Sunday, December 23, 2007

Does God Care For Us?

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. -John 1:14

Paul Harvey tells about the farmer who heard irregular thumping sounds against his kitchen storm door. He went over and watched as tiny sparrows beat in vain against the glass in an attempt to get to the warmth inside. The farmer bundled up and plodded through the fresh snow to get to the barn door and open it for the freezing birds. He switched on the light and threw some hay into a corner for them. But the sparrows hid in the darkness.

The man tried various schemes to get the birds into the barn, but nothing worked. They could not comprehend that he was trying to help them. Finally, the farmer returned to his house and watched the doomed sparrows with deep sorrow. He thought to himself, "If only I could become a bird--one of them--just for a moment. Then I wouldn't frighten them so. I could show them the way to warmth and safety." At that moment he also grasped the reason Jesus was born.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Cultivating a Heart

I remember sitting in an evangelistic conference in Dallas and hearing the teacher say, “a desk is a poor place to view the world.” For me, it was the desk. For someone else, it may be a home. We often become comfortable in our settings and environment that we forget that God has called each of us to go and make disciples. The only way we will accomplish this task is to leave the comforts of our home and enter into the lives of so many who need to hear about Christ. How are we to relate to others unless we enter into their world: experience what they are facing and wrestle with their questions and concerns. Unless we begin to cultivate a heart for them, how will we ever have a message for them?

How do we cultivate a heart for the lost? One way to cultivate a heart for unbelievers is to understand their need. As Christians, we have experienced a new meaning of life, forgiveness, and a secured hope. As we grow deeper in our faith, we can easily forget that unbelievers have not experienced these unchanging truths that we possess. Take time to listen to their heart when they express how they feel. They are without God and attempting to make life work apart from God.

Just two weeks ago, I had an opportunity to speak with a gentleman who has experienced a tragic event in his life. His response to this tragedy was to be cautious of everyone he meets. He said, “Don, I don’t trust anyone because they will hurt you time and time again.” As I sat there listening to his story, I was reminded of the seriousness and misfortune of sin. We all have been wounded and scarred by the result of sin in this world. However, I had an opportunity to share with him that we have a Savior who came to put the power of sin to death. Though the power of sin still affects our lives daily, we can be confident that its power is only temporary. When Christ returns, He will deliver us once and for all from sin’s dominion on this earth.

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.-Ephesians 2:1-10

Another way to cultivate a heat for unbelievers is to pray. If you know an unbeliever, you can pray for that individual specifically. Ask the Lord to sensitize his or her heart in order to receive and accept what is said about Christ and His work on the cross. We are not responsible for saving these individuals; we are responsible for sharing the good news with them. If you desire to reach others in your community and neighborhood, pray that God will place someone in your path. Pray right now that God will work in your life giving you a heart of awareness when you meet that person. Ask God for the wisdom that you will need to address any questions, boldness to proclaim the good news, and for a bridge to build a relationship between you and that person.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Light in a Dark World

The Apostle John uses two familiar metaphors to describe righteousness and sin. These metaphors, darkness and light, used throughout his gospel and his first epistle to demonstrate that those who walk in darkness are associated with the world and its lifestyle compared to those who walk in light in obedience to God. More than just teaching these concepts, John also uses Biblical characters to illustrate his point. For example, Nicodemus, a Pharisee, came to Jesus in the night, but later identified himself with Jesus in the light at Jesus’ death (3:21; 19:38-42). On the other hand, Judas who walked with the true Light betrayed Jesus in the Garden at night (John 12:35-36; 13:30).

There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light. There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:6-13)

In the prologue to John’s gospel, he begins his message with a high Christology directing our attention to the grand entrance of the True Light, Christ. Before Christ arrived on the scene, God sent one ahead to testify to the coming of the True Light. John was the revealer of the One to come. He was not the true Light, but he was the revealer of the Light. John contrasted John to those who rejected the Light. Christ came to His own and His own chose not to receive him. He extends an invitation to any who may receive Him. Which will you become: a revealer or concealer? We have the choice to reveal the power and victory of the Gospel message to many during this Christmas season. When we choose not to share that message, we are indeed concealing it.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Eternal Dividends

John’s definition of the Greek term “zoe” (life) explains that eternal life is found through the words and life of Jesus Christ. Simon Peter recognized that Jesus was the Christ stating, “…to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life” (John 6:68). Jesus explains, “I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things that I speak, I speak just as the Father has told me” (John 12:50). The Word of God speaks and breathes life for it is the true source of life. Just as the physical body needs natural food for life, our spiritual body needs spiritual food for nourishment and sustenance. Not only does the Word of God breathe life into the believer, but Jesus is life. Jesus told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies” (John 11:25). In the Upper Room Discourse, Jesus told his disciples, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except by Me” (John 14:6). John sums up his definition of life in John 17:3 “This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” Have you received eternal life? He offers it to you today!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Whom God Chooses

When God wants to drill a man
And Thrill a man
And skill a man;
When God wants to mold a man
To play the noblest part.

When He yearns with all his heart
To create so great and bold a man
That all the world shall be amazed,
Watch His methods, watch His ways—
How He ruthlessly perfects
Whom He royally elects.

How He hammers him and hurts him,
And with mighty blows, converts him
Into trial shapes of clay,
Which only God understands,
While his tortured heart is crying,
And he lifts beseeching hands.

How he bends but never breaks
When his good He undertakes.
How He uses whom He chooses,
And with every purpose, he fuses him,
By every act, induces him
To try His splendor out.
God knows what He’s about.

Source Unknown

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Hmmm.....Did I sign up for this?

Admittedly, I love the winter. There is something about the chill of cold air to the warmth of a hot cup of Starbucks on a cold day that appeals to me. However, at times, I can be a little na├»ve in my statements. Last week I mentioned to several of the church members that I would love to see a white Christmas. I believe my statement went something like this, “The temperature could even drop about 20 more degrees.” Now the temperature that day was around 30 degrees. I can only imagine how many of those individuals went home and prayed that the Lord would answer their pastor’s prayer. And it did! Yesterday, Marietta received 4 ¾ inches of snow.
I was like a little kid looking at the snow from my living room window. I took Claire, my little 8 month old, outside for a few minutes to enjoy her first snow. I was planning to build a life-size snowman until I began to freeze with the dampness in my clothes. Later that day, Nicole mentioned to me that we needed to shovel snow from the driveway and in front of the door so that the snow would not turn to ice. What??? Shovel snow?? I thought I would enjoy the snow from my window not have to get out in it and shovel our way around the home. For the first time in my life, with my feet wet and my hands cold, I shoveled snow and scattered salt.

God definitely has a way of speaking to me. Little did I know what cold temperatures and inches of snow would do for a person from the deep South?

Monday, December 3, 2007

Hanging of the Greens

On Sunday, we had our “Hanging of the Greens” service at the church. I have never observed a “Hanging of the Greens” service, but I was moved by the singing of Christmas songs and the entire participation of the church. At different intervals of the service, some lit candles, others hung wreaths, but the entire congregation hung ornaments on the tree. As I sat and worshipped the Lord, the ceremony reminded me about the meaning of Advent.

Advent is a time for Bible study. Through the Scriptures we can learn how people long ago prepared for the coming of the Messiah. The Scriptures show the nature of hope that was evident through the response of God’s people, and the faith that stretched forward to reality. While the Old Testament reveals the fulfillment of these promises with the facts of his birth, the New Testament gives promises with the facts of his birth. The Bible teaches us to wait expectantly on the Lord as did the faithful followers of old.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The 21st Century Disciple

In order to understand the meaning of a disciple, we need to understand the concept in a Jewish context. Within every Jewish home, the father’s responsibility to the family was to rear and train his children in the Torah. As the children grew up and attended local Jewish schools, the ideal of every Jewish child was to memorize and master large sections of the Old Testament. Formal schooling for children continued until the child reached the age of 13. After this age, the child was encouraged to become an apprentice to learn some trade or occupation. Or the child could decide to become a student or pupil of a rabbi for further scholarly learning commonly referred to as a disciple.

Every Jewish student understood that the Scriptures were the sole authority over his life. In order to understand the teaching of God in the Scriptures, the rabbi would his students the proper way to live and behave according to God’s word. The disciple understood that his role was to submit to the authority of the rabbi who would teach him the meaning of life’s questions through the Scriptures.

In return, the disciple would willingly and freely submit his entire life to learning and studying at the feet of the rabbi. The discipleship program entailed a lifelong process where the student would wrestle with many of life’s challenging questions, learn how to behave properly, imitate the rabbi’s life, and demonstrate excellence in his Jewish studies.

Once one understands the meaning of discipleship in the first century Jewish world, how quickly we realize that we have misconstrued the meaning of disciple. The process is much more involved than what our modern day tends to think of as a disciple. When Jesus issued the Great Commandment, He told them to make disciples. When this process is carried out , we should be all be in the process of studying the Scriptures, living out Biblical values, and emulating the Great Rabbi.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Up and Running…Finally!

I have been out of pocket these last few weeks. As many of you know, I accepted a position here at North Hills Baptist. The church is located in Marietta, Ohio and the building sits up on a large hill overlooking the Appalachian foothills. Some of the best moments for me are when the sun peeks over the trees early in the morning and settles at dusk. God has a way of revealing Himself through those beautiful sunrises and sunsets.

North Hills Baptist is the only Southern Baptist church in the city of Marietta. It is a quaint little church built in March of 1968 though the church was established in 1964. Three phases of a building program were designed during that time. The first phase is the larger section of the church where the sanctuary is located. Below the sanctuary is the fellowship hall which has been recently renovated. The second building phase is the educational wing attached to the west side of the main building.

Though it has been a smooth transition, it has taken me a while to get my feet under me. We have been unpacking boxes at our apartment and the office trying to get things organized. We have been truly blessed to have many of our church family assist us. Without even asking, people have been volunteering to watch Claire and taking care of so many of our needs. When we arrived at our apartment, we were greeted with a welcome sign and many of the church members to help us unload. The apartment was furnished with all of our necessities until we had a chance to get to the local grocery store.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Baby Dedication

Yesterday’s service will forever mark my life. Why? Not only was Sunday’s service the last church service at Irving Bible Church in Irving, TX, but also Nicole and I dedicated Claire back to the Lord. As we stood on the stage in front of the congregation and Pastor Andy McQuitty spoke about the tremendous responsibility of rearing a child, I felt the enormous challenge and duty as a parent. This commitment was no mere confession before the church but a vow before almighty God that we would faithfully carry out responsibility as parents. Though I tried to listen to the pastor’s charge to the parents when he directed a few questions to us, I was totally distracted by the sounds coming from my daughter’s lips. It was quite humorous if you could picture it. Here we are in this momentous ceremony and the pastor asks the parents the following question: “Parents, by coming forward before God and his people, do you hereby declare your desire to dedicate yourselves and your son or daughter to the Lord? If so, please respond by saying ‘we do.’” No sooner did the pastor finish his charge my daughter decided to stick out her tongue and blow a raspberry. Quite the charm! Though several of the parents laughed (including myself), the fathers were soon kneeling with their children offering a prayer for strength and grace in our journey. May God bless all of us who are parents in to carry out our accountability to our children!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Snakes in the Pulpit

On The Michael Baisden Show (Michael Baisden), Baisden interviewed Reuben Armstrong, a talk show host, about his new book, Snakes in the Pulpit (Snakes in the Pulpit). He commented on several sections of his book particularly one chapter named “Booty Shaking Pastors.” He noted that Creflo Dollar is seen in a video “Welcome to Atlanta” with Jermaine Dupri and Ludacris. See for yourself (YouTube). Query "Welcome to Atlanta" and see Pastor Dollar about 1 minute and 13 seconds into the video. Question: Should pastors be involved in rap (or any other) videos?

Monday, October 15, 2007


“Of course it should be pointed out that, though all salvation is through Jesus, we need not conclude that He cannot save those who have not explicitly accepted Him in this life. And it should (at least in my judgment) be made clear that we are not pronouncing all other religions to be totally false, but rather saying that in Christ whatever is true in all religions is consummated and perfected” (C. S. Lewis, God In The Dock, ed. Walter Hooper, 102)

Do you agree with C. S. Lewis’ statement?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Hymnals of Theology

Ever wonder what criterion is used to determine whether a hymn is theologically sound. Last week, a group of theologians and musicians gathered together at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas to review many hymns and to consider whether they should be included in the 2008 Baptist hymnal(LifeWay Worship). Here is a list of questions that were posed to every hymn to determine its theological and doctrinal validity:

- Does the hymn speak biblically of God?
- Is it God-honoring?
- Does the hymn present a biblical view of man?
- Does the song help us to cover the depth and breadth of our theology?
- Does the hymn call us to true discipleship, service, repentance, witness, missions and devotion?
- Does the hymn speak biblically of salvation?
- Does it engage the whole person - allowing a person to express his deepest feelings?
- Does the hymn emphasize that Christ is the Christian's Lord, Master and King? (the idea of total submission)
- Does the hymn present an Americanized/Westernized gospel? (civil religion)-

- Is there a balance with corporate and individual response in worship? (immanence and transcendence)
- Does the hymn speak biblically about the church, the body of Christ?

Monday, October 8, 2007


The Gamecocks’ win over Kentucky last Thursday has placed South Carolina in the top-10 and they are leading the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division. The last time the Gamecocks edged their way into the top-10 happened in 2001. Go Cocks!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Does the Bible Teach Cannibalism?

John 6:50-53 “This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh. Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, "How can this man give us His flesh to eat?"

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Does the Bible Advocate Violence?

Psalm 137:8-9 “O daughter of Babylon, you devastated one, How blessed will be the one who repays you with the recompense with which you have repaid us. How blessed will be the one who seizes and dashes your little ones against the rock.”

Hosea 13:16 “Samaria will be held guilty, for she has rebelled against her God. They will fall by the sword, their little ones will be dashed in pieces, and their pregnant women will be ripped open.”

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Ingredients of a Nurturing Home

Because I am such a strong advocate of the family, I always look for opportunities to spawn parents to examine the health of their family life. Even in my own life, I am constantly probing those areas where I fail to meet God’s standard for me as a husband and as a dad. We all have room to improve in all areas of our lives, so we should not only examine these areas but also encourage others to do the same. I was reminded of this when I read James Dobson’s editorial comments in Time magazine (December 2006 issue). Dobson’s comments were a response to Time’s inquiry about lesbian partners who were raising children in the home. Particularly related to Vice President Dick Cheney’s daughter, Mary, decision to raise a child with her lesbian partner, Dobson argues that children’s development will not flourish properly within a home of same sex couples (Two Mommies is One Too Many). In the editorial, Dobson wrote, “But love alone is not enough to guarantee healthy growth and development. The two most loving women in the world cannot provide a daddy for a little boy—any more than two most loving men can complete role models for a little girl.” As I read his comments, I have to ask, “What are the necessary ingredients for a nurturing home?”

Any thoughts.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Licking the Earth

"...The pleasure-centered person, too soon bored with each succeeding level of 'fun', constantly cries for more and more. So the next new pleasure has to be bigger and better, more exciting, with a bigger 'high'. A person on this state becomes almost entirely narcissistic, interpreting all of life in terms of the pleasure it proves to the self here and now. Too many vacations that last too long, too many movies, too much TC, too much video game playing –too much undisciplined leisure time in which a person continually takes the course of least resistance gradually wastes a life. It ensures that a person’s capacities stay dormant, that talents remain undeveloped, that the mind and spirit become lethargic and that the heart is unfulfilled... Malcolm Muggeridge writes 'A Twentieth-Century Testimony': When I look back on my life nowadays, which I sometimes do, what strikes me most forcibly about it is that what seemed at the time most significant and seductive, seems now most futile and absurd. For instance, success in all of its various guises; being known and being praised; ostensible pleasures, like acquiring money or seducing women, or travelling, going to and fro in the world and up and down in it like Satan, explaining and experiencing whatever Vanity Fair has to offer. In retrospect, all these exercises in self-gratification seem pure fantasy, what Pascal called, 'licking the earth'." (Stephen R. Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, 115)

While reading Covey's quote, I had to wonder in what or whom do I place my trust to fulfill my deepest desires?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Are You A Pharisee?

In his book, Out of Your Comfort Zone: Is Your God Too Nice?, R. T. Kendall lists 25 signs that may indicate that you are a Pharisee (142-156):

1. We love to point the finger.
2. We love to say “Gotcha.”
3. We are good at sending people on a guilt trip.
4. We require standards of people not written in Scripture.
5. We practice guilt by association.
6. We assume something or someone is of the devil when their
ministry makes us uncomfortable.
7. We say a person is not a Christian if they disagree with us.
8. We esteem “the way we’ve always done it” above change, even
when the latter is not heretical.
9. We do not practice what we preach.
10. We are more comfortable talking about the mighty movements of
God yesterday than today.
11. We take ourselves too seriously.
12. We judge by outward appearance.
13. We care more about people’s opinions than God’s.
14. We need to be sure people know about it if we give, pray, or
15. We are motivated by money.
16. We feel righteous by comparing ourselves to others.
17. We have no sense of sin by our thoughts, only our deeds.
18. We major on the minors.
19. We are experts in finding loopholes in the Law to excuse
certain areas of disobedience.
20. We are more concerned to uphold our theology than to help
21. We love to score theological points with our enemies.
22. We claim God’s approval of us rather than our rivals because we
know our theology, not theirs, is sound.
23. We easily dismiss a person we don’t want to like because we are
able to find something truly wrong with them.
24. We say, “We are more in tune with God than you are.”
25. We call another person a Pharisee.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

In View of a Call

Wow! What a weekend! For those of you who prayed for us, both my wife and I thank you all. We were greeted Friday afternoon at Columbus Airport Friday afternoon around 3 pm by two wonderful people from North Hills Baptist. One of them is a charter member of the church which made an interesting discussion on the way to Marietta. She told of the time when the church first began in a small storefront building. Upon arriving in Marietta, they brought us by the church for an official tour of the place. As we walked around the building and inside the facility, the committee member painted the vision that he has had for the church. There are three different building phases for the church. The first phase involved the sanctuary itself. The second phase includes the fellowship/education wing. And there is a third phase which is yet future and involves a larger expansion of the sanctuary and building.

On Saturday we were given a tour of Marietta from Lookout Point. Standing on the side of that mountain, how can anyone not fall in love with this city? Located in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, Marietta sits on two rivers. The Ohio River runs along the south of the city and Muskingum divides the city. They both meet together providing ample water supply to the trees with outline the foothills. Overlooking Marietta, I though about the Scripture verse in Jeremiah 17:9:

Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD And whose trust is the Lord. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream And will not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit.

On Saturday morning a member of the church sacrificially gave up his time to show us around Marietta. We needed every minute to look at house and apartment rentals. They were a few that we have selected as possible homes for us for the next year. At 12:30 we made our way back the church for a meeting with the search committee and their spouses. We discussed the final details of the pastor position and scheduled a time of question and answer over a delicious potluck meal. Later that evening we officially met the entire church over light refreshments.

On Sunday after the morning service and dinner, the church unanimously voted to have us take the position at North Hills. Of course we were delighted to accept the position. Though I will admit that making a move like this is frightful, the Lord has given Nicole and me a peace about His leading. Though we still have a lot to get accomplished (finding a place to live, packing and moving, saying goodbyes, etc.) we are so excited about our journey into the ministry. Please continue to pray that the Lord will continue to give us direction in these areas. By the way, I have never taken a full time position like this before, so I am very unsure where to begin and how to implement programs within the church. Actually I am glad to be in this position because it will keep me on my knees and totally dependent upon the power of God in my life.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Ohio Bound

Tomorrow morning will be flying to Columbus, OH to meet some wonderful people from a church from Marietta, OH. Back in June 2007, we sent a resume to North Hills Baptist and received a confirmation that we were among several others for the pastor position at the church. After a couple of months of dialogue, they informed us a month ago that they had decided to pursue us as the sole candidate. We are leaving Friday September 21 and spending the entire weekend in Marietta. Both Nicole and I are so excited about this weekend. I cannot tell you how exciting, yet stressful this weekend will be. We will be flying with a 5 month old, looking at several homes and apartments for rent, meeting with the church and committee, and preaching Sunday morning. Please keep us in your prayers. We ask that you pray for us this weekend. Ask that the Lord confirm His leading, for travel mercies, beneficial time with the church and committee, the message for Sunday morning and ultimately that the Lord will be glorified.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Swindoll on Dreams

“Dreams are specific, not general. Dreams are personal, not public. God doesn’t give anyone else my dreams on a public computer screen for others to read. He gives to me personally. They’re intimate images and ideas. Dreams can easily appear to others as extreme and illogical. If you share your dreams with the crowd, they’ll probably laugh at you because you can’t make logical sense out of them. Dreams are often accompanied by a strong desire to fulfill them. And they are always outside the realm of the unexpected. Sometimes they’re downright shocking. They cause people to suck in their breath, to stand staring at you with their mouth open. A common response when you share a dream is “you’ve gotta be kidding! Are you serious?”

Charles R. Swindoll, Living Above the Level of Mediocrity, 98-99

Monday, September 17, 2007

Where are our next generation leaders?

As I read Dr. James Dobson’s latest article in WorldNet Daily, see Who will answer the call?, I, too, have to wonder the current state of our next generation. Where are the men and women of biblical integrity and unwavering boldness who will step in the gap to teach the truths from God’s Word?

Who in the next generation will be willing to take the heat, when it is so much safer and more comfortable to avoid controversial subjects? Who is going to defend traditional morality in a culture that is sliding into moral decline? Who will call sin by its name, and lead a nation to repentance and holiness? Some ministers, but thankfully not the majority of them, are inclined to edit out the unpleasant themes of the Bible to avoid irritating their constituents. They sometimes boast about not being "political," when what they really mean is that they aren't willing to be vilified and disparaged for speaking the truth in love. What will be the impact on the conservative Christian church when today's patriarchs have passed from the scene?

Friday, September 14, 2007

Jesus and the Pharisees

Jesus and the Pharisees differed on the approaches of purity and holiness. Throughout Leviticus, statutes were ordered for the Israelites to follow in order to approach God. God is holy, and certain requirements must be met before approaching Him. This is clearly seen in the design of the temple. No unclean person or animal was allowed inside the confines of the temple, and when one was declared unclean, there were certain procedures that were followed before coming into the temple proper.

The altar was the center of life, the conduit of life from heaven to earth and from earth to heaven. All things are to be arrayed in relationship to the altar…The lines of structure emanated from the altar. And it was these lines of structure which constituted high and impenetrable frontiers to separate Israel from the gentiles Israel, which was holy, ate holy food, reproduced itself in accord with the laws of holiness, and conducted all of its affairs, both affairs of state and business of the table and the bed, in accord with the demands of holiness. So the cult defined holiness. Holiness meant separation. Separateness meant life. Why? Because outside the Land, the realm of the holy, lay the domain of death. The lands are unclean. The Land is holy. For the Scriptural vocabulary, one antonym for holy is unclean, and one opposite of unclean is holy. The synonym for holy is life. The principal force and symbol of uncleanness and its highest expression are death. So the Torah stood for life, the covenant with the Lord would guarantee life, and the way of life required sanctification in the here and now of the natural world. It was that setting that the purity system functioned.[1]

The best paradigm that exemplifies the concept of clean and unclean of persons is illustrated within the animal kingdom as to its proper place within the sacrificial system in the temple.
[2] Only the clean animals were allowed presence into the temple; therefore, only pure persons were given access to the temple. The understanding of this thinking is tantamount to understanding the philosophy of the Pharisees. To the Pharisees, the center of holiness was the temple, and from the temple, there were certain lines that were drawn to prevent access to the impure and the unholy. The belief in Judaism during the time of Jesus revolved around God destroying all were deemed impure, that is, disobedient to the Torah.[3]

On the other hand, Jesus confronted many of the teachings of the Pharisees during His ministry. Much of his disagreements were directed to their traditional and legalistic interpretations. Instead of teaching the laws to others in order to approach God, the Pharisees were closing the access by applying all their laws and rules.[4] Jesus did not forsake the teaching of the Torah for it had its purpose, but He taught that the emphasis should be on the unity of the Law, not on the particulars.

Thus, while Jesus shares his opponents’ view of the symbolic value of the purity rules of the Bible, his activity and teaching point to a new vision of priorities based upon Jesus’ own perception of God and God’s will. The purity rules, while important, are not central but peripheral to some other central concern. The emphasis ought not to be on how Israel should approach God, but on how God in fact approaches Israel. The purpose of interaction with God…is to replicate and reveal how God acts toward his people (openness to all, openhanded and openhearted), not to replicate and support how Israel has acted toward God in the past (selective defensiveness developed in traditioning the past). In his activity, Jesus focused upon those in Israel who for some reason or other could not fit into the assembly of God’s people …. He thus insists upon a similar focus as priority for proper relationship with God….What results is the embedding of the purity rules of the Torah within the Torah as a whole instead of fitting the Torah as whole into the purity rules, as the elites would insist.[5]

The purity laws were designed to illustrate the spiritual requirements when approaching God. These laws were not “necessarily to be taken as universal and eternal prescriptions. They express God’s will for his people at a particular time, but as the NT [New Testament] makes clear they were not intended to apply forever or to Gentiles (Mark7: 14ff; Acts 10:15; 1 Corinthians 10:23ff).”
[6] The symbolic meaning of the laws must be carefully interpreted to avoid overrated allegorization of the text. The totality of the laws in Leviticus was designed to teach the Israelites the importance of holiness and separation of God’s people. The structure of “…the dietary laws would have been like signs which at every turn inspired mediation on the oneness, purity and completeness of God. By rules of avoidance holiness was given a physical expression in every encounter with the animal kingdom and at every meal.”[7] Whereas the Pharisees stressed utmost adherence to the laws of Judaism, “Jesus’ teaching in these critical areas thus shows clearly the way in which he understands the will of God as the will of a loving and forgiving father rather than of a God who will have dealings only with the pure and the righteous and who will exact retribution from the impure and the wicked.”[8]

[1] Jacob Neusner, Purity in Rabbinic Judaism: A Systematic Account: The Sources, Media, Effects, and Removal of Uncleanness (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1994),34.
[2] Bruce J. Malina, The New Testament World: Insights from Cultural Anthropology(Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1981), 135ff explains the categorizing of animals
that were clean and unclean, and parallels them with people. Just as the animals had their places within and without the temple, so persons who were considered
clean or unclean had proper places. Those persons who were considered pure and spotless had access to the temple; whereas, those persons who were impure were not allowed in the temple and considered barred from the presence of God.
[3] John Riches, Jesus and the Transformation of Judaism(London: Darton, Longman, & Todd, 1980) , 68-9.
[4] Malina, 143.
[5] Ibid, 144-5.
[6] Gordon J. Wenham, The Book of Leviticus (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1979), 162.
[7] Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo, reprint (New York: Vail-Ballou Press, 1980),57.
[8] Riches, 135.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Art of Reading

The benefits of gleaning wisdom from other individuals are unsurpassable. All of us who are diligent in studying and persistent in stretching our minds must acknowledge those shoulders upon whom we stand. I enjoy learning from those who are continually learning themselves. Albert Mohler helps us with a few suggestions in staying abreast in our reading.

1. Maintain regular reading projects. I strategize my reading in six main categories: Theology, Biblical Studies, Church Life, History, Cultural Studies, and Literature. I have some project from each of these categories going at all times. I collect and gather books for each project, and read them over a determined period of time. This helps to discipline my reading, and also keeps me working across several disciplines.

2. Work through major sections of Scripture. I am just completing an expository series, preaching verse by verse through the book of Romans. I have preached and taught several books of the Bible in recent years, and I plan my reading to stay ahead. I am turning next to Matthew, so I am gathering and reading ahead -- not yet planning specific messages, but reading to gain as much as possible from worthy works on the first gospel. I am constantly reading works in biblical theology as well as exegetical studies.

3. Read all the titles written by some authors. Choose carefully here, but identify some authors whose books demand your attention. Read all they have written and watch their minds at work and their thought in development. No author can complete his thoughts in one book, no matter how large.

4. Get some big sets and read them through. Yes, invest in the works of Martin Luther, Jonathan Edwards, and others. Set a project for yourself to read through the entire set, and give yourself time. You will be surprised how far you will get in less time than you think.

5. Allow yourself some fun reading, and learn how to enjoy reading by reading enjoyable books. I like books across the fields of literature, but I really love to read historical biographies and historical works in general. In addition, I really enjoy quality fiction and worthy works of literature. As a boy, I probably discovered my love for reading in these categories of books. I allow some time
each day, when possible, to such reading. It doesn't have to be much. Stay in touch with the thrill.

6. Write in your books; mark them up and make them
yours. Books are to be read and used, not collected and coddled. [Make an exception here for those rare antiquarian books that are treasured for their antiquity. Mark not thy pen on the ancient page, and highlight not upon the manuscript.] Invent your own system or borrow from another, but learn to have a conversation with the book, pen in hand.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Worship Wednesdays: Incarnation

Someone once asked the celebrated talk-show host, Larry King, whom he would choose to interview if given a chance. King replied, “Jesus Christ.” And his question: “Are you indeed virgin born?” If any question has baffled man more, it is indeed this question. Out of all the possibilities that God could have spoken to this world, why did He choose to incarnate Himself in human flesh? The Second Person of the Trinity laid aside his divine privileges and garbed Himself with human skin. John describes the scene for us in John 1:1-2, 14,

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God… And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

The problem that plagued the early church surrounded the mystery of Jesus as both God and man. Some overemphasized Jesus’ humanity to the detriment of His deity and others overemphasized His deity to the detriment of His humanity. Finally in A.D. 451, the Council of Chalcedon convened and submitted the Chalcedonian creed which finally settled the dispute among many teachers who were misinterpreting the meaning of the incarnation.

The following is their submittal:

Therefore, following the holy fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body; of one substance with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin; as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet as regards his manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin, the God-bearer; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ; even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him, and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the creed of the fathers has handed down to us. (Chalcedonian Creed A. D. 451)

What is the purpose of the incarnation?

1) The incarnation reveals God.
“He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, Show us the Father?” John 14:9

2) The incarnation provides a way for man to be saved.
“This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time.” 1 Timothy 2:3-6

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Lest We Forget

No one will ever forget those horrific images that have been burned into our memories and our nation’s history. Six years ago today the American people began their mornings glued to television sets in total trepidation. On the sixth year anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks on our soil, let us never forget what happened to us on that day. From that day our country has been entangled in so many personal and national conflicts that we have been sidetracked. We have become a divided nation where parties have been pitted against one another. The damage that has occurred over these last six years from our words has created a huge schism in our nation. Instead of a nation rallying around a cause, we have become sidetracked with personal vendettas and agendas.

I wonder how much of this same mentality has seeped into the church. Within the first few years of the church’s existence, divisions have been one of the major causes why we fail to carry out the church’s mission. What the Apostle Paul had to say to the Corinthians is very relevant to the church today. Especially in a time as ours, how has the church shown itself any different than the world?

“Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.” 1 Corinthians 1:10

Why is there division within the church?

1. Maybe we set our eyes on men rather than God. Paul surmised the Corinthian thought, “Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, ‘I am of Paul,’ and ‘I of Apollos,’ and ‘I of Cephas,’ and ‘I of Christ.’ Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Corinthians 1:12-13)

2. Maybe we have become too comfortable as Christians. “I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:3-5)

Can you think of any other reasons why we have so much division in the church?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Anthropology According to Sidney Poitier

Recently I finished an autobiography about Sidney Poitier. The first black actor to win an Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in Lilies of the Field and has earned numerous other awards for his service in the movie industry wrote an interesting biography about his life. Written as a “spiritual” memoir of his life, the book, The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography (The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography), is a collage of personal reflections. As he recount events in his life, he examines the worth of certain values and virtues that are important to us all. Poitier offers his insights from his own spiritual encounters, but not from a Christian standpoint. What I found interesting is his comment on the evil that resides in man.

Age-old speculation as to whether the dark side is full-blown in some people and almost nonexistent in others or is distributed more widely-some in everyone- rages still from generation to generation. I personally think that there’s some darkness in everyone, though the ‘some’ varies as widely as do personality profiles in the family of man, Darkness can explode in nuclear proportions with disastrous consequences or make itself felt in small, subtle, irritating ways, depending on the day, the time the hour, the situation, and who’s in the room. The extent of the dark side isn’t easy to fathom. People who kill aren’t evil twenty-four hours a day, and the dark side doesn’t advertise. The dark side in each of usoperates from behind masks of varying complexity, coming to the fore when we elect to use its services. We all have a reservoir of rage, dissatisfaction, self-loathing, unhappiness, intolerable, feelings of inadequacy. But we don’t necessarily express these things. They’re veiled, hidden from ourselves as much as from others. But whether hidden or not, they make us all capable of terrible things. And the evil that we’re capable of enacting doesn’t flourish only in moments of rage or revenge, or in response to some unspeakable offense. Sometimes horrible acts are entertained and allowed under very considered and thought-through circumstances…Sometimes the violence in the dark side is turned inward. Some people take pills; some people jump out of the window, But whether violence is turned inward or outward, people can’t isolate components of their rage—it’s an accumulation. We think we’re raging against the darkness, but in fact we’re struggling for balance rather than chaos. ‘What got into him?’ people ask of a well-mannered neighbor who turned ballistic. ‘He isn’t that kind of guy.’ But of course he is! We’re all that kind of guy! Do I have the wherewithal to be a violent person? Of course I do…But where would I go for that intensity? Into what well of murderous impulses would I dip? That reservoir has to be there already, waiting.”

Friday, September 7, 2007

What God can do with an Ordinary Person?

"The world has yet to see what God can do in and through and with and for a man wholly committed to him." Henry Varley

When D.L. Moody heard this message from this evangelist, Moody repsonded, "By God's grace I will be that man!"

Quesiton: Will you be that person?

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Short Prayers

Some of my most cherished memories here at Dallas Seminary have been the opportunities to glean from the wisdom and counsel of my professors. One of my favorites was Dr. Ramesh Richard who has a heart and passion for his students (Ramesh Richard; RReach). Not only is Dr. Richard a prayer warrior but also a spiritual counselor who offers intellectual insights to many of our world’s questions. During my final semester I had a class with Dr. Richard who gave us some insights on prayer. It was one of my last classes and his words definitely left an imprint in my prayer life.

1) Lord,
Look through me.
Lead through me.
Love through me.
Live through me.

2) “Feel free to show off at my expense.”

3) “Make me useful, fruitful, and profitable for Your glory.”

4) “Don’t give me so much that I run independently; don’t give me so little that I get discouraged.”

5) “Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God.” (William Carey)

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Worship Wednesdays: Mystery

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!
Romans 11:33

How you ever taken time to look around you and consider the great mysteries that surround us. For example, every time I walked into my apartment I come face to face with a mystery. Her name is Claire. That’s right; she is my beautiful, lively, 5 month old daughter. Her smiles and facial expressions are enough to melt the heart of this grown man. When I hold her in my arms, it amazes me how two people can bring life into this world.

The biblical concept of mystery is not what we would tend to think of as a mystery. When we think of a mystery, our definition involves mystical imagination or some complicated puzzle. Unlike our understanding of a mystery, the biblical definition of mystery relates to the hidden council of God which has now been revealed. Have you considered the mysteries of our God recently?

1)The mystery of our resurrection: “Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” 1 Corinthians 15:51-52

2) The mystery of God’s revelation in Jesus Christ: "that their hearts may be encouraged, having been knit together in love, and attaining to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God's mystery, that is, Christ Himself.” Colossians 2:4

3) The mystery of the church: "By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel, of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of God's grace which was given to me according to the working of His power. To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 3:4-10

4) The mystery of the marriage between Christ and His bride: “This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.” Ephesians 5:32

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Liar, Lunatic, or Lord?

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: "I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God." That is the one thing we must not say. A man who said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic--on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg--or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 55

Monday, September 3, 2007

Is Faith Irrational?

In his defense on Christianity, Pascal introduced a theory commonly known as “the Wager.” His proposal concluded that the safer gamble is to believe in God rather than choose not to believe in God. Simply put, he argues that if one believed in God and that person comes to discover that God does not exist then that person has nothing to lose. However, if that person chose not to believe in God only to discover that He does exist, then that person will face judgment. Has Pascal’s theory only attributed to a simplistic “leap of faith” that many offer to unbelievers? Is there a more reliable approach to defending the existence of God and the validity of the gospel? What about Thomas Aquinas’ five proofs for the existence of God?

► “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” Romans 10:17

► “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!” 2 Corinthians 13:5

► “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6

In his book, Studies in Doctrine, Alister McGrath explains the nature of faith (279-282):

i. Faith as Assent.

In order to demonstrate faith in one’s life, there must be an acknowledgment that certain data is true and reliable. If there are any false pretenses within the information, then the demonstration of faith is illogical or completely absurd. For example, as students, we believed the records of our nation’s legacy through the school’s history books. We demonstrated faith by agreeing with the author that his words were accurate and true. For the Christian, we recognize the ultimate authority behind the Scriptures, that is, the Grand Author has recorded every word without error and falsity. When we come to the Word of God, the first step in faith is to acknowledge and consent that the very words recorded are true.

ii. Faith as Trust.

The assent of truth is the first aspect in faith, but without trust, faith is unable to blossom. The Bible warns us against taking only the first step of faith: assent. Even the demons acknowledge the truth about God. James 2:19 states, “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.” What is the difference between the Christians’ faith in God and the faith of the demons? The Christians’ faith is based upon the person of Christ.

“Christians don’t just believe—we believe in someone. Faith is like an anchor,
linking us with the object of faith. Just as an anchor secures a ship to the
ocean floor, so our faith links us securely with God. Faith is not just
believing that God exists; it is about anchoring ourselves to that God, and
resting secure in doing so. Whatever storms life many bring, the anchor of faith
will hold us firm to God.” (Alistair McGrath, Studies in Doctrine, 280).

iii. Faith as Commitment.

McGrath introduces a third element to the concept of faith. He explains, “Faith, then, leads to obedience. It is a willingness to trust and obey God the God who has called us to faith in him. We are called to be doers, rather than just hearers of the Word of God” (Alistair McGrath, Studies in Doctrine, 281). I believe that this aspect of faith must be carefully defined in order that others will not be misled. In no way does one’s works or acts attribute or earn one’s salvation. Both faith and obedience are two sides of the same coin. When a person exhibits faith, that faith thrives within acts of obedience.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

God's Wrath

When the gospel is presented, usually the message is loaded with the mercy and love of God. And it should be! It is true that the mercy and compassion of God was demonstrated through the work of Jesus Christ. At the heart of the gospel is God’s work of reconciliation bringing salvation to all men through the death of His Son. Laid upon Jesus’ shoulders, all of the sin of the world was applied, and because of the cross, God has provided man an avenue to receive eternal life and a harmonious relationship with the Creator. Because the wrath of God was poured on Christ, His love is given to all who believe in His Son.

A message filled with love, compassion, mercy, and forgiveness is often preached, but how often do we warn others about the wrath of God? Should we sternly remind people that an unrepentant heart will only lead to experiencing the wrath of God? Because we live in a tolerant society, it has become very difficult to present God in such a way. To state that we will incur the wrath of God because we do not repent of our sins and place our faith in Jesus Christ is often considered “old-fashioned” by many. Instead of doggedly teaching the truths of the Scripture, we often cower to the current impulses of society.

  • Romans 1:18- “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness…”

  • 1 Corinthians 16:22- “If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed. Maranatha.”

  • Hebrews 10:31- “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”


Does an understanding of God’s wrath deepen one’s appreciation of the gospel?

Friday, August 31, 2007

Living Lives in Quiet Desperation

“Satan is a master of counterfeit. He provides almost limitless opportunities for illegitimate but very convincing satisfaction. He capitalizes on our desperate desire for a quick fix to blind us to the long-term emptiness of following him.”
- Larry Crabb, Understanding People, 115

Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Call

In his book, Lectures to My Students, Spurgeon listed four signs to determine whether one is called to the ministry:

1. An intense, all-absorbing desire for the work.
2. Aptness to teach and some measure of the other qualities needful for a public instructor.
3. He must see a measure of conversion-work going on under his efforts.
4. His preaching should be acceptable to the people of God.

Of course, there is no higher calling than to serve God with our gifts and abilities. Question: does the Bible teach such a thing as having a "calling"?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Worship Wednesdays: Compassion

“Jesus wept.” John 11:35

Because I am a history enthusiast, I continually seek out places where I can learn about the events that have shaped and molded our legacy. Over the weekend, my wife and I visited the Oklahoma City National Memorial site. I cannot fully articulate the feelings that overwhelmed us as we walked around the site which evoked the memories of that tragic day on April 19, 1995.

What captured my attention was a monument erected across the street from the memorial. Built next to St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, the monument is a continual reminder of the tragedy on our nation’s soil. It is a statue of Jesus with his face buried into His hand. In front of the statue is a wall with 168 bricks missing from the wall each representative of the 168 lives lost on that day. Our nation wept with those families who lost their loved ones.

As I stood before the sculpture of Jesus, my mind went to the text in John where Jesus wept for His people. In John 11, we are introduced the seventh and final sign of Jesus’ miraculous ministry on earth. Word came to Jesus that his friend Lazarus had passed away, and messengers were sent to inform Jesus of Lazarus’ death. Instead of Jesus going right away to Bethany, he waited four days. Four days!

“…if you had been here…” Though appearing as a condemnation, Martha expressed her grief and anguish by questioning Jesus’ tardiness, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:21). Though Jesus could have rightly rebuked her lack of faith, He reassured her that death was no match for He was “the resurrection and life” (John 11:25). Then Mary approached Jesus with the same question as Martha, “…if you had been here…” (11:32).

We must not judge Jesus’ delay as a lack of compassion. Though we often expect answers and solutions immediately, Jesus does not work on our timetable. Often we will view His delays as signs of aloofness and lack of concern, but we must never forget that we serve a merciful and compassionate God. Though we might not face a tragedy as heartrending as the Oklahoma City Bombing, our adversities are just as real and painful. When we sit in front of the doctor who relates to us the bad news or come home only to discover the emptiness of a home, we experience the pain like a kick in the stomach. However, never let us forget, the God we serve is a compassionate God who has not nor will He ever forsake us.

“Just as a father has compassion on {his} children,
So the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.” Psalm

“When Jesus went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and He felt
compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He
began to teach them many things.” Matthew 6:34

“We count those blessed
who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of
the Lord's dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is
James 5:11

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Following after God

"I live with the dread of tame, domesticated Christianity. I fear for my students that they will chase after what they want- and therefore miss what God wants." -Prof. Howard G. Hendricks

Raymond Crowe's Hand Puppetry

Click here to see Raymond perform Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World."

Friday, August 24, 2007

Robert Leroy Johnson: The Crossroads

A good friend of mine is a huge history buff, and he will often take vacations that are historically oriented. He has been to various Civil War sites throughout the South and has traveled to several states to explore historical battle scenes (for example, Custer's “last stand” at Little Bighorn).

He and I have ventured on several historical tours of Dallas. Though I was unable to attend the Bonnie and Clyde tour with John Neal Phillips, we signed up with several tours seeing the sights of downtown Dallas, Deep Ellum, Oak Cliff, and the famous (or infamous) JFK/ Lee Harvey Oswald excursions. That will have to be for another day.

Besides history, I love a good autobiography especially one shrouded with mystery. There is something about reading people’s lives that intrigues and fascinates me. Whether someone is famous and well-known (most will be if you are reading a book about them) or any everyday person that I meet on the street, I love listening to their stories which often become windows into their souls. You can learn so much about a person if you take time to listen to them.

So is the life of Robert Leroy Johnson. His life and music remain a mystery even to this day. Because we do not have much information about Johnson, what we do have are people who have some knowledge about this mysterious person. Though Johnson pops up on the life radar at the Leatherman Plantation in Robinsonville, MS, birth certificates have surfaced showing him being born in Hazleurst, MS, on May 8, 1911. Johnson was the 11th child of Julia Major Dodds. Because Johnson was the offspring of an extramarital relationship, this created tension within the home when Julia was forced out of the home to work in various plantations.

Johnson’s death is even more puzzling. Some have said that Johnson died from pneumonia probably caused by complications with syphilis. Others like “Honeyboy” Edwards disagreed noting that Johnson was poisoned to death by a man who was seeking revenge on Johnson who was having an affair with his wife. “Honeyboy” Edwards avowed that he took Johnson to a home in Baptist Town, a suburb of Greenwood, MS, where it was claimed that Johnson was crawling around on all fours, hissing and barking like a dog. Several days later he died at that home.

One of the most interesting facts about Johnson is the tale of how he met the devil at the crossroads who bestowed upon him the gift of playing the guitar in return of his soul. My friend recently took a trip through Mississippi to visit several of the historic places around Johnson’s life. Clarksdale 61/49 intersection has been proclaimed as the historical marker for the crossroads largely because Clarksdale is the home of several great blues artists like Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker.

Some have suggested that the actual crossroads is located south of Clarksdale between Cleveland and Ruleville. It is told that Johnson visited the well-known guitarist, Charley Parker, at the Dockery Plantation located on Highway 8. When my friend visited the area, he went to the Dockery Plantation and discovered the Dockery Road. It is said that the crossroads is located at old Highway 8 (which runs parallel to the new Highway 8) and Dockery Road.

(Dockery Plantation in the background)

Does not look like the crossroads I would have imagined. Maybe the film “O Brother Where Are Thou?” has skewed my image. There is no longer an intersection. It appears that a field has taken over old Highway 8 and now the crossroads has become a T shape.

Much of this info is taken from John Hammond’s “The Search for Robert Johnson” (The Search for Robert Johnson) and Soul Patrol (Robert Johnson).

Cross Road Blues

Written and recorded by Robert Johnson (1936)

I went to the crossroad, fell down on my knees I went to the crossroad, fell down on my knees Asked the Lord above "Have mercy, now save poor Bob, if you please"Yeoo, standin' at the crossroad, tried to flag a ride Ooo eeee, I tried to flag a ride Didn't nobody seem to know me, babe, everybody pass me by Standin' at the crossroad, baby, risin' sun goin' down Standin' at the crossroad, baby, eee, eee, risin' sun goin' down I believe to my soul, now, poor Bob is sinkin' down You can run, you can run, tell my friend Willie Brown You can run, you can run, tell my friend Willie Brown That I got the crossroad blues this mornin', Lord, babe, I'm sinkin' down And I went to the crossroad, mama, I looked east and west I went to the crossroad, baby, I looked east and west Lord, I didn't have no sweet woman, ooh well, babe, in my distress

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Worship Wednesdays: When Forgiving is Easy

“It may be infinitely worse to refuse to forgive than to murder, because the latter may be an impulse of a moment of heat; whereas the former is a cold and deliberate choice of the heart.”
-George Macdonald

The expression “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me” is a well-known adage to remind people not to allow others to abuse and misuse your relationship with them. When have you entrusted yourself to someone only to have them turn their back on you and deliberately hurt you? If you are like me, your first response is “Never again!” My wife and I are spending our family time in the book of Romans. As we were making our way through Romans 9 and examining God’s relationship with His people, Israel, we realized that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob has not forgotten nor abandoned His people. In due time, He will return Israel to the land He gave them and will restore their relationship.

After having this discussion this morning about this chapter, I began to think about God’s forgiveness. Though He had every right to completely forsake Israel because of their disobedience, He has chosen to remember His promises and forgive His people’s sins. Just as with Israel, God continues to forgive us. I am so thankful that God does not respond to me as I do with people who have hurt me. He would have every right to tell me “never again,” yet He chooses to forgive me and cancel my debts.

Listen to how the Bible describes our God who readily forgives us all:

1. “…But You are a God of forgiveness, Gracious and compassionate, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness; And You did not forsake them.” (Nehemiah 9:17)

2. “O Lord our God, You answered them; You were a forgiving God to them, And yet an avenger of their evil deeds.” (Psalm 99:8)

The greatest example of God’s forgiveness is found in His Son, Jesus Christ, who gave His life for us all so that we could be the recipients of God’s grace:

1. “In whom (Jesus Christ) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” (Ephesians 1:7)

2. “In whom (Jesus Christ) we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:14)

3. “When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions.” (Colossians 2:13)

When we choose not to forgive, poison seeps into our lives and we become bitter and hardened. My wife heard someone make an insightful statement one time about bitterness: “Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” If God has chosen to forgive each of us, why can’t we learn to forgive others? Are there people in your life that you have not forgiven? Why not start today?

“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.” (Colossians 3:12-13)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Throwdown at Swissaire

Before you men laugh at me when I tell you that I am a huge Food Network fan, resist the urge for a minute. Instead of watching some sports event or catching up on the latest stats from ESPN, I enjoy watching Iron Chef America or Throwdown with Bobby Flay or the new Food Network Star. My wife and I can spend several hours watching these programs. She will call me at work to let me know that she has recorded Throwdown with Bobby Flay to watch when I come home. Somehow the term “Throwdown” sounds manly and justifies my excitement to rush home, pop a bag of popcorn, pour me a glass of Coke, and kick back on the couch with my wife and enjoy the show. Before you think that I have lost it all, I have not wandered too far over to the other side because I am not a big fan of Rachel Ray. Hopefully I may have retained some of my dignity. Not!

If you have ever watched Throwdown with Bobby Flay, it is a friendly competition between Bobby Flay and some well-known cook in the country who prepares some type of dish better than anyone else. Flay will surprisingly visit the chef during what they believe is a personal profile about their dish on Food Network program and will challenge them to a cook-off. Of course, in the beginning of the show, Flay has studied the opponent’s dish and tries his hand at making a better dish.

So I decided to have a personal Throwdown with my wife. By the way, she is an excellent cook so I was way out of my league and gourd on this one. But why not? A good challenge is always exciting. Our Throwdown Casserole was judged according to three criteria: economical, taste, and plating. We invited a couple who lives a few doors down from us in our apartment complex. I thought I had the winning hand when they told us that my Mexican casserole was colorful, but not enough to beat the delicious taste of Nicole’s Mexican casserole.

Though I lost, I enjoyed spending time in the kitchen with my wife, have a friendly and competitive game, and finding creative ways to make our marriage meaningful.

Bobby Flay is a successful chef-owner of Manhattan’s Bolo and Mesa Grill. Not only is Flay the challenger in his show Throwdown, but he also is one of the Iron Chefs in Iron Chef America (Food Network Throwdown; Bobby Flay).

Saturday, August 18, 2007

St. Athanasius on the Cross

.... But if any honest Christian wants to know why He suffered death on the cross and not in some other way, we answer thus: in no other way was it expedient for us, indeed the Lord offered for our sakes the one death that was supremely good. He had come to bear the curse that lay on us; and how could He "become a curse" (Gal. 3. 13) otherwise than by accepting the accursed death? And that death is the cross, for it is written "Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree." ( Gal. 3. 13. ) Again, the death of the Lord is the ransom of all, and by it "the middle wall of partition" ( Eph. 2. 14 ) is broken down and the call of the Gentiles comes about. How could He have called us if He had not been crucified, for it is only on the cross that a man dies with arms outstretched? …For it was not the Word Himself Who needed an opening of the gates, He being Lord of all, nor was any of His works closed to their Maker. No, it was we who needed it, we whom He Himself upbore in His own body - that body which He first offered to death on behalf of all, and then made through it a path to heaven.

St. Athanasius, The Incarnation of the Word of God , Chp. 4 ¶ 25.

Universal call of the gospel or not?

Why was it necessary that Christ come to earth and die for mankind? First Scripture highlights God’s desire to see men delivered from their sin and receive eternal life. Founded upon the love of God, He sent His Son as the ultimate sacrifice for man’s sins and will give all who believe the gift of eternal life. Furthermore, God’s justice was poured out on His Son. A punishment that rightfully belonged to every man was placed on Jesus Christ who voluntarily paid the penalty of sin. When we accept what Christ did in our place, we are reconciled with God.

2 Corinthians 5:18-19- “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.”

We are instructed to take this good news to the world, yet if God’s love is restricted to the only a select few, then why proclaim the gospel?

Isaiah 45:22- “Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; For I am God, and there is no other.”

Mark 16:15- “And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”

Luke 14:23- “And the master said to the slave, Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, so that my house may be filled.”

Acts 17:30- “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent…”

Revelation 22:17- “The Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let the one who hears say, Come. And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.”