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Desiring to build others up & give grace to those who visit

Archive for the month “January, 2012”

The Obama Administration Goes Too Far. How should we respond?

I am generally of the opinion that we should respect the President because of the office he holds & because God’s Word tells us to:

1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7  Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. Romans 13:1-7 (ESV)

See also Titus 3:1 & 1 Peter 2:13-17.

But how do we respond when the President goes too far?

It seems bad enough that the administration is forcing religious institutions to cover birth control pills even though it violates the beliefs of some religious groups. But what should we do when he tries to force religious institutions to cover abortifacients (which are required to be covered)?

I understand that God’s law trumps any human law, but what do you do if you are an employer like mine (I work for a Catholic hospital system)? Essentially the only way they can avoid providing coverage for these things is to offer no health insurance whatsoever to their employees. And what happens if they do that? Well, besides having a bunch of ticked off employees, the company would have to pay very steep fines which could potentially sink the organization resulting in lack of access to healthcare for scores of people.

So what do you say? What would be a biblical response to this rule? How do you oppose the President & his policy & still adhere to Romans 13:1-7, Titus 3:1, & 1 Peter 2:13-17?

 

And, by the way, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ comment regarding granting religious organizations an extra year to comply with the rule (“This . . . strikes a balance between respecting religious freedom and increasing access to important preventive services”) would be laughable if this wasn’t so serious a situation.

What are we missing in many of our churches today?

Just some things that have been going through my mind today/recently:

I wonder if we’re missing something in the church today. It’s easy for us to say that the church is the people not the building, but I think it’s hard for most of us to really live that out. We have so identified ourselves with the place in which & the people with whom we worship that it’s hard to remember that we are parts of a body. And that body is to be active. In Ephesians, Paul tells us that certain people (apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds & teachers) are given to the church to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry”(Ephesians 4:11-12). So what is this “work of the ministry”? Well, it seems that it is doing service since the word translated “ministry” in the ESV is the Greek word diakonia, & to be sure some other translations do use the word service here. What does this term diakonia imply? Well, preceptaustin.org has it defined as

the rendering of assistance or help by performing certain duties, often of a humble or menial nature, including such  mundane activities as waiting on tables or caring for household needs—activities that in men’s eyes (but not God’s!) are without apparent dignity.

In other words, we who are Christians need to be serving others. And I think God’s Word is pretty clear on this (see the parable of the good Samaritan, John 13:34-35, Galatians 5:13-14, 1 Peter 4:10), but we seem to ignore this a lot in the church (& I am chief among you!).

We think that if we go to church, sing songs, pray, be nice to the other people there, etc., we are fine; there’s nothing else to it. But doing those things does not demonstrate that we belong to Christ (i.e.-claiming the name Christian).

How do we demonstrate that we are Christ’s?

By loving one another as Christ has loved us (John 13:34-35).

And how has Christ loved us?

When we were still His enemies, He died for us! (Romans 5:8) That, my friends, is the ultimate act of service! He died (& was raised) so that we might have life (Mark 10:45)!

Jesus’ entire life was an act of humble service (Hebrews 2:9); He gave up all the glory & honor that He had in heaven with the Father, to be “made lower than the angels” in service to us.

He even demonstrated service to others through His actions, most notably at supper with His disciples when he performed the most menial of acts of his day (John 13:1-17). During this demonstration of service Jesus said,

If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. (John 13:14-15 ESV)”

Don’t be deceived into thinking this is a call to literally wash one another’s feet, but rather, it is a call to humbly serve one another (see Jamison, Fausset, & Brown and I’m sure other commentaries).

So let each of us be active members of Christ’s body, serving one another & serving others so that “[b]y this all people will know that [we] are [Jesus’] disciples” (John 13:35).

Comment Policy

I had previously set comments for automatic approval, but the more I think about it, the more I think it would be better for me to moderate the comments & allow or disallow them on an individual basis.

First of all, I wish to prevent potentially offensive things from being posted

Secondly, I want to be able to control the information that is shared via my blog. This is not because I’m just a control-freak, but the nature of this blog could potentially allow for someone to post thoughts regarding Scripture that I don’t believe to be true. And the last thing I want is to be responsible for leading someone astray. This does not mean that I won’t approve every comment that I disagree with because I think discussion can be helpful. So, please, submit your comments because I may want to carry on a private conversation with you even if I don’t approve your comments.

If you have any questions about this or anything else in regards to this blog, please contact me.

James MacDonald, TD Jakes, heresy & what it takes to be a Christian

I’ve been following the lead up to the Elephant Room 2 since it was announced that TD Jakes would be a part of it, & people started calling for James MacDonald’s head for inviting him.

To be honest, I had heard the name TD Jakes & knew he was an African American pastor, but beyond that much, I knew nothing about him. So I read a few blogs posts (here, here, & here) about why this was supposedly a terrible move for MacDonald to make. As I understood it at the time, Jakes was thought to believe in modalism rather than Trinitarianism. This would be a problem because modalism is considered a heresy, and if this is truly Jakes’ stand then inviting him to an inherently Christian event would give credence to his beliefs. As Tim Challies put it:

By way of context, we need to remember that The Elephant Room is a meeting by Christians and for Christians, and even more, by Christian leaders and for Christian leaders. Inherent in inviting T.D. Jakes is the understanding that he is a Christian. Which presents a problem because inherent in modalism is the understanding that such a person is not a Christian.

So, if modalists are not Christians, & if Jakes is a modalist, & if the Elephant Room 2 is strictly a Christian event, then it seems that some of the criticism of MacDonald may have been justified. And I believe that of the blog reactions I read, the writers were genuinely concerned & not just trying to stir up trouble.

Then MacDonald resigned from The Gospel Coalition. The resignation occurred the day before Elephant Room 2 & somewhat understandably sparked some conspiracy theories. Along those lines, I came across this post. In this case, the tone seems to have changed to a dismissing of MacDonald a la Rob Bell. There is an assumption that this series of events means that MacDonald has become a heretic but we just haven’t yet seen the smoking gun proof. I personally think that at this point that’s a big jump especially in light of MacDonald’s full body of work.

I did not have the opportunity to watch Elephant Room 2, but I found Ed Stetzer’s reflection (based on Trevin Wax’s live-blogged transcript) helpful. Jakes essentially stated that he now holds a Trinitarian view, & it seems to me that we should take him at his word. As Stetzer points out:

Think about who participated in the Elephant Room– Driscoll, MacDonald, Jack Graham, and Crawford Loritts among them. It is telling that these men– recognized as orthodox evangelicals– readily received Jakes’ statement, with Graham having been a prayer partner with Bishop Jakes for the last 10 years. Some might say they are all just naïve, but I’ve preached for Mark Driscoll and James MacDonald and do not find them to be theologically unaware or easily fooled on matters of orthodoxy. I think they are simply willing to believe the man at his word.

All of the above, leads me to this–I understand that preachers/teachers are judged more strictly (James 3:1) so it is of grave importance that someone like Jakes (or even a so-called “ordinary pastor”) must be careful that what he is teaching is actually the truth. But this leads me to a couple of related questions.

1. Since Jakes has indicated that he has moved from a non-Trinitarian to a Trinitarian view through the study of Scripture, does this mean that for at least part of his public ministry he was unsaved, or that he was saved but through progressive sanctification he was brought to a more correct understanding of God?

2. How does this apply to the average Joe Schmo Christian who initially has great difficulty understanding exactly how the whole 3-yet-1 thing works (& honestly who doesn’t have trouble comprehending it?) & might in his mind ascribe to a modalist way of thinking early in his Christian life but later sees the truth in a Trinitarian understanding of God?

Sanctity of Life Weekend-Part II (i.e.-the infamous anniversary of Roe v Wade)

A lot of these links are from Desiring God primarily because this is an issue that John Piper speaks on, writes about, etc every year.

John Piper: Jesus didn’t come mainly to stop abortion, but to save abortion-committing sinners. via Desiring God.

What Does Roe v. Wade Actually Say? – Desiring God.

An Actual Pro-Life Conversation – Justin Taylor. Some very wise words from Sam Crabtree on how to discuss contentious issues such as abortion.

John Piper: Abortion is always unsafe. The baby dies and the mother is hurt. Always. via Twitter.

No, Mr. President: John Piper’s Response to President Obama on Abortion – YouTube. Piper’s response to President Obama’s remarks on Roe v Wade from 2009.

President Obama’s Asinine Remarks on the 39th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade | Denny Burk. Obama’s statement hasn’t really changed since 2009 (see video immediately above) & Mr. Burk’s response is accurate & appropriate.

Racial Slavery and Abortion in America: How History Repeats Itself – Desiring God. The historical rationale for slavery in this country is not much different than the rationale for abortion.

The Fourteenth Amendment and the Personhood of the Unborn – Justin Taylor. Why Roe v Wade won’t be overturned in our lifetime.

Attacks on Incremental Pro-Life Legislation: Unfair and Dangerous – Justin Taylor. Why we should support incremental pro-life legislation.

J. C. Ryle, Temperance, and Abortion – Desiring God. Lessons from JC Ryle’s fight against drunkenness that can be used in the fight for the sanctity of life.

Five Things We Can Do For the Unborn – Desiring God.

Burk Parsons: Sanctity of life has not only to do with protecting the lives of the unborn but helping to ensure they’re fed and clothed after they’re born. via Twitter.

The 200 Million “Missing” Girls – Justin Taylor. I wonder if pro-abortionists in this country would agree with the systematic killing of girls in Asia…

Together for Adoption. There ARE alternatives to abortion.

Noel Piper: Being prolife brings adoption into many of our lives. This is a day to thank God for the birth mothers who chose life for our children. via Twitter.

Sanctity of Life Weekend (i.e.-the infamous anniversary of Roe v Wade)

A Short, Free eBook on Abortion – Desiring God. “God is calling passive, inactive Christians today to engage our minds and hearts and hands in exposing the barren works of darkness. To be the conscience of our culture. To be the light of the world. To live in the great reality of being loved by God and adopted by God and forgiven by Christ (yes—for all the abortions that dozens of you have had), and be made children of the light. I call you to walk as children of light.”

AlbertMohler.com – “Abortion is as American as Apple Pie” — The Culture of Death Finds a Voice. “Abortion is now America’s most common surgical procedure performed on adults”\\How very disturbing & sad…

Abort73.com / Abortion Unfiltered. A deep & accurate understanding of abortion does not exist…

Why Tim Tebow Totally Aggravates Pro-Abortion Activists | LifeNews.com.

Your State | Americans United for Life | AUL.org. Find out how your state stacks up in the fight for life.

A couple of late entries from MLK, Jr Day/Racial Harmony Sunday

The City Harmonic I Have a Dream (MLK Tribute). I nice mashup of The City Harmonic with MLK, Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech

This Week’s Sermon: “From Bloodlines to Bloodline” – Desiring God. John Piper’s sermon from racial harmony Sunday last week.

Division & Unity in the Church, Miserable Comforters, Self-Esteem, Jesus in Hell?, & SOPA

Satan’s Great Desire | Challies Dot Com. Some wise words here from Tim Challies. “Here is what we need to see: God wants me and commands me to love the other people in my church; Satan wants me to hate them. God wants me to feel a great deal of unity with those people; Satan wants there to be an issue between us—something, anything, to drive us apart.”

How to Build Unity in Your Church | Challies Dot Com. A follow up to the post above with more wise counsel. “You need to plant yourself in a local church. Why? Because you need the gifts of the Christians there and they need your gifts.”

How to Be a Miserable Comforter | Counseling One Another. Good advice given in the negative.

In schools, self-esteem boosting is losing favor to rigor, finer-tuned praise – The Washington Post. I think most of us realized a long time ago that praising kids for everything & trying to “build self-esteem” doesn’t really work.

He Descended into… Hell? | Blogging Theologically | Jesus, Books, Culture, & Theology. Very helpful explanation of a very confusing (@ least to me) part of the Apostle’s Creed.

SOPA and John Adam’s America | sojourns with Jesus. “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

MLK, Racial Harmony, Healthy Sexuality, & Tebow

Letter from Birmingham Jail – Justin Taylor. “If you read one thing today on Martin Luther King Day, make it his ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail.'”

Download Bloodlines for Free – Desiring God. I’ve almost finished listening to the audiobook version of this book from John Piper dealing with racial harmony, and I highly recommend it.

Healthy Sexuality | Challies Dot Com. In light of the current controversy regarding Mark Driscoll’s new book, here are some good resources on sex & marriage.

Does God Care Whether Tim Tebow Wins on Saturday? – Owen Strachan – Entertainment – The Atlantic. I just got around to reading this yesterday (it’s from a few days ago), & it would have been an excellent article before today; however, I think it’s even more poignant now given the outcome of the Denver game over the weekend.

Why I shouldn’t listen to radio programs that I’m unfamiliar with…

I was in the car the other evening listening to a Christian call-in radio show when one of the callers began to ask a question about the resurgence of Calvinism in the Church today. (I say “began to ask” b/c the host didn’t actually give the caller a chance to ask his question whatever it may have been). The host turned things over to a guest to answer, and, I’ll be honest, his response angered me a bit. (I say in all seriousness that I have repented & asked that God forgive me of my anger because I don’t think my anger was righteous anger) But let me try to explain my frustration.

First, let me say I am what one would consider a Calvinist. I did not start out that way, & I have no desire to debate Calvinism & Arminianism on here. I have believed on the Lord Jesus and am saved (Acts 16:31), & as Spurgeon has said, “I wish to be called nothing but a Christian.”

“There is no soul living who holds more firmly to the doctrines of grace than I do, and if any man asks me whether I am ashamed to be called a Calvinist, I answer – I wish to be called nothing but a Christian; but if you ask me, do I hold the doctrinal views which were held by John Calvin, I reply, I do in the main hold them, and rejoice to avow it.” (C. H. Spurgeon, a Defense of Calvinism)

So here’s the gist of my frustration: The guest stated that he feared the “neo-Calvinist movement”, as he called it, because it wasn’t biblical; that it was hyper-Calvinism & led to pride & not sharing the Gospel. He went on to make some statements that weren’t true of the people I know who would be considered Calvinists & to quote scriptures that were not mutually exclusive of the points he was trying to make. He then referred the caller to a paper the guest had written on free will versus Calvinism. Out of curiosity, I looked up his paper & saw in print more of the things I had heard during the program. My problem with all this is not that he disagrees with Calvinism because I once did too, & it was a long, difficult process through which my mind was changed. My problem was the attitude of this gentleman, the fear of Calvinistic beliefs, & the general disdain he seemed to have for anyone who would dare to believe this way.

As I think I have indicated, I believe the 5 points of Calvinism, but that does not mean that I despise those that would be considered Arminian in their beliefs because I understand where they are coming from. I don’t even feel I need to debate them; I can really only see myself discussing it face-to-face, cordially with a friend where I knew neither one of us would say or do anything to offend the other. I desire only that even with our differences that we live in brotherly Christian love with one another.

Of course there are beliefs that I hold with a closed fist, but this would be a scenario where I would hold these beliefs with an open hand.

“Many there are who cannot see these truths [the doctrines of God’s sovereignty], who yet are in a state truly pleasing to God; yea many, at whose feet the best of us may be glad to be found in heaven. It is a great evil, when these doctrines are made a ground of separation one from another, and when the advocates of different systems anathematize each other. . . . In reference to truths which are involved in so much obscurity as those which relate to the sovereignty of God mutual kindness and concession are far better than vehement argumentation and uncharitable discussion” –Charles Simeon

As with any of my posts, I welcome feedback as long as it is respectful. I hope this post fits the theme of this blog, & if it doesn’t, please let me know. And I desire to know if I have erred in any way, but as I stated above I have no desire to debate Calvinism & Arminianism in this medium.

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