Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Talk About Your Trick-or-Treat!!

This video is from a Division III game. The teams are Trinty vs. Millsap. The play is ridiculous!





The Christian & Halloween

Halloween has become one of the most popular "holidays" on the calendar. It is second only to Christmas in commercial value, and it has become one of the premier party dates of the year. it's easy to understand why. Dressing up in costumes can be fun, and who doesn't like going from house to house and getting free candy?!

As I child I had great fun watching The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (the one with Jeff Goldblum), dressing up as a cowboy, and walking with my parents up and down my street - Dutch Hollow - getting candy from all my neighbors. I don't ever remember being scared. We never celebrated the occult. It all seemed so innocent.

I still believe, however, that this question must be asked and answered: Should Christians be involved with a "holiday" that celebrates death, witches, ghouls, and other aspects of the occult?

As with anything, Christians - especially Christian parents - should exercise discernment. I do not think it is necessary to retreat from Halloween. I do not believe that parents are failing to lead their families if they allow their kids to go trick-or-treating. I do believe, however, that parents should not celebrate the occultic roots of this day. Therefore, costumes of evil characters are not a good idea. Why would a Christian want to dress himself as an agent of the Adversary? Why would a Christian want to celebrate death?

Dr. R. Albert Mohler, President of Southern Seminary in Louisville, KY makes this comment:

Christian parents should make careful decisions based on a biblically informed Christian conscience. Some Halloween practices are clearly out of bounds, others may be strategically transformed, but this takes hard work and may meet with mixed success. The coming of Halloween is a good time for Christians to remember that evil spirits are real and that the Devil will seize every opportunity to trumpet his own celebrity.

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther began the Reformation with a declaration that the church must be recalled to the authority of God's Word and the purity of biblical doctrine. With this in mind, the best Christian response to Halloween, might be to scorn the Devil and then pray for the Reformation of Christ's church on earth. Let's put the dark side on the defensive.

John MacArthur has also written a fantastic article on this subject. I highly recommend that you read Christians and Halloween. It will be time well spent. The article is so good because it provides the history of Halloween, and a suggested Christian response; which I have excerpted here.
First, Christians should not respond to Halloween like superstitious pagans. Pagans are superstitious; Christians are enlightened by the truth of God's Word. Evil spirits are no more active and sinister on Halloween than they are on any other day of the year

Second, Christians should respond to Halloween with cautionary wisdom.
The real threat on Halloween is from the social problems that attend sinful behavior- drunk driving, pranksters and vandals, and unsupervised children.

Third, Christians should respond to Halloween with gospel compassion. The unbelieving, Christ-rejecting world lives in perpetual fear of death. Witches, ghosts, and evil spirits are not terrifying; God's wrath unleashed on the unforgiven sinner--now that is truly terrifying.
As with all things, a Christian's life is to bring glory to God. Think about how you can make God look good as you make decisions, not only regarding Halloween, but every aspect of your life.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I Like Mike

As you can tell by my newest sidebar widget - I like Mike Huckabee for President. I did not lightly come to this decision. In the near future I will post the reasoning behind my decision. Until then you may read these past posts which focused on Huckabee. Click here and here.

I'd also encourage you to read the following posts (being sure to read the linked articles) from my good friends at Doses of Reality:
I would also encourage you to read this post by Christian bloggers Justin Taylor, Joe Carter, and Matthew Anderson.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Starting to Hate Boston

The only dynasties that I can stomach are the dynasties of my teams. IU in the 70s. The Big Red Machine; also in the 70s. (And now I am out of examples.) I loathe other dynasties. In MLB I want to see the Yankees lose every game. In NCAA b-ball I love to see UK and Duke defeated. I voraciously cheered the Appalachian State upset of the Wolverines in the Nut House...er...I mean Big House. I always enjoy it when a Florida team posts an "L". USC's three losses are fantastic!

As inconceivable as it may at first seem, Boston's sports teams - at least the Sox and the Pats - have been added to the above list.

It wasn't always this way.

I remember feeling sorry for the Patriots when the Bears humbled them before the word in 1985. It was bad enough that they were forced to play in those ugly red and white uniforms with the ridiculous logo of a minuteman snapping a football. I remember thinking: "This is the best the AFC can produce?"

When the team hired the Tuna and changed its logo, I was genuinely happy for them. I was ambivalent in 1996 when they lost to the Packers in the Super Bowl. I was sincerely happy for the team's first ever Super Bowl victory in 2001. I gave them no chance against the "greatest show on turf". I was happy to see the AFC win, and I enjoyed a great Super Bowl game.

Now I just want to see them lose. I'm sick of the Patriots. I'm tired of Brady. Belichick and his ugly, chopped up hoodie just make me tired all over.

Now the Red Sox may officially be labeled as a dynasty. I must tip my hat to them, however. After 86 years of near misses, balls between the legs, etc. this franchise which seemed destined to never finish higher than second has accomplished an amazing feat. Twice the Sox have recovered from a 3-1 deficit in the ALCS. In both cases, 2004 and this year, the Sox went on to sweep the Series. In 2004 I thought it was a great story.

Not so much this year.

I'm starting to hate Boston. (I'm afraid that this time next week I'll really hate Boston.)






Saturday, October 27, 2007

Jesus and the Paralytic

Chapter one of Mark ends with Christ engaged on a preaching tour of Galilee (v. 39). While "preaching in their synagogues throughout Galilee" Jesus also healed those who came to Him; such as the leper that is mentioned in vv. 40-45. The focus of Christ's ministry has been established. He came to preach the gospel of belief and repentance (vv. 15, 38), but He was not dispassionate to the physical sufferings of the people for whom He would eventually die. His healing, compassionate touch of the leper powerfully demonstrated that fact.

As Mark continues his narrative in chapter two we find Christ has returned from His Galilean preaching tour. He is back in Capernaum, the town which had become His home. Matthew 4:13 states that Jesus moved to Capernaum near His ministry's beginning: "And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast". According to Luke 4:28-31 Christ did not just leave Nazareth, the Nazarenes threw Him out! As Jesus said, "No prophet is accepted in his own country" (Luke 4:24). Following that incident Jesus relocated in Capernaum, and He had most likely taken up residence in Simon Peter's house. That house is where the story of Mark 2:1-12 takes place.

And again He entered into Capernaum after [some] days; and it was noised that He was in the house. And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive [them], no, not so much as about the door; and He preached the word unto them. And they come unto Him, bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four. And when they could not come nigh unto Him for the press, they uncovered the roof where He was: and when they had broken [it] up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay. When Jesus saw their faith, He said unto the sick of the palsy, "Son, thy sins be forgiven thee." But there were certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts, "Why doth this [man] thus speak blasphemies! who can forgive sins but God only!" And immediately when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, He said unto them, "Why reason ye these things in your hearts? Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, '[Thy] sins be forgiven thee'; or to say, 'Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk!' But that ye may know that the Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins", (He saith to the sick of the palsy,) "I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house." And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all; insomuch that they were all amazed, and glorified God, laying, We never saw it on this fashion.

Those twelve verses crackle with energy.

Jesus sat in a nondescript Galilean house, which was packed tight with uninvited but undaunted guests. Mark has sketched a dramatic image of this crowd flocking to the humble home, overflowing its modest capacity, blocking the doorway, and clustering around outside, straining to hear Christ's voice or, more likely, see what He is doing. Foremost among the crowd were "certain of the scribes", people whom Luke described as "Pharisees and doctors of the law" (Luke 5:17). No doubt, these men were seated near to the amazing, young Teacher.

These were no rapt students of the Lord, however; this was an investigation committee. Yes, they hung on and scrutinized every word that Jesus uttered, but only because they sought to find fault with what He said and did.

What was Jesus saying?

He was communicating the word to them. The word translated preached in the original Greek is "laleō", and it means "to use words in order to declare one's mind and disclose one's thoughts". It is dialogue. Christ was not preaching in the sense of standing before an audience and publicly declaring the word. This was a conversation, most likely with the scribes who were seated before Him. The crowd was listening to the discussion.

The word "laleō" does not indicate a change in Christ's subject matter; just a difference in delivery. One does not speak in private the way one does in public. Christ was communicating the gospel message; the nearness of the kingdom and the necessity for faith and repentance. This is what He began to do back in v. 15. This is what He continued to do throughout His ministry. This is what He has commissioned His church to continue doing until His glorious Return!

This evangelistic exchange was interrupted, however, in very dramatic fashion.

Jesus and the Persistent

Mark writes of four men who were carrying a paralytic man, most likely one at each corner of a quilt or mattress supported by a thin wooden frame. The paralytic man wanted to see Jesus, this amazing Man who taught with authority and healed the sick and the lame. You should not assume that the paralytic was an unwilling passenger, borne by these four men against his will. It seems clear that this man wanted to be brought to Jesus, and these four friends were his only hope of seeing the Lord. It is also obvious that these men were not unmotivated hired hands. The four stretcher bearers were obviously friends, perhaps even relatives of the paralytic man. Clearly, they cared for the man, and they were determined to place their friend before Jesus.

The problem was the crowd. The crush of people was so thick that normal entry into the house was impossible. Nevertheless, these men were not to be dissuaded.

The incident is told from the perspective of an eye witness: "they come to Him" (v. 3), but "cannot come near" (v. 4). Of course, Mark was no eye witness to this incident, but Peter, Mark's primary resource, was present. After all, this happened in his house. He well remembered all the steps of the unceremonious treatment of his property, and no doubt he retold the story years later with a smile creased face.

It is obvious that the four friends were certain that Jesus could heal their paralytic friend. Had they been less certain of a cure, and less eager, they would have been defeated by the impassable crowd. They could have said, "We tried, but it didn't work." Here is what the 19th century Scottish Baptist pastor Alexander MacLaren wrote about the persistence of these men:

But "we cannot" is the coward's word. "We must" is the earnest man's. If we have any real consciousness of our need to get to Christ, and any real wish to do so, it is not a crowd round the door that will keep us back. Difficulties test, and therefore increase, faith. They develop a sanctified ingenuity in getting over them, and bring a rich harvest of satisfaction when at last conquered…it was interfering with property as well as with propriety. But here was a sick man, and there was his Healer; and it was their business to get the two together somehow. It was worth risking a good deal to accomplish.

About these four men we know that:

  • They loved their paralytic friend. They worked hard and sacrificed much to get their friend before Jesus.
  • They were persistent. They did whatever it took in order to bring their friend to Jesus.
  • They were creative. They were not the only ones who desired an audience with Jesus, but they were the first ones to rip up the roof.
  • They believed. We also know that they had saving faith because of Jesus' response to their faith – "When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, 'Son, they sins be forgiven thee'" (v. 5)

Neither the four men nor the paralytic spoke a word throughout the whole incident. How do we know they believed? Their actions and his condition scream "We believe!" It is inconceivable to think that these five men did not believe that Jesus could and would heal the paralytic. It was their faith and hope in Christ that caused the four to carry their friend to the house, up the stairs, and then down the hole in the roof of their own making. It was the faith of the paralytic man that allowed his friends to bear him thus, and to precariously lower him from the rooftop before Jesus. Faith is written all over their actions. "Faith, if worth anything, comes to the surface in act[ion]."

Jesus and the Paralytic

Mark described the man borne of four as "sick of the palsy". The Greek word is "paralytikos", and it literally means a paralytic. The man had either lost his motor functions, or his paralysis was the result of a birth defect such as muscular dystrophy or polio. Clearly he was unable to help himself.

There is an unfair stigma attached to paralytics in modern times; even more so in antiquity. Biblical examples abound of people assuming some sin as the basis for physical illness or deformity. John 9 and the entire book of Job are prime examples. In one sense sickness is linked to sin, because if there were no sin, there would be no sickness. But this does not prove that all sicknesses are directly related to specific sin(s). However, we do this know with certainty; all sickness is a graphic demonstration of the destructive power that's at work in the world because of sin.

There should be no doubt that the paralytic came to Jesus primarily because of his sin, not his sickness. That is why Jesus said to him, "...Son, thy sins be forgiven thee" (v. 5). The most despairing aspect of this man's life was not his paralysis but his sinful lost condition. This man's greatest need, and the greatest need of all men, was (is) forgiveness of sins – salvation. Here again is MacLaren:

…before He touched the bodily ailment… [He] met the sufferer's deepest and most deeply felt disease. He goes to the bottom of the malady with His cure. These great words are not only closely adapted to the one case before Him, but contain a general truth, worthy to be pondered by all…It is of little use to cure symptoms unless you cure diseases. The tap-root of all misery is sin; and, until it is grubbed up, hacking at the branches is sad waste of time. Cure sin, and you make the heart a temple and the world a paradise. We Christians should hail all efforts of every sort for making men nobler, happier, better physically, morally, intellectually; but let us not forget that there is but one effectual cure for the world's misery, and that it is wrought by Him who has borne the world's sins.
Forgiveness is a divine miracle that ranks above all other miracles. As a result of his faith this man's sins were dismissed.

"Forgiven" is the most blessed word for the sin burdened soul. The past is pardoned! The record is removed! The conscience is cleared! When the Lord sends our sins away, He sends them as far as the East is from the West, buries them in the depths of the deepest sea, and remembers them no more

  • Psalm 103:2-3, 12 – "Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; As far as the east is from the west, [so] far hath he removed our transgressions from us.
  • Micah 7:19 – "…He will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea."
  • Jeremiah 31:34b – "…for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."
  • 1 Timothy 1:15 – "This [is] a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief."

Forgiveness was the greatest work accomplished that day, and it was solely accomplished by the power, grace, mercy, and love of Jesus. It was also the greatest work because it cost Jesus His life.With the words, "Son, thy sins be forgiven thee" the Lord gave the greatest gift that dealt with the greatest need.

Jesus and the Pharisees

Those were also the words that kindled the Pharisees' fury. Since they lacked the courage of their convictions, the snarling scribes reasoned within themselves: "Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?" These men were already suffering from professional jealousy. After all, no houses were crowded to overflowing just to listen to them teach. Whole sections of the country were not descending upon them as they were Jesus. Now they hear this young teacher blaspheme God, because it is blasphemous to claim what only God can do, and only God is able to forgive sins. The prophet Isaiah wrote in 43:25, "I, [even] I, [am] he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins."

However, they were wrong about Christ, because He is God. In fact, the divine ability Jesus demonstrated by reading their thoughts – "…He perceived in His spirit that they so reasoned within themselves…" – was evidence of His omniscience: He knew what was in the heart of the sick man and He knew what was in the minds of the scribes and Pharisees because He is God.

Christ challenges the Pharisees with a question, "Which is easier to say, 'Your sins are forgiven' or… 'Rise, take up your bed and walk'?" The fact is that both are easy to say, and to affect either is equally beyond man's power. However, only one statement is verifiable. It is all very well to pretend to do what cannot be tested. Jesus, however, came out into the daylight and performed a miracle which could be seen and tested. If all that Jesus had said was, "Your sins be forgiven," those watching would have never known that He actually did that. Therefore, by saying, "Arise…take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house", and the paralytic actually standing up and doing as he was commanded (Christ's commandments are His enablements) they would conclude that Jesus had forgiven his sins because the two are inseparably linked. Jesus was demonstrating His power to heal as evidence of His power to forgive sin. Jesus accomplished the visible miracle, thus proving He had the power to do the invisible one.

For one last time, here is MacLaren:

Jesus makes us able to do what He bids us do. The condition of healing is faith, and the test of faith is obedience. We do not get strength till we put ourselves into the attitude of obedience. The cure was immediate; and the cured man, who was 'borne of four' into the healing presence, walked away, with his bed under his arm, 'before them all.' They were ready enough to make way for him then.

Jesus' forgiveness of sin is the greatest message we have to give. I hope you have experienced that forgiveness. When the crowd departed, there were those who were forgiven and those who were furious. Christ offers forgiveness, blots out all the past, and washes away all the sins of the past, present, and future. The greatest news you'll ever hear is that forgiveness is available to you.

Friday, October 26, 2007

This Might Help

Indiana is definitely a basketball state, but we play other sports too. I enjoy football, even though I never played for my high school squad. I wish I had played, but that is a post for another day. My old high school, the South Dearborn Knights, are in the news this morning. They are scheduled to play Shelbyville in the sectional semifinals this evening. Shelbyville is 10-0 and ranked 7th in the state in their division. South Dearborn is...well, South Dearborn is not. But there is hope for the Knights of South Dearborn. Read this report from today's Indianapolis Star:
SHELBYVILLE, Ind. -- Several members of Shelbyville's football team have been diagnosed with an antibiotic-resistant staph infection.
David Adams, superintendent of Shelbyville Central Schools, said the district sent e-mails Tuesday and mailed letters Wednesday to inform parents and guardians about the situation and provide information on the infection. Schools were dismissed early Wednesday for parent-teacher conferences and were closed Thursday and today for fall break. Shelbyville (10-0), ranked No. 7 in Class 4A by The Associated Press, plays at South Dearborn tonight in a sectional tournament semifinal.
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, does not respond to penicillin and related antibiotics but can be treated with other drugs. The infection can be spread by skin-to-skin contact or sharing an item used by an infected person. Kim Owens, administrative assistant for the school corporation, said the infected Shelbyville students are receiving treatment.
More than a dozen other cases of MRSA have been reported in schools around the state, including at least five in the Indianapolis Public Schools district.
I sure feel bad for the Shelbyville kids.

But...

GO SD!!!!!

UPDATE

My beloved South Dearborn Knights were defeated by the staph infected Shelbyville Golden Bears 41-13.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

I'm Not Kidding!


Stephen A. Colbert has declared in recent weeks his candidacy for President of the United State. Evidently, he is the choice of 2% of Democrats; that is the statistic according to this New York Post report.

The faux anchorman/presidential candidate is creating publicity for his newly released book I Am America (And You can Too), but his comedy act may hit a snag with the federal government.

I love comedy, but I do not appreciate Colbert's farcical run. I do think it's hilarious (in a scary kind of way) that 2% of Democrats are in favor of a Colbert candidacy. Of course, I'm sure they would just state they know how to take a joke and play along with one. Now that I think about it, most of this election's candidates - GOP and Dem - are jokes!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

No Cussing Allowed Association


The NCAA has instituted a "no-cursing rule" for basketball coaches, and they swear that the rule will be strictly enforced. Follow this link to read the Indy Star article. According to the new policy coaches will no longer receive warnings for offensive language. They will be slapped with a tech for the first foul phrase or word. Cuss again and that will earn the coach a second technical which means an automatic ejection.

I'd love to be sitting behind the Texas Tech bench this year.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Dancing with the Gilberts

The Master’s Touch

Mark describes for us one of the many healings that Jesus performed during His Galilean preaching tour. Mark 1:40-42 reads:

And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth [his] hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean. And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed.

Leprosy was perhaps the most dreaded disease of the ancient world. Today leprosy is commonly called "Hansen's Disease"; named after the Norwegian doctor who discovered that the disease was caused by bacteria (Mycobacterium leprae), not by heredity, a "curse", or someone's sin. In Biblical times it was also assumed that the disease caused the flesh to rot and limbs to be deformed. That is not entirely correct. Hansen's disease damages the body's nervous system, and "acts as an anesthetic, bringing numbness to the extremities as well as to the ears, eyes, and nose." Untreated lepers become so disfigured because the body's warning system of pain has been destroyed. The loss of sensation in the extremities increases the risk of injury. Inadequate care causes infection of open wounds. Gangrene may also follow, causing body tissue to die and become deformed. The disease mostly affects, but is not limited to, the hands, feet, eyes, ears, and nose. The disease was a painless hell, and the horror was not only physical but emotional as well.

It is difficult to imagine the humiliation, isolation, and desperation that this man felt. Lepers were ostracized from their communities and forced to live in leper colonies because the people of antiquity feared this disease and were ignorant of it. Whenever someone approached a leper he had to cover his mouth and shout "Unclean! Unclean!" How would you feel shouting this whenever you came in range of another person or whenever you entered a public area?

That was the life of the leper. The wretched man of this text had not been able to feel for years, and according to Luke 5:12 his body was "full of leprosy." His body was mutilated from head to foot; rotten, stinking, and repulsive. It is important, however, that Mark has not detailed this visit for sympathy's sake. Leprosy was used in scripture especially as a symbol of sin, and the healing of it as deliverance from sin. Leprosy is a powerfully vivid illustration of man's depravity. The destructive and ultimately ruinous condition of the disease pictures the spiritual state of every human being.

This is what the image is meant to teach; though, unlike the leper of Mark 1, many are often unconscious of their pitiful condition. In his capacious biography of George Whitefield Arnold Dallimore recounts the story of Lady Huntington who invited her friend the Duchess of Buckingham to hear George Whitefield preach. The proud Duchess did not enjoy the sermon. She remarked:
It is monstrous to be told that you have a heart as sinful as the common wretches that crawl the earth. This is highly offensive and insulting; and I cannot but wonder that your Ladyship should relish any sentiments so much at variance with high rank and good breeding.

Worse than being a leper is being ignorant of your leprous condition; there were no such illusions in this leper's life as to his identity and condition. This is why the clear, consistent, and charitable proclamation of the gospel must be our primary focus, and this is why when sharing the Good News we must alert people to their condition. Only people who are aware of their leprosy can come to the only One who is able and willing to cleanse them of their leprosy.

This leper came to Jesus and humbly prostrated himself before the Lord. He was fully aware of his hopeless condition, yet he believed that Christ could heal him. He said, "If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean." I do not know if this reveals a little hesitation on the leper's part, or if this is just his humility shining through. Whichever the case, we may be certain that Christ will make you clean.
  • Mark 10:45"the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many."
  • Luke 19:10"For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.2
  • Peter 3:9"The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."
  • 1 Timothy 2:3-4"For this [is] good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth."

As Mark is wont to do, he provides detail that the other gospel writers fail to mention. In this case we read that Christ was "moved with compassion" at sight of the leper. The word compassion is a powerful word which means "to be moved as to one's bowels, hence to be moved with compassion, have compassion (for the bowels were thought to be the seat of love and pity)". This compassion transcends mere pity and sympathy. The Lord does not just sympathize with your leprous, sinful condition. He felt the full weight of your sins on the cross. The Lord Jesus is not a distant dispassionate deity. He is acquainted with our infirmities; in every respect He has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Not only did Jesus heal the man, but He healed him with a touch. He touched him. He transformed him. Forever after he identified him with Himself. You can be certain that not since he became a leper had anyone touched this man. This man had been unable to touch anyone, and no one wanted to touch him. He must have longed for a touch.

Do not underestimate the importance of a touch. Listen to this story told by Kent Hughes in his commentary on Mark:

I once counseled a lonely man who was not a Christian. He had no family that cared. He belonged to no church. In describing his loneliness, he said that he had his hair cut once a week, just to have someone touch him with no misunderstanding.

A church will never affect others as Christ did unless there is contact and some level of identification. We have to be willing to take the hand of those whom we would help. We must have right doctrine. We must be careful in our theology, but we need to lay our hands on some rotting flesh in our neighborhood, in our workplaces, in our town. This is not just the job of those who are called to the mission field or full time ministry. This is a job for all of us.

As I've mentioned before the word "eutheōs" is a favorite of Marks, and he used the word 40 times. Twice as much as the other synoptics combined. In our text the word is translated "immediately." Mark tells us that "as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed". His healing was sudden and complete. Stubs which had passed for hands and feet were made whole. Back came his hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes. Under his hair were ears, and on his face a nose. A body covered with lesions, many of which were no doubt infected, was immediately purified. No long painful surgery. No protracted-convalescence. No extended course of treatment. No therapy or drug treatments needed!

Salvation is the same way. When you come to Christ in repentance and faith your regeneration is instantaneous, miraculous, and eternal. As John wrote in 1 John 1:7, "…the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin."

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Master’s Focus

Christ had spent the previous day early in the synagogue. The clear, authoritative proclamation of the Word of God by the Word of God was just the beginning of a long day of ministry. After expelling a demon from a man in the synagogue, the Lord healed Peter's mother-in-law; as news of the two healings spread all of Capernaum, as well as many from the surrounding region descended upon Peter's house. For the remainder of the day and late into the evening Christ healed all the sick and demon possessed that were brought to Him. It would seem likely, even advisable after such a day, that Jesus would sleep in and rest up, but Jesus didn't abuse the snooze button on His alarm clock.

Mark records that Jesus "in the morning, rising up a great while before day…went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed." As a model for all believers for all of time, Jesus refreshed Himself from the previous day and prepared Himself for the upcoming day by spending time alone with the Father. His quiet time was interrupted by Simon Peter, who was leading gaggle of folks on a "finding Jesus" mission.

Mark 1:36-37, "And Simon and they that were with him followed after him. And when they had found him, they said unto him, All [men] seek for thee." (An interesting note here is that Peter has already, in this early stage of their ministry, assumed leadership in Christ's absence.) Upon finding Christ in prayer, Peter and the others do not model themselves after their Lord. Instead, there is a mild confrontation and Peter issues forth a challenge: "All men seek for thee."

The tone here implies that this was no simple relay of information. In other words, Peter is excitedly and perhaps with a bit of frustration, saying "Everybody is looking for you, Jesus! People can't quit talking about last night. More people have arrived this morning, and you're out here in the wilderness by yourself. Let's go back and capitalize on your popularity. This is what you're here for, right?!

Jesus was not interested in that ministry strategy, and for the first time in Mark's gospel, but certainly not the last, it is obvious that the disciples do not completely understand His mission. Jesus says to His followers: "Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also: for therefore came I forth." (vv. 38)

Jesus was not interested in playing the role of "Miracle Max". Jesus' purpose was not to heal as many people as possible, but to speak truth and confront people with the gospel (see v. 15). "The healing heart of Jesus was not as interested in physical healing as in spiritual healing. He refused to let His disciples or the people own Him as their healer in Capernaum, but went out in the country preaching the gospel of belief and repentance." God did heal physical illnesses and deformities. God still heals! But physical healings are temporal at best. Jesus emphasized the healing that was eternal; the miracle of a dead spirit being reborn.
  • John 3:3, 7 – "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, 'Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God'…Marvel not that I say unto thee, 'Ye must be born again.'"
  • 2 Corinthians 5:17 – "Therefore if any man [be] in Christ, [he is] a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." (cf. Romans 6:4)
  • Galatians 6:15 – "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature."
  • Ephesians 4:23-24 – "And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness."

All men sought for Jesus because of the miracles, not because of his teaching and message. The disciples had been swept up into that frenzy, and wanted to accommodate the popularity surge, but a following based on miracles would need increasingly more miracles. Such a following would soon fade away when the miracles were withdrawn. Christ had come primarily to preach. He wanted followers who were grounded in the Word.

Mark's gospel is the most concise of the four good news accounts. Texts such as verse 39 illustrate why that is: "And he preached in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and cast out devils." With that brief sentence, Mark summarized a preaching tour that most likely lasted for weeks if not months. The terse text also identifies what must be the priority of our church's ministry. We are here to proclaim the gospel:

  • Jesus died on the cross for our sins, according to the scriptures
  • He was buried
  • On the third day He was raised from the dead, according to the scriptures

The church is to proclaim that message when we are gathered and when we have scattered. This does not mean that we preach to people while they lie on the side of the street naked, hungry, and hurting. We cannot forget that Jesus did meet people's physical needs, but the focus and primacy of our ministry must be on the clear, consistent, and charitable proclamation of the gospel.

Friday, October 19, 2007

What’s the Difference part 2

The place to look for answers to the questions posed in the previous post is the scriptures, in particular Galatians 3:26-29.

For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Emphasis added)

At this point it is important to understand that within Christendom in general and within local churches in specific, there exists a debate over gender roles. The opposing positions are the complementarian and the egalitarian view of gender roles in the home and the church. Those particular terms may not be used, but their positions are followed. Here are their definitions.

  • Complementarians believe that men and women are created in the image of God; equal in their essential dignity and personhood. By God's good and glorious design men and women have distinct, complementary roles in the home and the church. God has assigned to husbands self-sacrificial leadership in the home, and wives a joyful and respectful embrace of that leadership. God has also called qualified men to the burden and responsibility of self-denying leadership in the church, and the entire congregation to respect and submit to their leadership.
  • Egalitarians believe that God created men and women equal in all respects, and that no functional distinction exists, only physical distinctions. Male and female roles and functions are interchangeable both in the home and in the church. Male hierarchy in the home and church is a result of the Fall.

Basically egalitarians are Christian feminists. The most vocal proponents of egalitarianism cite Galatians 3:28, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus"; as the primary proof text for their position.

For instance, the web pages of Christians for Biblical Equality states that CBE is an organization of Christians "who believe that the Bible, properly interpreted, teaches the fundamental equality of men and women of all ethnicities and all economic classes, based on the teachings of scripture as reflected in Galatians 3:28." Rebecca Groothuis, in her 1997 book Good News for Women: A Biblical Picture of Gender Equality, writes, "Of all the texts that support biblical equality, Galatians 3:26-28 is probably the most important." David Scholer, professor of NT at Fuller Theological Seminary has written that Galatians 3:28 is "the fundamental Pauline theological basis for the inclusion of women and men as equal and mutual partners in all of the ministries of the church."

Did Paul use Galatians 3:28 to teach the negation of gender specific roles? Is Paul teaching that there exists no distinct, functional difference between men and women?

The answer is "No!" The reason is simple. Galatians 3:28 is not a proverbial statement about gender roles. In fact, it is not about gender roles at all. This verse, as with all passages of scripture, must be interpreted in its context. The only way one can argue that "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus" is "the fundamental Pauline theological basis for the inclusion of women and men as equal and mutual partners in all of the ministries of the church" is by ripping it from its context!

The context of Galatians 3:28 makes abundantly clear that in Christ men and women are:

  • Equally justified by faith (v. 24)
  • Equally free from the bondage of legalism (v. 25)
  • Equally children of God (v. 26)
  • Equally clothed with Christ (v. 27)
  • Equally possessed by Christ (v. 29)
  • Equally heirs of the promise given to Abraham and fulfilled in Christ (v. 29)

All believers are justified and blessed with Abraham in Christ, and have become heirs of the promise of God in Christ by grace through faith; not law or works. Galatians 3:28 does not abolish gender-based roles established by God and redeemed by Christ. The issue isn't even addressed!

Instead, the believer's identity and inheritance in Christ is addressed. Therefore, a believer will receive everything that Jesus receives, and that applies to Jews, Greeks, freemen, slaves, men, and women! This means that any sense of pride and superiority or jealousy and inferiority should not exist between these groups that viewed themselves as so distinct in the ancient world. Jews should no longer think themselves superior to Greeks, freemen should not think themselves superior to slaves, and men should no longer think themselves superior to women. They are all in Christ, and all share an equal value and dignity in Christ.

Truly, men and women are equal in essence. "There is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ" does communicate that men and women are equally loved; equally valued; equally gifted; equally called to minister in and through the church. "There is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ" does not mean that male or female no longer exists. It means they are united in Christ. It means that no Christian should ever be boastful or arrogant against others. It means that no Christian should feel inferior or without value in his or her respective churches and homes. The verse does not teach that men and women are the same, or that men and women serve the same roles and function in the home and in the church.

Now a Christian feminist would argue that for there to be equality there must also be interchangeability of roles and function. In other words, to say that men and women are "equal in Christ" while asserting that men have leadership in the home and women cannot serve as pastors is, according to an egalitarian, double-talk.

Rather than double-talk it is Bible-talk!

The Bible clearly and consistently teaches the distinction of roles along with the equality of essence. A key passage of this teaching is 1 Peter 3:7, "Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honor unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered." Peter teaches us that a man's wife is an heir with her husband, is equal with her husband in salvation. He also says that she is the weaker vessel for whom the husband is to protect and provide. In one verse the difference in roles but equality of worth is demonstrated.

So what?! What does this mean for how one is to live? How does this impact one's family? What does this mean for the ministries of the church?"

When men and women live and work together in complentarity in the home and in the church, there is nothing more beautiful, satisfying, delightful, and God-glorifying. Equality of essence, distinction of roles and function, male headship in the home and church; these are truths to be lived and celebrated. These are not truths which should be ignored, nor are they truths for which one should apologize.

Biblical manhood and womanhood must be understood, taught, and practiced…

Because Men and Women are Different

"In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; male and female created he them" (Genesis 5:1-2; cf. 1:26-27). God is one, yet He eternally exists in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The one triune God is both equal and distinct. Without living out the God-given distinction of male and female, relating to one another as God intended, it is impossible to give adequate expression to this aspect of what it means to be created in God's image. God did not create androgynous beings, nor is anyone born with a mistaken gender identity. The differences between man and woman are intrinsic and God-designed. The differences are meant to be understood and embraced for the believer's good and God's glory.

There is much by way of Christian discipleship which is applicable to both men and women, but there is much that is unique. There is a reason why Paul instructed the mature women (not Titus) to teach the younger women (Titus 2:3-5). Pastors must recognize and account for this.

Because Scripture Speaks to this Issue Consistently & Clearly

Since the Bible consistently and clearly speaks about manhood and womanhood, so must the Lord's churches. It is important to remember, not only with this doctrine but with all doctrine, that teaching is done with clarity and charity. Teaching that is clear but uncharitable, is harmful to the gospel. Likewise, teaching that is charitable but not unclear or wrong is also harmful to the gospel. The God-given, Word-based requirement for healthy Christianity and church life is, not just related to but rooted in Biblical manhood and womanhood. This is not a peripheral issue!

Because when this Teaching is Denied, Altered, or Unpracticed the Results are Disastrous for Families and Churches

Many marriages suffer continual tension or disenchantment because the husband and wife have not had clear, consistent, charitable Biblical teaching and modeling of what marriage fundamentally is, and the appropriate role relationships within marriage. Male headship is strictly defined in Scripture as the opposite of a power grab. The headship of men in the church and home is rooted everywhere in Scripture in protection and provision. This is why the apostle Paul calls the man who will not provide for his family "worse than an infidel"
(1 Timothy 5:8). A man who would see headship as a warrant to abuse is not simply confused. He is a blasphemer who does not grasp the gospel itself. An abusive man does not represent biblical male headship. Male headship is not represented by violent men, but by men whose aggression is directed toward subduing their own fallen wills in order to protect and provide for their wife and children. This headship is not about raw sovereignty but covenant responsibility.

Because Biblical Authority is at Issue

Ultimately this issue is one of Biblical authority. Should the culture shape one's thinking and theology, or will the believer follow God's good and glorious design for men and women in the home and in the church? Churches are to engage and shape the culture, not disengage or ape it. "It is not the business of the church to conform Christ to men but men to Christ."

The issue of complementarianism and egalitarianism is increasingly acting as the watershed distinguishing those who will accommodate Scripture to culture, and those who will attempt to shape culture by Scripture. When the authority of Scripture is undermined, the gospel will not long be acknowledged.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

What’s the Difference?

"Can you ask me that question again?"

That is what the theology professor asked his student. The professor had just finished a lecture on the pastorate; specifically who is qualified for the pastorate, and even more specifically that only men may be called by God to the pastorate. At the end of the lecture, this pastoral studies seminary student raised his hand and asked, "Now, what if you have a man who is lost, who gets a sex change operation and becomes a woman. Then "she" gets saved, and then "she's" called to preach. Can "she" serve as a pastor, or can "she", after "she" has had the reverse sex change operation and is now a man again; can he now serve as a pastor of a local church?"

"Can you ask me that question again?"

As King Solomon said, there is nothing new under the sun, but no previous generation of Christians has ever had to answer that question! Solomon may have dealt with harlots arguing over maternity rights, but he never had to grapple with whether or not one of the harlots had, before the operation, fathered the child.

Think for a moment about the concerned student's question. After one works past the initial shock factor of the inquiry, and the obligatory nausea that accompanies such thoughts; there comes the realization that this student has assumed that a man can become a woman. Inherent to his question is an underlying assumption that a male can become a female and vice versa. This young man, who is preparing for the pastorate, has unwilling caved to a cultural consensus which states that the differences between male and female are strictly aesthetic.

This is no isolated incident, nor is this viewpoint restricted to secular opinion. Many who would identify themselves as Christian would hold to the same view. To be sure, many would be repulsed at the idea of a sex-change operation, and many would affirm that Paul was not off base when he wrote that women are not permitted to pastor (many – not all). Once past that, however, most Christians answer the question: "What's the difference between a man and a woman?" with the lame response of "plumbing and hormones". In this society, where plumbing can be re-arranged, hormones can be supplemented, and homosexuality is being normalized, that is a dangerous, confusing, inadequate, and unbiblical answer.

It is amazing that gender, the most basic aspect of humanity, has become such a confusing issue? A casual scan of the Drudge Report will include stories that use phrases such as: "transgender", "unisex", "gender transition", "gender expression", "gender dysphoria", "gender fluidity", and, the funny but politically incorrect "gender benders". Recently the South Florida Sun-Sentinel ran an article entitled "Transgender community works to gain protections in South Florida". Although this is not a laughing matter, one would be hard pressed to stifle a chuckle after reading the article's first sentence: "Transgender is quietly becoming a protected class in South Florida as cities vote to prohibit discrimination against a group that faces challenges fitting in." (Emphasis added)

It is a bit awkward when "Joe" goes on vacation and returns as "Josephine"!

That type of news story is becoming more and more prevalent, and they are found across a broad spectrum of media outlets. In the July 9 issue of Sports Illustrated, editorialist Rick Reilly wrote about running into former colleague Mike Penner who he did not, at first, recognize. That is perfectly understandable since Mike Penner is now Christine Daniels. Reilly goes on to wonder why he couldn't see it coming, and if he can deal with the fact that his old/new buddy is now a "decent-looking babe".

These references establish the fact that, in this culture, gender identity has become confused. This confusion is not restricted to gender identity; it also encompasses gender roles, and this confusion is not isolated to the culture but has infiltrated our churches. The purpose of this post is to serve the reader by asking and answering three questions:

  1. Are there functional or only physical differences between a man and a woman?
  2. If there are functional differences between a man and a woman, does that mean that men and women are not equal?
  3. Why does this matter to me and my church?

Be sure to return here tomorrow for the conclusion and the answers to the questions.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Get Off the Phone!


Kelvin Sampson, head coach of my beloved Indiana Hoosiers, is in trouble. Again. IU hired this man with full knowledge that he had violated NCAA regulations on phone calls to recruits while coaching Oklahoma. After being disciplined by the NCAA Coach Sampson has not learned his lesson.

Today's IndyStar.com reports that IU coaches made more than 100 potentially impermissible phone calls to recruits, not just the 35 that school officials initially disclosed. Sampson was on probation, and he clearly violated the terms of his probation. IU has levied a stiff in-house penalty on Coach Verizon, but the program will surely receive additional discipline from the NCAA, and until the NCAA acts, "Phonegate II" will follow the team around like a dark cloud.

On the cusp of what could be the greatest IU basketball season since 2002, when IU defeated Sampson's Oklahoma in the Final Four, Sampson and his coaching staff off shot the program in the foot.

It also does not help Coach Sampson's image that he is recruiting alleged drug dealers from Kentucky.

Should Sampson be let go? IU legend (and Bob Knight apologist) Kent Benson seems to be in favor of Sampson's release. Indianapolis Star columnist Bob Kravitz believes that the university (his alma mater) has a moral obligation to fire Sampson, and then send AD Rick Greenspan out the door as well.

I just wish that someone would take his phone away.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Urine Trouble

Baylor University is the largest Baptist university in the world! As such, one would expect the University to be a bastion of Baptist decorum. A place where Christian ideals and Baptist distinctives are upheld are modeled for the world to see and glorify Christ.

One would be wrong.

Baylor has repeatedly been in the news for anything but the gospel of Jesus Christ. Four years ago was the basketball scandal, involving not just NCAA violations but the murder of one player by another.


A year before that Playboy came to Waco as part of their "Women of the Big 12" issue. Some members of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity posed clothed with some female students in bikinis at an off-campus sand volleyball court. One student posed separately for the magazine au natural and was suspended; no students were expelled according to the university's website.


Then there is today's news story from the Associated Press which has the following lead sentence:

Baylor athletic department officials said they are considering disciplinary action against an assistant football coach cited for urinating on the bar at a tavern.
Considering? What is there to consider? A man charged with leading and training young men, not only in playing football but in being men, is instead charged with a Class C misdemeanor for publicly whizzing on a bar.

What really bothers me is that the university which employs the uninhibited Eric Schnupp is the "world's largest Baptist university". The fact that Baylor is a "Baptist" university should connotate that it is a "Christian" university. Based on the three news stories listed in this post, however, could one differentiate between Baylor and any other Big 12 school? Should not coaches who belong to "the world's largest Baptist university" handle adversity better than Coach Schnupp?

Baylor had been humbled 58-10 earlier in the day by that traditional college football powerhouse Kansas. (If you are not college football savvy, the previous sentence is dripping with sarcasm.) Evidently the coach wanted to drown away his team's dismal performance with "several shots of hard liquor, most bought for him by other people."

How is this behavior any different from any other assistant coach in the Big 12, or any of the D-1 conferences for that matter? Why does Baylor insist on continually trumpeting that they are "the world's largest Baptist university"?

So what?!

As a Christian, and as one who holds to Baptist convictions and distinctives, I wish Baylor would find a new tagline. Maybe they could say, "Baylor: We're just like everyone else!"

Monday, October 15, 2007

What Kind of Reader Are You?

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Literate Good Citizen

You read to inform or entertain yourself, but you're not nerdy about it. You've read most major classics (in school) and you have a favorite genre or two.

Dedicated Reader
Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm
Book Snob
Non-Reader
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz


(HT: Ephemeros)

Inconvenient Truth




Sunday, October 14, 2007

Daily Quiet Time

The alarm clock rings.

Fifteen minutes later you roll out of bed; late again. With toothbrush in hand you stumble into the shower, which is where you have your morning "devotions"; really nothing more than a hasty, "Good morning, Lord."

While getting dressed you spot your Bible laying on the bedside table, facing you like a leather-bound judgment. "One of these days..." you promise yourself again, "One of these days I'll get my act together and have a real, regular quiet time."

In our days of fast paced living and busy schedules many things are pushed aside and lost in the shuffle. Everyone one of us must determine what our priorities will be. After all, decisions determine directions. Where are your decisions directing you?

I believe that every Christian should have a daily quiet time. Call it a daily devotion, daily study time, daily prayer and reading time; regardless of one's chosen designation, the need for such a time is great.

A daily quiet time is time spent each day with God reading scripture, praying, and reflecting on what was read. It is a time established to silence everything else in life; a time to free yourself from the "tyranny of the urgent." This is a portion of time that you have devoted to being alone with God.

Examples of DQT

  • David - Psalms 5:3; 63:1-8, 92:1-2; 143:8
  • Daniel - Daniel 6:10
  • Jesus - Mark 1:35 - "And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed."

If Jesus Christ valued His morning alone with the Father, how much more should we see its necessity?!

Enemies of DQT

  • The Adversary - Satan does not like the idea of a believer who is serious about his relationship with God the Father, and Satan will fight against you as you endeavor to establish and be faithful to a daily quiet time.
  • The Urgent vs. the Important - Do not get so busy living that you neglect the One who gives you life.
  • Habit without Heart - This enemy stalks every meaningful relationship in life, including marriage. Don't go through the motions; no performance without passion allowed! Observe a DQT to draw closer to God, not to fulfill an obligation.

Elements of DQT

Relationship - To have a relationship with Jesus Christ means that you have, "Confessed with your mouth the Lord Jesus Christ and believed in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead." If by grace through faith you come to Christ as your Lord and Savior, you will be saved. He said, "him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out".

Reading - Christ said "man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." That's the Bible! Peter said the Christians should "desire the sincere milk of the word" like a newborn desires his mother's milk. The simple fact of the matter is this: God has written a Book. Christians must develop the holy habit and discipline of daily being in God's book! Follow a disciplined pattern for reading God's word. Don't just read here, there, and anywhere. Start in a particular book (John's gospel for instance) and read it through. You don't have to read it through all at once, but read through the entire book before you go on to another one. Form that holy habit now, and help develop it in others.

Reflection - goes hand-in-hand with reading. Do not read God's word absent mindedly. This means that you will concentrate on what your reading instead of thinking about the day that stretches out before you, or what you're going to have for breakfast, or anything else. Give your whole attention to what your reading. Meditate and reflect on what God's word is communicating. The Psalmist wrote "Blessed is the man whose delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night."

Requests - Part of your daily quiet time is prayer. Here again you must guard yourself against the habit without heart enemy. Too often we pray the same words every prayer. It's like asking someone on the street, "How you doing?" We never wait for a reply because we don't really care; we asked out of a heartless habit.

There is nothing ordinary about being before the throne of God! Pray intelligently, specifically, and to the honor and glory of Jesus Christ, and in His name boldly make your requests made known unto the Father!

Essentials for DQT

Be Regular - Your habit should be to daily search the scriptures. Sadly, the word "habit" has received a bad rap in many Christian circles, but there are many habits that are good for you; like, bathing, eating, brushing your teeth! There are also many spiritual habits that are good for you; the key is in not allowing your holy habits to become heartless.

Be Restful - There is an old navy saying, “When ships readjust their compass, they drop anchor in a quiet spot.” Find a place that is devoid of distractions and nagging responsibilites for your daily quiet time. This is not strictly a physical place, but a mental place as well.

Be Realistic - Don't commit to more than you handle. Many people become excited about beginning a daily quiet time and commit to an unrealistic time frame. Be real, set aside an amount of time that you can handle, and with faithfulness to this holy discipline, that time will naturallty increase, and beome increasingly rich.

Be Relentless - Did you miss a day? Don't quit, just start again tomorrow.

Be Rewarded - Spending time at Jesus' feet is choosing the good part which can never be taken from you! Drawing near to God is a rewarding experience, and establishing a daily quiet time will create a conduit of connectedness to Christ.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Why Men Hate Going to Church

Early last year I purchased and read a book strictly based on its cover. The book's title intrigued me. The picture of the snoozing man in an empty church made me laugh uncomfortably. I wondered what insights David Murrow might have into why men hate going to church. I understood that most churches, regardless of denomination, were heavy on women and light on men. I also daily experienced the atypical.

At that time I was still serving as the Associate Pastor of the Dearborn Baptist Church. In our congregation men were in abundance and actively involved in ministry. Few were the families where Mom had to drag the kids to church on her own. Those families existed, and they received special attention and care. Those were, however, the exception rather than the rule. We also had few men who attended just to keep peace at home. Yes, there were men like that, but they were the minority.

I read the book in one night. My overall opinion of it is not positive. Recently, a friend and fellow blogger read the book and wrote a review. Since his blog - Doses of Reality - focuses on political and parental issues he asked if I would post his review on The Oxgoad.

His review is what follows. Next Friday I will comment on Philip's view of the book. For the most part we agree, but there are some minor areas of difference.

Book Review: David Murrow’s Why Men Hate Going to Church

Murrow’s intriguing and daring book asks a startling question: Just where are all the men? Though his book sometimes relies on shock value, a misinformed view of the church and an obsession with popular worship trends, Murrow does manage to sound the warning bell on some all too familiar problems facing congregations of all shapes and sizes. Why Men Hate Going to Church paints a damning portrait of modern churches devoid of men younger than 50 and immersed in a predominately feminine culture. Men stay away from church because they feel uncomfortable with nearly every part of the worship service. They fear a loss of masculinity in the eyes of their peers. They cringe at mediocrity and inefficiency. And, all too often, they conclude that Christianity just doesn’t seem to matter. Yet, Murrow offers some thought-provoking solutions to this unfortunate situation and points the way toward a better tomorrow.

The author begins by laying out a convincing expose of the alarming gender gap many have failed to even notice, much less combat. While his enthusiasm carries the point too far at times (during one section he laments the absence of criminals and “dangerous” men in our midst), he slams the door on any argument to the contrary. Indeed, churches have largely become the domain of women. They cater to the needs of women and children far more effectively than they minister to men. Ministry opportunities also fall more often to women than men. A startling chart depicts a square peg (a man) trying to fit into the round holes of ministry. Except for being an usher or caring for the maintenance of the building, men have a shockingly small array of choices. The remaining jobs (the more spiritual and “important” ones) demand the superior language and relational skills often possessed by women.

Even more powerfully, Murrow describes the extent to which churches have adopted a feminine view of Jesus and feminine language and imagery. The Jesus of Sunday school gently caresses lambs and pats children kindly on their heads. An emphasis on sharing, loving, nurturing, gentleness, and kindness leave men with a partial and destructive view of Christianity. Even the sound of “being saved” evokes an image of womanly passivity. Murrow recommends the invitation to “follow Christ.” Christians using phrases like “an intimate relationship with Jesus” and singing too many love songs can send the wrong message to men. Men do not need a Lover in the form of Jesus Christ, Murrow argues. They need a Father—a fearless Leader.

Murrow’s chapters illustrating the biological and psychological differences between men and women leave something wanting, as he succeeds only in producing one-dimensional caricatures. This misinforms a number of his minor conclusions later in the book. For instance, he seems bent on describing men as uneducated and lacking attention spans greater than ten minutes (he considers “bookish” men effeminate) and having little power over sexual desires, alcohol and drug use, as well as a host of other risky activities. Therefore, he advises pastors to preach in short bursts of no more than ten minutes (with a break in between segments), include lots of macho examples and references to pop culture, and make liberal use of simple object lessons. While there may be some wisdom here, the possibility of expositional and doctrinal preaching seems all but excluded.

However, Murrow does make a number of excellent suggestions. He notes that men need strong male leadership (though he often makes allowances for women in leadership). They also need vision, a sense of purpose, obstacles to overcome and high standards. Classes or small groups that allow open discussion and even debate tend to attract and benefit men. He urges that moral nagging be replaced by an emphasis on total life transformation. Men may prefer ministry projects (having a specific purpose and conclusion) to open-ended ministry programs. Men need opportunities to minister in ways more suited to their natural gifts, such as building houses or repairing cars for the needy. Murrow makes the case that ministry should not be comfort-oriented (something security-minded women value), but rather it should be challenge-oriented. Real Christianity needs a dose of adventure and risk, so he suggests taking mission trips and outdoor camping retreats. Perhaps the brightest jewel to be found is Murrow’s conception of the “spiritual father.” This label encapsulates a practical method of male discipleship, where older Christians claim younger Christians as spiritual sons. These “fathers” develop close relationships and act as guides during difficult transitions, all done in a very organic, non-official capacity. Murrow also stresses the importance of men belonging to a “band of brothers.” Too often, men come to Christ but fall away from church after only a short while. Murrow argues that this would not happen if a group of fellow believers enlisted the new convert into the ranks of a little “platoon,” busy living the great adventure of the Christian life.

For all its imperfections (especially in the eyes of fundamental Independent Baptists), Why Men Hate Going to Church stumbles onto some incredible truths. Perhaps our churches are not so affected by the prevailing trends. Then again, perhaps we could do with some frank discussion, asking: Where are our men? Honesty may force us to admit a certain absence of danger and risk, so palpable in the book of Acts. Could it be that our men feel unchallenged and unnecessary? Whatever prescription is required, holding fast to the truth of God’s Word and preaching the whole counsel of God will light the way. We must reveal our Fearless Leader to men, and allow Him to take us on the journey of our lives.

Philip duBarry, Assistant Pastor

Addyston Baptist Church