Thursday, March 22, 2012

Christian or Deist?

Are you a Christian or a Deist?

I recently read an article on The Gospel Coalition blog that was titled, Deists who love Jesus (and talk like Freud).  I found it to be really enlightening and relevant to many discussions that I've had lately.  One of the most important parts, the part that grabbed my attention, was a definition of something called Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.  Here are a set of beliefs associated with this form of deism:

  1. A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.
  2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
  3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
  4. God does not need to be particularly involved in one's life, except when God is needed to resolve a problem.
  5. Good people go to heaven when they die.
What I find to be alarming about this set of beliefs is that so many people I know, who would call themselves Christians, would hold to these beliefs.  I have talked to countless teenagers who would hold to these beliefs.  The majority of people that I meet would hold to these beliefs.

What about you?  Are you a Christian or a Moral Therapeutic Deist?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Electoral Bumpkins

John Calvin on Elections:
When elections have to be made, just as today the governors have to be elected, and tomorrow and the day after and throughout the week the estates of this city and the judicial order have to be provided for, how many are there who think of God when they undertake this, which is such a religious thing?   
The most solemn of all the elections is due now -- but those who will come to it, where are they, most of them?  I met some of my bumpkins (I could easily point them out by name,  but there is no need, for we all know them well enough); some of them were going up to the Bourg de four, and others were coming this way.  They thought they would have no time for breakfast unless they chose service time.  I saw this with my own eyes as I was coming to church.  And is it not a crying shame?   
So when it is plain that we who ought to be well learned in the Word of God, seeing it is preached to us intimately every day, are still so stupid -- more, that we have such a spirit of brutishness in us -- is not this a great shame? 
Now then, let us consider that we are not told without good reason that, when we are going to elect men to some public position, we must set about it reverently and carefully.  For we shall provoke God's anger if we pollute the seat of justice, putting men in it who have neither zeal nor interest to honor and serve it... we must learn, (if we do not want to spoil everything) to do better than we have done so far, to be really serious and take care when elections have to be made, so that God may reign among us and that He may bring it to pass that all are governed by His Holy Spirit and that they may have zeal and love for His Word.
From Portrait of Calvin by T.H.L. Parker.  You can also find this book on the Desiring God website for free.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Seven Feelings Rise In My Heart

I've received a double punch in my studies over the last couple of weeks.  The first punch came from my study in Ephesians for last week's sermon.  Eph. 2:11-22 deals with race relations and its connection to the cross.  The second punch came through Bloodlines by John Piper.  I received the book as a gift from my wife for Christmas, but didn't pick it up to start reading until I was preparing for the sermon.  I thought it might add some extra insight into my perspective of this passage.

This two-punch combination left me filled with a whirling turmoil of thoughts and feelings in regards to race relations in America.  More importantly, it has stirred up some emotions in regards to race relations in Danville, IL.

Here is a quote from Bloodlines that both explains and furthers my thoughts on this subject:
When I step back from this controversy over personal responsibility versus political and community engagement with systematic racism, I have at least seven different clusters of thoughts and feelings. 
First, I feel regret for my own sinful contributions to the seemingly intractable problems of race relations between black and white in our land.  Second, I feel sorrow over cycles of despair and hopelessness, and over the ruin of so many lives.  Third, I feel anger at the sins I see on every part of the landscape of race relations and race discussions and racial intervention -- all sides.  None of us is righteous, no, not one (Rom. 3:10).  Fourth, I feel frustration over the untold layers of complexity that make every proposal for improvement seem thanklessly embattled.  I empathize with Harvard social scientist Nathan Glazer when he says that behind the racial troubles of our day are "factors in infinite regress."  Fifth, I feel empathy with the truth and the emotion of both sides of the controversy.  Sixth, I feel a great longing to see the gospel of Jesus proclaimed, with the power of the Holy Spirit, into this situation and this controversy.  And seventh, because of the power of the gospel, I feel hope that there are breakthroughs possible that human strategies from either side have not achieved.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Race and the Christian

A livestream even on March 28th, that I would like to watch at my house. (If I'm not still on vacation...)

Anyone interested in watching this with me?

Manalive by G.K. Chesterton - Review

I just finished reading Manalive by G. K. Chesterton a few weeks ago.  It wasn't until about a month ago that I learned that G.K. Chesterton wrote fiction.  To be honest, I didn't know much about Chesterton, but I always thought that his writing was limited to books like Orthodoxy and Heretics.  When I purchased my Kindle, I started looking at the free books on Amazon, that's when I found there was a broader scope to his writing.  I wasn't sure where to start, so I picked the first one that I saw and added it to my kindle.

Because I wasn't sure of the exact genre of Manalive, I wasn't exactly sure what to expect as I began to read this book. It kept me on my toes as it brought new little surprises and twists as the story began to unfold.

It is about a man who is, well, alive.  He has become, in many ways, like a child.  You first meet the main character chasing a hat and climbing a tree.  He expounds on the need for more hat-chasing type games in life.  The more you learn of the character, the more unsure you become as to whether he is insane, or the most sane of the bunch.  The rest of the entourage of characters come to either love him or completely misunderstand him by taking his actions in the most straight-forward and sensible way.

I really liked this book.  I think that I would've liked it better if I had known what to expect, but my unsurety as to the focus of the story kept me wondering at some potential scifi or fantasy tie-ins.  It had neither, and ended up being more akin to an allegorical tale than to anything else.

I recommend this to anyone that is looking for a good piece of reading.  I don't want to give anything away, but the reality of death is one of the factors that stirs up life in this book.  If you are looking for a book that isn't too heavy, but also isn't too light and you would also like to get a taste of Chesterton's writing, then this is the book for you.

From the links above, you can get the paperback book through Amazon, but you can also find the kindle version for free.

Serious Things

Someone wrote into John Piper and asked this question:
I believe I do love Jesus, but most of the time I'd rather spend time being entertained than spend time in God's word. How do I break this hold that entertainment has on my heart?
This is an important question, and one that hits right near the heart of much that we've been talking about at Church during our Ephesians study.  This isn't a direct connection to our sermon series, to be sure, but if you've been a part of our discussions in the afternoons, you will see the relevance of this question.  Though we haven't talked about entertainment as an addiction, last Sunday afternoon we discussed the reality that many spend a significant amount of time being entertained as opposed to thinking deeply.  (If you are not a part of our church, but would like to hear the messages, we will have them posted here.) has a portion of the audio transcript where Piper answers the question.  If you want to read the entire thing, you can click here.  It's not too long and more worth reading than the post I am attempting to write at the moment.  I am not going to discuss the whole article, but I would like to repost a portion of his response, particularly his suggestions, and then put out my own plea in this area.

Here are his suggestions (in battling the addiction to entertainment):

  1. Recognizing it is a huge step in the right direction.
  2. Seek the Lord earnestly about it. Pray like crazy that God would open your eyes to see wondrous things out of his law.
  3. Immerse yourself in the Bible, even when you don't feel like it, pleading with God to open your eyes to see what's really there.
  4. Get in a group where you talk about serious things.
  5. Begin to share your faith. One of the reasons we are not as moved by our own faith as we are is because we almost never talk about it to any unbeliever. It starts to feel like a kind of hothouse thing, and then it starts to have a feeling of unreality about it. And then the powers of entertainment have more sway in our life.
A little bit further on in the article he offers this additional suggestion:
One last suggestion: think about your death. Think about your death a lot. Ask what you'd like to be doing in the season of life, or hours or days, leading up to meeting Christ.
I believe that all of these suggestions are excellent in regards to battling "entertainment addiction."  Maybe you don't feel like this is a problem for you... I believe that it is a problem for most Americans, and we don't even realize it.  I would suggest that you could take up these suggestions, whether you believe you have a problem with entertainment or not.  I guess I am just tired of guys who can quote Illini player stats from years gone by or mourn the loss of Manning, but don't know the impact of Luther's 95 Theses and believe that studying I John should be left to pastors.

Well, before this post swerves off course and develops into a rant against one of the dominant forms of entertainment, allow me to veer back onto course by making a plea:  I want to talk about serious things.  The weather is going to be the weather, I don't need to talk about it that much really.  Let's talk about serious things.  If you want to talk about serious things, then I have an offer.  Come to church.

Come to church to be open and honest.  Come to church because you want to be searched by God and found wanting.  Come to church to be provoked on to good deeds by other Christians for the cause of Christ.  Come to church to talk about and listen to serious things.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Masters of Thought

Justin Taylor just shared a great quote from J. Greshem Machen:

We are all agreed that at least one great function of the Church is the conversion of individual men. The missionary movement is the great religious movement of our day. Now it is perfectly true that men must be brought to Christ one by one. There are no labor-saving devices in evangelism. It is all hard-work. 
And yet it would be a great mistake to suppose that all men are equally well prepared to receive the gospel. 
It is true that the decisive thing is the regenerative power of God. That can overcome all lack of preparation, and the absence of that makes even the best preparation useless. 
But as a matter of fact God usually exerts that power in connection with certain prior conditions of the human mind, and it should be ours to create, so far as we can, with the help of God, those favorable conditions for the reception of the gospel. 
False ideas are the greatest obstacles to the reception of the gospel. 
We may preach with all the fervor of a reformer and yet succeed only in winning a straggler here and there, if we permit the whole collective thought of the nation or of the world to be controlled by ideas which, by the resistless force of logic, prevent Christianity from being regarded as anything more than a harmless delusion. 
Under such circumstances, what God desires us to do is to destroy the obstacle at its root. . . .
What is today a matter of academic speculation begins tomorrow to move armies and pull down empires. In that second stage, it has gone too far to be combated; the time to stop it was when it was still a matter of impassioned debate. 
So as Christians we should try to mold the thought of the world in such a way as to make the acceptance of Christianity something more than a logical absurdity. . . . 
What more pressing duty than for those who have received the mighty experience of regeneration, who, therefore, do not, like the world, neglect that whole series of vitally relevant facts which is embraced in Christian experience—what more pressing duty than for these men to make themselves masters of the thought of the world in order to make it an instrument of truth instead of error?
I found this quote to be especially helpful to my thinking as a followup to what we are learning at church in our Ephesians study.

If you had the mental endurance to make it through that quote, please share your thoughts.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Critical Thinking

At church yesterday, I discussed the concept of thinking.  I am not going to talk about that right now, though I may post the sermon audio for it later.  I did want to share these 8 videos that talk about critical thinking.  There are tie-ins, both Biblically and Mathematically.

These videos can be found at Bridge 8 with an accompanying resource at TechNYou.

I originally saw these videos at 22 words.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

no special haiku

It's no special day
that I write this haiku, but
I'm thinking of you.

Finally Alive by John Piper - Review

I just finished Finally Alive by John Piper and I would like to write a review for this book that will encourage you to go out and get this book for yourself.  It was good enough that I am planning on doing a Bible Study/Book Study using this book.  And it is important enough of a topic, that I want to promote its study as much as possible.

Here is what the Desiring God website says about this book:

Spiritual rebirth is precious and crucial. When Jesus said, “You must be born again,” he wasn't simply sharing interesting information; he was directing us toward eternal life.
It is essential to know what God intends when he uses this language of being born again, so that we may experience new birth and help others do the same.

So, Finally Alive is a book about the New Birth.  John Piper takes the time to explore several different passages of scripture that deal with this teaching.  That might be my favorite part about this book, it is truly an exploration of scripture, not a human-created mandate on a topic of interest to the author. In being so scripture-driven, he pulls together several different loose ends and shows the amazing power of God in the work of salvation.  This is a topic that has been near to my heart over the last several months as I have been preaching through the book of Ephesians.

As I said, I want to encourage you to read this book.  The understanding and the implications of the new birth can be life changing.  Not only will you walk away encouraged by the power of God in saving sinners, you will have a clearer picture of the necessity of sharing the gospel so that others may be born again.

You can download the pdf version of this book by going to the Desiring God website or by clicking here.