Monthly Archives: December 2008
Someone once said that preachers and stand-up comedians were the only two vocations where you had to hold an audience merely by the content and delivery of your message.
As a result, many preachers try many different techniques in order to hold their listeners. Yet, Paul continued to trumpet the “foolishness of preaching” in 1 Corinthians 1:18-2:5. Take time to read over this passage right now:
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.  For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom,  but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles,  but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.  But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;  God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are,  so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.  He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption.  Therefore, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
[2:1] And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom.  For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.  And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling,  and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,  that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
I realize I could have placed that entire passage in bold typeface because it all communicates the same issue: God uses the “foolishness” of preaching to convey His wisdom, strength, power, and righteousness. Since this is His ordained method of conveying His truth, why do so many pastors and teachers look for other methods of men?
Penn (of Penn and Teller) is a very talented individual who is a very avowed atheist. Yet, he was confronted by a man who is a Christian. Notice Penn’s reaction to this:
Interesting how Penn has figured out what so many Christians should already know. Consider this quote:
I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize. If you believe that there’s a heaven and hell, and people could be going to hell, and you think, ‘Well, it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward’… How much do you have to hate somebody not to proselytize?
(HT: Ed Stetzer)
Lisa Miller’s recent Newsweek cover story (December 15, 2008) on “The Bible and Gay Marriage” created a gigantic stir. If Newsweek was having issues with magazine sales, I am sure that was remedied with this latest issue. Miller contends:
While the Bible and Jesus say many important things about love and family, neither explicitly defines marriage as between one man and one woman. And second, as the examples above illustrate, no sensible modern person wants marriage—theirs or anyone else’s —to look in its particulars anything like what the Bible describes. “Marriage” in America refers to two separate things, a religious institution and a civil one, though it is most often enacted as a messy conflation of the two. As a civil institution, marriage offers practical benefits to both partners: contractual rights having to do with taxes; insurance; the care and custody of children; visitation rights; and inheritance. As a religious institution, marriage offers something else: a commitment of both partners before God to love, honor and cherish each other—in sickness and in health, for richer and poorer—in accordance with God’s will. In a religious marriage, two people promise to take care of each other, profoundly, the way they believe God cares for them. Biblical literalists will disagree, but the Bible is a living document, powerful for more than 2,000 years because its truths speak to us even as we change through history. In that light, Scripture gives us no good reason why gays and lesbians should not be (civilly and religiously) married—and a number of excellent reasons why they should.
In this paragraph, Miller gives away the store with her own ideology that is imposed on the Scriptures.
For one, she believes the “Bible is a living document” rightly saying that the Bible has spoken to generations, but missing that the Bible is living and active because the God who inspired it is still living and active, and He does not change.
For two, she brings into it an “American” notion that marriage (notice that she puts “marriage” in quotes) is a civil institution. Ron Paul rightly noted in his “Revolution: A Manifesto” that marriage was not seen as a civil institution in this country until the early 1900’s, a relatively recent development.
Thirdly, she fails to interact with Jesus’ words about marriage being between one man and one woman (Matthew 19:1-10), which is consistent with what Genesis notes in Genesis 1:26-27. Plus, Jesus does condemn lust (Matthew 5:27-30) which is yearning sexually for another outside of God’s boundaries of marriage. He created it, He defines what it is.
Fourthly, she sees marriage as a merely utilitarian contract rather than a God-ordained covenant that is clearly outlined in Scripture. Yet, if one approaches the Scriptures looking for a rationalization for something they wish to see, they will use that paradigm to filter out and justify away that which does not fit their scheme — which is why Mormons use the KJV Bible, yet still are deviant from evangelical faith.
I recommend you listening to Albert Mohler’s interview with Lisa Miller regarding this issue. Miller’s article is a classic case of building up a straw man, then tearing it down. Even so, Miller’s article will fail to sway those who hold to the Scriptures as the truth of God’s Word.
More on this in the days ahead.
I have four children seven years of age and younger (with twin toddler boys as well). So any Gospel-centered, God-honoring, Christ-exalting words of wisdom I can find on parenting are like gold to me.
William P. Smith recently wrote a short work in the CCEF series called How Do I Stop Losing It With My Kids? Getting To The Heart of Your Disciple Problems. You can read the first section of this book here (pdf file) to give you a taste. And in this file, you’ll be posed with these questions:
- When you lose control because your child is disrespectful (or disobedient, or ungrateful, or anything else that annoys you), whose agenda for your child has become most important? Yours? Or God’s?
- When you lose control, are you most concerned with your child obeying God’s will, or your will?
- Whose desires (for peace and quiet, comfort, respect, obedience, etc.) are most important at the moment you are losing control?
- When your child disobeys you in front of others, are you most concerned for God’s reputation or your own? (p. 5)
Smith notes that “children’s hearts are not won by force” (p. 9) and that we must not “demand their worship” by teaching them to “live according to every word that proceeds out of [our] mouths,” but by every word that proceeds out of God’s mouth (Matthew 4:4).
Soak in this paragraph:
Children’s hearts are not won by force. When your children are physically, emotionally, and socially mature, their true nature and attitude toward you will come out. You have taught them that their relationship with you is not built on Christ and his way, but on you and your rules. When they reject your rules, it is likely they will also reject you, and you will be left without a relationship with your child. Is there any hope? Yes, there is. Jesus came to free you from the demands that turn his good gifts into your selfish rights. He takes clenched fists and opens them. Jesus doesn’t remove your good desires. Rather, he reorders you on the inside so that your ungodly, twisted demands become godly, righteous desires. As this happens to you on the inside, the way you relate to your child will start to change also. (p. 11)
I hope you will take a look at the great strategies put out by Dr. Smith.
- Ask for forgiveness.
- Open your life to God’s people.
- Make a plan for how you are going to relate to your child in the future. (He even calls for parents to take a “time-out” to pray about how to deal with the issue and to direct your child to Christ.)
- Set positive goals. (Don’t just look at your child when they are doing something wrong. Realize that when your child sins, they are running from Christ.)
- Tell stories about your own struggles.
- Look for ways your child is changing.
- Focus on one specific behavior over the next two weeks.
- Depend on Jesus for daily help.
(William P. Smith, How Do I Stop Losing It With My Kids. Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2008. 19 pp. $3.99 retail, but $2.71 at WTSBooks.com. Click on the title of this entry.)
I’m speaking tonight at EKU’s Christmas Outreach at 7:30. The theme is “Don’t Miss This Christmas” with the idea of not missing the true meaning. It will take place in the Student Services Building which seats between 500-600 people. Campus Crusade for Christ (hereafter, “CRU”) invited not only students but also faculty.
I ask for prayers for God to speak and just use me as His vessel. I’ll preach from John 1:14, which is the Christmas message in a nutshell, don’t you think? I’m thankful to God for Adam Dixon, director of the EKU CRU for the opportunity. I’m excited–but I want God to be glorified through His Word.
I’d appreciate your prayers.
At the close of each year through the first few weeks of the following year, I prayerfully seek God’s will and desire for our church. I find myself reading through the Scriptures with an intentionality of understanding what God has for the church in general as well as our church specifically in where we are located.
God brings along books to me as well that are priceless. The latest book is Making Vision Stick by Andy Stanley. Having only read one other book by Stanley (Visioneering) — and that was years ago — I approached this book without much bias or even expectation.
Yet I would highly recommend this short book. He recommends three ways to help vision stick:
- Cast vision strategically: defining your vision
- Celebrate vision systematically: regularly rejoicing in the successes
- Live your vision continuously: putting your vision into practice in your own life.
He goes on to note how the vision statement for the church must be simple and memorable. He notes how it is better to have vision statement simple and incomplete rather than complete but too long to remember. It is up to the leader to help those following him to see the vision the leader has embraced.
Politico has a report regarding the President-elect’s appointments to his cabinet as well as some of his agenda:
Liberals are growing increasingly nervous – and some just flat-out angry – that President-elect Barack Obama seems to be stiffing them on Cabinet jobs and policy choices.
Obama has reversed pledges to immediately repeal tax cuts for the wealthy and take on Big Oil. He’s hedged his call for a quick drawdown in Iraq. And he’s stocking his White House with anything but stalwarts of the left.
Now some are shedding a reluctance to puncture the liberal euphoria at being rid of President George W. Bush to say, in effect, that the new boss looks like the old boss.
“He has confirmed what our suspicions were by surrounding himself with a centrist to right cabinet. But we do hope that before it’s all over we can get at least one authentic progressive appointment,” said Tim Carpenter, national director of the Progressive Democrats of America.
OpenLeft blogger Chris Bowers went so far as to issue this plaintive plea: “Isn’t there ever a point when we can get an actual Democratic administration?”
Even supporters make clear they’re on the lookout for backsliding. “There’s a concern that he keep his basic promises and people are going to watch him,” said Roger Hickey, a co-founder of Campaign for America’s Future.
These small paragraphs give all leaders one good moral maxim to stand by: “The higher the expectations, the more prone to disappoint.” Barack Obama’s campaign was filled with promises for progressive (read: liberal) change, therefore many progressives were rejoicing at his election, feeling that he would implement that change immediately.
I do commend Obama for coming in, evaluating the situation, and realizing that changes do take time. One man cannot implement change all by himself, especially when the often inconvenient system of checks and balances are in place. Plus, the man is not officially president yet!
Nehemiah was a leader who understood the need to discern and evaluate the situation before running hogwild into his mission. He heard the problems (Nehemiah 1:1-3), began praying to the God of heaven for wisdom (4-11), came to the leaders with the problem as well as a solution (2:1-8), then surveyed the situation himself (2:9ff) before coming up with a plan (2:19ff).
So regardless, let your expectations match reality.
Dr. Jason Lisle writes a very thought-provoking response to a critic of his website who disagrees with Lisle’s contention of the truth of the Bible when dealing with origins.