Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Reformation Day!

On October 31, 1517 Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, an action that is popularly considered to be the catalyst of the Protestant Reformation.

The following video depicts the posting of the 95 Theses as well as Martin Luther's famous speech at the Diet of Worms:

[I must note that I do not support ""- the YouTube member who is listed at the end of the video as having posted the video- as that website advocates some heretical doctrine.]

Also, I highly recommend the 2003 movie Luther. The scene from this movie of Luther at the Diet of Worms follows:

Here are Luther's final words before the Diet of Worms, as related by historian Roland Bainton:

Since you majesty and your lordships desire a simple reply, I will answer without horns and without teeth. Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason- I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other- my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me, Amen. [Roland H. Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1978) 144.]


Friday, October 24, 2008

Taking No Position is Sometimes Not an Option

[The following illustration is adapted from one I heard used by Dr. Russell D. Moore.]

Imagine a town in which a tradition of spousal abuse has been established. Acts of violence by husbands against their wives have, in this town, become the accepted rule rather than the despised exception. To its shame, this town has repealed laws against domestic violence, because, the courts have argued, there is a fundamental right to privacy concerning what occurs within the walls of each house. People throughout the town are passionately debating the situation, with some arguing for this right to "domestic privacy" and others arguing that wives should be protected against violence in their homes by law.

Imagine also that you are part of a group planting a church in this town. The church, of course, does not want to involve itself in any needless controversy, so some church planners are proposing that the pastors not address the "political issue" of spousal abuse. There are, of course, many other issues addressed by biblical principles and, it could be argued, we do not want the people of the church to be known as 'single-issue voters'.

It is easy to see the error in the above situation. Violence legally perpetuated by husbands against wives is such an important matter that any Christian confronted with such a thing must be ready to address it. To refuse to comment on this would be to give tacit approval to the status quo.

In the United States of America about 4,000 surgical abortions are performed each day. "Abortion" has actually become a kind of euphemism to indicate the process in which a baby, still in her mother's womb, is dismembered and suctioned out of her mother. This process is deemed legal on the basis of a mother's right to personal privacy.

Some churches have failed to address this issue. People consider abortion to be very controversial, and pastors do not want to offend potential members. There are many other issues that the Bible addresses, and some people think that to teach against abortion would tend to make a church focused on a single-issue to the exclusion of others. But we must recognize the offense of abortion, that it kills babies, damages mothers, and is an act of rebellion against God, who knits babies together in their mother's wombs (see Psalm 139:13). And our churches must address this issue or we are indeed giving approval to the status quo.

Certainly, the gospel is to be our focus, and so readers will question how a pastor can preach against abortion while focusing his listeners on the person and work of Jesus Christ. I would direct your attention to the sermon by Dr. Russell Moore, dean of the School of Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, found HERE.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Six reasons to see Fireproof this weekend.

This past weekend I finally got the chance to see Fireproof with Abby and our friends Chris and Jennie West.

As the Rotten Tomatoes movie critic aggregator gave Fireproof a grade of 43%, I went into this movie with fairly low expectations; however, I left the theater raving about the movie. In this post, I'm not going to review or critique Fireproof in a traditional way (readers can read an excellent review HERE), but instead I'm going to recommend this film for the following six reasons:

1. The gospel presentation is clear. As a Christian, I long for the gospel- the good news of salvation through knowing Jesus Christ and faith in what He has done- to be proclaimed throughout the earth. Usually, I do not look for movies, the vast majority of which are made by non-Christians, to present the gospel; at best movie-makers may draw upon certain themes related to Christ and His work. But when a group of Christians get together to make a movie and part of their intention is to present the gospel, there is a concern over whether their presentation will be in accordance with biblical teaching. In Facing the Giants, a previous movie from the makers of Fireproof, I thought that the gospel presentation fell short of biblical teaching in two specific areas: a) the lack of reference to the Cross; b) the lack of any clear explanation of why we need salvation- i.e., that we have sinned against God, ignoring Him, living in defiance of Him, and we are subject to His wrath. [Read my entire review of Facing the Giants HERE.] By contrast, Fireproof was very clear in regards to both of the areas just mentioned.

2. The movie was certainly entertaining on a number of levels. Most of us go to the movies wanting to be entertained, and this movie does not disappoint in this regard. The fire-fighting sequences were suspenseful enough that I was on the edge of my seat during a couple of scenes. The comedy was funny enough that I and the others with me were laughing out loud. As a man, I do not cry during movies, but I will admit that I had to fight back tears due to some of the dramatic situations depicted on screen.

3. Marriage was honored. God holds a higher view of marriage than what we see in most movies. God's view of marriage is so high that He says, literally, "I hate divorce," in the Old Testament (Malachi 2:16) and Jesus in the New Testament forbids divorce except in cases of adultery (Matthew 19:9). Fireproof reflects God's view of marriage, showing a selfish man who wants to divorce his wife, but whose life is changed by Jesus Christ, who saves him from his sin and empowers him to fight for his marriage by expressing true, sacrificial love to his wife, despite her initial lack of forgiveness.

4. The sin of viewing Internet pornography was confronted. The makers of Fireproof are courageous in thoughtfully addressing a sin which is often hidden, but is so prevalent today and has caused devastation in so many marriages.

5. The wisdom of the elderly was honored. Main stream sources of entertainment today regularly glorify the young and despise the old. Notice, for example, how many comedians are now making jokes about Sen. McCain's age. The trials often faced by the old- the normal health problems associated with advanced age and the loss of memory- are made the subject of lame jokes on sitcoms, the old are seen as kooky and out-of-touch, and the possibility of the elderly possessing vital wisdom is ignored. In contrast to the view just described, the Bible honors the elderly. The Old Testament Law commands "You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the Lord" (Leviticus 19:32 ESV). Job, whom God Himself describes as "blameless and upright" (Job 1:8), declared, "Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days" (Job 12:12 ESV). [For more on this issue, see Tim Challies' article, "Gray Hair is a Crown of Glory: Ageism in the Church," found HERE.] Fireproof honors the wisdom of the elderly as the main character's elderly parents are the people who introduce him to Jesus Christ and who instruct him in how to save his marriage. The wife in the movie also benefits from a conversation with an elderly co-worker.

6. You have the opportunity to help Fireproof stay in the top 10. After three weeks in theaters, Fireproof is still one of the top 10 highest grossing movies in the country. But last weekend, Fireproof did fall to the number 10 spot. If the above reasons to see this movie have been persuasive to you at all, I encourage you to not delay, but to see Fireproof this weekend (either for the first time or take some friends who haven't seen it and see it again). By keeping this movie in the top 10 an additional week, we can help movie producers to recognize the value of making movies that contain qualities such as those mentioned above.

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Response to Abortion Quotes from an "Evangelical" Forum on Politics

My brother-in-law recently sent me a link to a podcast titled "Evangelical Politics: Three Generations" from the Speaking of Faith radio program, knowing that I would be interested. This podcast was a panel discussion with three men who were billed as "formative Evangelicals." The men were: Charles Colson, Greg Boyd, and Shane Claiborne. Now, as an evangelical, I would not necessarily want to be represented by any of these men (for different reasons), but that is another post. The conversation between these three men was thought-provoking and challenging and I encourage my readers to listen to it HERE.

Now, I have previously contended on this blog that the issue of legalized abortion is the most significant moral/political issue in America today, I was especially interested to hear what the speakers had to say on this topic. I found two statements to be particularly in need of further comment.

The first is from Greg Boyd:
I have an unequivocal, uncompromising pro-life stance: non-violence to the core, but that doesn’t mean I’m [always] going to vote for the pro-life candidate, because it may be that I think that the greatest indicator of abortion is poverty and this person I might think is not going to help that issue.

I believe that this is faulty reasoning on Boyd’s part. This is the scenario I would present to Boyd: Imagine someone voting for a candidate to national office in antebellum-era America. If someone argued that the underlying cause for slavery is a lack of economic progressiveness in the South, and that therefore he was going to vote for a pro-slavery candidate with a good economic plan over an abolitionist candidate with a poor economic plan, would you agree with his decision? Do you think that if slaves had the right to vote that they would agree?

Imagine that you lived in Nazi Germany and that the citizens there had the right to a free vote for their leaders. If someone argued that the underlying cause for violence against the Jews was that the German people faced economic uncertainty, and that therefore he was going to vote for a pro-Final Solution candidate with a good economic plan to help the poor over a candidate with a weaker economic plan that opposed the Holocaust, would you support his decision? Do you think that the Jews would agree?

Does Boyd think that the unborn, if they were able to speak, would agree with his decision to vote for someone who would allow murdering them to remain legal, for the purpose of addressing ‘indicators of abortion’?

Christians should certainly help the poor and to assist impoverished mothers who may be tempted to kill their babies, but this does not mean that we can overlook the evil of legalized child murder.

The issue is one of priority. There is a legal loophole by which murder– specifically murder of the unborn¬– is allowed. There are also reasons that help influence mothers to make the decision to take advantage of this loophole and thereby kill their child. Certainly these reasons should be addressed, but first the option of legalized murder should be taken off the table.
Imagine you were in a ship that had developed a hole; the reason that the hole developed was found to be rotten planks in the ship, so several planks throughout the ship must be replaced to truly deal with the problem. So it would be wise to replace all of these planks, but it would be very foolish to forget to first patch the hole in order to keep the ship from sinking.

The second statement I wish to address is from Shane Claiborne:
I think part of what we need is we need new political heroes and she-roes. Y’know? Which, like, for me, Mother Teresa is one of those: I worked with her in Calcutta, I learned from her, and she’s just done so much to the cause of decreasing abortions and honoring life from the cradle to the grave. But it wasn’t because she went around wearing an “Abortion Is Murder” shirt. Y’know? Like, she said, “If you don’t want your baby, you can give it to me,” and that has integrity to it; you can’t argue with that. Y’know, even Bill Clinton (not known for his pro-life stance) invites her to speak at his prayer breakfast.

Claiborne’s main point in this and some of his other statements during the forum is well-taken; Christians must translate their convictions into self-sacrificial action on behalf of those in need. But, as Claiborne cited the example of Mother Teresa in relation to the issue of abortion, and as Claiborne mentioned President Clinton inviting her to speak at the 1994 National Prayer Breakfast, I think that it would have been helpful if he had related some of the actual words Teresa spoke in the presence of Clinton Mother Teresa said:
...I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?... By abortion, the mother does not learn to love, but kills even her own child to solve her problems. And, by abortion, the father is told that he does not have to take any responsibility at all for the child he has brought into the world. That father is likely to put other women into the same trouble. So abortion just leads to more abortion. Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. This is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion… [SOURCE]

Mother Teresa was also quoted as saying:
It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish…

So, while she did not go around wearing an “Abortion Is Murder” shirt, she was very clear in decrying abortion as murder in her speech. The reason I believe this to be important is that Christians tend to either focus on saying the right things while being lazy in our actions or on doing the right things while being cowardly in our speech. We need all aspects of our life to be more Christ-like.


Thursday, October 02, 2008

Personal Confession of Faith, Article III. The Trinity

[If you haven't done so already, please read the introduction HERE. In this article on the Trinity, as with the other articles, my goal was clarity and brevity, highlighting the most essential truths concerning this doctrine.]

III. The Trinity.
I believe that within the one being that is God, there exists eternally three co-equal and co-eternal Persons: namely, the Father (Matt 6:9), the Word or Son (John 1:1-2; 17:5; Col 2:9), and the Holy Spirit (John 14:26; 15:26; Acts 8:29; 13:2), each with distinct personal attributes (Isa 48:16; Matt 3:16-17; Rom 8:26-27; Heb 9:13-14), but without division of nature, essence or being (John 10:30; 14:9; Acts 5:3-4).


Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Translation of Ezra 4:8-24. The Jews' Rebuilding of Jerusalem Forced to a Halt

[Introduction: The following translation was completed for my Biblical Aramaic class. I'm posting it here with the hope that my fellow students in Biblical Aramaic will read this, and we can discuss particulars of the translation. Other readers can help as well, by comparing this to English versions of the Bible you may use, and by asking or commenting on any differences or unclear meanings of words or phrases in the text.]

8 Rehum the commander and Shimshai the scribe wrote a letter against Jerusalem to King Artaxerxes as follows- 9 then [wrote] Rehum the commander and Shimshai the scribe, and the rest of their colleagues: the Dinaites and the rulers, the Arpharsathchites, the Persians, the Erechites, the Babylonians, the men of Susa (that is, the Elamites), 10 and the rest of the peoples whom the great and noble Assurbanipal deported and settled in the cities of Samaria and in the rest of the Trans-Euphrates. And now:

11 This [is] a copy of the letter that they sent to him:

To King Artaxerses, [from] your servants, the men of the Trans-Euphrates. And now:

12 Let it be known to the king that the Jews who came up to us from you came to Jerusalem. They are rebuilding the rebellious and evil city. They completed the walls and repaired the foundations. 13 Now, let it be known to the king that if that city is rebuilt and the walls are completed, they will not give tribute, duty, or toll, and the royal treasury will suffer loss. 14 Now, because we eat the salt of the palace and it is not proper for us to see the dishonor of the king; therefore, we have sent [this] to inform the king 15 so that he will search in the book of memoranda of your ancestors and you will find in the book of memoranda and you will know that this city is rebellious and injurious to kings and provinces, and an insurrection was made in its midst from days of old. For this [reason] that city was destroyed. 16 We are informing the king that if that city will be rebuilt and the walls will be completed, then there will be no share for you in the Trans-Euphrates.

17 [This is] the word the king sent to Rehum the commander and Shimshai the scribe and the rest of their colleagues- those dwelling in Samaria and in the rest of the Trans-Euphrates. Peace! And now:

18 The letter that y'all sent to us, being translated, has been read before me. 19 And I have decreed, and they searched and found that from days of old this city has risen up against kings, and rebellion and insurrection have been made in it. 2o And powerful kings were over Jerusalem and they were mighty in all the Trans-Euphrates, and tribute, duty, and toll were given to them. 21 Now give a command to stop those men. And this city will not be rebuilt until the command is given by me. 22 And be warned not to be neglegent about this, lest the damage will increase to the injury of kings.

23 Then, as soon as the copy of the letter from King Artaxerses was read before Rehum and Shimshai the scribe and their colleagues, they went in haste to Jerusalem against the Jews and they stopped them by might and strength. 24 Thereupon the work on the house of God in Jerusalem ceased, and it remained idle until the second year of the reign of King Darius of Persia.