Sayers said and the reason we can't show this to people in our preaching and teaching and writing is that we have not seen and felt the greatness of the glory of God and all his teachings. Preaching doctrine should not be confusing or boring, Machen says:

That error, unquestionably, should be avoided. But it should be avoided not by the abandonment of doctrinal preaching, but by our making doctrinal preaching real preaching. The preacher should present to his congregation the doctrine that the Holy Scripture contains; but he should fire the presentation of that doctrine with the devotion of the heart, and he should show how it can be made fruitful for Christian life (see note 46)."

Oh how I long for that to be true of my preaching. Doctrine can never be the enemy, for how can the study of God ever be evil? What have I to preach, if I am not articulating the character, activity and attributes of God as evidenced in Scripture? He is the Way, the Truth, the Life (John 14:26). Whoa to us if we preach these facts in a way that leads not to salvation, lacks the conviction of fact, and is presented dry and lifeless! There should be nothing more exciting than the truths of God!

I want so desperately for my preaching to be an act of worship. I dearly want my preaching to be an act of love. An act of love to my Savior. And an act of love for the Body.

I think it can be...if I just get out of the way.

Cliff Notes to Spotting False Teachers II

A little over a week ago, I posted one easy way to spot a false teacher. Basically, anytime a person approaches the Word lightly, that's a pretty good sign that false teaching could follow closely behind. Of course, a loose handling of Scripture can manifest itself in a variety of ways, so I'll probably post thoughts about it from time to time.

Follow the Bouncing Translations

Quick, what translation does your pastor typically use? Can you remember it? Does he even have a typical translation?

One should be concerned if their pastor is regularly bouncing from translation to translation during the service. This obviously does not mean that one can not refer to multiple translations (they are all fallible if we understand the doctrine of inspiration as refering to the original writings). Often, to help diminish "things being lost in the translation" it is necessary for us to see multiple translations working together.

However, if you sit in a message and the pastor begins with one translation, cross references to a passage in another translation, and then circles around again to another translation, he may be looking for the Word to say what he wants, rather than what God desires.

Allow me to illustrate. Matthew 16:19. If your pastor preaches from the NIV he will need to refer either to the NAS or HCSB or another translation that captures the future perfect passive tense. This does not mean your pastor is bouncing from translation to translastion, but rather, he is using other translations to capture the meaning of the greek language in our english.

But be wary of the pastor who flippantly bounces from translation to translation, with no explanation. Doing so reveals a number of concerns:

1.) Can the Body test what they are hearing? If a reference isn't given, and if a translation isn't stated, how can the Body follow the teaching to test whether it is proper or not?
2.) Is the pastor only working in the English? Are they connecting words and thoughts only in the English and not in the original language. There's only one word for love in the English. The greek has three. I shouldn't confuse the love of God with passions that men have. In English only, I could make those errors.
3.) Is it exegesis or eisegesis? When you want Scripture to validate a point you want to make, rather than a point it makes, it's easier to do so if you can use whatever English translation you need. If a speaker (or author) has to bounce around to too many translations (especially without validating that they are doing so because it more closely reflects the original Greek or Hebrew intent) to make their point, maybe Scripture doesn't actually make their point.

If you can't name the translation your pastor typically uses, I would recommend the following action. Go ask your pastor. He may be using a very good translation that you just don't know about. (Since the NIV and NAS can be similar in quite a few passages, I regularly have people who have only been exposed to the NIV ask me what translation I use.) If the pastor tells you that he doesn't really have a specific one but uses several from the pulpit, ask him why? If he doesn't say that he uses whatever most closely reflects the original greek for the passage, I'd be concerned. If he says he jumps around depending on what he feels is the most accurate, ask him what translation he thinks is accurate most often. Then watch and see if that is the one he preaches out of most often.

If he continues to use a bazzilion translations in his messages, make "Bible Translation Bingo Cards" for your family. When one in your family gets 5 accross, yell out "Bingo!" This will expose the problem to the entire Body. (Just kidding there. Actually, maybe not. It would be kind of sweet!)

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

A Letter to Mike Holmgren

Understanding that I am far from non-biased, I still found it necessary to respond to comments made during yesterday's Seahawk postseason celebration. During the celebration, Holmgren said: "We knew it was going to be tough going up against the Pittsburgh Steelers. I didn't know we were going to have to play the guys in the striped shirts as well." Holmgren got what he wanted from the Seattle crowd (cheers), but has received some negative reaction from many others. My letter can be counted among that reaction.

Dear Coach Holmgren,

Congratulations on a fantastic season and for winning the NFC title. Whether due to "east coast bias" or not, your team seemed to dominate the entire conference, yet doing so without much recognition from the press. There was little doubt last Sunday that the team representing the NFC in the Super Bowl was the best team in the NFC.

I would also like to commend you for the class your franchise has shown in winning. The team has conducted itself with sportsmanship during contests, and has been a good example to its community as law abiding citizens. Equally impressive was that your team appeared to accept defeat with the same class and grace on Sunday. I was, therefore, quite disappointed to hear your comments on Monday.

Though I am sure I missed many of what could be contested as "poor calls" on Sunday, I would like to make the following observations about the game:

Darrell Jackson did push off. Whether his shove was truly enough to impede the corner is not really in question. The bottom line is, he placed his hand in the chest of the defender and then fully extended his arm to create separation. Receivers know that a hand placed in the middle of a defender's torso (chest or back) will result in a penalty. Eight out of ten times, that penalty is called.
The holding call. I will readily admit that I hardly understand what does and does not constitute holding in the NFL. I agree that it did not look like a violation to me. However, I have regularly heard announcers (usually former players) confess that holding happens on every single snap in the NFL. It appears to be one of the more subjective penalties. This doesn't make a blown call right. However, it also should place in perspective that this call should not have changed the course of the game.
Pittsburgh had 0 first downs in the first quarter. You may want to consider having a conversation with Tom Rouen. His continual punts into the end zone allowed the Steelers to start every stalled drive on the twenty, thereby keeping your team from gaining field position. You dominated the game in the first quarter and had a 3 point lead. That is not the referees' problem.
The clock is objective. The refs do not increase or decrease the value of a second. Your team squandered a scoring drive in the first half (even taking an unused timeout into the half) and poorly managed the clock at the end of the game. Just a field goal in either of those situations (granted, early at the end, with an on side kick to follow) would have radically changed the stategy your team needed to execute.
The better team should win. I am aware, Mr. Holmgren, that my bias may come through. But I believe there were more frequent and more costly poor calls in the Indianapolis/Pittsburgh game. Yet Pittsburgh persevered. Had Pittsburgh lost, the officiating would have hurt, but costly turnovers could not be ignored. I think maybe first, your coaching staff should consider dropped passes, touchback punts, missed field goals and interceptions, and poor time managment before the officials are blamed. Correcting just half of those problems may have resulted in a different outcome, regardless of the referees.

In the end, criticism of the officiating is understandable. There are going to be mistakes in any game. Unfortunately, those mistakes can sometimes pile up against one team. However, to present the officiating as a foe you had to overcome undermines the integrity of the entire league. It may create caustic situations with fans and officials during future games. It even makes you look less noble for being willing to accept blame for your mistakes.

In the end, your comments may have been "Seattle friendly" but I don't see how they were "football friendly." However, I'm sure the fine the NFL will exact upon you will go to a charitable cause, and for that, I am thankful for your "contribution."


Danny Wright

Monday, February 06, 2006

Year of the Caribou

Your local Chinese resturant is scrambling to add the "Year of the Caribou" to their paper placemats after this weekend.

At least that was my first thought, after my Pittsburgh Steelers won the Super Bowl last night. Personally, I'm rather low on the athletic food chain, and my favorite teams can tend to dwell down there with me. However, after this weekend, I took a look at how things are shaping up for this calendar year and realized things could look radically different.

Pittsburgh Steelers--That's the "World Champion Pittsburgh Steelers" to you, thank you. (By the way, is football the last sport here in America that we can truly deem a team "World Champion" without a tournament? Really, what other nation could put together a team that could challenge the Houston Texans, let alone the Champs?)

Detroit Pistons--sans Larry Brown, the Pistons are 39-7 (on pace for a 70 win season.) They have completely handled San Antonio when they've faced them this season as well.

Duke Blue Devils--Coach K has the boys at a 21-1 mark right now. JJ Redick looks quite capable of leading the boys to a national championship. (For some reason, Daniel isn't too chatty about ACC basketball right now. huh?)

The Ohio State University Football Buckeyes--After soundly defeating Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl, OSU is well positioned for a National Championship run. They did a great job with recruiting as well.

Hockey--Are you kidding me? Strange Brew is the only decent thing I can think of to decend down from the "Great White North." The Year of the Bou will just include hockey staying out of my way.

Texas Rangers--My theory could completely unravel with these guys. However, they haven't lost a game since September and they have made it a couple of months without severely overpaying for a washed-out talent. The Year of the Caribou doesn't even require a World Series ring, just an above .500 season would do.

God has certainly been better to me than I deserve in every aspect of my life. It seems so trivial to get excited even about sports. But it is more fun when your team wins.

Yield to Entering Blog

My wife has begun a blog.

I guess that means I can kiss "guest posts" goodbye.

I guess this means I can kiss most of my readership goodbye.

Just don't forget to come back around here occassionally.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Prediction Time

Steelers 27
Seahawks 24

Bettis will win MVP after rushing for two touchdowns. (Although Cowher will foolishly run Bettis three straight times on their first visit to the goal line, leaving them to kick a field goal.)

Steelers will have 21 at half time and Seattle will crawl back into the game.

Troy Polamalu will be the real key to the game, however. Running wild and tackling everyone.

Browns and Bengals fans will continue to be bitter.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Riding the Wave

We had an incredible time at SHAKE last night. Probably because I did very little speaking, and Jason, and band (great solo job on acoustic, Jansen) carried the evening. We're entering into a series of weeks that should be even more evangelistically focused than usual. The evening laid a great foundation of prayer for the next few weeks to come.

But prayers began to be answered that night.

I could tell you. Or I could let a few students. (I decided not to hyperlink, to protect some of their privacy. These quotes were found on their blogs, so I guess they are public.)

Before last night, from a student who's been quite involved in SHAKE:

"I realized that i do not do enough daily to show Jesus to others. Just acting differently from everyone else and not partying...etc. isn't enough. I really need to do better about sharing my faith with others."

Well, our worship ends and I see this student, along with a girl that has been visiting for some time but wasn't sure if she agreed with what we are about, sitting in our narthex with their Bibles open.

This was her explanation of the night:

"Wow! I'm so excited tonight. I accepted Christ into my life! I just want to tell everyone. I want to wear a sign that says, I accepted Christ, you should too. I am so grateful to M (protecting identity again). She helped me through it, and I was her first. It was so powerful. She is so great. She also told me that a bunch of the SHAKE kids had been praying for me. Thank you all so much. I just can't express everything I'm feeling. I feel on top of the world. I have this new family of great people and I love them all! Not to mention this great new growing relationship with God. Yea for me!"

If this student was the only soul I got to see saved in my lifetime, it would all be worth it. Heaven stopped last night to take notice and celebrate what happened. I don't know how to explain this, but I think last night was only the beginning. In my three and a half years here, it seems that we've seen people trust their lives to Christ in waves. I"m holding on tight, ready for the fun of riding this wave.

Please pray for the youth group in the following ways:

1) Our new sister in Christ as she grows in her walk.
2) Our new brother in Christ who understood the gospel for the first time last weekend.
3) Our Super Bowl Party. That students come and are prepared to hear the gospel message.
4) The G.O.S.P.E.L. Journey. We're going to be doing a really cool Video Curriculum that should be great for students to bring their friends to hear the gospel. (I hate curriculum, yet I am using this in two formats consecutively. If you are a pastor, go get it.)
5). That our students are prepared to do the discipleship and equipping of their friends as they come to Christ.

I have the coolest job in the world.

(But before you think my students are perfect. I went outside after a great night, only to find that the girl who got to share her faith, and an accomplice, put "#1 Bengals fan" on my truck window. Obviously, our students battle, and sometimes lose, to the flesh.)

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Birthday Thoughts

Ok, so today I turn 30. I'm not sure what time it happens (thankfully, my mother has never been the type to call me at the exact moment of my birth and give me all the gory details). But here's what's been running through my mind this morning.

Jesus was this age when He began His public ministry. In many ways that's humbling for me. It makes me wonder just what I've been doing for the last 8 years. Jesus was 30, I started at 22. Does anyone else think this seems a little odd?

But it also really raises the bar to me. I'm quite aware that many of the people I have the privilege to minister with are the same age as my parents. I don't really see 30 as some milestone that means I'm old. If I live to 50, I'm over half way there. If I live to 80, I still have a decade before I reach the midpoint. Either way, it's past time to leave those childish things behind.

Somewhere along the way, however, I became a man. Obviously, it had nothing to do with birthdates, but somewhere adulthood over took me. I'm not sure if it is fatherhood, ministry, God's gracious continued santification, or difficult trials we have been through in the last couple years, but God somehow turned me into a man.

This will seem silly to you I'm sure, but I realized this the other day. About five years ago, my dad bought me a pocket knife. Having never really been in touch with my hunter-gatherer side, I've not really been around guns and knives that much. I brought the knife home and set it in my desk. It sat there until about two weeks ago. I was cleaning out that desk when I came accross the knife again. I opened it up, took a look at it and slid it into my pocket. (After closing it again, of course.)

A pocket knife always seemed like something a man should have. As a child, I wasn't allowed to carry a knife (for fear I would come home with a detached limb). When I had need of a knife, I always ran to see dad. Any time I tried to carry a knife before, I just felt like I was trying to pretend to be a man. But somewhere in all the years, the knife became natural. Now I carry it and find myself using it all the time. I've already thought about Christmas and birthday presents that the kids will need to see my knife to cut the excessive tape Charity always uses. I remember all these scenarios where I needed dad's knife and wonder if the kids will come to me for the same reasons.

In a way, I feel like the knife is a very small way that I've become like my dad. I'm praying God is making me more like him in much more significant ways.