Friday, August 31, 2007

One Day in the Life of Christ

In 1962 Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn published his work One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. The story is set in a Soviet labor camp during the 1950’s; a time when Stalin maniacally ruled the Soviet empire. All threats, real and imagined, were either killed or banished to the gulags; in many cases the two were synonymous. Solzhenitsyn’s book, published after Stalin’s death, chronicles one day in the life of prisoner # S-854 – Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. It is an amazing tale, made all the more interesting when one considers that Solzhenitsyn had experienced gulag life firsthand from 1945-1953.

The gospel writer Mark chronicles an even more remarkable day in the life of the most noteworthy man in history. Mark 1:21-34 provides a snapshot of a day in the life of Jesus Christ.

After dropping their nets and following the compelling Christ the four former fishermen are led into the nearby village of Capernaum. Simon and Andrew lived in this village, and it is most likely that James and John did as well. This town would become the home base of Christ’s earthly ministry. This amazing day in the life of Jesus happens to be the Sabbath, and the story begins with the regular Sabbath synagogue meeting. “And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the Sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught.” (Mark 1:21)
What is a synagogue? For starters, the English word is a transliterated Greek word (sunagoge – synagōgē) which means “to gather together”. During the Babylonian exile the Jews began to gather together for prayer and religious instruction. This was the genesis of the Jewish synagogue. By the time of Christ synagogues could be found, not only in Palestine but in Gentile cities, if there were at least ten Jewish men who were heads of households (MacArthur Study Bible, (Word Publishing, 1997), 1663). The Jews typically attended synagogue every Sabbath, feast days, and on the second and fifth days of the week.

Even though the Temple had been rebuilt, the local synagogues were the focal points of Jewish religious and social life. They were the principal places of worship, study, community fellowship, and even legal activity. Usually the services consisted of prayers, singing, reading from and an exposition of the scriptures. (Which sounds a lot like Christian church services and that should be no surprise considering all the apostles and most of the early Christians had been raised in synagogue.)

Regularly the synagogue’s ruler would ask a visiting rabbi to expound a portion of scripture. Jesus and Paul would often take advantage of such opportunities to explain, prove, and proclaim the gospel from the Old Testament (cf. Acts 17:1-4). Most times they would eventually be run out of the synagogues, but not before some hearers had embraced the truth of scripture and been converted.On this particular Sabbath synagogue service the attendees would experience something they would never forget. Christ and His cadre entered the meeting, and Jesus taught. Never before had the people heard teaching such as this.

He entered into the synagogue, and taught. And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes…And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, What thing is this? what new doctrine is this? – Mark 1:21b-22 & 27a

Christ's Doctrinal Authority

Why were the people amazed and astonished at the teaching of Christ? This was not the first time someone had exposited the scriptures. These people had been attending synagogue from infancy. Why did Christ’s teaching leave them thunderstruck?

You can be sure that the congregation was not what amazed by His preaching “style”. Christ was no show man. The people were not astonished at His illustrations, alliterations, gesticulations, or PowerPoint presentations. Remember, the people were not entertained they were astounded. Certainly, there has never been a preacher, before or since, who was able to preach as truthfully, accurately, and passionately as did Jesus Christ. But the style of His teaching was not the amazing factor in the equation; it was the substance of His teaching that astonished the congregation.

The people were blown away at Christ’s doctrine and the authority with which He taught. “Taught” in the Greek is “didaskō”; it is a verb meaning “to teach; to impart instruction”. The English word “didactic” is developed from this word. Didactic teaching is instructive; designed to impart information. Didactic teaching – Christ’s teaching – content focused. Truth is absolute, and the absolute truth was proclaimed. This style was opposite of the popular Greek method which centered on the debate of various ideas and opinions. The Greeks loved philosophy. They loved to hear new ideas, and nothing was too outrageous; except for absolute truth claims.

Still, the question of why the people were astonished has not been completely answered. This was not the first lecture they had heard. They were used to this style of teaching. They were familiar with the text from which Christ preached; the Law and the Prophets. Why were they amazed?

They were astonished because Christ taught them “as one that had authority, and not as the scribes.” Kent Hughes describes it best when he says:
“The scribes, who were largely Pharisees, were in bondage to quotation marks – they loved to quote the authorities. “Rabbi Hillel says…But on the other hand Rabbi Gamaliel says…Then there is Rabbi Eleazer’s testimony…’ It was secondhand theology. Their labyrinthine, petty, legalistic distinctions were boring, with no spontaneity, no joy…When Jesus spoke it was just the opposite. He preached God’s Word, not about God’s Word. He explained the Law and the Prophets. He was clear and simple, as all great preachers of the Word have been (and are) (R. Kent Hughes, Jesus, Servant & Savior (Wheaton: Crossway, 1989), 40-41.)

Jesus made no reference to any authority other than Himself and the text. His preaching was not a list of rituals, rules, and regulations handed down from one rabbinical generation to the next. The synagogue attendees heard that being descendants of Abraham was no guarantee of the kingdom. They heard the gracious gospel message of repentance from sin and faith in Christ.
Christ never diverted onto economical, social, political, or personal issues. His teaching and preaching was entirely focused on expounding God’s Word and proclaiming God’s kingdom. Which is a pattern that all will follow if they desire to be a faithful herald of the gospel. All truth claims, all ideologies and philosophies must be measured by the Word of God.

This was not only an amazing blessing to the people who were present at the Capernaum synagogue that Sabbath; it was also the instructional building blocks for the four former fishermen who were now training to be fishers of men. They witnessed firsthand how Jesus passionately cared for the people to whom He preached. They witnessed how He accurately handled the Word of God from which He preached. They witnessed how He clearly communicated the truths from the text. In order to please God and serve Him we need not so much to possess the message, but rather to let the message possess us. If we want people to see that our faith is real and not simply talk or tradition we need to be passionate about it and speak the Word clearly. Then there will be genuine power, authority, and life. Everything else is just painted fire; it is manufactured instead of authentic.

Christ's Authority over Demons

Jesus’ words were amazing and so were His works. Jesus spoke the Word(s) of God and performed the work(s) of God because Jesus was (and is) God! The Creator has authority over the creation; even those aspects which are in rebellion. That was made evident when the greatest sermon ever preached in the Capernaum synagogue was interrupted by the shouts of a man possessed by an unclean spirit.

And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, Saying, Let [us] alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God. And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him. And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, What thing is this? what new doctrine [is] this? for with authority commandeth he even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him. – Mark 1:23-27.

The presence and preaching of the Holy One of God was too much for this unclean spirit to endure. That is no surprise. Those who love darkness hate the light. Reading this passage reminds me of the character Gollum from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Under the sway of the One Ring Gollum had become so twisted and evil that he loathed the sunlight and hated even the moon light. Darkness was his domain.

Gollum is a fictional character, this person in the Capernaum synagogue was not. There were those then, and there are those now who love the darkness and recoil from the light. They do not all appear as ugly and grotesque as Gollum. In fact, they may even be disguised as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14) but that is only a ruse, for light is what they despise; especially the Light of the word. Jesus said in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life.”

Isn’t it amazing that one can know who Jesus is and hate Him just the same?! The darkness hates the light. Righteousness and the light have no fellowship with unrighteousness and the darkness. They are not just opposites, they are in opposition (2 Corinthians 6:14). Satan and his evil horde have always and will always oppose Christ’s work. Their efforts are destructive but ultimately futile. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and resurrection from the grave has spoiled their evil endeavors. They have been publicly put to shame, and Christ has triumphed over them (Colossians 2:15).

This victory is a future reality and a present truth. The shrieks of the unclean spirit were silenced by Christ: “Be quiet and come out of him!” Unable to resist the authority of Jesus the demon violently departed with inarticulate cries, having been forbidden by Christ to speak.
The astounded congregation had never seen anything like this before. They whispered in awe to one another, “What new doctrine is this? What is this new teaching with authority that even the unclean spirits obey?” The sad part is that this was not “new doctrine” at all. This was timeless truth stripped of traditionalism and error.

Churches today (or of any day) must be places where truth is stripped of traditionalism and error; places that give evidence of Christ in their midst. Ritualistic, rationalistic, pragmatic, hypocritical Christians and churches have no impact on a lost and needy world and are no threat to the adversary. Tired preaching, exhausted clichés, and trendy methods or styles are powerless alternatives to the plain, authoritative, dynamite of God’s word clearly preached and obediently followed. Look at what resulted. This man who had been blinded by the god of this world, kept from seeing the light of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ, was made whole and Jesus’ name was on the lips of every man, woman, and child in the region.

Christ's Authority over Disease

Christ’s authority is evident in His miraculous preaching and His marvelous power, which extended over demons and disease as well.

And forthwith, when they were come out of the synagogue, they entered into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. But Simon's wife's mother lay sick of a fever, and anon they tell him of her. And he came and took her by the hand, and lifted her up; and immediately the fever left her, and she ministered unto them. And at even, when the sun did set, they brought unto him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils. And all the city was gathered together at the door. And he healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many devils; and suffered not the devils to speak, because they knew him. - Mark 1 :29-34

After leaving the most memorable synagogue service in Capernaum’s history, Jesus and His cadre walked to Peter’s home. Upon their arrival Jesus learns that Peter’s mother-in-law is sick with a fever. We do not know how sick Peter’s mother-in-law was, but Luke describes the fever as “great” (Luke 4:38). The woman was incapacitated because of her condition and Jesus lovingly healed her.

The natural response of the heart that has been touched by Christ is to minister to others and for Him. That is what this woman displayed, for as soon as He healed her she “ministered unto them”.
Christ was not finished, however, for as the evening approached and the Sabbath ended people from Galilee and all the surrounding regions descended on Peter’s house in Capernaum. Jesus healed them all. (cf. Luke 4:38-41)

Christ’s amazing preaching and the astonishing healings demonstrated:

  • His authority - Isaiah 35:5-10; 61:1-3
  • His deity - John 14:11
  • His compassion

This was irrefutable evidence that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah, just as John the Baptist had declared. The writer of Hebrews stated: “[the gospel] which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witnesses, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to His own will” (2:4)

The Lord has lost none of His potency. He still has that same power and authority to completely heal, and He does miraculously heal as He sovereignly chooses. This does not guarantee that all will be healed; not even those who are His. God is in control, and to that truth we must cling when the wheels fall off. These healing miracles that are recorded in the NT were temporary authenticating signs to Israel that her Messiah had come. The scriptures are now the full and final verification of God’s work and His coming kingdom.

This text is a snapshot of one unforgettable day in the life of Jesus Christ; a life in which all the days were remarkable. Displayed is the almighty, astonishing authority of Jesus Christ over doctrine, demons, and disease. Christ is sovereignly in control of all things; even those things we do not completely understand.

Christ has authorized His church to continue His work until His return. Let us gladly possess it with humility and energy as we endeavor to carry His message with His spirit to this world.
Christ is also still in the healing business. Of all the marvelous miracles performed on this amazing day, the most fantastically profound miracle on that day and still today is the miracle of regeneration. Have you repented Christ and trusted Him as your Lord and Savior?

ESPN Has Lost its Mind!

Last night I saw the finest play made by a second baseman in my young 34 years. My beloved Reds were precariously clinging to a one run lead in the bottom of the ninth. They had two outs, but there was a runner on second. Pirate Nate McClouth - who is reported to be a BIG Saved by the Bell fan - blooped a single into shallow right-field; no-man's land, just beyond the reach of the first-baseman and in front of the right-fielder.

Brandon Phillips, the best second baseman you've never heard of, was hustling to back up the play. He bare-handed the ball on the bounce, and in one motion turned and rifled a throw home. Javy Valentin had to hop only a little bit to catch the throw and tag out the runner (see picture to the right).

Here is what Junior thought about the play:
"From second basemen, I’ll probably rank that the No. 1 play I’ve seen. When it started, then it bounced and then I see BP and the ball floating, it looked like it was in slow motion. Then Javy to get up and make the tag. The whole play was unbelievable. It was inches from being caught and inches from being safe."

Here is why ESPN has lost its mind. That play was not one of the Web-gem nominees on Baseball Tonight, and it wasn't even replayed! This is akin to President Bush announcing air-strikes against Iran and CNN replaying Anna Nicole Smith coverage. ESPN is in the sporting news business. Brandon Phillips' play yesterday evening was easily the best play by a 2B all year. Not to mention that the play came at clutch time: two men out, a man on second, the Reds leading 5-4. I guarantee that if Jeter or A-Rod or Jose Reyes or someone from the Bo-Sox had made a similar play, you would see the replay non-stop for weeks.

I understand that the Reds are 10- games below .500, but they are still one of the hottest teams in MLB. They play in the weakest division in baseball, and they even have an outside shot of winning the Central. Besides all that, the play was stellar and deserved be recognized.

Not only does the play need to be recognized, but so does Brandon Phillips. how this guy was left off of the All-Star team I will never figure out. Check the stats, not only does he rank near or at the top on his team, but compare him with the other NL second-basemen. BP is one of, if not the best second-basemen on the senior circuit.

I'll give the man his props. BP, you're the best. (Just learn how to wear your cap straight!)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Re-visiting What the Bible Says about Tongues - pt. 1

The following is an article written by pastor Darrell W. Sparks of the Dearborn Baptist Church in Aurora, IN. It will be presented in two posts. The second will appear a week from today.

The Charismatic Movement is making a comeback.

Not that it ever went away. The “wild” Charismatics continue to thrive on TBN. Just look at the size of their crowds and their financial statements; which can be difficult to ascertain (Check out I suppose that there are certain personality types that are enamored with and in a constant search for intense emotional experiences and “feelings” and are, therefore, attracted to those denominations, those ministries, and those “preachers” who promote such. Signs and wonders, tongues and healings, it seems, cater to that personality type.

Many people are able to see through the shallowness and emotionalism of that type of Charismatic. Perhaps they have been alerted and alarmed by the moral and financial scandals connected with some of the high profile Charismatic ministries or have seen those exposes’ revealing that many of the so-called signs and wonders were bogus or that the lifestyles of the leaders are lavish. Maybe they have observed the false teaching of those preachers with regard to other doctrines (i.e. prosperity theology; eternal security).

It seems to me that the TBN kind of Charismatic is largely ignored by most conservative evangelical and fundamentalist Christians.

But there is a new kind of Charismatic - one that is more thoughtful and more theological, and therefore, in some ways more threatening. Rather than simply saying, “I don’t care what the Bible says, this is what happened to me” this kind of Charismatic does indeed care a great deal about what the Bible says and seeks to build a sound exegetical argument to support his view of the Charismatic gifts. In fact, he may even wince at the label Charismatic and prefer to call himself a “continuationist” as opposed to a “cessationist” when it comes to the supernatural sign gifts. (He may even be a “Baptist” by affiliation i.e. John Piper and Wayne Grudem).

This article is my attempt to re-visit what the Bible says specifically about the gift of tongues, to ascertain if indeed this gift is applicable the work of the Spirit in this present age.

"Tongues...shall cease..." (1 Corinthians 13:8)

In 1 Corinthians 13:8-13, the apostle Paul makes a contrast between the permanency of love and the temporary nature of some spiritual gifts. He writes, "Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away." Prophecies shall fail; tongues shall cease; knowledge shall vanish away. These three supernatural gifts, Paul explains, at some point in time shall be abolished. There is no denial that at some point in time the gift of tongues shall cease to exist. The Bible is crystal clear on this. It is a point that cannot be argued.

The verb that is used to describe what will happen to both prophecies and to knowledge is the exact same word in Greek. Strong’s Dictionary defines this Greek word as “to render entirely useless.” Vines explains (Vines Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1996) that this Greek word means that “they were to be rendered of no effect after their temporary use was fulfilled.” The word is found in twenty-six verses of the New Testament and is translated in the Authorized Version with the words “abolish, cease, cumber, deliver, destroy, do away, become (make) of no (none, without) effect, fail, loose, bring (come) to nought, put away (down), vanish away, and make void.” In 1 Corinthians 13:11 Paul uses this same word (translated “put away”) to describe what a mature man does with his childish things. In Romans 7:2-6, Paul uses this word (translated “loosed” in verse 2 and “delivered” in verse 6) to describe what death does to a marriage relationship (a widow is loosed from the law of her dead husband) as an analogy of what Christ has done for us in relation to the Old Testament law.

Paul uses a different verb to describe the future end of tongues. He writes that they “shall cease.” Again, Strong’s Concordance defines this verb as “restrain, quit, desist, and come to an end.”

There is a sense in which these two verbs are used as synonyms in this text, that is, Paul uses two different verbs to express the same idea – a common literary device in writing. To paraphrase: Prophecies shall stop; tongues shall desist; knowledge shall stop. The two verbs are used synonymously.

But there is also a subtle distinction between the two verbs. The first verb (describing the cessation of prophecy and knowledge) is in the passive voice indicating that it will happen as the direct result of some person or action. Someone or something will cause the gifts of prophecy and knowledge to stop. The second verb (describing the cessation of tongues) is in the middle voice meaning that it will happen on its own. (To illustrate: An alarm stops when someone turns it off [passive voice] while a wind-up clock stops when it runs down on its own [middle voice]).

Again, there is no debate that these gifts will at some point no longer be in effect. The only question is when this will happen. There is a significant clue in the text. Verse 9 states that both knowledge and prophecies are “in part.” They are imperfect, partial, and incomplete. Verse 10 continues by explaining that these partial gifts will be “done away” (the exact same verb in the passive voice used to describe them in verse 8) when “that which is perfect is come.” Thus, the action that will cause these partial gifts (prophecy and knowledge) to stop will be the arrival of that which is perfect. Implied is that by then the gift of tongues will already have ceased on its own.

The question is then, to what does “that which is perfect” refer? What does Paul mean by that phrase? Some say that this phrase refers to the Lord Jesus Himself. Jesus is that which is perfect and when He comes, these gifts will cease. The problem with that interpretation is that Jesus is never referred to by a neuter pronoun. If Paul were speaking of Jesus, he would have written the Greek equivalent of "When He who is perfect is come."

There are others who say, "Well, it may not be a reference to Jesus, but it is a reference to the event, the Second Coming of Christ." The problem with that interpretation is contextual. There is absolutely no indication by the context that a reference to the Second Coming is intended. Paul is not writing about the Second Coming here; he is writing about the temporary nature of some spiritual gifts.

If you want to know the meaning of "that which is perfect" consider the illustration Paul uses in verse 12. "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face." The word for glass refers, not to a window, but to a mirror, a looking glass. In the ancient world mirrors were made, not from glass like we are familiar with now, but from highly polished pieces of metal. In fact, the city of Corinth was famous for these polished, metal mirrors. The reflection that one would get from such a “mirror” was less than perfect. Paul is explaining, through prophecies and knowledge the image of Christ that we see is dark, shadowed, veiled, dim, obscure, and less than perfect. On the other hand, when “that which is perfect (has) come,” we shall see a perfect reflection. According to James, Scripture is a perfect mirror. James calls it “the perfect law of liberty” (James 1:23-25) and compares Scripture to a mirror.

II Corinthians 3:18 also uses the words "glass" and "face" together. “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” The born-again, Spirit indwelled Christian has the privilege of looking into the word of God with an open mind and seeing a perfect reflection of Christ and thus, that Christian is changed from one level of glory to another by Spirit.

When we get to heaven, “then” we will see Christ, not through a mirror at all – either imperfect (through supernatural sign gifts) or perfect (through the completed canon of Scripture) – but “then face to face. Presently, we know all that we need to know, all that God has revealed to us, but we do not know all that we will know. Presently, even with a perfect mirror, our ability to know Christ is limited by our own fallen humanness. “Then” – that is, once we have experienced glorification, we will know Christ as He knows us!

"That which is perfect" refers to the completion of the Word of God. These gifts awaited the coming of the complete canon of Scripture. And when the Word of God is complete, Paul writes, prophecy and knowledge will disappear and tongues will already be gone.

There were some people in the church during the first century who were gifted by the Holy Spirit with the ability to speak the Word of God directly from heaven. They were prophets, in the purest sense of the word. They spoke by revelation and said, "Thus saith the Lord." This was necessary because the written revelation was not complete. Preachers could not say, "Turn to Romans Chapter 12" because the book of Romans had not yet been written by Paul and was not in their Scriptures yet. Others, during that same time period had the gift of knowledge or the word of knowledge as it is sometimes called. These were apostles and their immediate associates to whom the Spirit had given the ability to write down the literal Word of God. The gift of knowledge was the supernatural inspiration of the Holy Spirit so that God's Word would be written. But when the complete canon of Scripture was fully revealed, these partial and temporary gifts were abolished. In the strict sense, there are no prophets today, and there is no gift of knowledge given to enable men to write Scripture. God’s revelation is complete and is limited to what is contained in Scripture. The last paragraph of the Bible, Revelation 22:18, says that the Scripture is complete. It reads in part, "If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book."

Thus, there is solid exegetical evidence in this text to indicate that these supernatural signs gifts either will stop – as in the case of prophecy and knowledge - or already will have ceased to exist – as in the case of tongues - when God closes the canon Scripture.

Furthermore, there is solid Biblical and historical evidence to back up this exegetical claim I am making about 1 Corinthians 13:8ff.

Biblically, 1 Corinthians is an early epistle of Paul. The last recorded miracle in the New Testament occurred around A.D. 58, with the healings on the island of Malta (Acts 28:7-10). From A.D. 58 to 96 when John finished the Book of the Revelation, no miracle is recorded. Miraculous gifts like tongues and healing are mentioned only in 1 Corinthians, an early epistle. Two later epistles of Paul, Romans and Ephesians, both discuss spiritual gifts at length – but no mention is made of the miraculous gifts. Peter never mentions tongues; neither does James, John, or Jude. By the time these epistles were written miracles were already looked upon as something in the past (Hebrews 2:3-4). By then Apostolic authority and the apostolic message needed no further confirmation. Before the first century ended, the entire New Testament had been written and was circulating through the churches. Thus, the revelatory gifts had ceased to serve any purpose. And when the apostolic age ended with the death of the Apostle John, the signs that identified the apostles had already become moot (2 Corinthians 12:12).

The evidence of Christian history also indicates that tongues have ceased. Early Christian theologians considered tongues obsolete. In a few, rare instances when tongues were spoken (Shakers, for example), those who practiced them were regarded as heretics.

The subject of speaking in tongues has only re-appeared during modern days. At the turn of the 20th century, in a church on Azusa Street in Los Angeles, a group of people began to speak in tongues. Today, there are many denominations that claim to speak in tongues - Church of God, Assembly of God, Pentecostal, and Holiness congregations. Furthermore, the Charismatic movement has spread beyond these denominations to many other independent churches and even some mainline denominations. Today, there are charismatic Catholics. Even in some non-Christian religions there are people who to speak in tongues - for instance there are Buddhists who claim to speak in tongues. I find it telling that through eighteen hundred years of Christian history there was virtually no speaking in tongues. Does not this strongly suggest that the gift of tongues has ceased and that the more modern version of tongues is a historical anomaly and a modern day heresy?

The Bible says that “tongues … shall cease.” Both the Bible and Christian history indicate that tongues have ceased.

Heavy Hoosiers

Have you ever seen fat skeleton?
Once again Indiana has made the top ten list of fattest states in the Union.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Brokeback Bathroom

Larry Craig is a 62 year old married man; a three term Republican Senator from the potato capital of the country. Until recently he was the Senate liaison for the Romney campaign. Now he is simply the latest politician to be busted for lewd behavior. Sen. Craig was arrested on June 11 for lewd behavior in a Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport mens-room. He plead guilty to those charges on August 8. According to this article, Sen. Craig now regrets his decision and wishes he had sought legal counsel before pleading guilty.
"I should have had the advice of counsel in resolving this matter. In hindsight, I should not have plead guilty. I was trying to handle this matter myself quickly and expeditiously."
The man had an entire month to seek legal counsel. Why after he plead out does he now regret the decision? Well think about it. Would you want to be known as the "Brokeback Bathroom" Senator?
Here is another snippet from the article.

According to police reports, Craig kept watching the undercover police officer through a crack in the bathroom stall. Craig then entered the next-door stall and placed his luggage against the opening under the stall door.

"My experience has shown that individuals engaging in lewd conduct use their bags to block the view from the front of their stall," said the officer, Sgt. Dave Karsnia.

The report continued: "At 1216 hours, Craig tapped his right foot. I recognized this as a signal used by persons wishing to engage in lewd conduct. Craig tapped his toes several times and moves his foot closer to my foot. ... The presence of others did not seem to deter Craig as he moved his right foot so that it touched the side of my left foot which was within my stall area."

The report said that Craig swiped his hand beneath the stall divider several times and that Karsnia showed his police identification under the stall...Roll Call reported that Craig was detained about 45 minutes and questioned by officers at the Airport Police Operations Center. At one point, police reports said, Craig handed the arresting officer a business card that identified him as a U.S. senator and said, "What do you think about that?"

I'm thinking a lot things. I think his behavior was disgusting. I think that all people who drop the "Don't you know who I am?!" line should spend at least one night in jail. I think (and have always thought) that it is foolish for Christians to wed themselves to a political party, as if their party paved the way to national righteousness.

Far too many conservative Christians and/or churches have hitched themselves to the GOP. I have no problem admitting that on many issues I am more closely aligned with the Grand Old Party than I am to the party which is in fact much older than the GOP. This does not mean that I am, or should be, a GOP hawk; pontificating from my pulpit the evils of the DEMS and the "values" of the GOP.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Fred Who?

Fred's strategy, if one could call it that, has backfired. At least, that is the view of this amateur politico.

Friday, August 24, 2007

The First Year’s End

This week my family celebrated our first year anniversary at the Antioch Baptist Church in Greencastle, IN; a congregation which I am privileged to pastor. Our arrival in late August of 2006 came on the heels of a difficult and painful time in Antioch's life. As is all too common in churches (especially Baptist churches) this congregation had splintered; not once but twice. One church split is a difficult problem with which to cope; two splits just doubles the pain.

Hurt feelings. Bitterness. Anger. Resentment. Loss of hope. All of these and more are understandable reactions to problems that had festered for some time but finally were played out in the Spring and early summer of '06.

Notice that I wrote "reactions", because that is the best classification of the above. Reactions are not what this church, or any church, needs during difficult days. Instead, we must be resolved to respond.

Respond to hurt feelings with a desire for reconciliation and spirit willing to forgive and/or admit wrongdoing. Respond to bitterness by confessing and forsaking sin – Proverbs 28:13. Then seek to love the one at whom your bitterness was directed.

Respond to anger by ensuring that you are angry at only that which makes God angry – Proverbs 6:16-19; Revelation 2:6, 15; cf. Ephesians 4:26.

The response to resentment is much like the response to bitterness: confess and forsake that sin by abolishing it. Resentment has no place in the heart of the Christian. You should have zero tolerance for resentment.

Respond to a seemingly hopeless situation by understanding that Christians have the hope market monopolized. Of all people Christians have no excuse for feeling hopeless, because our God is our hope!

Job was feeling hopeless when he cried out: "Where is my hope?" Job 17:25. He correctly answered his own question in Job 19:25: "For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth." ABC's hope is not the pastor, the people, the numbers, the offerings, or an influx of fresh new people. Our Hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness!

How then may we have hope? Hope is found in patience
Romans 5:1-5. Consider these three statements:

  • It is no accident that you are where you are.

  • It is no accident that you are where you are now. Psalm 31:15; 139; Ecclesiastes 7:10

  • It is no accident that you are where you are now experiencing what you are.

Never underestimate the impact of your decisions, not just on the moment but also on the days ahead. Every decision you make will turn around and make you.

In light of the above statements we must first understand that waiting on Christ is a common experience for followers. Jesus wants His followers to learn to trust His promises in the midst of difficult days.

Second, when you are not sure what to do, then do what you know is right to do. You may spend hours on your knees in prayer and still not receive clear instruction. That does not mean God has gone deaf, or that He is ignoring you. Just continue to do what you know is right. How do you know what the right thing to do is? It's written down for you in a book – the Bible.

Third, always live in view of this fact: Christ is on the throne! He is sovereign. He is in control, working all things to the good for His people and to the glory of His great name. If you cannot find hope in that you will never find real hope anywhere!

Hope is found in patience.

Hope is found in scripturePsalm 119:43, 74, 81, 114, 147.

Hope is found in serviceRomans 15:1-5; 12-13.

Ask yourself, whether or not you are a member of my congregation: Are you responding to the disappointments and setbacks, or are you simply reacting?

Where is your church compared to this time last year? Where are you in your spiritual walk compared to this time last year?

Where is your focus? Are you focused on hurt feelings, bitterness, anger, resentment, and loss of hope? How will focusing on those issues/people make anything better? Answer: it has zero chance of helping.

Instead of focusing on the negative, and how everything is screwed up, focus on following Jesus. Drop the nets of hurt feelings, bitterness, anger, resentment, and loss of hope, etc., and be an empty-handed, full-hearted, completely engaged follower of Jesus Christ.

Instead of harboring hurts and hatred, engage one another and this community with a meek, humble spirit, desiring to see people reconciled to God and to each other.

Instead of a love that says, "I love you for what you do for me, or how you make me feel." Love others with a love that says, "I'm placing your needs above my own".

Difficult days are part of the human experience. Respond to them as a follower of Jesus.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Dogfighting is a Sport?

According to NBA guard Stephon Marbury it is. Speaking in defense of soon to be imprisoned Michael Vick, Marbury stated:

"I think it's tough. I think, you know, we don't say anything about people who shoot deer or shoot other animals. You know, from what I hear, dogfighting is a sport. It's just behind closed doors."
Training animals to fight each other to the death is not a sport.

The fact of the matter is that Vick broke the law, and now he has to do his time. It's true that there are plenty things worse in this world than dogfighting, but that's not the issue. Not only did Vick break the law, but he lied to the Falcons and the NFL. Michael Vick reminds me more and more of Marcus Vick every day.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Excellent Reading

Two books that everyone should read are Passion Driven Sermon by Jim Shaddix and Quiet Strength by Tony Dungy.

Don't think that Passion Driven Sermon is only for pastors. This book will benefit church members as well. Shaddix does an excellent job of distinguishing between preaching that focuses on "good stuff" as opposed to "God stuff". This is not a homiletic "how-to" book on preaching. The book does not discuss outlines, introductions, alliterations, illustrations, and conclusions. The thesis of Passion Driven Sermon is this:
"Preaching - and the sermons that express it - must be driven by a passion for the glory of God. Admittedly, it's a narrow perspective that goes against the grain of much preaching practice today. But narrow is not always bad."
Tony Dungy's Quiet Strength is the best sports book I have ever read. I have always respected Dungy. Now I'm a fan! Tony Dungy is not defined by football; rather, he is a man devoted to serving God. Read how he closes his book. Then find a copy and read the entire thing!
Building a legacy - not necessarily on the field but in those places that most people will never see. Trying to be faithful in the position God has given me. I love coaching football, and winning a Super Bowl was a goal I've had for a long time. But it has never been my purpose in life.

My purpose in life is simply to glorify God...I coach football [but] I want to help people see the path to eternal life through Christ, to enjoy an abundant life now, and to fulfill their God-given purpose here.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Jogging Au Natural

I don’t like to jog, but I don't think that jogging in the buff would increase my enjoyment of the exercise. I guarantee that it would not be pleasant for any passersby. Evidently, this Colorado man thought differently, or maybe he wasn't thinking at all.

Colo. priest charged for jogging naked
The Associated Press
Last Updated: 08/08/2007 02:54:57 PM MDT

FREDERICK, Colo.—A Catholic priest faces an indecent exposure charge after police said he went jogging in the nude about an hour before sunrise.The Rev. Robert Whipkey told officers he had been running naked at a high school track and didn’t think anyone would be around at that time of day, a police report said. He told officers he sweats profusely if he wears clothing while jogging. “I know what I did was wrong,” he said in the report. Whipkey did not return phone messages. His attorney, Doug Tisdale, told the Longmont Times-Call that Whipkey had no comment. Whipkey, 53, was arrested June 22 in this small town about 20 miles north of Denver. An officer said he saw a naked man walking down the street at 4:35 a.m. The U.S. Naval Observatory Web site said sunrise that day in Frederick was 5:31 a.m.The officer said when he shined his flashlight at the man, he covered himself with a piece of clothing he was carrying. The Archdiocese of Denver said it takes the incident seriously but is awaiting the outcome of the case. Whipkey, who also officiates at parishes in the nearby towns of Mead and Erie, remains an active priest. If convicted of indecent exposure, a misdemeanor, he would have to register as a sex offender, prosecutors said.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Vital Signs of a Healthy Church pt. 2

The second vital sign of a healthy church is...

Strong Preaching

Acts 4:33 says that "great power" and "great grace" was upon this church as they shared witness of Christ's resurrection. Therefore, a healthy church is one that truthfully, faithfully, clearly, and consistently proclaims the gospel. A healthy church is a place where the Bible is taught; verse by verse, chapter by chapter, book after book; teaching and preaching God’s revelation of Himself. This does not mean, however, that the "strong preaching" be restricted to the church walls.

The true, faithful, clear, and consistent message of Christ crucified must be proclaimed in our homes, our workplaces, our schools, and our neighborhoods. It must be declared with our lips and evidenced by our lives. The resurrected Christ told His follwers in Acts 1:8 that the Holy Spirit would empower them for one thing: to be witnesses!

To be witnesses where? Here, there, and everywhere, and the book of Acts is chock full of people preaching the gospel. The main message of the apostles and evangelists throughout Acts is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ; “…Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and…He was buried, and…He rose again the third day according to the scriptures,” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). That's the gospel message which turned the 1st century Roman Empire on its ear, and that is the same message that we have to proclaim today. It’s a powerful message, and it’s the only message worth proclaiming.

Christ has commissioned His churches to, “Go..., and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matt. 28:19-20) and as Mark words it, to “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel unto every nation,” Mark 16:15.

The message of the cross is not just a salvation message. Those who are lost need to humble themselves before the cross and be saved. Those who are saved need to take up their cross and follow their Savior. Church members need to be sharing their faith with the people around them. Every person in the church needs to be involved in making disciples.

A healthy church is a church that has strong preaching, where the gospel is proclaimed, not just from the preacher in the pulpit, but also from the people in the pew.

The first two vital signs of a healthy church are spiritual unity and strong preaching, the third is…

Sacrificial Giving

Reading those two words together makes some of us wince. We recoil involuntarily when the words “sacrificial” and “giving” are put together. Nevertheless, in Acts4:32b we read, “neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.” And then v. 34-35, “Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.”

This same spirit is displayed in Acts 2:44-45, “And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.”

The loving, unselfish unity of the early church found a practical expression in the sharing of material possessions. These people did not see the things that they possessed as their own. They understood that all the “things” they had, belonged to God. Isn't that a liberating truth? We have been given possessions by God's choice, by His blessing on our life. He has given us certain resources, and now He wants us to manage them in a way that honors Him.

One of the ways we honor God with our resources is by giving sacrificially. That is the example that is set for us with this church in Jerusalem. When someone had a need, others in the church used their resources to meet that need (vv. 34-35). James, a leader in this very church, taught this same principle when he said in James 2:15-16, “If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?”

This church practiced what they preached. I'm always encouraged by people who do that. Years later, Paul would collect an offering during his third missionary journey to take back to the church at Jerusalem, which was suffering financially as a result of persecution. They had provided for others, and then others had provided for them.

2 Corinthians 8:1-5:
“Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; Praying us with much entreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God.”

These Macedonian churches were sacrificial givers. Notice that phrase from v. 3, “…beyond their power they were willing of themselves.” Life was difficult, they faced extreme poverty and persecution (v. 2), but despite their desperate circumstances, they joyfully, willfully, and sacrificially gave with no regard for themselves, being compelled by the needs of the even more destitute church in Jerusalem. They believed in God’s promise to supply all their needs. Philippians 4:19, “But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” They refused to worry about their needs (Matthew 6:25-34), gladly placing themselves in dependence on God. Like David, who would not give the Lord something that cost him nothing (1 Chronicles 21:24), and the poor widow who gave all she had (Mark 12:42-44), the Macedonian churches practiced sacrificial giving; as did the Jerusalem church.

A healthy church is a giving church, and that giving is measured in two ways. First, by the offering in takes in, and, second, the offerings it's willing to send out. That's the pattern that is established in Acts 4 and from the Macedonian example in 2 Corinthians 8. The members brought their tithes and offerings to the church, and then “distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.” Giving like this is a powerful testimony, not only to each other, but to the watching world, about the love of Christ within us.

Just to be clear on something, Acts4:34 is not teaching “Christian communism” or communal living. This is not a command to sell everything, pool all your assets, build a bunker on the church property, and wait for the Lord to return. Remember, this giving was voluntary not compulsory, and it was done to meet needs and aid in spreading the gospel message. Not all the Christians gave by selling their homes. Some gave by opening their homes up to others who needed a place to stay, or by holding services in their homes. The point is we need to be sacrificial givers, not sometimes givers.

Spiritual unity, strong preaching, and sacrificial giving are vital signs of a healthy church, but a church is made up of individual believers. There is no way for a church to display these types of qualities unless the individual members who comprise that church display these types of qualities.

The final two verses of Acts 4 provide a sample of the Jerusalem church's membership. Luke introduces Joseph, a Levite, who had been named Barnabas by the apostles. Barnabas means “son of consolation, or encouragement”. Barnabas gave out of pure love for God’s people, not to call attention to himself, like Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11).

Barnabas represents many others who were sacrificial givers, and he is an example for us to follow, because in order to have a healthy church, a church must have healthy members. It is not possible to have one without the other.

The three vital signs of a healthy church are:

  • Spiritual Unity - “the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul.”
  • Strong Preaching - “And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.” A healthy church will be grounded in the Word of God. The Bible will be preached and practiced by the pastor and the people. A healthy church understands that “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” A healthy church also understands that strong preaching should be done in a spirit of great grace.
  • Sacrificial Giving - “neither said any of them that aught of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.” A real healthy church isn't measured just by the offerings it takes in, but by the offerings it’s willing to send out.

The question that must be asked and answered is this, “Does your church fit this model?” The only way to answer that question is to look at yourself. How are you in the areas of spiritual unity, strong preaching, and sacrificial giving?