Friday, December 24, 2010

Pray for Christians in India and Iraq

Christians in both India and Iraq are under threat of attack this Christmas by Hindu radicals in Oriss, India and al-Qaeda in Iraq (respectively). Hindu radicals are having a gathering on Christmas Day this year. The last gathering on Christmas 2007 resulted in a mass wave of violence against Christians. In Iraq, al-Qaeda in Iraq has vowed to purge Christians from the country. Please pray for the safety of our Christian brothers and sisters and the conversion of Muslims who are so full of hate.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Lord of the Small Lyrics

Here is the wonderful poem by Johanna Anderson...

The Lord of the Small

Praise to the Lord of the Small Broken Things,
Who Sees the Poor Sparrow That cannot take wing.
Who loves the lame child and the wretch in the street
who comforts their sorrows and washes their feet.

...Praise to the lord of the faint and afraid
who girds them with courage and lends them his aid,
he pours out his spirit on vessels so weak,
that the timid can serve and the silent can speak.

Praise to the lord of the frail and the ill
who heals their afflictions or carries them till,
they leave this tired frame and to paradise fly.
to never be sick and never to die.

Praise him, O Praise Him All ye who live
who've been given so much and can so little give
our frail lisping praise God will never Despise.
He Sees His Dear Children Through Mercy Filled Eyes!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Take a Deep Breath, Calm Your Spirit and Watch this...

An old friend's wife wrote a poem that a composer set to music. My friend, Bill Anderson, is an economics professor and blogger on economics and law. His wife, Johanna, is a counselor with a heart for the forgotten and broken. Her poem is "Lord of the Small." The composer is Dan Forrest. Enjoy.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

So Much for Twitter

Update: Apparently these spammers are actually malware distributors masquerading as porn spammers. While there's something deliciously ironic about someone clicking on a link for a porn video and instead downloading a virus, I have no toleration for having inappropriate photos attached to my account. Twitter either does not have the technology or the will to keep this kind of garbage from coming to my account (as Facebook is able). *End of update*

I'm bringing my brief experiment with Twitter to an end. Too few of anyone who knows me is on Twitter and a large amount of "followers" I receive are spammers with grossly inappropriate profile pics. I've gotten tired of blocking people. Within a few hours I'll be shutting down my Twitter account. See you on this blog and on Facebook.

-Travis

Friday, December 3, 2010

Should We Beat Our Wives "Lightly"?

In the Western world the Koranic injunction for husbands to beat their wives seems to be a constant source of embarrassment for those trying to explain Islam to a secular or Christian audience. The way the force of this injunction is muted is to a) argue that Mohammad really loved women and treated them well and b) that "beat them" means "beat them lightly only if it is necessary" (Sura 4:34). Now, anyone who knows me and knows my family knows how well a "light beating" would go over with my missus - the next visitor I'd have would be the coroner. But, that aside, does the Koran really tell husbands to "beat lightly"?

In a word, no. The Koran simply tells husbands to beat their disobedient wives. In most translations of the Koran you find those words in parentheses, indicating that they are added. They are nowhere present in the Arabic text. They are also not implied in the meaning of the word translated thusly. The word in question, daraba, is used to indicate forceful violence. For a very readable article by a non-Muslim Arabic speaker, see here.

A quick YouTube search on "How to Beat Your Wife" will reveal many instructional videos on the practice (all from Islam). Here is one gem. Is it any wonder that it is reported that a woman married to a Muslim is TEN TIMES as likely to be murdered by her husband than a woman married to a non-Muslim in the UK?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Asia Bibi Still Under Death Sentence!

Conflicting reports still continue out of Pakistan concerning Asia Bibi, the Christian mother of four who has been convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death. While it is possible that she has been released. The High Court of Pakistan has declared that President Asif Ali al-Zardari does not have the authority to issue pardons in blasphemy cases. Please visit www.persecution.org to find out how to petition for her pardon and express your concern over Pakistan's blasphemy laws. These laws are almost always used to settle personal grievances and often the accused are killed by mobs even if found innocent.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Important Documentary on Islam

Rachid, our brother from Morocco who hosts the Christian television program "Life TV," has produced a stunning and informative documentary on Islam. Using Islamic videos and texts and subtitled in English, this documentary will completely transform your understanding of Islam. This is worth the time to watch it.

Here is the video.

Urgent Need - Life or Death

Please help save Sayed Mossa, an Afghani Christian who has been sentenced to death for his faith. His execution draws very near. Here is a link to an article on how to help him.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

What Travis Does at GA

Scanning the articles posted on the Aquila Report, I noticed my name mentioned in reference to a speech I gave at the last General Assembly of the PCA. The author posted a link whereby, if you advance the player, you can watch my short comment.

The comment was made in the midst of debate on the funding plan for the Administrative Committee of our denomination. I have objected for years that there is something morally wrong with taking money from the poor and giving it to denominational leaders to live in the upper middle class. There is a funding plan which would make the current voluntary system (if you like the salaries, go ahead and pay the money) involuntary (if you don't pay the money, then you don't have a voice at GA).

Ironically, I think the funding plan is actually a way to force wealthier churches to give. The problem is that they are avoiding the issues by trying to force everyone to pay and their using denominational resources to promote the plan whereby they force churches to give. And then the Stated Clerk chides opposition bloggers for speaking out against their plans. It's kind of like Hugo Chavez taking over most of the media and then threatening the remaining voices as if he's a victim of harassment.

This clip is a good example of why I don't think I should go to GA and why one of our Ruling Elders is going to try to keep me going.

Here's the link to the article, which contains the link to the video.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Asia Bibi Pardoned and Freed!

Pakistan Releases Christian Woman
Sentenced to Death for 'Blasphemy'


Washington, D.C. (November 22,2010)–International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that today the president of Pakistan has pardoned a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy.

Asia Bibi was sentenced on November 8 after a court in Punjab province found her guilty of making blasphemous statements against the Islamic prophet Muhammad. According to Pakistan’s blasphemy law, it is a crime punishable by death to blaspheme the Islamic prophet.

Her release came after intense international pressure by politicians and church leaders as well as coverage by several media outlets.

Asia has now been taken to an undisclosed location for her safety. In the past, Christians have been killed by vigilantes after being accused of blasphemy. On July 19, gunmen killed Pastor Rashid Emmanuel and his brother, Sajid Emmanuel, while police were transporting them from the court in Faisalabad to jail. The gunmen also seriously wounded a policeman accompanying them.

Some Muslim lawyers and other fundamentalist Muslims are preparing to demonstrate against Asia’s release.

ICC’s Regional Manager for South Asia, Jonathan Racho, said, “We are delighted to learn about Asia’s release and we would like to commend Pakistan’s president for taking the right action. It’s high time for Pakistan to repeal the blasphemy laws that have caused so much persecution against Christians and other religious minorities.”

Reposted from International Christian Concern.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Justin Borger's Book in the News

Kelly Kapic (Covenant College professor and author of multiple books) recently finished a new book in collaboration with Justin Borger. Justin is Bob and Jan Borger's son. The Chattanoogan has an article about the book here. Matt and Joan Vos are discussed in the book in one of the illustrations.

Highlands has the book on sale for $14.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Excellent Article on the New York Evolution Case

Anyone who knows me well knows that I'm not one of those who spends a great deal of time banging the drum about biblical creationism. I'd rather talk about the cross and the kingdom of God. But that being said, the cross assumes a real historical Adam. Adam sinned for us all, as our representative, and plunged humanity into guilt and sin. Jesus, the New Adam, died for us, as our representative, so that we might be rescued from the plight of Adam. When you introduce evolution into this mix, the entire edifice begins to tremble. When you remove the historical Adam, it crumbles to the ground.

A Reformed pastor at the Pastor of Print blog has written an excellent article about the consequences of evolutionary teaching. As background, this article is about PCA pastor, Choong, who is teaching evolution in the New York Metro Presbytery. Choong was noticed by the Aquila Report a week or so ago, and gave the information to the local Presbytery. If New York Metro doesn't handle this, there will be numerous presbyteries clamoring for original jurisdiction.

Pastor of Print's excellent article can be found here.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Evolution Case May Hit New York Metro Presbytery


The "Piltdown Man" - now known to be a hoax (though I'm sure I've ridden a bus with this guy)


The Aquila Report has a fascinating (and troubling) article about a PCA teaching elder in New York City publicly teaching theistic evolution. According to the Aquila Report, our Standing Judicial Commission has previously ruled that not only can a Teaching Elder not believe in Theistic Evolution, but neither can Ruling Elders, Deacons or Sunday School teachers. It will be interesting to see how the NY Metro Presbytery handles this. Read more here.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The End of the Assembly Summarized

The 38th General Assembly ended with most of the Strategic Plan adopted (at least this stage of it adopted) with vigorous protest of a large part of the Assembly on some of the Plan. One of the PCAs remaining founders, Don Clements (the Aquila Report), expressed his concern in an article. Likening this to calling a pastor he posed a rhetorical question, "Who would take a call as a pastor with so many people dissenting?" Don is afraid that the Administrative Committee and other denominational functionaries (with a few prominent pastors thrown in) have won the battle of implementation but are in danger of losing the war for trust. Another founding pastor, Bill Iverson (also perhaps the greatest living evangelist in the PCA) delivered a stirring speech which seemed to be a condemnation of the worldliness of the whole thing and a call to return to faithfulness in advancing the Gospel.

The PCA issued a letter on homosexuality and the possible (likely?) repeal of the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy. The PCA has a large, influential, and active chaplains corps and our chaplains are very concerned. The statement adopted by the PCA was made stronger on the floor of the Assembly and it was reported to us that the chaplains were VERY encouraged. Before the ink was dry on the statement it was communicated in substance to the Pentagon at a high level meeting. The PCA is often very loathe to speak on matters of politics but sounded a clear prophetic call on this one.

Without the expected debate on the "deaconess issue", the Assembly basically affirmed that is was not inappropriate for churches to have "deaconesses" or "diaconal assistants". It was also affirmed that ordination was only appropriate for men. This leaves many churches' practices in place and agrees with the practice of our Korean presbyteries, which have a position called a "kwonsa" which corresponds to this. This practice has some roots in older presbyterianism as well.

I plan on blogging more details about the Assembly and some thoughts on our denomination as well as some confessions and oddities. Coming soon: Travis gets nabbed by the po-po, Dan mostly redeems himself from cowarding, the Assembly finds truth out of order and yours truly fails to condemn blasphemy - along with one or two Nashville tips.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Signs of a Possible Turning of the Tide...

After an embarrassing argument justifying the lack of Scriptural support and a growing sense of the near inevitability of the passage of the whole Strategic Plan, the tone of the Assembly seems to be changing as two of the recommendations have been defeated in a row with a third passing by ten votes. The men seem more somber and engaged and the "powers that be" are huddling and whispering to one another in the front of the room.

Assembly decides that no committee or other body of the PCA can function without Bryan Chapell

Not really, but it is starting to look that way. Bryan Chapell, who is the president of Covenant Seminary (the head of a committee) and on the committee which develops and administrates the Strategic Plan, and who takes part in almost all of the informal decisions about our denomination (and I don't know what else), was elected to serve on the Standing Judicial Commission. Not a hair on his head is out of place at 4:30 in the afternoon.

Grinding Through the Strategic Plan

The Strategic Plan is moving forward slowly. Passage is probably inevitable but the majority is successfully moving it forward despite the relentless objections of the minority. The minority are arguing that there is too much confusion and no explicit Scriptural support for the Plan. The majority is arguing that the biblical work was done previously and that the details of the plan will become plain as we put them into action.

Two pastors gave beautiful exhortations about grace and trusting the Lord. No one has countered the assertion that the analysis contained in the analysis is mostly sociological. One commissioner pointed out that there is actually no sociological analysis, simply sociological assertions.

The Assembly has already approved the parts of the plan which require that churches give a certain percentage of their offerings to the Administrative Committee or not be able to vote at General Assembly. This is called a "pay to play provision." Churches which do not pay accumulate debt that must be paid or negotiated with the Administrative Committee. Provisions will be made for "hardship cases."

Beer, Cigars, Munchies and Missions


In a stunning display of Christian liberty, World Harvest Missions has been operating a hospitality and fellowship room in the Flying Saucer Pub. All comers are offered a beer, a cigar, and food. Members and guests of the Assembly were invited to hang out at the pub and visit with World Harvest missionaries and directors. Conversations on the Kingdom of God abounded.

PCA and the Aryan Nations



This post isn't really about the Aryan Nations, except in a tertiary way that some would characterize as unfair - others as troubling or bizarre. The larger issue, which I'll touch on at the end, is the question: "What constitutes racism?" and "What views on race are acceptable in a) the church, b) on the local session, and c) in the ordained pastoral ministry?"

At my first General Assembly I met two brothers who have become my adoptive cousins, Jeff and Chris Hutchinson. The Assembly was at Birmingham and racism was the big issue. While there I met a ruling elder name Neill Payne who I subsequently found out was a racist (note 1) who was being investigated by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a liberal civil rights organization.

Mr. Payne distributed an email promoting some extremely offensive racial views and his pastor (Rev. Buckeley, on left) attempted to persuade him to change his views and step down as an elder. That ended up in a terrible mess in his church and the presbytery became involved. On the presbytery level, my cousin Jeff Hutchinson (on the right) picked up the torch for prosecuting Payne and the case ended up with eleven judicial cases before the General Assembly's Standing Judicial Commission.

Jeff has been handing out articles from the Southern Poverty Law Journal as tracts. The Southern Poverty Law center took a very positive view of the Presbytery's and Jeff's handling of the matter. It also included photos of Mr. Payne's wedding at a meeting of the Aryan Nations. The wedding happened a long time ago and wasn't the cause of the case, but any time Payne's name comes up in reference to this issue, the wedding resurfaces as a topic. It's the kind of thing that's hard to live down. I understand from second hand reports that Mr. Payne disavows any attachment to the Nations and his brother-in-law, Mr. Kirk Lyons, claims that the wedding never meant full support (or perhaps any) of the Nations (note 2).

The surprising thing about the Poverty Journal article is the very positive take they have on our denomination's handling of the case (given that they are very liberal and often very opposed to anything conservative or Christian). The article notes that this was the first time ANY Presbyterian denomination has EVER prosecuted anyone for racism.

Meanwhile, Mr. Payne and his supporters within the church have all been removed from the rolls of the PCA "as an act of pastoral discipline" (BCO 38-3) and Jeff Hutchinson was elected to our Standing Judicial Commission.

[This article has been edited with some corrections and developments since the original post with information provided by Jeff Hutchinson and Kirk Lyons.]

Note 1: Mr. Payne would certainly object to being called a racist. The views he circulated in an email (which I have not read but seem fairly undisputed) are the standard "blacks are dumber than whites and we're all dumber than the Asians" variety along with comments on the state of most African nations being attributable to race. I would call this the definition of racism, thought the term might be so overused that something like "racialist" would serve us better.

Note 2: The full explanation, which I will not reproduce here, has a plausibility to it, but for me raises as many questions as it purports to answer. Walking through it all would involve a great deal of time and bring others into the article who were not part of the GA Judicial Commission case. I'm just not willing.

Other notes:

1) The SPLC "tracts" comment is a tongue-in-cheek joke. At that GA, Jeff told me about his involvement with this case and the oddly favorable reporting of the SPLC. I was fascinated and he said, "I have a copy right here." I laughed and teased him about having a couple of copies, saying that he was passing out tracts. Jeff wasn't passing out SPLC "tracts"; it was a joke.

2) I'm no huge fan of the SPLC because they are ideologically liberal and tend to paint conservatives with the racist label, and that bothers me very much when it comes to the anti-jihadist community. But I found it interesting that they recognized that our denomination is actually doing something about racism.

3) What we're dealing with here is not just a disagreement about the "facts," but the definition of racism itself. Mr. Lyons (Mr. Payne's brother-in-law and one of the members removed from the rolls) disputes both the facts and the "real issues" of the case. Of course, no one agrees when they lose a discipline case (and I've lost one), but the question of "real issues" and combing through the "facts" is pretty far outside of my interests here. We have the SJC for a reason. I don't have direct knowledge or interest in this case. I am interested in race and the PCA.

4) The problem that Mr. Payne and his supporters ran into is that the majority of us in the PCA think that this kind of "racial profiling" (or "racialism") is completely inappropriate for an elder in Christ's church. An elder is held to a higher standard than a church member and if an elder can't figure out that labeling races more of less inferior is counterproductive to the advancement of the Kingdom is pretty blind. Why would any elder, after decades of involvement with white-supremacist issues, still distribute racialist literature?

Even the authors of the Bell Curve (highly controversial book on intelligence and race) simply made two points (disputed by many): a) There are scoring disparities among races on intelligence tests and b) intelligence is a high predictor of social success. They DIDN'T make the claim that blacks are biologically less intelligent than whites. If you accept their findings, there are simply too many factors than have not been adequately researched. Ann Coulter has pretty well demonstrated that the crime differences between blacks and whites disappears when your factor out single mothers. And it is commonly known that a high black divorce rate is a more recent phenomenon - not racially inherent. Veda Jairrels has convincingly argued that the academic achievement gap between blacks and whites disappears with a single factor - how much a child is read to by her parents. I'm sure someone more informed than I could go on, and on.

The point is that jumping on the pseudo-science of racialism when real science is only beginning its conversation is irresponsible. When the pseudo-science is hurtful towards a minority group who experienced slavery and hundreds of years of oppression, the irresponsibility is hard-hearted, grievous sin. We need better than that from our elders.

Steve's Book Prominent at the Assembly


Steve Corbett's book, When Helping Hurts, continues to occupy an important place in the PCA (and beyond). Steve's co-author and fellow professor gave a seminar at General Assembly. And at the PCA bookstore the book is displayed prominently. Praise God this important book is still getting the attention and consideration it deserves.

The Stated Clerk Chides Bloggers

Dr. Roy Taylor gently chided bloggers for criticizing the Strategic Plan on the internet. During his report to the Assembly as head of the Administrative Committee Dr. Taylor noted that only twelve people have directly contacted his office with concerns about the Strategic Plan but many have criticized it online. Some of the criticism he found thoughtful, but other criticism was very mean spirited and personal. He seemed to be chiding both groups of bloggers, but the first group much more so than the second.

Dr. Taylor explained that they have taken the criticisms into account and have been changing the plan to reflect some of the concerns. He said that they had been revising the plan even during the Assembly in response to some of the criticism. This was confirmed to me by a friend who sat in on the Administrative Committee meeting.

The Administrative Committee certainly deserves kudos for being responsive to the people they serve and being open to suggestions. There was some irony, however, in the report.

As one of the bloggers (who is also a very committed pastor and published author) pointed out, the Strategic Plan is a public document and the Administrative Committee has produced videos and print media to support it as they have the denominational resources at their disposal. This isn't just about interacting with the Administrative Committee, its about whether the Assembly is convinced to adopt this plan. The AC understandability wishes to convince the Assembly to adopt the plan, but some wish to convince the Assembly to not adopt it. It's hard to convince people to vote no on the plan by sending private letters to Roy Taylor. Are not public documents best responded to publicly?

Another choice bit or irony is this, Dr. Taylor completely neglected to mention the bloggers who have taken up the task of defending the plan by fairly personal and uncharitable rhetoric.

There seem to be double-standards here on several fronts.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

"Dropping Like Flies"

As we sink deeper into the reports section of the Assembly, the PCA Foundation report finally broke the tide as hundreds of commissioners left the floor at once and they keep peeling off as the report goes on. It's not that the Foundation is not important, but listening to an explanation of financial services meant to help people manage their charitable giving just isn't that engaging.

We also just got an update that Joni Eareckson Tada has been doing VERY well since her surgery and her doctor gives her a very good prognosis. Praise the Lord!

Hudson's Thoughts



Ruling Elder Dan Hudson noticing that RidgeHaven Retreat and Conference Center, which appears to be sinking fast, has responded by raising the director's salary from $80,000 to $95,000. If I'm not mistaken, he also gets a really nice house to live in for free. To be fair, he makes a lot less than the other committee heads (such as Mission to the World and Mission to North America).

An Assembly Overview

As an overview of this year's assembly, here's what we are dealing with this year. Besides a small mountain of regular business and reports, we have two major issues before the Assembly: the issue of the role of women in diaconal ministry and the PCA Strategic Plan. This year the Assembly elected Harry Reeder, the pastor of one of our largest churches, Briarwood Presbyterian (Birmingham), to be the moderator. So far he has done an admirable job with a humble spirit.

Last year the Assembly declined to erect a study committee to analyze the role of women and diaconal ministry from Scripture and church history. Currently there is a great deal of confusion regarding this issue. While our Book of Church Order restricts women from the ordained offices of Elder and Deacon, stating that according to Scripture these offices are open to men only, this has done little to settle the issue. Some churches are placing women in deacon's meetings as advisers and workers. Others “commission”, but not ordain, “deaconesses”. Redeemer in New York City has taken the bold move of erecting a diaconate where no one is ordained and women serve alongside men. Many have called into the question the pairing the issue of elders and deacons together. Biblical scholars are much more in agreement about women and the office of elder than the office of deacon.

This year several presbyteries have sent overtures to the Assembly to restrict these practices. At least one presbytery (ours) has proposed an overture to keep the status quo and maintain our current diversity of practices. The Strategic Plan, mostly from sociological arguments, supports an openness to women being involved with diaconal ministries.

Last year the Assembly approved a committee (which included many of our committee heads) to come up with a Strategic Plan for our denomination. The growth of our denomination has slowed and we have made precious little inroads outside of our white, Republican, middle class world. Since our country is looking less and less like the PCA, the intention was to come up with a plan to respond to our changing world so that our denomination does not fade into irrelevance.

I have several serious concerns about the Strategic Plan, but I'm going to reserve those for later.

My buddy Tim Keller



Actually, I've never met Tim Keller. But he's about ten feet in front of me and I'm taking his picture like a stalker (please don't tell him). There's his lovely bald cranium, grey jacket and jeans.

Worldliness & Method in the PCA

I'm come to this year's General Assembly with as much consternation as I've ever experienced coming to one of these things. Over the years, I developed a progressively more jaded attitude towards our denomination as a organizational entity. It's a funny thing, as a people bound by a common confession of faith and as churches working for God's kingdom, I love our denomination. As an organization we look impressive, but I'm deeply frustrated and ashamed of what is below the surface.

Don't get me wrong, it's could be so much worse. I can't imagine how Catholics feel about some of the things which lurk below the surface of their waters. I'm grateful that I don't have to apologize to people for child molesters or homosexual clergy.

The problem with the PCA is our core worldliness. I don't think we're that much more worldly than other denominations, we're just better at it. When it comes to emulating the wisdom of the Western business world, we do it better than most others. We're worldly, but we're competent. Our permanent ministry heads are excellent administrators. Other denominations make the mistake of hiring scholars to run their seminaries and missionaries to run their missions boards. We know that you don't have to be an expert in theology to run a seminary. You don't have to be a battle-scarred missionary or a cutting-edge missiologist to run a missions organization. You need to be an effective administrator and fund-raiser. And that's what we have....it makes me embarrassed.

Since the temptation for all of us in the American church is to accept the idols of our own culture, the PCA's method of managing ministry with the tools of the business world resonates with most of our churches. We like the fact that the head of our seminary is good-looking, well-dressed, well-spoken and polished. We'd rather have him than someone who is a gifted theologian but dresses oddly and is a little crusty in his demeanor.

When you start to look underneath the veneer of what we're doing, one of the consequences of this type of ministry is that sophisticated scholars, cutting-edge missiologists and battle-scarred missionaries tend to get forced out when they challenge the decisions of the bureaucrats. I spent a couple of hours with a someone who has been forced out after challenging some things our denomination is doing. Administrators often don't respond well to dissent or boat-rocking. The concern that I have is that the competency, management and institutional survival often seems to have become the de facto goal, rather than the Kingdom building which is always the stated goal.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Riding Mantas?

For all were at VBS last night and heard my illustration related to Romans 6:4, here's a couple of manta ray videos. The first is a guy riding a small one while wearing full SCUBA gear. The second is some manta jumping. For a really wild ride, a person has to grab a big one (they get at least 25 feet wide) and not be wearing the cumbersome SCUBA equipment.





Enjoy!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Falker Satherhood!


There once was a Fox Television office where two men both had wives expecting babies. Their co-workers ordered a cake to read: Happy Fatherhood Shaun and Glenn. This is what they got. From Cake Wrecks. Happy Fathers' Day.

Friday, April 23, 2010

One of the Most Powerful Sermons You Will Ever Hear

Do not watch this sermon unless you have an hour to watch the whole message. Do not watch this sermon unless you can give it your whole attention. Watch this with your family. Get ready for life-giving, life-saving truth.

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Free Bible Study Software

Back when the ESV first came out, Good News Publishers included a postcard for free copy of an ESV Bible program. The first version was created by WordSoft, and it was great. It was easy to use and flexible. The later software giveaways were not as useful, and after I changed computers several times I wasn't able to transfer the program.

A couple of months ago I found a wonderful Bible study program for free, and it includes the ESV. I use it almost every day. It is called Berean Bible Software, "BerBible." You can download it here.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Week Four Lenten Challenges

This week's challenges:

1) Go to war with worry. Live in day-tight compartments (Dale Carnegie, Matt 6:34). Confess your worry to a brother or sister and to God (throughout the week). Give a praise for God's provision everyday (different person and different praise).

2) For one week you will not pray for yourself. For one week you will only pray Kingdom-advancing prayers. Avoid “organ recitals.” Adopt a Kingdom concern that you will make your ongoing prayer concern. Make it specific – not just the persecuted church, but Coptic Christians in Egypt or Presbyterians in Iran.

3) Fire Mammon as your boss. Decide to serve Jesus and not money. Make a gift (we despise idol of money by giving it away). Do a stewardship inventory – how can you give more and more strategically? Convert something valuable to a kingdom purpose. If your treasure is on earth, your heart will be on earth.

4) Today, bow the knee to Jesus as your master and provider. Decide that while you live in this world, Jesus is the only one you will follow as Lord. Recognize Jesus as having a unique authority over your life that no one else shares. Quit trying to provide salvation for yourself through religion, works, people, false religions. Accept Jesus' unique provision for your salvation.

Week Three Lenten Challenges

The third sermon in our Lenten series on the Sermon on the Mount, "Walking with Jesus" is titled "Do You Have a Secret?"

Here are the challenges from week three:

1. If you do not ever pray in secret, this week, commit to pray in secret every day this week using the Lord's prayer as a guide.

2. This week, fast without letting anyone know. If you have participated in our corporate fasting at Highlands, then do a fast which goes longer than 24 hours.

3. This week help at least one person without telling anyone, preferably even the person you are helping (or, if the person is a non-Christian, tell them but no one else).

Week Two Lenten Challenges

Here are the challenges from the second sermon in our Lenten series, "You Are the Light of Jesus."

a) Reconcile with someone who has a complaint against you. Start on Monday. Be heroic. Decide that you will rather be made a fool or taken advantage of in some way rather than give up a chance to be reconciled.
b) You are going to crack open the secret box of your lust problem. Confess to someone who can hold you accountable and you are going to step up the intervention until it works. If there's anything you won't do to be rid of the problem you may not get rid of it. It is better to endure the greatest suffering than to endure the least sin (Jeremiah Burroughs).
c) Do something about your marriage. Talk with one of your elders. Make an appointment with your pastor or a Christian marriage counselor. Study a book together. (Intimate Allies, Sacred Marriage, Love and Respect) Order the book, schedule the conference, make the appointment THIS WEEK. Then tell someone.
c) Inventory your promises and pick on back up (swear to your hurt, Psalm 15:4). Ask forgiveness for not keeping the promise YET.
d) Spend one week without retaliating, defending, or justifying yourself. Take every possible act of generosity.
e) For one week, you are going to pray for an enemy. Decide something kind to do for them and then do it.

Lenten Challenges from the Sermon on the Mount

This Lent (the church season leading up to Easter) we are spending time in the Sermon on the Mount in a series I'm calling, "Walking with Jesus." The Sermon on the Mount is intensely practical, giving very direct counsel on the Gospel life. This Lent, we're looking at what it means to actually "walk with Jesus," as opposed to just "thinking or feeling about Jesus." Every week I'm giving a set of challenges. Most of the challenges are structured so that you should choose from among several, according to your situation and what the Spirit lays upon your heart.

Here are the first week's challenges, based on the Beatitudes, Matthew 5:1-12:

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

GA seems to be a little more weighty this year

Another good friend, Dr. Marshall St. John, sent me this image of our meeting place (?) for this year's PCA General Assembly. It seems that we might be fighting more than liberalism and fear of women.

Thoughts on the Sabbath

My good friend David Robertson (who is also our lead translator at Highlands) sent me these thoughts on my sermon on Luke 6.1-5). They are so insightful, I thought I'd share them with everyone.

"Jesus has just, in the previous chapter, shocked the crowd and appalled the Pharisees by telling them he has the authority to forgive sins. He makes lots of other statements about himself in the gospels that would actually be blasphemous if they weren't true (cf. G. K. Chesterton & C. S. Lewis' "Liar, Lunatic, or Lord" trichotomy). Statements like, "Before Abraham was, I am." (John 8). I had thought of at least one other example, but it slips my weary mind.

The Sabbath, as you mentioned in your sermon, is a creation ordinance. It is also in the Ten Commandments. For Jesus to call himself Lord of the Sabbath is thus a claim of authority both as creator and as law giver. He is showing that he, under the authority of his Father, has the final authority to interpret and apply God's law. Jesus, in his preincarnate state, was actively involved in creation (Col.1). It stands to reason that Jesus himself rested on the 7th day after his intimate and unique involvement in the creation of the cosmos in which I write this email to you. When we rest on the Sabbath day, we are merely imitating God in flawed obedience. For Jesus in the flesh, keeping the Sabbath was not only perfectly obedient submission to God's law, but in a sense a manifestation of his divine nature that is inherently his that we can only feebly imitate. Telling Jesus how to keep the Sabbath was thus utterly ludicrous! It would be like telling your wife to look more like herself when what you mean is to look more like what you remember her portrait looking like the last time you looked at it. Not only would it be like telling Mozart how to write a symphony, it would be like telling Mozart how to write a symphony in the distinctive style of Mozart.

As for the Ten Commandments, when Jesus says he is Lord of the Sabbath, it is like saying he is Lord of Marital Faithfulness or Lord of Honesty or Lord of Loving Your Neighbor. And he is all of those things and more. This is why I think the main point of Luke 6:1-5 is to reveal something about who Jesus is and what kind of authority he has. I think the passage also points to his incarnation and his perfect obedience to the law for our salvation. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus radically reinterpreted for us the meaning of the commandments, "Thou shalt not commit adultery," and "Thou shalt not kill," not to mention "Love your neighbor as yourself." I think here is is doing the same with the Sabbath. Not a jot or tittle has fallen away from it, but it is being radically reframed for us. The gospels, also, as in the verses immediately following, show us how Jesus beautifully and perfectly modeled for us what it means to keep the Sabbath, just as his whole life perfectly modeled the whole of the moral law for us. Thus he perfectly wedded word and deed in his life.

Thank you for the sermon! It was helpful and challenging to me. I particularly appreciate the reference from Matt. 24 because I had never stopped and thought about it, and it seems to me to be the most explicit scriptural proof that the Sabbath still applies to us today.

Another thought I'm having: since the Sabbath, as you have mentioned, was unique to the Jews (unlike any other of the Ten Commandments except maybe the 2nd), and was a point of sacred honor for them, maybe Jesus' observance of the Sabbath, teaching on the Sabbath, and teaching about himself with reference to the Sabbath say something about the new covenant and the extension of the blessing of the Sabbath to the nations."

Well said!