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Sunday, April 30, 2006

I'm Not the Sharpest Knife...

but if you sign

Jason Williams
Antoine Walker
Gary Payton

shouldn't you expect conflict on your team?

Seriously, if I'm playing the Heat, I place my defender no further out than ten feet from the basket when Williams is pushing it up the court (tempting him to chuck ill-advised threes). I leave Walker open for his first two three point shots so he thinks he is hot and puts them up all night (missing the next 10 or so). And then I sit back and watch Gary Payton destroy team chemistry as adversity sets in.

This team never had a shot, because the greatness of players is assessed by how they respond to adversity. If Chandler isn't hurt too badly, I could see Chicago taking out the Heat.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Parsley Preaching Poverty?

Right before leaving for Together for the Gospel, I caught just a glimpse of TBN's pledge-a-thon. "Pastor" Rod Parsley was preaching about "seed money." TBN needs more money, and rather than speaking to giving to those works which are glorifying God, Parsley decided to entice people to give by promising them more money. He gave example after example of people giving small portions of money--only to have God give much more money.

His point was clear: Give some money and God will give you more money. It's a great financial investment plan. In fact, it became so clear to Parsley that this was his message, that he finally paused and said something:

"I've had the LA Times, the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, all asking me the same question. They want to know if I am a prosperity preacher..."

(I looked up from the laundry to hear his answer.)

"...I told them, 'Well, I sure ain't a poverty preacher."

Everyone sitting on stage behind him began to cheer loudly. They clapped as Parsley stood their proud of his witty reply. Of course, I couldn't help but think of a couple of passages:

Matthew 5:3 (Jesus says the poor are blessed.)
Matthew 19:21 (Jesus encourages a man to become poor.)
Luke 9:58 (Jesus Himself had no place to lay His head.)
Philippians 4:10-19 (Paul had learned to live with nothing.)

Just so we're clear, without much investigation, Parsley basically admits he preaches a different message than Jesus or Paul.

Parsley may speak of wealth, but his message is truly poor.

T4G Continues

I had a great time at Together for the Gospel from Wednesday through Friday. I believe my life and ministry have been greatly impacted from the weekend. I am very thankful to a church who allows me to attend this conference. I'll post much more on the impact and lessons from the conference, but first, I want to give you and idea as to the kind of book reviews you'll be seeing from me in the future:

The Reformed Pastor by Richard Baxter
The Deliberate Church by Mark Dever and Paul Alexander
9 Marks of a Healthy Church (booklet) by Mark Dever
Women's Ministry in the Local Church by J Ligon Duncan and Susan Hunt
Why One Way? by John MacArthur
Humility: True Greatness by CJ Mahaney
Sex, Romance and the Glory of God by CJ Mahaney
Counted Righteous in Christ by John Piper
God is the Gospel by John Piper
Speaking Truth in Love by David Powlison
Give Praise to God ed by Ryken, Thomas, Duncan
Spiritual Birthline by Stephen Smallman
Getting the Gospel Right by RC Sproul

All, absolutely free! Plus, we also received:

English Standard Version Bible
NASB MacArthur Study Bible

Total List Price: $235.87

In other words, I gained $60.87 in books (when subtracting the $175 conference fee) to hear Dever, Duncan, Mahaney, Mohler, MacArthur, Piper and Sproul...not a bad deal at all!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Dora, Boots and Authorial Intent

As big a presence as Dora has in our home, it was only a matter of time before she would influence theological discussion. Only slightly more annoying than Dora's oversized cranium (she looks like she's needs Bud Selig to investigate her for steroid use), is the Dora Theme song. However, this song has lately sparked some heated debate in our home. With a show that has mastered "spanglish" it can often be hard to tell what the lyrics are.

Charity and LetsSingIt.com both agree:
    Dora, Dora, Dora the explorer
    Boots and supercool exploradora

Marty Lloyd.com suggests:
    Dora, Dora, Dora the explorer
    Boots, that super cool explorer. Dora!

Blackcatter's World of TV Theme Song Lyrics suggests:
    Dora, Dora, Dora the explorer
    Boots is super cool.
    Explore with Dora.

Personally, I think it's:
    Dora, Dora, Dora the explorer.
    Boots, the supercool Casanova.

Charity would argue that the song is about Dora really, so the brief reference to Boots and then refocussing on Dora is consistent. I find that incredibly choppy.

While Marty Lloyd is willing to say that Boots is the super cool one, his use of Dora as an exclamation is a bit troubling.

Blackcatter makes some sense, however, if you've heard the song, it's a stretch to say the word "with" is in there.

Mine appears to make the most sense. It keeps the focus of the stanza on Boots. Though Casanova was Italian, the latin origins of the Spanish language keeps a sense of consistency. Though I do not believe Boots to be a philanderer, his flirtatious relationship with Isa makes the title appropriate slang.

It's a lot of fun for us to come to our own conclusions. Of course, the fun could be over if we just contacted Nickelodeon. Not to mention at least one of us would have to (gasp!) admit we are wrong!

Fear Tactic Evangelism, No Hell

The doctrine of hell, or at least preaching about it, has become equated with scare tactics. Many people fear that the description of eternal torment is simply an intimidation move to get people to consider the claims of Christ. It seems that a more loving approach is to ignore (or worse yet, deny) the reality of hell.

But in the absence of hell, what is left?

    Define sin
. What's so vile about sin? Isn't it just a minor mix up that certainly God could over look?
    Define helplessness
. What do you mean a debt I can not pay myself? Why would punishment need to be eternal? Why can't I just do some things to make up for it?
    Define the cross
. What's the point of Jesus' death? If there is no place of eternal torment, what wrath did Jesus really need to take up on the cross?

A denial of hell leaves a person with a diminished understanding of depravity, God's righteousness, Christ's atonement, and God's loving sacrifice in the midst of our helplessness. You, therefore, are left to call someone to "accept Jesus" based on the following arguments:

    Your sin will catch up with you.
Whether a disease, the law, your status with others, or even your physical life, eventually your sin will catch up to you and it won't be very pleasant. In reality, our preaching become pragmatism--calling them to pick the scenario that turns up best for them. While the person at the bottom of their rope, may respond favorably to a message of restoration (though they still may not understand the need for redemption), the person who is enjoying life at the present will not see any need from our message. Our only option to get their attention is to paint a dismal picture of their circumstances and convince them they want to avoid it.

In reality, we are placed in a position of greater manipulation and intimidation.

But to accept the doctrine of hell is both Biblical (Jesus spoke more hell than heaven) and rational (a God of justice must punish evil). We are not forced to paint a picture of terrible "what-ifs," but can just present the facts. God is righteous, we are not. He can not ignore our violations, and He didn't. He sent His Son, to be the payment for our sins and to offer us a righteous standing before God Almighty.

We do not submit to Christ simply to escape hell. We submit to Christ because He has been so good to save us, having lovingly offered His life, though we all deserve hell. Frankly, it would be scary if it wasn't that way.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Internet Accountability

xxxchurch.com is offering an accountability software called "x3watch."

The guys at the site are a little out there (they refer to their site as the "#1 Christian Porn Site"), but this program is pretty cool. Basically, it tracks your web activity, flags questionable hits, and then emails them to your accountability partners so they can follow up. It is not a filter, but I like that it keeps your human accountability partners in the loop.

And best of all: It's free!

And now, for those of us who are technologically superior (by God's grace), it is available in mac version too!

Check it out.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Beauty of Spring

David quoted some poem this week about how spring is beautiful because of death (or something too deep for me to understand). I wasn't sure what he was talking about, until I remembered that as a Pacers fan, every spring has meant death for him.

However, since I am a Pistons fan, spring truly is beautiful. The NBA Playoffs are here!

Western Conference

San Antonio Spurs (63-19) v Sacramento Kings (44-38)
Best Player: Tim Duncan

Kings in 6. That's right, you read it here. Duncan is not healthy, Manu is banged up, and Tony Parker is the only one bringing his game everyday. The crazy fans of Sacramento are motivated by the crazy man playing the swing position for them. (This will be the first 1-8 upset since Denver did it to Seattle back during the shorter series era.)

Phoenix Suns (54-28) v LA Lakers (45-37)
Best Player: Kobe Bryant

This is the era of the team, but LA has the best player in the league (arguably). Alone, Kobe could score 87 and lose the series in 4 games. But lately, Odom is playing great, and (gasp, I can't believe I'm typing this) have you seen Kwame Brown lately? One of the better NBA cover guys in the business, Sam Amico articulates that Smush Parker covers Steve Nash better than anyone else in the league. Phil Jackson works his magic for another round.

Denver Nuggets (44-38) v LA Clippers (47-35)
Best Player: Elton Brand

Is there an upset in this series. If Denver wins, they were the higher seed. If LA wins, they had the better record. The Clips were a wonderful surprise this year, but they are still the Clippers. Denver in 7.

Dallas Mavericks (60-22) v Memphis Grizzlies (49-33)
Best Player: Dirk Nowitzki

I like Memphis. They play hard every night and play the right way. However, Dallas has way too many weapons and beats Memphis in 5. Dallas gets the biggest rest of anyone, making round two intriguing.

Eastern Conference

Detroit Pistons (64-18) v Milwaukee Bucks (40-42)
Best Player: Chauncey Billups/Rip Hamilton/Rasheed Wallace

Michael Redd is the best Bucks player, but if he was on the Pistons, he would be the fourth best player on the team. This is the team with the best record in the NBA facing a team sub .500? Pistons in 4.

Miami Heat (52-30) v Chicago Bulls (41-41)
Best Player: Dwyane Wade

Chicago is a great team. I wish we could see Chicago and Memphis face one another in the "all blue collar" finals. However, Miami far surpasses the Bulls in talent and will defeat them in 5 games. However, Shaq will look tired, unmotivated and old by the fourth game.

New Jersey Nets (49-33) v Indiana Pacers (41-41)
Best Player: ???

Vince Carter plays soft. Jason Kidd is still not fully healthy. Richard Jefferson has not yet figured out his role consistently with Carter on board. However, Jermaine O'neal is becoming the Fred Taylor of the NBA, and Stephen Jackson is the poor man's Artest (I'm glad they split the two of them up before someone died). Peja will completely disappear, making it easier to let him walk via free agency. Nets in 7 (just because Pacer fans like to make it painful for their own).

Cleveland Cavaliers (50-32) v Washington Wizards (42-40)
Best Player: Lebron James

Cleveland has the best player in the league (arguably), but the team is a lousy design. Cavs fans should be excited to have a great season, but the good season will probably leave them with expectations too high for this year. Lebron will again look like a man among boys, it's just that all the boys will have Cleveland jerseys. Washington in 6.

Dallas Mavericks (60-22) v Sacramento Kings (44-38)
Best Player: Dirk Nowitzki

Dallas, with a lot of rest, facing a team that got a decent matchup. Dallas will again win easily in 5 games.

LA Lakers (45-37) v Denver Nuggets (44-38)
Best Player: Kobe Bryant

Due to an odd matchup (thanks for this horrible three division system, Mr Stern), the Lakers enter round 2 with the better record. Carmelo is not matchup for Kobe. Don't blink now, but the Lakers and Jackson are in the Conference Finals again. Lakers in 6.

Detroit Pistons (64-18) v Washington Wizards (42-40)
Best Player: Billups/Hamilton/Wallace/Wallace

I'd rather have Chauncey than Gilbert. Hamilton over Daniels. Tayshaun over Caron. Rasheed over Jamison. Ben Wallace over Haywood. Is there any question. Detroit begins to roll. Pistons in 4.

Miami Heat (52-30) v New Jersey Nets (49-33)
Best Player: Dwyane Wade

Wade is amazing, but Carter will match him point for point. Shaq, tired and sluggish, will actually be contained by Nenad Kristic. By game 5, Antoine Walker will think he needs to carry the Heat on his shoulders and Miami is finished at that point. New Jersey in 6.

Conference Finals

Dallas Mavericks (60-22) v LA Lakers (45-37)
Best Player: Kobe Bryant

If Dallas had not had such an easy run, LA could have a fighting chance. But Avery Johnson will have some defensive schemes to slow Kobe, and LA has no answer Dirk. Dallas wins in 5, but the buzz is back in La-La land.

Detroit Pistons (64-18) v New Jersey Nets (49-33)
Best Player: Flip Saunders (coach)

The teams are a decent matchup, but again, New Jersey will be fatigued. Flip Saunders has Detroit playing great team ball (and an important contrast from last year, they are having fun). Lawrence Frank will look outmanned and Jason Kidd will begin running yet another coach out of the league during the off season. Pistons in 6.

NBA Finals

Detroit Pistons (64-18) v Dallas Mavericks (60-22)
Best Player: Dirk Nowitzki

A lousy conference finals gives way to a breath-taking finals. Dallas is rested and has the best player. But Detroit is the better team. The Pistons come up with a scheme to slow Nowitzki and Big Ben gets to wear another wrestling belt for a trophy. It's good to live in the era of team play! Pistons in 7.

Modern Spirituality and the Children of Israel

According to a lecture by David Wells given as the Page Lectures (Nov 9-10, 2005) at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. In his lecture, he states three intersting facts:

    8 of 10 Americans describe themselves as spiritual.

    6 of 10 say their spirituality is important to them.

    Yet, 4 of 10 describe themselves as "Spiritual, but not religious."

As fallen humans, the pendulum always swings between extremes. Organized Biblical Chrisitanity gets too dependant upon the offices of the church, then it swings the opposite way, abandoning the need for offices the Lord installed. We swing toward tradition being a companion of the Word, then counter that tradition is to be fled. We present the gospel as a "ticket to heaven," then oversteer toward the gospel being only about this life.

Modern American spirituality seems to be all about spiritual journey. However, much like the Israelites roaming through the desert, modern spirituality is on a journey, but with no destination. Man is encouraged to search himself, his spirit, his thoughts. After doing so, man is left at himself, his spirit, his thoughts. He has traversed nowhere, but because he has been journeying, he feels he has accomplished much.

We should not neglect the journey, for God receives glory and the world is evangelized through our sanctification here on earth. However, we do not hope in the journey. Our hope rests in the end (Romans 8:18-39).

We have not been called to roam aimlessly until the end, but like the Israelites under Joshua, we've been called to enter into His rest (Hebrews 4).

Our journey must not be about the journey, but our journey should be about the destination.

DaVinci Response II

On Justin Taylor's blog, screenwriter Brian Godawa has offered some advice again...after considering some email response to his original suggestions.

You can read his revised advice here.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Please Don't Try Jesus

    Why does the church lose so many "converts?"

    Why do some many "believers" never mature in their faith?

    Why all the terrible statistics about students walking away from their faith after high school?

    Why do missionaries see "conversions," yet don't the society change accordingly?

Could it be that our evangelism has become so consumer driven that we market Jesus? We encourage people to give Jesus a shot, try Him on for a while. We use things like Pascal's Gambit to present Jesus in a "what do you have to lose" fashion. Jesus become better than all options instead of the Only Option.

Can a person be a convert if they think Jesus can fit into their previous ways? Don't individual desires, passions, theories and ambitions need to die so that He may live within?

Perhaps a more Biblical presentation of the gospel includes this.

Monday, April 17, 2006

New Batman Sighting...

Read my latest thoughts about the '04 Shaq trade here.

Out of the Mouths of Dad's...

While I knew the day I would say, "I'll give you something to cry about!" was coming, there are some things I didn't expect to say:

    1. Get the potty seat off your head.
    2. Quit eating mud.
    3. Don't sit on your baby sister's head.
    4. Sweetie, watch where you're going and next time don't walk into the grill.

and today's favorite...

    5. Why are you smearing baby lotion on the car windows?

There's something surreal about trying to say these phrases in a way that results in obedience all while trying to process the reality that you have to utter them.

The Liberal Bill O'Reilly

Though he is conservative politically, O'Reilly fits right in with much of the liberal religious landscape. His article, Judas Factor reveals some interesting views:
Well, I believe my third grade teacher at St. Brigid's School, Sister Mary Lurana, would not be having any of this. The good sister understood that the Gospels were teaching tools, not history, and that the story of Judas was consistent with one of Jesus' central messages: "Don't sell out what you believe in for money."
So the gospels can not be both history and a teaching tool? Consider Luke's introduction. It does not sound like he desired to give Theophilus constructed fables that could teach.

But O'Reilly continues:
Anyway, Judas has been dead for more than 2,000 years so it really doesn't matter much to him how he's perceived on earth, especially if he's in heaven, right? But the lesson of betrayal is very relevant to us all.
This may actually be the greatest controversy revealed yet. Apparently, Judas passed away some time either before Jesus, or when Christ was a very small child. If this information is true, then maybe Judas is getting a bad rap.

After discussing the real moral of the "Judas story" is to not sell out on people for the sake of money (an issue O'Reilly has faced with money seeking lawsuits against him), O'Reilly returns to his original point:
Again, the scriptures are not history; they were written to instruct people as to how Jesus lived and what his message was. Whether Judas was a traitor or not is really not important. What is imperative to those who want to follow in the footsteps of Christ is to understand that hurting another person for money is not acceptable.
A couple observations:

1). How can you write how Jesus lived and it not be history? If you are sharing about his teachings, interactions and events, how do you do that without sharing history?

2.) What real value does a moral have if it is not based in reality. Sure, fairy tales and fables can teach us some things, but aren't the most powerful lessons from history? From O'Reilly's article, I'm not sure if he believes Judas even existed, but somehow he still thinks it teaches a valuable lesson.

While the theological conservative often find themselves on the same side of issues as the political conservative, it is important to remember the issues that really matter. We do a terrible disservice to the church when we pretend that because O'Reilly hates abortion that he must believe in Christ. We must remember that salvation, not politics ultimately matter. While I am thankful many of O'Reilly's political views, I was reminded to pray that he meets the historical Jesus.

Wrestle with Election?

Mark Dever has a great quote from Spurgeon at this link. He also follows the quote with this statement of his own:
I understand that some worry that if we accept the Bible's teaching on election we will never evangelize. Should we not also be worried that if we reject the Bible's teaching on election we will never be humbled enough to make Christianity look like anything worth having? I love Spurgeon's humility. I love his boasting in God. I think it is attractive. I think it is motivating to evangelism. I think it displays God's love. A biblical doctrine of election highlights our poverty and Christ's riches, our weakness and Christ's strength, our need and God's supply.

It maybe that God will use our weakness and inability to highlight His own strength and grace. He's done it before.

May God receive glory for His choosing, for I can receive none in being chosen.

Conversion Story?

It's been amazing to simply ask people their conversion story. Often, in an environment where people assume the salvation of one another, it can be done in a non-threatening, yet revealing way. Recently, I asked one man to tell me his converstion story. This was his response:

"I heard a message about how Jesus wanted to be my best friend and we sang a song about 'teenager are you lonely.' That's what I needed to hear. I came home and told my mom I was saved because I asked Jesus to become my best friend."

I was left with two questions:

Is that the gospel? Ask Jesus to be your best friend and you're in? Romans 5:10 says we can be reconciled to God even while we were enemies through the death of Jesus. Does that simply mean we just need to desire a friendship possible through Christ? Or, could the context reveal it is so much more than that. Isn't friendship possible only because of justification. Just wanting to be on good terms with God does not establish a person's salvation. Just wanting Jesus to be your best friend (apart from seeing yourself as His enemy due to your sin, repenting of that sin, and trusting Him alone as the payment for your offense) does not ensure salvation. (I wanted so badly to pursue this issue with the person, to find out why they believed friendship was even possible, but the person had to leave due to a time conflict.)

Even if saved, is that a good testimony? I pray that the person really does understand how salvation is possible and that just wasn't expressed in their testimony. If so, however, is there testimony, as presented, really beneficial for a non-believer to hear? There was no mention of sin. (In fact, the person told me they hadn't committed any of the "biggies.") There was no mention of the cross. There was no mention of repentance or trusting Christ alone. Would that testimony benefit a non-believer. What if they don't feel they need another friend? What if they long for a friend, but don't see their own depravity?

I wish we would have had more opportunity together. I desperately want to know if this person understands why God would call Abraham His friend (because he was justified by his faith). I wish I would have had a chance to share my conversion with him. And I pray God would have given me the passion to present the cross, my sin and His redemption He offered within my testimony.

Beautiful Wrath

Sparked by some conversations with someone (?), and also with some friends and family, I figured it was time for us to revisit the wrath of God. We should fear the wrath of God (obviously) but should also love it (as I'll explain). The following are some things we should remember regarding God's wrath in contrast to our own...

1. Sin is always a violation to God. Psalm 51:4 reminds us that David sinned against God. David had an affair and killed the husband of his mistress (all while manipulating his army for his purposes) yet he sees that ultimately he violated God. He has a right to be angry, for He was violated.
2. God has never committed sin. God has a right to be angry at sin, for He has never committed sin Himself (James 1:13, I John 1:5, Titus 1:2) God does not call us to a standard that does not apply to Himself.
3. His wrath is extinguisable. Through the penalty paid by Jesus Christ, the wrath of God can be satisfied (Romans 5:9). More amazing yet, God provided the work to appease His wrath even as we were deserving of it.

Why you shouldn't compare our wrath to God's:

1. Man is not the ultimate offended party. Again, in Acts 5:1-11 we see that Peter acknowledges that God (and the Holy Spirit) were ultimately offended. Though Ananias and Sapphira chose to lie to the church, ultimately they sinned against God. I truly hold no authority over anyone, therefore I can not hold them to the standard that I desire.
2. I stand offended, yet guilty. I have no right to feel wrath toward someone, for I need to understand that I am just as guilty as they. Matthew 18:21-35 clearly expresses that I should extend forgiveness because I have been forgiven. Who am I to carry wrath toward a person's disobedience when I am aware of my own guilt. For me to carry wrath, often reveals a Pharisaical attitude...believing I am righteous in and of myself.
3. My wrath is not satisfied in true justice. Often, my wrath is satisfied in seeing someone else pay. It does not matter whether justice is served, per se, as long as they had to pay. The cross repesents true justice, where an infinite God received and infinite payment for the sins of humanity upon Him. My wrath is eased when I simply see evidence of guilt or sorrow in a person's life.

I really have no right to exercise wrath, for I am just as guilty as the one I am angry with. (Are there times we can exercise "righteous indignation?" Probably, but the flesh is so prevalent, we need to be very cautious...acknowledging it could quickly turn to something else.) God however, not only has a right to be angry, but His love of justice demands that He has wrath.

God's wrath is actually the evidence of the grace He extends to us. Until we understand how terribly violated He is by our sin, do we understand the love of God that would die in our place while we are still sinners. We should fear the wrath of God (for we all deserve it), driving us to the only place where that wrath can be appeased (the cross). However, we should not view His wrath as something sinister or evil. On the contrary, His wrath is proof that He is just and righteous and that he desires justice. Because of His wrath I can delight that God is holy. Because of His holiness, I know that He requires a payment for sin that I can not pay of myself. Because of His love, He made that payment for me.

His wrath is beautiful because it reveals a justice and righteousness about God that reveals only the tip of the iceberg of His love.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Penal Substitutionary Atonement

I can think of no greater act of worship on the anniversary of our Lord's crucifixion, than to read about the central work of His death on the cross.

Mark Dever is back at it. He wrote a wonderful article for Christianity Today. You need to read it. It may be heavier reading, but it's important that you understand it, worship God because of it, and are amazed by His grace in light of it. God has offered us redemption of sin through the incredible payment offered up by His Righteous Son on our behalf...we should be willing to read into it.

This afternoon, I spoke with a man that claimed to be a believer. Yet, I was greived that when I asked him to tell me about his conversion that it included nothing about his conviction of sin, his guilt before God, or Christ's work on his behalf.

We've got to make sure we keep central things central.

To the praise of the glory of His grace!

(HT:Justin Taylor)

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Jesus Heresies: Keep Em Coming

Davinci Code, The Jesus Dynasty and The Gospel of Judas.

This seems to happen every year when we approach a Resurrection Celebration; people begin to attack the character of Christ. The word "heresy" may appear sharp at first, until you realize that John called those who denied the true identity of Jesus as being the spirit of the antichrist. While I believe we need to defend the faith and expose such errors, I think it can be a positive when they are all expressed.

1. They Dilute One Another. The more of this stuff that comes out, the less potency each carries. Dan Brown's theories get confused with gnostic writings which all blend into vague theories. There is no one strong attack against Christ, but rather a bunch of minor ones.
2. It shows the gospels resiliency. It is not that the character of Jesus has gone unquestioned for 2,000 years, it's that it has stood up under all scrutiny for 2,000 years. I, II and III John deal with those who were heading down the gnostic path already. None of these claims are anything new.
3. Our people learn what matters. A casual believer may state that understanding a completely divine and completely human being is difficult and simply leave it there. They may be comfortable with explanations that are easier to picture, but diminish the true character of Christ. However, when these adaptations are carried out to the full extent of becoming complete denials of Christ, suddenly the casual believer sees the problem. They begin to look into the nature of Christ, and they learn why it matters.
4. People are talking. I doubt I could begin a conversation with my neighbor with the evidence of the the bibligraphic standard. However, once they question the validity of the Bible as we read it, I now have an opportunity...
5. The ultimate conspiracy....leading to a conversation about the resurrection. I can explain that these theories are old and the church has been answering them for millennia. But then I can challenge them that the world has never come close to a satisfactory answer for the Resurrection. They've had 2,000 years to work on it, and still they can not--with genuine scholarship--deny its existence. That is the real conspiracy they should be thinking about.

We don't have to ask the world to keep the heresies coming...it will do that on its own. However, we don't have to panic. We can use them to expose the true glory of the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us.

When God Won't Let You Blow It.

Yesterday, a man had an appointment at our church to share about the services his company offers. Since the services match with a need we have here (facilities type issue), a member of our "building team" met here with him as well. Even before the man arrived, I felt compelled to share the gospel with this man. Very polite and nice, he walked through our building seeing what our needs would be. As we walked through the building, he made comments about God, Jesus and faith. However, being a salesman, he kept the talk pretty fast paced and I soothed my conscience by thinking I would have jumped in had I had a chance.

After about 45 minutes, it was getting close to when Charity was expecting me home for dinner. Therefore, I excused myself (disappointed that I didn't get a chance to share anything, but assuming "it just wasn't meant to be") and headed for the door. Just as I was walking out of the auditorium, the man called out, "Thanks for meeting with me. Don't worry, I know I need to get back to church. I know I've got to go back."

It became a watershed moment. Do I allow my heart to harden and walk out? He may go back to a church, a good church, that will preach the gospel and therefore it's not critical that you share it, I thought to myself. Or, I could step up and seek to bring glory to God by declaring His grace.

I had no choice. I spun on my heels and headed back into the room. "Actually," I told him, "I don't care about you getting to a church, I need to know why you think you need to be back in church." From there, we began an hour long conversation about sin, it's consequence and Jesus' atoning sacrifice. He was very polite, and we had a very honest dialogue back and forth. Several times, we worked through the issues of sin, that each of us deserves death, and that Jesus is the only possible Way. I walked him through the Ten Commandments (to establish his lack of righteousness). We dealt with faith and works and that God alone desires glory. At the conclusion of the hour, I encouraged him to consider his standing before God as he drives home. I handed him a million dollars (which he thought was cool), wrote my phone number on it, and encouraged him to check out the Living Waters website.

Why do I share this? Two reasons. Please pray for Mike right now. Also, I couldn't help as I drove home that evening but to consider what God is doing in my life.

--I am humbled by Paul who was compelled to preach the gospel. I have tried for years to generate the compulsion in myself...not a workable plan. But God appears to be doing that work within me. Though I haven't arrived yet, He has used the following things to begin this process.
--Working with Daniel. For the last four years, I have worked beside a man who regularly preaches the gospel, not because he has to, but because the joy of his salvation is welling up within him. I have seen a grace and humility modeled before me that I pray is "rubbing off on me."
--Kay and Gregg. God also brought two godly people into the room to witness the conversation. Part of the motivation God used in my life were Gregg and Kay. I knew I needed to speak up because these two deserve more than a pastor who is too timid to make the most of the opportunity.
--Way of the Master Radio. Not only have these guys regularly challenged me about the condition of an apathetic heart, they have also helped equip me to share the message with clarity. Oh yeah, they also make the cool million dollar tract that I handed him.

I know that I need to be more bold. I know I almost blew a chance to see God receive glory. I am so thankful that God did not allow that to happen. Please pray for Mike, that he will repent of his sin and submit to the message of the cross. Please pray for me, that I will not be such a coward next time, and God won't have to completely drop the opportunity in my lap.

10 Questions with Matt Strader

To help you get to know Matt, he briefly answered the following ten questions:

1. If you could have a gift seen in cartoons, which of these three would you choose...and why:
a.) ability to paint a circle on a wall or floor to use a whole to travel through
b.) ability to survive anvil strikes on the head without being truly injured
c.) that cool thing that characters do where they hang in the air for a second after running off a cliff before they plummet to their death.
I've always wanted to just paint a circle on the wall of my classrooms in order to escape another boring lecture. That would definitely be my choice of the three, although all do seem to have their benefits.

2. Cats or Dogs?
DOGS! (I'm allergic to cats, but I would still hate them anyway)

3. Why does Vince Carter act like a girl?
well, it's what people do when they make a lot of money, and don't want to get hurt or fouled, or touched.

4. What is the last movie you've seen with Isabel that she loved and you thought was awful?
I saw the benchwarmers recently, and it is corny and funny (which means that I liked it) and Isabel did not enjoy it at all. But, oh well, I had fun...haha.

5. Would you rather...
a.) wear a unc jersey for the day
b.) wear a university of florida jersey for a day
c.) wear an osu jersey for the day
probably UNC, because I did like Michael Jordan back in the day, but it would definitely have to be a Jordan UNC jersey.

6. If you were a car, you'd be....
whatever works and is cheap, not to say that I am, but hey, I'm thrifty!...lol

7. Briefly tell your conversion story (not all questions have to be stupid)
well, to make a long story short, at the end of a few weeks of my parents reading me Bible stories about Jesus, I accepted Christ at the age of 4 on my parents bed after a story time one night. However, I don't really think my faith ever became real until I was nine.

8. Worst food you've ever tasted...
squash, well, Mayonnaise isn't terrible, but I avoid at all costs as well.

9. of the three challengers in princess bride, the one you would find most challenging would be:
a.) fezzik the giant
b.) inigo montoya the spaniard
c.) vizzini the genius
Inigo Montoya, he had that whole, I don't care if I get stabbed thing going for him, that would freak me out.

[By the way, you don't have to guess. There is a quiz online you can take.]

10. Explain why dumars' selection of Darko (over Melo, Bosh, and Wade) was actually a stroke of genius.
I don't agree that he should have selected Darko, but hindsight is 20:20. I'm glad he didn't pick Melo because we already had Teshaun. There was no telling that Bosh would blow up like he has, especially with his skinny frame, but I DO THINK WE SHOULD HAVE PICKED DWAYNE WADE!!! Not a doubt in my mind, we blew that one, but we did win a championship which tends to erase those types of mistakes.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Penmanship Test?

Recognize this Super Bowl Champion's autograph...

In case you struggled to read that, its Chukky Okobi. Thanks Krista, for the autograph!

[And Chukky is 6-1/318 lbs, so if I ever see him, I'll simply say, "Nice signature."]

Lost in Individuality

Not only in my appreciation of elder plurality, but also brought to mind through conversations with my wife and Brian, I've come to think about something:

Have we at times so overemphasized Jesus' love for the individual that we have diminished His love for the Church?

--I do not mean to say that Jesus does not love individuals. Clearly, He does.
--I by no means want to suggest that salvation is a corporate decision or that people can have right standing with God simply through earthly affiliation.
--I strongly support (as if I have a choice) that Scripture clearly articulates that each person stands individually responsible for their life and faith before Christ.

However, have we lost much of the corporate dynamic of the Scriptures?

--Have we taken passages about Christ and His Bride (the Church) and replaced that with Jesus and me? Have we, in an attempt to make tangible a relationship with One Whom we can't see right now, used the marriage analogy to represent individuals instead of the church universally? Is this wrong? Are we losing something when we do? Is there a more accurate way to approach this?

I am all for declaring to someone that Jesus loves them (after presenting to them their need for mercy because standing as self alone, they are guilty before a righteous God). After all, Christ's work on the cross is that demonstration of His love. However, as I looked to Romans 5:8 to emphasize that point, I had to chuckle as I read it again:
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were sinners, Christ died for us (emphasis mine).

Are we losing something here? If so, what are the ramifications? How do we more accurately convey this message?

Pondering Plurality

Last night, the elders of Grace met.

I've always been challenged and encouraged by the character and integrity of the men.

I'm moved and blessed by their commitment to Christ and their love for His Church.

I"ve grown deeper in my appreciation for them after taking the DISC profile. God has assembled a group of men here with various gifts, backgrounds and passions. I appreciated not only the way God has uniquely equipped each of them, but also their graciousness in working with me (as I am "gifted" in such a foreign way to most of them).

However, last night, I learned to embrace it. Every meeting we gather for is filled with roughly 7,437 different things to discuss. We came together with many things to consider, but with just a couple I knew were most urgent. As we began meeting, I knew these two items would consume most of our time. I came to the meeting, not only with information to share, but a "game plan" for action.

As we discussed the items, the men had a different perspective on our action. I must confess that at first I began to listen because I simply thought of their perspectives as beneficial. I assumed each of their thoughts could be answered by my game plan. I continued to listen as their thoughts did not coincide with my assumptions. I ended up acknowledging that the men were comfortable with a different course of action and this would be a good chance for me to learn some humility and submit.

Little did I realize how true that was.

As I showered this morning I realized how right and godly their perspective was. I began to see the problem areas of my personal perspective and started to realize the mistake my action would have been. Not only was I humbled to see how inappropriate my "game plan" would have been, I was humbled when I realized my attitude about plurality last night was lacking. I do not submit to the plurality of the group to "keep peace." I do not submit to the plurality because you want to save argument for the biggies. I submit to the plurality of the elders because each of those men individual possesses God-honoring wisdom and corporately carry a wisdom I individually could not carry alone.

I'm honored to count them as brothers and fellow undersheperds. Whether you know them or not, please take a moment to pray for Keith, Dan, Jason, Brian, Jack, Bill and Daniel. Pray that God would continue to grant them wisdom (James 1:5) and that He would hold them above reproach. God has been very gracious to our Body to give us such men.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Church Sign Theology

Around 11pm last night, I'm driving through a sleepy little town on my way home. As I pass an old church sitting right up by the street, I notice they have the classic brick church sign with interchangable messages encased inside of glass. Typically, I shudder at the amazing "cheese factor" produced by the quaint little sayings. Yet, sometimes the messages reveal a church's perspective. Last night, the sign said:

God is crazy about you.

The sign bothered me for the following reasons:

Crazy?--My dictionary defined crazy in five ways: 1) mentally deranged. 2) extremely annoyed or angry. 3) foolish. 4) extremely enthusiastic. 5) appearing absurdly out of place or in an unlikely position.

Now, I've already been rebuked about being too nitpicky (when I shared this with someone else), and I know "crazy about" can be a euphemism for "loves a lot." However, is God's love best expressed by using a phrase that is tainted with the concept of lost mental capacity? Is God really so in love with me that it drives Him to act outside of His natural character? Did God lay aside wisdom, logic and reason because of His great love for me? Or, as I Corinthians 1 would suggest, is His great wisdom and logic expressed in His work on the cross to provide my righteousness?

Crazy about You--Again, when the cart goes before the horse (love before righteousness and justice), a person could drive by that church and believe they are in good standing with God becaue He's crazy about them. What need is there to come to the cross? A person easily assumes that God will simply overlook their sin because He loves them so much. Again, they don't see the glory of His love because they don't realize how deeply they've violated God yet He would be willing to suffer death to buy them back (Romans 5:6-8).

Desperate God? Quite honestly, one of the most annoying things about mainline American christianity is the portrayal of God desperately wanting someone to love. The picture gets painted that God had all this love within Him, yet needed to create humanity so His love could have an object. In reality, this is idolatry. I become an object God needs (thus replacing the All-Sufficient One, with the "He-needs-me-One"). God has been able to express His love within the Trinity since before creation. This does not diminish the incredible love God does have for us (for He was willing to lay down His life) but it's important that we sever that immense love from any views of desperation (as we as humans may have accompanied with out feelings of love).

God's Word, or words of God--I get queasy whenever we put words into God's mouth. We've all seen the billboards that say, "Hey, why don't you come over to my house before the game"--God." Cute idea. Very uncomfortable with the practice. Is that really what God would say? Do we have anyway of knowing that? Is that comment validated by Scripture somehow? Frankly, as I read the gospels, Jesus responded in a surprising way enough times that I have come to see I would be horrible at trying to assume the words He would speak in a certain situation. (That's why I am personally uneasy with the whole, "What would Jesus say to Bart Simpson/Dan Brown/Tiger Woods" type sermon series.) There is a fine line between preaching the Word clearly with relevant application (as based from the original meaning of the text...or at least a striving for that purpose) and us believing we have to make the Word relevant from our own manipulation. I haven't mastered where that line is, or how we always spot it, but I do believe when we've crossed it, it is a sign that we question the sufficiency of Scripture.

Because I can't figure all of that out, I'm thankful our sign simply says, "Grace" and I don't have to think of what sayings to put on it.

DaVinci Response

Justin Taylor has an interesting email he has posted on his blog about responding to the Davinci movie.

Check it out and tell me if you think this will work.

Threat to the Gospel

Lately, I've been bouncing around some thoughts about the gospel message in our lives. I will get to making a post at some point, but consider the words of CJ:
It’s not difficult to identify distortions of the gospel. But as a pastor, one of my main concerns for genuine Christians is a more subtle one: either assuming the gospel or neglecting the gospel. I have found this to be the greatest threat to the gospel in my own life. Jerry Bridges echoes this concern when he writes, “The gospel is not only the most important message in all of history; it is the only essential message in all of history. Yet we allow thousands of professing Christians to live their entire lives without clearly understanding it and experiencing the joy of living by it.”
So let us not only apply discernment to the church at large, but to our own hearts as well. Let us, in the words of Jerry Bridges, “Preach the gospel to ourselves daily.” Let us heed Charles Spurgeon’s exhortation: “Abide hard by the cross and search the mystery of his wounds.” Let us respond to John Stott’s invitation: “The Cross is a blazing fire at which the flame of our love is kindled, but we have to get near enough for its sparks to fall on us.”

Considering the gospel, is there ever a reason for us not to focus on the cross as believers? Is there ever a reason for us to not turn a nonbelievers focus to the cross?

You can read CJ's entire aticle on the "Together for the Gospel Blog" here.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Book Review

The DaVinci Code: A Quest for Answers by Josh McDowell.

After reading the DaVinci Code, I picked up this book to see if it would be a helpful rebuttal. I picked the McDowell edition, quite frankly, because it was sent free to our church and required no work for me to attain it.

In many ways, McDowell's book is the complete opposite of the DaVinci Code. McDowell is careful to footnote every chapter, carefully sourcing each claim he makes. The bibliography at the end of the book is nearly 11 full pages long, establishing that McDowell is not merely offering opinion, but is presenting careful thought through research.

In all, the book examined most of the issues I assumed it would. McDowell does a good job of walking through the basic objections that Dan Brown brings to the Christian faith with relative ease. He does all of this without attacking the character of Dan Brown (in fact, any scorn projected in the book is targeted at the fictional historian Leigh Teabing). He exposes that the book even misses in statements about architecture and art that wouldn't effect Brown's claims...thus showing the nature of the book is fictional with minimal attempt to be accurate.

There is one area where McDowell's "DaVinci" and Brown's are similar, however. McDowell's book is also largely fiction. All of his research and all of his refutations are factually backed, however, they are presented in a dialogue of fictional characters. Somewhere along the way, McDowell began using the novel genre to try to teach the lessons of his books. To be honest, I hate it. Since the focus of his work is based on the content and not on the development of the story (and rightfully so) the conversations often feel forced and the characters are not remotely believable. I think the intent was that Chris (a fictional believer talking to his two unbelieving friends) would model how we could enter conversations with others.

Personally, I would have preferred for McDowell to have systematically worked through his arguments. After doing so, it would have been more efficient to have included a chapter about how to use this book, or even "So what do these finding mean to our lives." I do appreciate, however, that he makes a plea for the gospel at the end of the book, reminding us of the true issue.

If you would like to pick up a book to help you refute the claims of Brown's book, this is certainly a cheap way to do so ($3.50). just know that it's fictional style means it will take you about twice as long to gather those facts than it needed to. But also allow the book to remind you not to end with disproving the conspiracy of Jesus having a wife. Have the person consider what they will do with the conspiracy caused by the resurrection!

Secret Church Societies

As expressed about the DaVinci Code, Secret Societies create a spirit of intrigue and distrust. We naturally wonder what causes the need for closed doors and hidden meetings.

It's so easy for us in the church, who have become accustomed to the way things operate to not consider if our actions may look a little secretive to others. Here are a few of the ways I think the church has to guard from being too secretive:

1. Communion.--While it is obvious that the practice is intended only for the believer, we should make sure it is something that the public are capable of witnessing. This does not mean we go out of our way to make sure non-believers are present. It just means that we should have an atmosphere that allows the non-believer to witness the proceedings if they should so choose.
2. Baptism.--This one was intended for the public to witness! One reason I am glad that our church does not have a permanent baptismal (though we practice immersion) is because I would love to see us move our baptisms to a more public arena than our church building. I'd love to see us figure out ways that this could become a more public expression of our faith.
3. Elder meetings.--The word elder is scary enough for some. In fact, we often hear the word more from those groups that distort the gospel message (but praise God, elder leadership seems to be making a comeback in evangelical churches!). I understand the need for elders to have privacy and confidentiality. However, it would be great if others from the church knew they were welcome to attend some portions. We could also dispell any fears about what happens in a meeting by supplying "minutes" that were slightly modified so that readers wouldn't need to know the specifics of the conversation.
4. Sign gifts meetings.--I have to think that this would be the most mysterious for the non-believer. I know many churches that practice the sign gifts, but not in their public gathering. To me, this seems to send a mixed message about the gifts. We believe God has given these to the church, however, we don't believe He can reach the lost through them? I wonder if an unbeliever hears about "special meetings" and is a little weirded out by what may be going down.
5. Some seeker-sensitive constructs.--If a church moves their entire Sunday morning focus to be about reaching the non-believer and establishes everything to be on a level they understand and are spoken to, and then forms another meeting for "the believers in the church," could an unbeliever get a wrong idea from that. I think the motive of the seeker church is genuine (though I think they may be confusing the purposes of the church), yet I wonder if the non-believer sometimes feels like there's a special meeting, or special message the church is trying to keep from them. Do they then think we are doing the same thing the Jehovah's Witness and Mormons do (only revealing part of their true doctrine until they know you are committed?)

Of course, there is no way the church can go without having some accusations. The world did not understand Him, they aren't going to understand us. However, I wonder if there are ways we can make sure that that which we do is before people. No secrets. No hidden agendas. No "special knowledge." Just the grace of God working in our lives. That's mysterious enough.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Charismatic Atheist

Listening to a debate between Todd Friel and Dan Barker on Way of the Master Radio. Barker, a former pastor, makes the following statement:

"I spoke in tongues. I could still speak in tongues today. I could still do it here and feel...I could feel the power of the Holy Spirit as I spoke in tongues to you today. I can recreate those feelings. They're mystical feelings. It's pretty silly because there is no God and there is no Spirit. But I could do that."

As a cessationist (one who believes the "sign gifts" have ceased) I wondered if his quote sheds any light at all. To be a cessationist does not mean I believe engaging in tongues is a demonic practice (as some accuse) but is it possible that it can be generated out of self? This man was a minister in front of others. He basically confesses that he created the gift within himself because he also believes he could recreate it. Is there any gauge to know whether that is what is happening or not? Is this even a fair line of reasoning for me to pursue?

So what happened to Barker? Did he lose his salvation? I offer two reasons why I believe he did not lose his salvation, but rather, was never saved:

1. Ephesians 1:13-14. This passage states that the Holy Spirit is given as a pledge (earnest payment) for the fact that God is claiming me for eternity. If God decides to forfeit His claim on me (losing my salvation) then God must also forfeit the Holy Spirit, for that was given as my pledge. Barker's spiritual gifts had to have been projected from self, for if they were from the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit becomes severed from God when Barker confesses not to trust Christ.

2. His own confession. As Friel debated Barker, Friel suggested that Barker has never truly grasped the gospel. Barker became very enraged at this suggestion (at least it sounded like he was upset on the radio). Barker told him he had no right to question whether he was a convert. He suggested that of course he was a convert, for he saw healings, and preached the gospel and knows of countless people who credit him with playing a role in their conversions. He argues that "by your fruit you will recognize them, and that he exhibited the fruits of the Spirit. However, this confession only bolster's Friel's argument that Barker never understood the gospel. Consider Matthew 7:22-23:
"Many will say to Me on that day, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' "And then I will declare to them, `I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.'

Barker confesses he was a believer, not because of God's gracious work in His life, but rather, because he did a lot of stuff. He claims to trust Christ, all while arguing that he has been righteous because he did good stuff.

It should break our hearts. As a pastor it puts holy fear in my heart about the people sitting in the chairs every Sunday. As a believer, it puts holy praise in my heart as I acknowledge that I would go astray if He had not put His seal on my life and kept me!

Why DaVinci

[My apologizes if you are sick of reading about the DaVinci code on my blog. As you can see, I could have posted one überpost, or I could break my thoughts down a little. If you're hating this series, I only have a few more thoughts and then I'll be done.]

Why would the conspiracy of the DaVinci code even be attractive? What would make a person wish to pursue this angle? I think there are a few reasons:

1. Conspiracies sell. Brown states it in his book, "Everyone loves a conspiracy." There's something to thinking you are privy to information that others do not have that empowers us and makes life exciting. It feeds the ego to think that you know something others have tried to keep secret.

2. No Lordship issues. If you can make the case that Jesus is not divine, then you don't need to worry about Him being Lord either. Brown, in repeated attempts to present Jesus as merely human, presents Jesus simply as a good teacher with loving advice. He becomes someone to be admired, but doesn't have to be obeyed.

3. No need for Lordship. In Brown's argument for the "divine feminine," he establishes that original sin was a concept created by Constantine. He says that the Church had an anti-female agenda and therefore they created "original sin." Interestingly enough, Brown ignores that Paul says that sin entered the world through man and does not hold Eve soley responsible. But going Brown's route, he can pursue a pro-feminist agenda as well as exonerate all of us from sin. With his conspiracy, Brown can reason that even if God exists, he is not responsible to answer to Him, for he is not a sinner.

We should not be surprised by these reasons. Since Brown does not know Christ, he's going to pursue different avenues to escape the truth of Who God is. It's what Paul is talking about in Romans 1.

I should pray that God reveal to Dan Brown that he is chasing after empty stories in an effort to escape pending judgment. I should glorify God, for apart from His grace, I'd be chasing similar stories. Dan Brown is certainly smarter than me, but God in His grace, broke my heart to see the truth.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

What made DaVinci Code possible?

The book is fiction, and so it the premise, but what makes this book believable to some? I would suggest that there are a few things that Brown has witnessed that made the come together. These are also the things that the reader notices that give the book a hint of credibility to some. As I've mentioned before, this book focuses on the Catholic church, but there are lessons we should notice as well.

Some of the things Brown directly or indirectly refers to that help weave together his story:

1. Where is the gospel? Brown looks at the church and he sees influence. He sees a group of people using Jesus to acheive their own agenda. To him, the church then appears to be a place where people are manipulated by some vague promises of spirituality held only by the church. In the abscence of a clearly articulated gospel, Brown sees nothing but worldliness cloaked with spirituality. If the church becomes more about providing comfort, working against abortion, or even feeding the hungry than it is about proclaiming the gospel, people will see a political/social agenda, and not the spiritual battle in which we are truly engaged.

2. Covering out tracks. Several times, Brown reminds the reader of the scandal in the Catholic church with priests and young boys. Brown uses this issue to establish that the church is about the business of covering stories up. "If they would cover this sex scandal," Brown makes you wonder, "what else might they be covering up?" When the church (or individuals within) try to cover up sin, it has no positive effect. God still sees it. The truth ends up being revealed. People distrust those who tried to cover it up. We even find the gospel message clouded as we believe we have to convey a personal perfection instead of presenting believers who have sin that has been paid for by Christ. It makes you wonder who we really think we are "protecting" when we keep information from others.

3. Secret societies. What outcome can there be but distrust when a secret society exists? Brown blends a whole tapestry of distrust using the fabrics of secrets, ritual and closed door meetings. We must guard against ever conveying the concept of being a closed society. [I plan to post more about how I see this creeping into Protestantism later.]

4. Finance. This one is probably the most difficult to distinguish. Yet Brown makes it very clear through out his book (whether through high dollar payoffs, or fancy cars and jets) that the Catholic church is not hurting for money. Who really defines wealth? Is that not a subjective term in many ways? Couldn't basically anyone in America be deemed wealthy in comparrison to others? Yet, he projects the concept that the church has built for itself a financial structure that is intended to serve the people within the church. How do we use what we have, and convey that all we have is intended for His glory and is not meant for our own personal gain?

Brown is obviously an unbeliever. Without the Spirit within him, it's understandable that he would misinterpret much that he sees in the church. We will be misunderstood and some charges we will not be able to escape. However, if the world we are trying to reach does not have that Spirit within them (obviously), then we need to be extra careful on how people might perceive us.

The more about Brown's book we can keep as fiction, the better.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Take a breath...

Before we freak out about The DaVinci Code, know that there are some major flaws to expose in the first place.

This is not intended to be an itemized list of the errors or misinformation that Brown presents (I'm trusting some other books I read will help expose some of those I haven't even thought of) but just some of the biggies I noticed:

1. Renaissance without Reformation. Brown loves the mystique of the Renaissance period, however, he somehow missed a thing called the Protestant Reformation. His attention is placed on the Catholic church, with a few obscure branches of Catholicism. His "cover-up" argument would be greatly weakened if he acknowledged protestantism...for then he has to acknowledge a whole group of churches who oppose one another, but are working together to cover a lie.
2. Only the Priory would benefit? Brown suggests that the Priory are the sole defenders of this truth. But wouldn't many more groups prosper to find that Jesus was not divine and had a child? Wouldn't Islam, Secular Humanism and even Buddhism do well to find Jesus was not the Son of God? It seems the priory should not have to work alone.
3. Dead Sea Scrolls argument is dead. As I mentioned in my review, he says the Dead Sea Scrolls talk about Jesus and that He wasn't divine. Problem is, the Dead Sea Scrolls don't speak of Jesus at all. There's countless stuff like this in the book.
4. Something about Mary. Brown's characters spend significant time establishing that they do not believe Jesus to be divine (nor do they believe He ever claimed to be). They then explain they believe Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had offspring. They swear oaths to protect these offspring and worship Mary as the divine feminine. But why? If Jesus was not divine, what special significance does his wife or children carry? The argument does not hold up...but you aren't supposed to notice that.

Of course, there are many other issues of exagerated numbers and false documentation...it is fiction. But these are a few of the things I believe you could easily refer to when talking to someone about the truth that may exist. In fact, many of these errors are so obvious, you have to wonder if Brown ever meant for the conspiracy to be taken so seriously. Now that it's making cashloads, I can understand the marketing ploy for Brown to pretend it's real. However, a little investigation shows the characters and the setting are quite fictional.

Book Review

The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown.

Knowing that I'm going to receive a lot of goodies at the Together for the Gospel Confernce, I've been hesitant to pick up anything I knew I might not read through by that time. I also knew it was probably time for a break from the typical genre of reading for me. So I decided to pick up the DaVinci Code.

Did I disagree with the premise of the book? Absolutely, but I knew I would going in. Do I feel threatened by the effect the book may have on believers? Not a bit. It's built on a facribation, so it's really nothing to panic about. Could non-believers get the wrong idea about Jesus? Only if we decide to keep our mouth shut. (Incidently, isn't it safe to say that any person who has not repented of their sin and submitted their life to Christ must have a distorted view of Jesus?)

I plan to write some thoughts about the controversial content of the book (in case you hadn't heard, Brown's book claims that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had a daughter, Sarah...not quite the New Testament account), but thought I'd leave this one simply at the book review level.

Writing. The paperback version is 489 pages long. I read the book over the weekend. I'm not a fast reader, nor I'm I a very good reader, so it is obviously a page turner. I felt the book has a very Indiana Jones/Bourne Identity/Mission Impossible feel. The story is filled with twists and turns, and does a nice job of keeping you off guard. If you asked me when I was about 3/4 through the book, I would have raved about Dan Brown's abilities as an author. However, from the moment he revealed the identity of "The Teacher," I felt the book began to weaken. By the end of the book, I was less impressed with Brown than I was halfway into it. But overall, I would say I was entertained as much as any action movie has ever entertained me.

It's hard to know how to review a book like this, beyond the author's abilities. Obviously, like most novels, it depends on non-fiction to establish it's setting (France, Harvard, the Louvre, etc.), yet Brown clouds the line between fiction and non. The casual reader may believe Brown when he says thing like the Dead Sea Scrolls speak of Jesus as married and being non-divine. (In reality, the Dead Sea Scrolls make no mention of Jesus). Do I think every Christian needs to read this to know what he's facing? (Incidently, I one reason I read this book was to silence those who might say I have no right to discredit the books claims if I had not read it. I read it to silence them, but I don't buy their logic. It doesn't matter if I've read the claims, what matters is if the claims were made.) Probably not. I'm starting a book about the DaVinci Code tonight, and if I like it, it may be a good resource to check out (I'll let you know soon.)

I would recommend reading this book:

IF you are spending time in the Word daily...and,

IF you are faithfully participating in an active fellowship of belivers...and,

IF you are renewing your mind with the truths found in Scripture...and,

IF you realize you are approaching fiction...and,

IF you desire to use the book as a tool to open conversation about Who Christ really is and about the marvelous work He did for us.