Christianity

Review – The Four Responsibilities of a Disciple

Life is a funny thing sometimes.  As I have journeyed down the path of discipleship, I have found many things along the way that helped my journey: people, books, audio messages and video messages and music that have inspired me at various times.  In the last couple of years, I have gotten to know a brother in the Lord who sprang from the same hometown as I did; but whom I didn’t know in person at that time, even though I knew his siblings (and even graduated with one of them).  I first started reading Darren’s work on his blog, Digging with Darren, which you will notice is linked in the sidebar here.  Over the last couple of years, we have exchanged the occasional message on Facebook or in the comments at either his blog or mine; but that was the extent of the interaction, until I noticed his posts and musings on discipleship.

Discipleship has been a strong point of emphasis for me as a believer for a long time.  I have long held that one of the reasons that our churches struggle as they do is because of a lack of intentional discipleship on our part.  We have done an excellent job of trying to get as many converts as we possibly can, but we have little idea what to do beyond that other than to tell people to “come to church” and participate in whatever their church has on offer.  This is why I was intrigued and excited to read some of Darren’s ideas regarding discipleship and I am glad to see them placed into written form that can be shared with others.  The Four Responsibilities of a Disciple is a work worth checking out if you are interested in discipleship and how to make disciples.

Darren has done a wonderful job of taking some of the more recent works about how we make disciples and blended these ideas with the “ancient paths” of discipleship that have in many cases been lost or ignored.  Essentially, this booklet has been structured around a simple process of forming disciples in four areas: Dedication, Memorization, Imitation, and Replication.  I will not expound on them here as the booklet does a good job highlighting what is needed in each of these areas.  Let me simply say that this booklet is a quick and challenging read that will give you a clearer vision and some concrete, practical tools for working to become a disciple of our Master, if you are not one already; or else it will give you a framework for working with others who wish to become disciples as well.  After all, you cannot make disciples for Jesus if you are not a disciple of Jesus yourself.  I highly recommend this work for all who wish to undertake the lifelong journey to walk in the footsteps of Jesus.

Disclosure: Please note that I received a copy of this booklet as a thank you for my work in volunteering to help proof the text and format of the book.  I have included a link in the review to the site where the book is available for purchase at Emet HaTorah.

Categories: Book Reviews, Christianity, Discipleship, Messiah, ministry, Yeshua | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s Not Okay

WARNING: The subject matter of this post may be considered offensive by any and all who read it.  I would be concerned if the subject didn’t bother you quite frankly.  You may not want to read this.  Proceed with full awareness that you have been warned.  Some of the links in the stories referenced and linked from this post may not be safe to click on if you are reading at work .  The subject at hand is porn.  By clicking on the more link to view this post, you are taking this on with full awareness. Continue reading

Categories: Christianity, Culture, Love, Marriage, Parenting, personal, Sex, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Shrouded Thinking

I came across this news item last week regarding the Shroud of Turin.  As we were sitting in Sunday School class yesterday with the youth at our church, we talked about it for a few minutes.  Of course, I realized that they had no idea what the Shroud of Turin even is, but that was pretty easy to explain.

The debate is still going as to the authenticity of the Shroud.  I am not firmly in either camp.  If it is genuine, that is certainly interesting and amazing, but it won’t make my faith any more firm than it already is.  I am completely convinced that Jesus Christ rose from the dead on the strength of evidence that has nothing to do with the Shroud.  If it is shown to be fake or fabricated long after the fact, it will have no effect on me for the same reason.  But I did see this cockamamie new theory from an academic who is convinced that the Shroud is genuine, but who has taken that conclusion to a bizarre place.

Art historian Thomas de Wesselow is convinced the Shroud is real and did touch Christ’s body.

But the Cambridge academic insists that the image on the cloth fooled the Apostles into believing Christ had come back to life, and the Resurrection was in fact an optical illusion.

Please note that we are talking about an “art historian” so I am left to conclude that his biblical knowledge and scholarship is likely to be lacking.  The idea that the early disciples would be so amazed by an image on a cloth that they would treat it as if the man they had walked with was “living in the image” or whatever he wants to call it, is insulting to the intelligence of first century believers for one thing and insulting to the testimony of Scripture for another.

His theory is based on the worst kind of Bible “scholarship” and I put it in quotes because it isn’t very scholarly at all.  He takes one verse (ONE) as proof for his theory and apparently ignores the rest of the story.  He tries to assert that Paul claimed that the resurrection is “not about flesh and blood” in 1 Corinthians 15(verse 50 according to the article).  I am not sure what translation he is working from but he draws completely the wrong conclusion about what Paul is saying.  At the beginning of that very chapter, Paul asserts that the risen Jesus was seen by Cephas (Peter) and then the rest of the disciples, and then at least 500 others, and then James and the rest of the apostles (1 Corinthians 15:4-7).  These appearances are the parading of an image on a sheet.  These are appearances in person and in the flesh.  A different kind of flesh to be sure (he walked into locked and shut rooms), but flesh that ate and could be touched.  Read the Gospel accounts and picture a pair of disciples walking down the road when a giant bedsheet with a picture suddenly appears next to them and starts talking and you will see just how silly and ill read this “art historian” has to be.

Is the Shroud of Turin legitimate?  Maybe.  Is it possible that the disciples and the first century witnesses of Jesus’ resurrection were all looking at it and thinking that this was Jesus raised from the dead?  Not a chance.  Just picture one of them trying to give a piece of fish to a cloth and being fooled into thinking the sheet ate it.

 

Categories: Apologetics, Bible Misunderstandings, Bible Thoughts, Christianity, False Teachers, History, Messiah, Questions, theology, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Pfunday Pmonday – Week 2

Well, no one commented on whether they liked or didn’t like the silent P gag, so I am just going to run with it for now.  I figure the fun stuff belongs on Monday as a little extra pick me up for those who start the week off on a hard note for whatever reason.

If you have to laugh, I highly recommend this story out of Canada of a drunk man’s rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody.  I didn’t expect it to be as funny as it was when I read about it.  I won’t embed the video here.  The news story has a charm all its own.  Videos like this should be mandatory viewing to put people off of drinking for good.  One of the reasons I have never consumed alcohol myself is the fine displays of a few of my HS friends who aptly displayed the foolishness that resulted.  But those are stories for another time.

I had so much fun with the baseball stories last week that I saved another one.  My favorite team, the World Champion St Louis Cardinals, had a funny moment on the TV broadcasts during spring training.  A top prospect in the organization was labeled on TV as “Minor League Guy” when he came in to pinch run during a recent game.  You can see a photo of the screen capture by viewing the link.  I am looking forward to seeing how the new team comes together this year.  While I am sad to see Pujols go, I am glad to see Mike Matheny getting his first shot at a managing position.  May the Redbirds have a great year and get 12 in ’12.

In the list of truly laughable, I saw news that the NYC school district has issued a list of “banned words” that could be taken for an April Fool’s joke if it weren’t a little early for such craziness.  We wouldn’t want kids to be offended when they are taking a test after all.

And speaking of things that should be April Fool’s jokes, I saw a story on Fox News about a new push to promote “healthy eating” at church.

“A couple of years ago I came up with the idea that churches were sending people to heaven early because of all the food they served at church functions, like bacon and sausage and ice cream and donuts,” Dr. Amen, who is a Christian and a graduate of Oral Roberts University Medical School told FoxNews.com.  “I have been going to church since I was a little boy and the food in churches is just outrageous.”

This could turn into a non-funny rant if I am not careful, so I will try and save the rant for another post.  Rather, let me poke fun at this with a little bit of sardonic humor.  If we are sending people to heaven early, that would be a good thing:

A good name is better than precious ointment,
and the day of death than the day of birth.  – Ecclesiastes 7:1

To borrow a few words from my favorite singer/songwriter:

Don’t you get sick of health freaks? I always want to say, look Bud, you’re gonna die anyway. You may as well go out eating something that you like. (applause) What is the point of living to be a hundred and fifty if all you get to eat is bean sprouts? (laughter) I’ll never understand people, I’ll tell you…   – Rich Mullins (concert transcript)

Lighten up and live a little.  Let your Pmonday be blessed with Plaughter and Pfun.  And if you didn’t get enough laughs from today’s post, check out the fare from yesterday’s April Fool’s Day fun at SBC Voices.   All posts from April 1 are gag posts, including one contributed by me about the new list of banned words.

And if you need one more, I saw my favorite gag from ThinkGeek last night as well.

Categories: America, baseball, blogging, Canada, Christianity, church, Culture, friends, Fun, Humor, ministry, SBC Blog Madness, Southern Baptist | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Secret Is not Safe

There is a scene in the early part of the first Lord of the Rings movie where Gandalf is cautioning Frodo regarding the ring that Bilbo has left to him.  Gandalf suspects that this ring is the “One Ring” that belonged to Sauron and therefore holds great danger to him.  He tells him to “keep it secret; keep it safe.”  This sounds like totally prudent advice.  For a time, the “keep it secret; keep it safe” plan might work, but eventually the ring has to be destroyed in order to break its evil power once and for all.

I know that many have used the symbolism of the Lord of the Rings to make spiritual points before.  I have no doubt that someone else has already drawn out the same conclusion I am going to make here.  The way that Gandalf initially tries to handle the ring is very similar to how most of us seek to handle sin in our lives.  We would prefer to keep it secret and hope that this will somehow keep us safe.  Secret sin however is far from safe, it is a time-bomb that is waiting to go off and destroy the one who holds it quietly in hiding.

The news came down Sunday that a fellow blogger and one who interacts frequently over at another blog I read at was caught in sin.  That which was thought to be secret and hidden had come out of the dark and into the light.  In one sense, this is not a new story.  It is a sad truth that has been repeated and will be seen again.  We cannot hide sin.  Trying to keep it secret will consume us and will leave us far from safe.  At times like this, my mind often recalls a song from one of my favorite artists.  A stark reminder that none of us are immune from the potential catastrophe of sin.

Do not seek to keep sin hidden thinking that it will be safe as long as it is unseen.  Jesus cautioned His disciples that there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed.  Just as Frodo had to take the ring out of hiding so that it could be destroyed, we too must bring sin into the light for its power to be broken.  This is God’s promise.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say we have not sinned we make Him a liar and the truth is not in us. – 1 John 1:9-10

From what I have gathered thus far, the person mentioned above is now beginning the road to restoration that follows confession, but real consequences still remain.  They always do when we don’t destroy what was secret in the hopes that it will be safer that way.  Please pray for this man and for those affected.

Categories: Bible Thoughts, Christianity, church, devotional, Discipleship, Grace, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Getting Understanding

7 The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom.
Though it cost all you have, get understanding.  – Proverbs 4:7

I have a funny post queued up for later in the day, but I wanted to get this up first.  I have been doing several messages in the last few months playing off of this realization that we frequently misunderstand or make up meanings for obscure or difficult things in Scripture.  It is based on something I heard from First Fruits of Zion a year or two ago.  I found a couple of video clips on youtube that give a fuller explanation of this concept that I highly recommend.  It will take about 15 minutes of your time to watch these two clips back to back.  It is time well spent.

I know the end of the second clip includes a promo for some of their study material, but I can say this. Their study material is some of the most in-depth and thorough stuff I have ever seen.  When I got my first copy of Torah Club Volume 4 several years ago, I went through it with a fine tooth comb to look for areas of questionable scholarship or theological issues.  These guys do a great job of providing information as well as the sources that go into their materials and conclusions.  I highly recommend their work to anyone I talk to these days and I always enjoy checking out their new materials.  I currently have a small wishlist going for stuff I haven’t yet managed to purchase.

Here is one last video that talks about some of the deeper Hebraic concepts in the Gospels.  Enjoy.

Categories: Apologetics, Bible Misunderstandings, Bible Thoughts, Christianity, church, Discipleship, Faith, FFOZ, Giving, Gospel, Hebrew, Holy Spirit, Humor, Kingdom, Questions, theology, Truth, Yeshua | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Problem of All or Nothing

God is holy and perfect and commands us to be “perfect as He is perfect.”  Perfection: it is a standard that we all know we cannot keep.  Those who spend a great deal of time thinking about it are in real danger of driving themselves crazy.  It is this insistence of perfections that drives the “wretched urgency” that Michael Spencer, AKA the Internet Monk, used to opine about back in the day.

But we humans have a hard time with not taking this the other direction entirely.  Since we know we can’t be perfect, we have developed whole theological systems that essentially say, “why bother.”  Jesus paid it all, you can do nothing; so just fall on Him and do nothing.  What’s wrong with this?  You are saved by grace and that not of works lest any man should boast (Ephesians 2:8).  Right?!?  So just sit back and relax and quit.  Be still and know that I am God, if you will.

It is the problem of all or nothing.  If all isn’t enough, then why bother.  If nothing will get me there, then why not.

I saw an interesting quote from Dallas Willard posted by a friend of mine.

“In most churches we’re not only saved by grace, we’re paralyzed by it. We’re afraid to do anything that might be a “work.” The funny thing is we will preach to people for an hour that they can’t do anything to be saved, and then sing to them for a half an hour trying to get them to do something. This is confusing. People need to see that action is a receptacle for grace, not a substitute for it. Grace is God acting in our lives to do things we can’t do on our own. Grace is not opposed to effort; it’s opposed to earning.” -Dallas Willard

This is the problem of all or nothing boiled down into a couple of sentences.  That same Bible that tells you that there is nothing you can do to earn salvation, still calls you to a life of service and obedience once you have been saved.  Keep reading from that quote I earlier pulled from Ephesians:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.  – Ephesians 2:8-10

The problem is that if you don’t take all of Scripture to place a single verse in good context, you may find that nothing you say makes good sense.

We don’t handle this dilemma well.  Might I suggest a solution with a little humor in it.

“If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.” – G.K. Chesterton

Stop making it all or nothing.  God takes care of it all, but not so that you can do nothing until eternity.  Rest period doesn’t start until then.  In the meantime, do all that you can, badly if you must.

Categories: Apologetics, Bible Thoughts, Christianity, devotional, Discipleship, Faith, Fun, Grace, Humor, Love, Salvation, theology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Funny Friday Again – A Time to Laugh

I haven’t been doing as much blogging lately, and I haven’t been stockpiling as much funny material for Fridays either.  But I found a couple of things that make me chuckle anyway so I am throwing them out there this week.  In honor of the fact that the winter up here in North Dakota has been the mildest by far of the 5 total that we have experienced in this part of the country, I present you this story that finally (not really, but one can dream) nails shut the coffin on the “global warming hysteria.”  Never mind that they took to calling it “climate change” a few years back just so they could play this kind of stuff as well.  We are now potentially headed for a mini ice age, just like we were in the 70’s.  I assume the credit for placing these images side by side should go to the website referenced in the watermark although I saw them elsewhere.  Things like this amuse me.  If you want to debate the “science” that asserts that man has a profound impact on the climate and has either made the planet warmer or colder at some point in the past, you are simply going to add to the humor.  You are welcome to comment, but don’t expect me to take it seriously.

In other amusements, I decided to check up on my old standby – youtube for some fun stuff.  The Lutheran satire channel has uploaded several funny videos since I last ran one, but this one on creeds was particularly good in my view.

Since the most popular post on this blog still hasn’t managed to answer the question of what translation Joel Osteen uses (Can anyone tell from looking at his Bible in the video perhaps?  Seriously, in two years time not one commenter has been able to cite a single translation that says what he said and it isn’t like that post hasn’t spawned a lot of traffic from others looking for the same info.  If any of Joel’s churchgoers do stop by here, please ask him for us.  We would simply like to know.), I figured I would throw out a bone in passing about that odd little creed that he uses as well.  I imagine most of the people who say it every week have no conception of it as a creed.  Maybe this can be a fun learning experience.

Oh, and since yesterday was Groundhog Day, I thought I would bookend the post by posting something I saw on twitter yesterday from another North Dakota resident:

We finally have enough snow on the ground that it looks like it is early December or something.  Not complaining about it myself so much either, but all of this thawing and refreezing stuff is not a lot of fun.  Have a great weekend.

 

Categories: adventures in the cold, Christianity, climate, Fun, Fun in the Northland, global warming, Humor, Science | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tebow 316

I have noticed that a lot of people are spending a lot of time on the Tebow phenomenon.  Both sides, those who love it and those who hate it, are constantly throwing more wood into the fires and passions are running high.  I have no desire to add more fuel or to consume a lot of time talking about it, but I just wanna say a few things.  This will be a short post.

  1. Don’t get mad about the so-called “Tebowing” as a reference to prayer.  So what, big deal.  I doubt that God is getting all worked up over someone bowing their knee and not calling it by the right word.  Someday every knee is gonna bow anyway, it just looks like some are getting in some early practice.  My advice: stop getting offended over minor things.  It will save you a lot of ulcers and stress.  Besides, for those who are doing the whole thing in a mocking fashion, there are bigger problems for them (Galatians 6:7).
  2. Don’t read too much into things like Tebow’s stat line from a big improbable win.  By all means, have a little fun with it if you want, but don’t start looking for signs in a box score or stat sheet.  God has communicated pretty effectively without resorting to Tebow’s QB stats or passing yards.  But there is no harm in being amused or even thankful that so many people are checking out John 3:16 yet again thanks to Timmy.  Since no one is holding up those cute banners at games anymore that I have seen, this is the next best thing. 
  3. It’s OK to pull for Tebow.  I enjoy watching someone do what no one says can be done.  Mark Gungor has jokingly said that he should be the “patron saint” of marriage because he just never gives up.  I kind of like that.  It is fun to root for a guy who just won’t quit trying.  I think we can all relate to that a little bit.  I am not a Broncos fan.  I never really liked them at all.  But more and more, I think it would be fun to see them win the Super Bowl this year just because it would make a lot of people’s heads virtually explode at the incongruity of it all.  Besides, my Cowboys (whom everybody knows is America’s team even if God is currently smiting them) are out of it anyway so who else would I root for at this point.

There it is.  In typical pastor fashion, I have given you three points; now for the poem.

Roses are red

Broncos wear blue

Tebow wins games

What will you do?

P.S. This blog was intended as light humor.  If you are offended by this post then you have utterly missed the point.  Try rereading point number one again.  Rinse, read, repeat as often as necessary.

Categories: America, blogging, Christianity, Culture, Football, Fun, Humor | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

One Word 2011 – Growth – A Wrap Up Post

Growth.

It was just a word at the start of the year that stuck out to me.

Could have been more about change – but it wasn’t

Could have been about just maturity – but it wasn’t that either.

So much has played into this idea that I am not sure where to start.  Do I feel like I have grown in the last year?

Yes.

And I will continue to grow as the years pass on, but I will spend this post looking at some things that I can see specific growth in in the past year.

Growth as a father: Being a dad is one of the biggest challenges of my life.  Being an example is not an option, it is a given.  I am keenly aware of the ways in which my life will shape the lives of three young people that God has blessed me to look after.  It has been a growth process this year as I have tried to be more intentional in the ways that I raise up my children to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind and strength.  I have found great encouragement and purpose in learning to lead by example more.  I have grown as a father and I will continue to walk this path with humility and God’s grace and grow year by year as my children grow into men and women of faith and character.

Growth in ministry: Opportunities to minister were abundant and I found myself growing and stretching in this area more than I would have expected.  Having finished work to be certified as a Disaster Relief chaplain through the SBC, I figured it would be a while before I could put most of this training and skill set into real world practice in a disaster.  Family and church commitments were certain to keep me from going too far from home for disaster situations and yet I got the chance all the same.  Flooding on a historic scale in Minot brought me face to face with keeping a commitment I had made – to go and serve as a DR chaplain if it was nearby.

There are so many ways that I have grown as a result of the experiences in Minot this summer that it would be impossible to catalog them all.  A passion for DR work that I didn’t even know existed has been found and I am now considered the “point man” for our DR response in the North Dakota side of the DBC.  This included a trip to Alpharetta for training so that I can train others to be a DR chaplain as well.  I am excited to see how God will use this in the future.

I also continued to have the opportunity to fill the pulpit and minister to another church here in town.  I was asked to stretch and grow in this area as well.  It was a privilege to preach and minister in a wholly different context than what I am normally used to being in and it has been a growing experience for me.

Growth as a blogger:  I set several goals for myself this year as a blogger and some of them were directly related to this particular thing.  In doing so, I learned something about myself along the way.  I have a strong tendency to “jump in with both feet” before I stop and consider the cost or the ramifications.  This is kind of a dangerous thing is some places and it is something that Jesus cautioned about as well.  Blogging is not my life.  In a way, my journey through this year has helped me to grow in such a way as to put blogging in perspective.  I no longer come by and check the stats everyday here or at my other two blogsites.  I have actually missed the occasional comment for a day or two before noticing it was there.  I plan to be a little more intentional in my blogging in the coming year to be sure, but I am already a lot less obsessive about it.  And as for arguments on the comments of this blog and others: well, I really have better thing to do with my time.  This isn’t to say that I am not up for a good discussion.  Discussions and even disagreements keep life interesting and keep me learning, and that is enough for me.

Growth in my personal health: I mentioned this area more than once and as the year comes to a close, I figure I am at a standstill in this one.  I took up some efforts to run, but those met with setbacks due to physical issues (there are my flat feet getting in the way).  I haven’t given up on that quite yet, but running isn’t a realistic thing around here this time of year either.  I eat better overall and I am still making adjustments in my diet.  My weight is stable, but I still want to take it to a little lower number in the coming year.  If there is one area where I didn’t see “growth” in the way that I expected and hoped to, this is the one.

Growth – the final word:  There is probably more that I could write and might even want to write.  Growth doesn’t get confined to a season and never return, even though it is often seasonal.  Growth isn’t always realized in ways we expect or even want it sometimes.  It does come hand in hand with living.  Living things grow.  Often in ways that are easy to see as well as ways that are imperceptible.  That which ceases to grow, dies.  So may we all continue to grow and may God bless you to grow in the likeness of His Son above all other growth.

Categories: Christianity, devotional, Discipleship, Faith, family, Fun, Growth, Love, ministry, One Word, personal | 3 Comments

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