Friday, September 30, 2011

180 Movie: People Change Their Minds About Abortion in Seconds

I just watched this short documentary put together by Ray Comfort a couple days ago, and was blown away. Comfort uses history to cut to the heart of people and make them think twice about what "sanctity of life" really means.

Check it out here.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Is Evangelical Minimalistic Christianity a Failure?

Ben Witherington has posted a transcript of the address given by Dr. Timothy Tennent, President of Asbury Theological Seminary at their September Convocation. I found Dr. Tennent's analysis of the current state of American Evangelicalism to be spot-on. Below is an excerpt:
"Somewhere in America at some church meeting a decision was reached to change the name of the place they worshipped from the word “sanctuary” to “worship center” or “celebration center.”  Furthermore, they decided to build a space which could be used as a gymnasium during the week and a place of worship on Sunday.  Having a dedicated space only for worship seemed liked a shocking waste of money.  Indeed, they had at least 5 good reasons for doing this.  What concerns me is that they probably never stopped to reflect theologically that there just might be 6 reasons to not do it.  Of course, maybe there were only four and the “celebration center” in the gym would have carried the day.  The point is, that reflection never even happened."

You can read the whole thing here.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

He Has Told You, O Man, What Is Good

"With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?" He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6:6-8 

 The prophet here is asking how he can possibly present himself as acceptable in the sight of God, in light of the fact that the Lord has rejected his people and threatened disaster despite their (outward) observance of the law. We can hear them saying, "We are following your law, Lord. What more do you want? More burnt offerings? More oil to anoint our priests? Sacrifice of our firstborn?" This is an example of what Jesus was referring to in Matthew 23:23 - the people of Israel were attempting to follow the letter of the law while ignoring the spirit of the law. Verses 6 and 7 show Israel's attempt to placate God through additional good works. As Matthew Henry brilliantly puts it, "They bid high, yet they do not bid right". Still thinking in terms of outward, external observance, they stoop so low as to suggest that the pagan practice of child sacrifice might somehow please God. This practice was expressly forbidden by God (Lev. 18:21) yet they eventually adopted it for themselves (2 Kings 3:27; 16:3; 21:6; 23:10). In verse 8, the Lord finally interjects the model for what he requires of his people; justice, kindness, humility towards God. These parallel the "justice, mercy, and faithfulness" described by Jesus in Matthew 23 as being neglected by the Pharisees. These qualities are not a prerequisite for salvation but rather proof of it. "He has told you, O man, what is good". What God reveals as good is what we should be constantly striving for. And he has not been unclear. These attributes are as applicable to us today as they were to the Israelites. And they were fully exhibited in the character of Christ.

What can we learn from this passage? We learn that God has clearly shown us in Scripture what he requires of us. We learn that he rejects mere outward observance of morality. And we learn that it is important to diligently seek out what God has called good, and make that our standard.

In our pursuit of holiness, let us make sure we are not merely "bidding high", but "bidding right" when it comes to following Christ. We could never bid high enough to make ourselves acceptable in God's sight. If there were something we could do make ourselves presentable, then there would have been no need for Christ to die. It is sheer arrogance to take God's revelation of what is good, twist it into a checklist of do's and dont's that is nothing more than moralism, and then present it to him as some great accomplishment on our part. "What more do you want Lord? More frequent church attendance? More money in the offering plate? Me to become a nicer person?"

He has told you, O man, what is good. It is our responsibility to believe and obey.

The Gift of Gifts

From The Valley of Vision:

O Source of all good,

What shall I render to thee for the gift of gifts,
thine own dear Son, begotten, not created,
my Redeemer, proxy, surety, substitute,
his self-emptying incomprehensible,
his infinity of love beyond the heart's grasp.

Herein is wonder of wonders;
he came below to raise me above,
was born like me that I might become like him.

Herein is love;
when I cannot rise to him he draws near on wings of grace,
to raise me to himself.

Herein is power;
when Deity and humanity were infinitely apart
he united them in indissoluble unity,
the uncreated and the created.

Herein is wisdom;
when I was undone, with no will to return to him,
and no intellect to devise recovery,
he came, God-incarnate, to save me to the uttermost,
as man to die my death,
to shed satisfying blood on my behalf,
to work out a perfect righteousness for me.

O God, take me in spirit to the watchful shepherds,
and enlarge my mind;
let me hear good tidings of great joy,
and hearing, believe, rejoice, praise, adore,
my conscience bathed in an ocean of repose,
my eyes lifted to a reconciled Father;
place me with ox, ass, camel, goat,
to look with them upon my Redeemer's face,
and in him account myself delivered from sin;
let me with Simeon clasp the new-born child to my heart,
embrace him with undying faith,
exulting that he is mine and I am his.

In him thou hast given me so much
that heaven can give no more.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The United States Budget

This comparison really puts it into perspective...

Monday, September 5, 2011

For The Joy That Was Set Before Him

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin  which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God."
Hebrews 12:1-2

Have you ever wondered what this joy was that Christ had to enable him to endure the cross? How could someone possibly find joy in their impending crucifixion? Some would say that it was because he loved the world so much, and we were on his mind as he carried his cross to Calvary. While it is true that he was motivated by love, I believe a stronger influence drove him to the cross. Before I answer the question, let's take a look at what exactly joy is, according to the Scriptures. Proverbs 10:28 says, "The hope of the righteous brings joy." According to Galatians 5:22, joy is a fruit of the Spirit; in other words, joy is the natural by-product of someone who is living their life in accordance with the will of God. In 2 Corinthians 8, we see that the churches of Macedonia were enduring a "severe test of affliction", yet "their abundance of joy and extreme poverty..overflowed in a wealth of generosity". The Macedonian believers were abounding in joy despite their severe trials. Joy is distinct from happiness, in that joy transcends our circumstances. Joy goes deeper, and is felt in spite of our difficulties. Every believer's life should be marked by joy. The source of our joy is not circumstances, feelings, or the pleasures of this world, which are all fleeting and temporary. So what should be the source of our joy?

Towards the end of the Gospel of John, in Jesus' final hours with his disciples, he describes for them why he has come, and gives them instructions for after he has ascended to the Father. In three places, he talks about their joy being made full.
"These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full." John 15:11
"Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full." John 16:24
"These things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves." John 17:13
Jesus wants his joy to be fulfilled in them. So we are back to our original question, "What was Jesus' joy?" I believe the answer is found in the context of John 15:11. From the beginning of Chapter 15, Jesus emphasizes several times that his disciples are to abide in him, in order to bear fruit for the kingdom. That is what glorifies the Father, and what proves to the world that they are his disciples (v. 8). The key verses are 10-11: "If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full." Do you see it? Jesus' joy was derived from keeping the Father's commandments and abiding in his love.

Jesus chose to endure the cross because the joy of pleasing his Father and being obedient to his will was more important than the temporary sufferings he was about to experience. Isaiah 53:10 tells us that it was the Father's will to crush him. Jesus willingly submitted to his Father's plan.

When we are faithfully obedient to Christ in spite of our circumstances, as he was to the Father, then the same joy he experienced can be ours also, just as he promised. Obeying Christ is to be the source of our joy, and, fittingly, Christ is the ultimate example of faithful obedience. We now must ask ourselves, If Christ was willing to endure the cross in order to remain obedient to his Father's will, to what lengths are we willing to go to obey him?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Receiving the Bible for the First Time

Every Christian needs to take 10 minutes and watch this video...these amazing people really put things into perspective. I guarantee you will be blessed.

A Famine of the Word of God

"Behold, the days are coming," declares the Lord God, "when I will send a famine on the land - not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it."
Amos 8:11-12

These must have been sobering words coming from the mouth of the prophet. It is hard to imagine the depths of such a curse - to seek the word of the Lord and not be able to find it. We must remember that God does not pronounce this judgment upon those who truly seek him, but upon those who willingly choose to repeatedly reject his words. In this case God's judgment came as the result of the people's rejection of Amos' prophetic warnings. Amos was a simple shepherd and farmer, of little influence in the sight of the religious elite. When he pronounced judgment on Israel, Amaziah the priest told him, "O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, and eat bread there, and prophesy there, but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king's sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom". God gave the people of Israel exactly what they wanted: a removal of his word from the land.

 We see in Scripture that when people repeatedly and deliberately reject the words of God, and seek their own path, he eventually turns them over to their own devices. What appears to be man achieving freedom from God's rules is actually God's judgment upon him. We see this in Romans 1, where the phrase "God gave them up" is used three times. He gave them up to the impure lusts of their heart, to dishonorable passions, and to a debased mind. While this passage is often cited as a description of the sinfulness of homosexuality, take a look at vv. 29-31. This passage is actually a description of all of us, left to our own devices, devoid of the restraining influence of the word of God.

As sons who have been adopted into the family of God and who are co-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17) of the glorious inheritance of the saints (Eph. 1:18), we should thank God each day that his grace has been lavished upon us (Eph. 1:8) through the Holy Spirit, who guides us into all truth (John 16:13). The body of Christ need not fear God's judgment because we are being guarded by God's power through faith (1 Pet. 1:5).