Monday, December 27, 2010

Top 5 Reading List from 2010

Most of you know that I do a lot of reading and studying so I decided that I would compile a recommendation list of the top five books that I have read in 2010. These are in no particular order, but out of the sixty plus books that I have read this last year these are the most recommended.

1. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism-Timothy Keller

2. Let The Nations Be Glad! The Supremacy of God In Missions-John Piper

3. The Gospel For Real Life: Jerry Bridges

4. Church Planter: The Man, The Message, The Mission-Darrin Patrick

5. Radical-David Platt

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Alcohol Consumption Part 2

Growing up in the Southern Baptist tradition of the Christian faith I was always taught that consuming alcohol was sinful and I myself thought the same for years. It was only upon maturing in Christ and careful study of the Bible that I came to a different conclusion. I myself fall into the category of the third emerging group that I described in part one of this post. I agree with Mark Driscoll who says, “I personally long for the return to the glory days of Christian pubs when God’s men gather to drink beer and talk theology.”

Although I only used four Scriptures, there are numerous more that could be cited in regards to alcohol consumption. And not to allow any confusion, I am in agreement that the Bible does set up clear instances when it would be sinful to drink and to abstain for the moment is the right choice, which are often Scripture references cited against those who hold to my view. I also recognize the Bible talks of the sin of drunkenness and the many problems it leads to, which I am again in full agreement.

Deuteronomy 14:26 is a time when the Bible refers to happiness as an occasion to drink alcohol in moderation. In Psalm 104:14-15 it is God who allows the wine to come forth to gladden the heart of man. John 2:1-11, the most popular quoted passage when the subject of alcohol comes up between Christians, which is why I hesitated using it; but when looking at one of the first recorded miracles you cannot take that away. This passage even refers to the people being able to drink freely and that the wine Jesus made was better than the “good wine” that had been served at the beginning. I believe this miracle has probably been abused on both sides of the argument, but the scripture is clear when it says that the water had now been turned to wine. It does not say grape juice or something resembling the color of wine, but wine and good wine at that not the kind of stuff that comes in a cardboard box.1 Corinthians 10:31 is perhaps the key passage for those in the third group of moderation. I want to make sure whatever I am doing or consuming can be done to the glory of God.

As Martin Luther pointed out there are many things or objects in life that men abuse, but that does not necessarily mean they should be abolished. Many men use the computer to look at pornography, but I doubt I could find many Christians who would be willing to throw away their computers. John Calvin is right that alcohol is a precious gift from God and should be treated in a precious manner, therefore it is sad to see the abuses of it and how it destroys people’s lives.

I believe there will always be the two extremes mentioned in the American context. It encourages me to see this third emerging group that holds to moderation within a biblical context to glorify God. My prayer is that this position will not be abused as the other two have been for years, but that it is one that will be embraced by those who do hold to one of the other views through a careful study of the scriptures instead of basing their view on what their particular tradition has always taught them.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Alcohol Consumption Part 1 of 2

Alcohol consumption is an issue of extremes within the church, specifically in an American context. On one side of the issue you have those who hold that any form of alcohol consumption is wrong. On the other side of the issue you have those who embrace alcohol consumption, see no problem with it, and even find no problem with getting drunk.

Alcohol consumption is an important issue for Christians to address because the issue is not as black and white as some would like to make it. Although, there is a third group emerging that would agree with the first group in that there are forms of alcohol consumption that are wrong such as getting drunk, but they would also agree with the second group in that it is okay to consume alcohol. The distinguishing marks of this third group would be that they see no problem in the consumption of alcohol as long as it is done so in a manner of moderation with a clear conscience where they feel they are following the Biblical model and able to glorify God in so doing.

Relevant Sources of Authority
Scripture Passages:
“And spend the money for whatever you desire-oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household.” (Deuteronomy 14:26)

“You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man…” (Psalm 104:14-15)

Jesus turns the water into wine at the wedding at Cana. Verse 10 says, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” (John 2:1-11)

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Cor. 10:31)

Influential Quotes:
“[D]o not find fault with the wine, but with the drunkenness…wine was given, that we might be cheerful, not that we might behave ourselves unseemly…” John Chrysostom

“Do you suppose that abuses are eliminated by destroying the object which is abused? Men can go wrong with wine and women. Shall we then prohibit and abolish women?” Martin Luther.

“It is a shameful abuse of a noble and most precious gift of God.” John Calvin.

“Temperance referred not specifically to drink, but to all pleasures; and it meant not abstaining, but going the right length and no further.” C.S. Lewis

Tomorrow will conclude the five part ethical series of the blog and will conclude with my own position on alcohol consumption in the life of a believer. Feedback would be appreciated.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

CHRISTIAN SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY AND AIDS Part 2

By looking at the Scripture references alone there is no question that there is a cultural mandate to take care and rule over creation. In my opinion, Christians should be involved with as many social areas of justice as possible. The reason we should be involved being that each of these areas gives us a platform for the spread of the gospel.

John Piper says, “The fact that any of us is healthy after sinning is owing to Christ’s mercy.” In other words it is only by the mercy and grace of God that any one of us is not facing one of these social issues such as poverty or a disease such as aids, and in fact some of us as followers of Christ are facing these issues. Piper concludes that this requires an extraordinary mercy on the part of Christians.

It is important to remember that just as Christ offered us grace that we did not deserve, so we too should be willing to be gracious to the world around us. Whether that is the homeless person on the corner near our home or the person with aids in our city or the person in Africa. It is sometimes easy to forget that it is Christ and him alone who give us a hope to believe in and that we should be willing to offer that same hope to the world around us. One way of offering that hope is through taking social responsibility and participating in the solution for diseases such as aids.

This is one area where the church at large is behind the “world” at large. It seems like actors, athletes, and musicians have made acts of social justice and fighting against the aids epidemic a popular trend that people at least on the surface believe in. Although, this trend in general is a good thing and doing some good, it is missing the key aspect of the gospel. It is a good thing to help people around the world, but if that is all that we do then their relief will only be temporary as they will be eternally separated from God without the message of the gospel.

It is important to note that although I believe the church should be as involved with as many social areas as possible, if the end result is only the involvement then they are the same as those outside the church and in the end it is only accomplishing something that is temporary. My prayer and hope is that God will allow followers of him to be raised up as researchers, medical professionals, and thousands of caring individuals that reach out to their own communities and the nations by taking social responsibility to care for the poor, provide clean water for those without, find cures for diseases, and offer a better life not only here, but also an eternal hope for the future.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

CHRISTIAN SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY AND AIDS Part 1 of 2

Considering we live in a fallen world it does not take one long to look around and recognize the endless number of social issues that exists in America and around the world. These issues range from poverty and unclean water to disease. One major issue that is recognized globally that has risen to the status of an epidemic is that of aids.

This raises some questions for the church. Is there a biblical call or mandate for the church to reach out and help with social issues? If so, which ones? Are there any limitations? And how far should the church go?

Christians are generally on board with reaching out socially, but there is a mix of opinions answering the questions posed above. Some Christians believe that social justice should be the church’s main focus and the way in which the love of Christ is shown. Other Christians believe that while we should care about social justice issues that it should not be our main focus, but come secondary as a means to leverage the gospel. In regards to aids, some Christians react harshly stating that it is God's judgement on certain individuals; while other Christians see it as another area of life that we are called to reach out and love our world doing what we can to be like Christ.

Relevant Sources of Authority
Scripture Passages:
“..And fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves the earth.” (Genesis 1:28b)

“But a Samaritan, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him.” (Lk 10:33-34)

“Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” (1 Peter 4:9-10)

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (James 1:27)

Influential Quotes:
“The thing to do is to get a man at first to value social justice as a thing which the Enemy demands, and then work him on to the stage as which he values Christianity because it may produce social justice.” C.S. Lewis

“The goods of the churches should be employed for the good of the poor.” Thomas Aquinas Summa

“It is a reproach to religion and government to suffer so much poverty and excess…” William Penn

"God mercifully sets out to heal all of the destruction wrought by man in the fall, and we see this story of redemption unfold throughout Scripture. Mercy ministry primarily seeks to redeem physical and social destruction, but is often carried out as a window to spiritual and theological redemption." Tim Keller

Once again this is just a general look at the problem in regards to responsibility of Christians in regards to social justice and what answer we give to the world with issues such as the aids epidemic. Part 2 will contain my position on the topic.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Global Warming and The Environment Part 2

Although I admittedly carried around the attitude often heard from Christians for not caring for the environment for a long time, I now see the importance of it from Scripture. I believe all Christians should have some care for the environment. For some this will be their passion or platform in which they spread the gospel truth. For others this will not be their main concern, but it will be one aspect of their life in which they can speak to the culture through their involvement. I do think it is important to note that although we are called to care for the environment, it must be remembered that it is not the number one thing that we are called to.

The passage dealing with Genesis 1:26-31 are probably some of the most cited verses for the basis of why believers should care for environmental issues as it should be. Genesis is the best place in my opinion to look for a reason to show concern and care for this creation that God created. Psalm 89:11 establishes that the earth and its resources all belong to God, but that He has chosen to entrust them to man. Therefore we should show care of them as God would. The Colossians passage used reveals that everything created is for God and his purpose, which to me should give Christians an implication that we should be concerned with environmental issues as it not only gives God glory, but also gives us a platform with our culture to share about our Creator and His story.

In the last couple of years a group of Southern Baptist leaders have created a declaration on the environment and climate change, which I am in full agreement. This declaration consists of four main points. First, humans must care for creation and take responsibility for our contributions to environmental degradation. Second, it is prudent to address global climate change. Third, Christian moral convictions and our Southern Baptist doctrines demand our environmental stewardship. Fourth, it is time for individuals, churches, communities, and governments to act.

It is difficult for me to see how one is showing glory to God when we ignore the environment or show care for it. Many people use the argument that it will all be destroyed one day anyway, but to me God never commands us to be flippant with His creation, but to care for it. Those who are not using caring for the environment as their basis for life, but showing care for it under the command of God encourage me. This has larger implications than within our own circles, but it is one area in which the world will not listen to anything else we say based on our own ignorance of caring for the creation. If anything, we should thank those in the world who do care for the creation, apologize for our ignorance, and explain how they can follow the God who created this creation they care so deeply for. In other words we can redirect their potential worship for the creation to the creator God.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Global Warming and The Environment Part 1 of 2

This is the third part of the five part ethic series that I am doing. Part three deals with the environment and what Christians are called to do with issues such as "global warming."Global warming and the environment is a matter of creation cares. The problem is two fold as it is one that the culture at large is recognizing, but the church has ignored. Because the culture is recognizing the problem it is becoming something that Christians can no longer ignore just based on the fact that we are part of the culture at large. It is now an issue incorporated to many areas of life such as the place of work, the way our homes are designed, the cars we drive, and of course the politicians we elect into office.

One problem for Christian’s involvement is “global warming” because it is still has not been proven. The attitude that is commonly heard is something similar to, “Well God is in control anyway so who cares about this non-existent global warming anyway.” Although there is a valid point in it being proven it does not portray the accurate attitude of a follower of Christ. We should be involved in every form of culture including an issue such as “global warming.” If a Christians voice is not represented then we have no right to complain on the outcomes that everyone else comes up with as a means to tackle the problem. Although it has not been proven one cannot deny that there is something going on in the environment around us and we appear ignorant when we ignore that.

Relevant Sources of Authority
Scripture Passages:
“God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:28)

“And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was good…” (Genesis 1:31)

“The heavens are yours; the earth is also yours; the world and all that is in it, you have founded them.” (Psalm 89:11)

“For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether the thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-all things were created through him and for him.” (Colossians 1:16)

Influential Quotes:
“The whole creation which was made by the Son, the Father made by His Word.” -Augustine of Hippo

Let everyone regard himself as the steward of God in all things which he possesses. Then he will neither conduct himself dissolutely, nor corrupt by abuse those things which God requires to be preserved. -John Calvin

“The very simple meaning of what Moses says, therefore, is this: Everything that is, was created by God.” -Martin Luther

Part two will hopefully be posted tomorrow. Its funny because my wife and I both agree that we as followers of Christ should care for the environment, but we disagree on global warming, but I find that we are coming to an agreement on how to respond to the issue in a way that honors Christ.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Nuclear Weapons and Deterrence Part 2

As a follower of Christ I find it very difficult to maintain the idea of ever using nuclear weapons. In my opinion I never see where a believer could justify using such a means. Some might attempt to bunch this in with an issue such as capital punishment, but weapons of mass destruction are on a level of their own.

Personally I believe ones interpretation of the great commission in Matthew 28:16-20 will ultimately determine a believers stance on the use of nuclear weapons and deterrence. I for one take seriously the great commission and see a mandate to go to the nations with the goal of making disciples that will glorify the name of Christ. Using nuclear weapons and deterrence is basically on the opposite spectrum because it is something that would not only attack and kill terrorists for example, but also annihilate entire societies. John Piper brings out the fact that it would be participating in the killing of millions of image bearers of God that He created to worship Him.

Another way to look at this is that in general followers of Christ are adamantly against the killing of innocent lives, which is one reason that Christians oppose abortion. Just as it would not be justifiable to kill thousands to millions of innocent babies, it should not be justifiable to take thousands to millions of innocent lives in the form of a nuclear weapon, just because it would also kill the bad guys. In regard to the killing of thousands to millions of innocent lives, the two should not be inseparable, but use the same reasoning as to why neither should be encouraged in the life of a believer.

I do not believe that it takes too much convincing for most Christians to see that it is not permissible to use nuclear weapons, but this does not fully address the issue of a country obtaining nuclear weapons. The argument that is often employed is that by a country obtaining such a weapon of deterrence will be enough in itself to help protect a country from any threat of equal status from an opposing source, but does this argument hold up in the life of a believer?

In order for this argument to hold up I believe one has to belittle God because in essence you are saying that he is not fully in control. J.I. Packer points out that in the mind of man we look to our “rulers” of the leading country in the world for all the answers and fears of what will take place in the world, but it is important to remember that God is the one who is sovereign and in control, determining the outcome of everything. By trusting in God’s sovereignty we should not ultimately fear the rulers or nations with such capabilities.

Piper also points out that when looking at the Noahic covenant it suggests that God will not allow a “nuclear holocaust” leaving only a few people to start again. Although the Noahic covenant is obviously referring to the flooding of the earth, the implications in Genesis 9:21 appears to take us beyond only a flood. This is not to imply that the world will not have its own end because it will, but by being replaced with a new heavens and a new earth as described in Scripture.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Nuclear Weapons and Deterrence Part 1 of 2

The subject of nuclear weapons and deterrence is not a new phenomenon as it has been used in regards to war since the Cold War. Although it is generally referred to in discussions around war, it really falls into a category of its own based on the seriousness of the topic. It cannot be treated as an issue that simply falls under the umbrella of war, but it is its own umbrella.

The general problem is that there is such a thing as nuclear weapons and/or the potential for them. The idea of nuclear weapons goes much further than taking the life of an individual in war to taking out the society at large. This has huge implications when thinking of the great commission and going to the nations. Some Christians might try to justify them by referring to the end times, but this should cause all believers to take a step back and take a closer and deeper look into the Scripture.

Relevant Sources of Authority
Scripture Passages:
“Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.” (Genesis 9:6)

“And when the Lord your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them, then you must devote them to complete destruction.” (Deuteronomy 7:2)

“And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet.” (Matthew 24:6)

“But if you do wrong, be afraid, for her 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.” (Romans 13:4b)

Influential Quotes:
“The indiscriminate annihilation of thousands or millions of God’s image bearers is such a blatant assault on God and his revealed will that Christians must not share in the act.” John Piper

“Neither pacifism nor nonpacifism, if either is suggested as a workable technique, is adequate to handle the situation created by weapons of great power.” Edward Leroy Long, Jr.

“If those who use any nuclears in any way in any war will have God against them, God is against the possession of all these weapons right now for deterrence.” Paul Ramsey

“Think, today, of Clinton and Saddam Hussein. Do you suppose that it is really these top men who determine which way the world shall go? Think again, for God is greater than the world’s great men.” J.I. Packer

The issue of nuclear weapons remains, the question is what we do about them now? Part two will contain my position and I would like to know yours.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Torture in an age of terrorism Part 2

III. Position Statement
In order to be transparent, I must admit that this is one issue as an American and a follower of Christ that I had not given much thought to leading into this post. Typically people have their opinion on an issue at the flip of a coin, but the issue of torture on individuals is not quite that simple. First, it is an issue that I know exists, but one that I have never given much thought too. Second, the only form I have ever seen first hand is that in the movies, which in some ways desensitizes me to the reality that there is places that torture is actually happening. But not giving much thought to an issue and being desensitized to its reality does not pardon me from taking a position on torture.

Especially because the society today is dealing more often with the topic of war, terrorism, and torture gives me all the more reason to be ready to give an answer to those around me. I find it difficult for anyone who claims to be a follower of Christ to easily justify torture. We are referring to following the God of love so it seems almost impossible to claim to follow Him in one breath and talk of torturing a person whom He created in another breath.

In general I do not believe that torture is something that should be used in an age of terrorism, but under extreme very specific cases I do see it as permissible. Although, this does need to be nuanced as there would need to be a clear definition of what a specific case would be allowing for an act of torture when dealing with terrorism. In addition there would need to be specific requirements on the type of torture and to what degree it would be taken.

One might question how it is ever permissible and for that I will turn to the “Just War Theory” as my means of doing so. Although, most would say that no means of torture would be justifiable by the just war theory, I believe that it can be, but that it needs to be fleshed out. The best means for doing that I believe are using the Jus Ad Bello Criteria under the just war theory. (Scott B. Rae, Moral Choices: An Introduction to Ethics. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 3rd ed., 2009), 314.)

First, the torture must be prompted by a just cause. Second, the torture must have a just intention. Third, torture must be engaged as a last resort. Fourth, torture must be initiated with a formal declaration by properly constituted authorities. As can be seen this is a delicate issue that must be handled as such. Based on these requirements I cannot foresee torture as a regularly occurring practice in a time of war. In addition to having very specific requirements, the torture itself must be limited to only go so far and determined before ever beginning. This protects the human life being dealt with and does not allow for it to go further than necessary or out of spite of the situation.

Hebrews 11:35 would be a situation in which torture should definitely cease. In the case of Hebrews it is referring to being persecuted on the behalf of Christ, but it is no secret that there are terrorist out there willingly to die in the name of Allah. Upon realization of discernment of this then if torture does not cease it becomes a different issue dealing with the heart of the one inflicting the torture on an individual.

Recognizably so this is in no way an exhaustive look at the issue of torture, but more of a brief look in order to begin thinking through the issue myself and prompt others to do the same.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Torture in an age of terrorism Part 1 of 2

*Today will start a 5 part series of some ethical stances that will each contain 2 parts*

I. The Problem:
Although, not a new issue, before 9/11 not many Americans thought much about terrorism, including those within the church, but since that terrorist attack it has been an issue surrounding society with the “Global War on Terror”. It is read daily in the newspaper, seen in movies, and used as a reason to vote for a particular political candidate. Now, that terrorism is something people think of more often, the issue of using the means of torture on potential terrorists is another factor that people must ethically deal with.

Generally Christians are on two sides of torture. One group believes that in order to “love your neighbor as yourself” then it would never be permissible to use torture. The other group believes that it should be avoided if possible, but if there were a threat of a major terrorist attack then it would be an instance where it is permissible to use torture.

II. Relevant Sources of Authority
A. Relevant Scripture:
“And when the Lord your God has delivered them over to you, and you defeat them, then you must devote them to complete destruction. You shall make no covenant with them and show them no mercy.” (Deuteronomy 7:2)

“Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” (John 11:50)

“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.” (Romans 13:4b)

“Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life.” (Hebrews 11:35b)

B. Influential Quotes
“The absolute conviction that their cause is just…may encourage combatants to override the moral limits of war or to neglect other equally weighty moral considerations…” A.J. Coats, The Ethics of War (New York: Manchester University Press, 1997), 146.

“From my own study of Scripture I would say that to refuse to do what I can for those who are under the power of oppressors is nothing less than the failure of Christian love. It is to refuse to love my neighbor as myself.” Francis Schaeffer, Vladimir Butovsky, and James Hitchcock, Who is For Peace? (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983), 23.

“They who have waged war in obedience to the divine command, or in conformity with His laws, have represented in their persons the public justice or the wisdom of government, and in this capacity have put to death wicked men; such persons have by no means violated the commandment, ‘Thou shalt not kill.”’ Augustine, City of God, ed. Philip Schaff, vol. 2 of Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers (Buffalo: The Christian Literature Company, 1887), 15.

“The Exodus 21:24 instruction of ‘an eye for an eye’ is meant to be a limiting factor in the expression of retaliatory force. Only what is necessary and appropriate to a given scenario.” Mark Liederbach, Evaluating the “Caiaphas Ethic” of Charles Krauthammer http://firstthings.com/blogs/evangel/mark-liederbach-on-torture/ (accessed November 2, 2010)

So the question remains, is it torture ever permissible? Part 2 will contain my position on the issue. Any thoughts?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

25 Years of Life!

Tomorrow I turn 25, which for many represents a milestone of a birthday. So I decided that I would make a list breaking down the years of my life leading up to 25 of something significant that has happened to shape me over these 25 years:

1985-1990: Born into the Boyd family, first words, walked
1990-1995:Graduated K-5, Became a follower of Christ!
1995-2000:Matured in Christ, Surrendered to full-time ministry
2000-2005:Graduated highschool, started college, 1st Argentina visit, met Andrea!
2005-2010:Summer in Argentina, engaged, graduated college, married Andrea, started my masters

The things I am most looking forward to in the next five years that will take me into 30:
2010-2015:Baby Boyd 1, Long-term Missions in South Asia, Finishing my Masters, Baby Boyd 2&3, North American Church Plant

Monday, November 8, 2010

In the pasture allowing God to prepare me!

Most of you know that for the past year I have worked for Starbucks. Not a bad company, decent benefits, and at the moment how God is providing for my family. You also know that it is not what I prefer to be doing or you may have even heard the phrase "I hate working for Starbucks" come out of my mouth. Although, I know this attitude does not necessarily go away over night, I have a new perspective on things now.

At The Summit Church we are studying through the book of 1 Samuel in a series titled "Search for a King." This past weekend we studied chapter 16 on David being anointed as king and I recognized some things about this story that I had not really paid much attention to before that allowed me to have this new perspective for where I am in life.

Verse 7 is key in understanding this passage as we see that what the world and God are looking for in a leader are two totally different things. Although, this verse is key it is not what had the most impact on me. If you look at verse 12b it says, "Then the Lord said, "Arise, anoint him, for this is he." Verse 13 says, "...And the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward."

But what really sticks out to me in this passage is the gap between verse 13 and 14. David had just been anointed as king, the Spirit of the Lord had rushed upon him, and he is now back in the pasture where he was before any of that happened so that God could prepare him. My pastor, J.D. Greear(jdgreear.com), had us fill in that blank space between those two verses with the following words: obscurity, monotony, and reality. This truth definitely struck a chord in me as I feel that this is something I have been dealing with for sometime now.

I am not saying that God has set me apart as he did David because it is unlikely that you or I would ever be able to fill the role that David did as he had a unique role in this story. But I do know that God has called me to serve Him in a clear way and that 12 years ago I publicly recognized and surrendered to that call. Honestly over the last 12 years I have been along for the ride, but the last couple of years wondered and questioned at times why I am where I am in life as I look back 12 years ago.

I now fully recognize that God has been and is preparing me for what it is He has for me and part of that preparation process is being in the pasture of obscurity, monotony, and reality. And Just as with David, God has recently showed me what it is He has been preparing me for, but for now I still need some time in the pasture.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

So what exactly is "salvation" anyway?

Salvation is one of those subjects that many people do not like to talk about. The majority of people believe that there is nothing to be saved from and think that the subject is pointless. Then the other group of people believes that they have discovered salvation through some form of a religion, be it Christian or not. Salvation by definition is to escape oneself by finding freedom in Jesus Christ and being restored to one’s original purpose and design.

Salvation as a concept is not unique to Christianity and therefore it cannot be assumed that every person mentioned in the group above truly has Salvation. Because many of the world’s major religions claim a “salvation”, what Christianity when referring to Salvation means today must be examined in greater detail. According to Alister McGrath, “The distinctiveness of the Christian approach to salvation lies in two distinct areas: In the first place, salvation is understood to be grounded in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ; in the second, the specific shape of salvation, within the Christian tradition, is itself formed by Christ” (McGrath, 387).

The Bible speaks of the necessity of Salvation throughout the entire Bible. It is made clear that the fall and reality of sin in mankind’s life has left man in corruption and rebellion in need of a Savior. The effects of sin are shown to affect all aspects of ones life, whether it is intellectually, volitionally, emotionally, relationally, or behaviorally (Eph. 1:3; Tit. 1:15; Rom. 6:6; Tit. 3:3; Rom. 5:10; Rom. 3:12). In essence there is no hope for any area of one’s life without Salvation.

Although the fall is observed very early in the Bible, destroying the perfection that was seen, the promise of salvation is also recorded early in the Bible, offering a future hope (Gen 3:15). The promise of salvation comes early in the book of Genesis and along with it comes the provision and proclamation of salvation (Gen. 3:15; Acts 2). The provision is told to come through the Messiah on the Cross, which will bear all of man’s sins and this will be the atonement for them. The proclamation of a Savior coming that will offer Salvation is also a recurring theme throughout scriptures, specifically the New Testament (Mark 10:45; Luke 19:12; John 1:12).

There are several major conceptions of Salvation seen within Scripture. Salvation is looked at as a union with Christ, which encompasses an ontological, sacramental, covenantal, moral, and experiential union. The Bible also describes salvation through the use of metaphors and analogies, which compares salvation to the vine & branches, a building, a body, and a marriage (John 15; Eph. 2:19-22; Rom. 12:4-5; Eph. 5:23-32). In the life of a believer, Salvation is what is looked at as one’s justification from sin, reconciliation to God, adoption through Christ, and redemption (Exo. 23:7; Eph. 2:12).

It is noted that there is also a particular pattern found in salvation. It first starts with mercy and grace being expounded in ones life (Eph. 2:4; Eph. 2:8-9). As mercy and grace are operated in ones life, an election and calling by the Spirit of God takes place on one. The following three types of election are found in the Bible, election to service, corporate election, and personal election (Rom. 11:4; 1 Pet. 2:9; John 10; Eph. 1).
The calling by the Spirit of God in ones life is first a call to repent and receive salvation (Isa. 65:12; 1 Cor. 1:9; Heb. 3:1). Upon receiving salvation, there comes a second call on the life of all believers, which is to serve and minister to others (Eph. 4:1; Gen. 12:1-3).

When one is marked with receiving Salvation, a conversion is said to haven taken place, regenerating that person’s heart. Conversion comes through repentance in one’s life that is acted upon by faith (Acts 3:19; 2 Cor. 3:16; 1 Sam. 7:3; Isa. 30:15; Gen. 15:6). Through this Salvation process one becomes regenerate, in other words there is a new spiritual birth that takes place as the former way of life is left behind and a new man is created (Jon. 3; Col. 2:13).

Even though as a person becomes regenerate, they are looked at as a new person in Christ, there is still a progress in Salvation to being in union with Christ. This process is considered sanctification, which can be found mentioned most in Romans 8. Sanctification is the idea that one has been saved from the guilt of sin through justification and now they are continually being saved from the power of sin by being sanctified.

Although it is recognized that Salvation is a process, it is not something that can be taken away once received. In other words there is eternal security in the work that was done at the cross, even though people need to be continually saved through sanctification (Psalm 37; Jon. 5:24; Eph. 1:14; Phil. 1:6). The moment one has been elected and called by God unto Salvation, there is never a point that same individual will be unelected or uncalled. In essence “once saved always saved” as far as actually regeneration took pace in ones life.

Although Salvation is not always a popular subject for people to talk about, in the life of a believer it should be the most important topic of conversation. As noted Salvation comes through one way in the person and work of Christ, but it is the job of every believer to make sure that every person hears this message as Christians are tools to be used by God in the election and calling of individuals unto Salvation.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

What does it really look like to live with purpose, intention, and on mission?

I have been thinking a lot lately about what it really means to live with purpose, intention, and on mission as a follower of Jesus. Many of you may initially respond with something such as, "Oh, you need to read 'The Purpose Driven Life' there you will find out how to live a purpose driven life." I am not saying that is necessarily a bad book, in fact I have read it, but it is not exactly what I am referring to here.

I understand and recognize that my life has purpose, but what I have been challenging myself on is what if I lived everyday with missional intention. What would that look like? I look back on my own upbringing, which was a good one, but see that many times in my case we would do things to purposely avoid the "sinners" of the world as if we ourselves weren't sinners. The intentions were the best and we were doing what we thought best, but I often wonder how what we did was really living on mission and what it communicated to those around us.

So, what would not living with missional intention look like? Avoiding the large cities, in my case growing up that was Charlotte, because they are full of dangerous people who do bad things. Spend the majority of your time with "saved" friends and family because they are uplifting and only use Christian cuss words like shoot, darn, and heck. Oh, and of course you would have the occasional Christian family that you may secretly question their relationship with God because they have beer in their refrigerator. You make sure that your life is full of church activities, you speak "Christianese", and living on mission is something you get to do in the summers for a week in another city because they need Jesus more than the city you live in.

Now, what would living with missional intention look like? Instead of avoiding the cities, Christians should be flooding the cities, because they are full of sinful activity. Just in the past two years there has been a shift globally and now over half of the worlds population lives in these large cities and how will they ever know how to live differently if they are never told about Jesus and His love? Instead of spending the majority of your time with other Christian friends and family why not spend it with people who do not believe like you. Get to know your neighbors and not just the ones who go to church. Get to know these people, they maybe your own family, and pour the gospel into their lives.

My pastor J.D. Greear said this morning, "Most people have created a form of a functional universalism", referring to how most of us at the end of the day believe that as long as people generally live a good life and follow the rules of their religion then they are okay and will not spend eternity separated from God. I strongly agree with that statement as I look around at how most of us who claim to follow Jesus live our lives daily. The question I would like to pose to you then is are you living with purpose, intention and on mission or are you living a life in a bubble where everything is "Christian"?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Why I "Love Colt"

Love Colt is an up and coming band from Charlotte, NC that describes their own musical sound as a mix of folk/indie/americana. Either way this is one band that you will not want to miss when they pass through Raleigh, NC next week. From Charlotte, where they regularly draw large crowds at known venues such as Tremont Music Hall and The Evening Muse, Raleigh should give them a good NC hometown crowd at the Pour House Music Hall where they are happy to return after a year.

Love Colt evolved into what they are today out of solo project by their frontman David Stein. With countless hours behind the strings, sticks, keys, pots, pans and pistols, Love Colt gathered on a 'midnight train' towards stardom, telling each others secrets the whole ride out. With their holsters filled and their dear John's signed, Love Colt takes the stage with a magnetic presence, arriving with tunes no outlaw can rival. For more info. visit http://www.the-pour-house.com/

Who: Love Colt, Hadwynn, Queen Annes' Return
When: September 29, 2010 7:00 PM
Where: Pour House Music Hall Raleigh, NC
Price: $6

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Is it all just fantasy?

After visiting a place like India, people are often horrified by the pictures of the many temples filled with idols. A common response would be, "I am thankful we live in a Christian nation, where we don't see idol worship or temples." First, that is a very United States mindset and far from the truth. Second, when are people, specifically those in the church, going to open their eyes and look around them at all of the idolatry taking place all over their city and in their own life.

As most people are this time of year, I am anticipating the official start to football season. I watched a three hour pre-season game last night of my favorite team, the Carolina Panthers, decided to sign up for a fantasy football league, and watched a special on the upcoming season this afternoon. Now, none of those things are inherently wrong, but I did make some key observations, specifically during the special today that troubled me.

First, I can't get passed the new Dallas Cowboys stadium and not be reminded of the Hindu temples in India. Now, they may look different, but just listening to the Cowboys organization describe their stadium, temple, in their own words, what it means and symbolizes to them, and how over the top it is. Second, I heard a player say, "I am giving my heart and soul to this organization." Now, I know you are thinking he probably didn't really mean that and there is a place for dedication and putting your heart into your work, but really, giving your heart and soul over to a football organization? Third, I heard another player say, "I worshiped this guy(referring to a veteran player) growing up." Now, we all look up to people growing up, but admiring someone and worshipping them are vastly different.

Well known pastor, Mark Driscoll, once had a Christian woman in India tell him she would never visit America again because of all of the idolatry in America: the stadiums looked like temples to her. Most of us hear that and laugh, but in part she is right, to many people that is their temple. Think for a minute about how many people every Sunday from now to the Super Bowl will pack into stadiums all over the country week after week to cheer on, or worship their team, and now compare that number with the amount of people in our churches every week being introduced to the only God who deserves worship. There is no comparison in the numbers.

Let me clarify that I am not against football, stadiums, fantasy leagues, etc. in and of themselves, but when they become what we are worshipping in our lives I am. My above paragraph is also another reason that there needs to be more men stepping up to the role of church planter so our cities all over will be full of churches where people can hear the truth and have an opportunity to worship the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, I am excited and plan on enjoying this football season as I hope all of you do, but just think about who or what you worship and observe those in the culture around you as we are all designed to worship and we all worship someone or something daily.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

One Gospel and Only One Gospel: Galatians 1:1-10

There is only one gospel and one gospel only, to add anything to this is a contradiction.

The book of Galatians claims to be authored by the Apostle Paul and that Paul was accepted as its author is well affirmed in early church history. Of all the Pauline epistles, Galatians is one that is rarely questioned in regards to the authorship of Paul. It is considered that this may have been the first letter included in the New Testament that Paul wrote and it was clearly written to the Galatians. The question remains as to specifically who the letter of Galatians is being addressed, Northern or Southern Galatia. There are strengths and weaknesses for both theories, early church history sides with the northern view, whereas modern day readers’ sides with the southern view, but neither one can be conclusively proven.

The book of Galatians can be divided into two sections. Chapters 1-3 are a rebuke directly from Paul while chapters 4-6 are practical in telling the church how it should be in unity with one another as the body of Christ. Key words from Galatians include the following: law, curse, justified, righteous, faith, redeemed, and promise. All of these words can be found in what is considered the key verses of the book found in chapter 3:10-14, which describes the nature of the atonement of Christ.

It is made clear that Paul wrote the letter to defend against “another gospel” being proclaimed by the Judaizers, which anything added ultimately, contradicts; this is made clear in 1:9. Paul set out to defend the gospel of justification by faith alone. In addition to this, he defends the consistency of the demands of living a Spirit-led life. Paul starts by defending his apostleship (1:1-5), then rebukes the Galatian churches (1:6-4:11), and then appeals for them to return to the one and only gospel (4:12-6:10).

Outline
I. The reality of Paul’s calling is through Christ from God. 1:1-2
A. We are God’s and called by Him. 1:1
B. Confirmation of our calling comes from brothers in Christ. 1:2
II. God’s grace and peace intervened in our reality to deliver us. 1:3-5
A. God acted out of grace and peace. 1:3
B. God accomplished great things for us for His forever glory. 1:4-5
III. God made it clear through the grace of Christ that there is no other gospel. 1:6-9
A. God ordained one gospel and made it clear there is only one. 1:6-7
B. You will be cursed if you decide to preach a different gospel. 1:8
C. Anyone who preaches a different gospel will be cursed. 1:9
IV. Desiring to please God alone brings liberty and joy to your life. 1:10
A. There is glorious freedom in seeking the approval of God. 1:10

Message

I. The reality of Paul’s calling is through Christ from God. 1:1-2

Paul wanted to make it very clear to us from the beginning of his message to the Galatians that what he was about to write and say was not from his own authority, but that he was commissioned by God as an apostle to deliver this message. This is key because in our current society, this has been lost, resulting in many people in the church feeling “called” because of their church, education, etc, where in reality it is by God and Him alone that one receives a calling. It is clear Paul is not attempting to come across, as having superior authority; we can look at Romans 1:1 and see Paul referring to himself as a servant or slave of Jesus Christ. Although, Paul was not trying to set himself up as better or in authority over the others, he did for some reason feel the need to explain his apostleship. The assumption is that men of Galatia or possibly the false teachers were questioning him on his apostleship and as to what authority he had. John Calvin points out the two meanings of Apostleship: preacher of the gospel or highest authority in the church. Paul would fall into the category of the highest authority in the church. It is important to remember that we are God’s and called by and through him.

Paul mentions God the Father raising Christ the Son as the authority to which he stands on. This statement is important for a few reasons. Christ being raised from the dead is a historical fact and therefore gave historical confirmation to Paul being sent by God. The event of Christ rising from the dead was specifically applicable to Paul’s life with his salvation experience on the road to Damascus. This also displays the unity of the Father God and Christ the Son relationship that takes place through salvation.

Paul mentions the “brothers” that are with him as a means of secondary support. This can be seen in our own life, as fellow followers of Christ are often the ones who confirm our calling in Christ. Paul has established his calling from God and Christ alone, but he reinforces and affirms this calling through his brothers with him. It does not reveal to us how many there are in the group, but it is referring to those who are like-minded, fellow followers of Christ. This can also be seen through Paul’s final greeting in Philippians 4:21. W.A. Criswell concluded that this could have been due to the severity of the letter being written that Paul would require the brotherly support.

Paul, along with this group of brothers, is specifically addressing the churches of Galatia. This clearly shows that there were “churches” not a single church in Galatia. The specific churches of Galatia being referred to by Paul are a going debate as to whether it was the churches of northern or southern Galatia. Regardless if the letter is being addressed to the northern or southern churches makes no difference in the intended message. Paul makes it clear that he has authority, is upset with the churches of Galatia, and wants to distinguish the truth for them.

II. God’s grace and peace intervened in our reality to deliver us. 1:3-5

The Greek word here for grace and peace would have been another clue to the authorship of Paul as it is a characteristic of a Pauline salutation. Grace would have been used more for a Greek audience where as peace would have been used for a Jewish audience, but when the two are both used it is a full Christian force meaning it is intended for all audiences, including us today. In 1:3 where God the Father and Lord Jesus Christ are used as the means of the grace and peace displays the unity they have in salvation. It also reveals that Paul really wants to come to the churches in Galatia and bless them through his rebuke that takes place in 1:6-9. Perhaps most importantly when referring to grace is what is seen in 1:6 and then again in 2:21, referring to God’s unconditional grace expressed through Christ in salvation. The peace from God is referred to earlier in Romans 5:1 and then later in Ephesians 2:14-18 as living at peace with God, which cannot happen apart from the grace of salvation in Christ alone.

Paul then tells the Galatians and us a message that we already know, but have obviously forgotten the pure message in the case of the Galatians and many today. For them it was circumcision, for us it is walking an aisle, baptism, or something else that we think grants us salvation apart from knowing Christ and Him alone. In Jesus Christ giving himself for our sins and delivering us from the present evil point out our depravity as man and our need for Jesus who becomes our substitution from sin. This is clearly seen in the gospel of John in 3:16. The reality of 1:4 also points back to 1:1 whereby Paul receives his authority. Christ purchases our sins so he can in turn deliver us from them, which is why deliverance is one of the key words in 1:1-10. Holman’s Bible Dictionary points out in one of their definitions of deliverance that in 1:4 Christ is the agent of deliverance by giving of Himself for our sins, which is ultimately all apart of the plans of God for His own glory.

The end of this section, 1:3-5, signals a doxology in that all honor and glory are to be forever God’s. This may be due to the lack of Paul’s traditional thanksgiving in the letter or it may be pointing back to the summary of the gospel that was just stated in 1:4. Either way, the focus here is that all glory is to be bestowed upon God now and for eternity. Criswell points out that Paul is simply stating to whom glory has and will forever belong. Here we see God displaying His own eternal glory through forgiveness of our sins and the transformation of our lives in response to the gospel.

III. God made it clear through the grace of Christ that there is no other gospel. 1:6-9

In the previous two sections we were shown by whose authority Paul came with this letter and then a reminder of what Christ did on our behalf through the gospel. Now, Paul establishes in the third section, 1:6-9, that there is no other gospel regardless if someone adds the word gospel to the message they are spreading, which is apparently what is taking place here, namely circumcision. For us this comes in many forms, a few examples are when you are listening to a message that would be named health, wealth, or social gospel. These are just a few of our own examples, but really anything that attempts to add another message in with the gospel, which we will see in 1:9 that is a total contradiction even if it appears similar. In this section we receive Paul’s rebuke for so quickly abandoning the true gospel.

Even though in Paul’s rebuke he claims we are “turning to another gospel,” he distinguishes that there in actuality is no other gospel, but that it has been termed that by some. Galatians is a bit of a different letter for Paul because he almost immediately enters into his rebuke, whereas he usually would have a section of thanksgiving, but it is likely that he had just received news of what was taking place in Galatia. Due to the urgency of the Galatians abandoning the gospel of grace, referred to in 1:3-5, Paul sees no time to write as he usually does, but instead goes straight to the intended message. Paul, unlike many leaders today, goes straight to the point of the message; there is no wasting time or worry of offending people because he understands the truth and the severity of the message. In reality the message the Galatians and many of us often accept is opposite of the true gospel, therefore cannot be termed “another gospel.”

The Galatians are not entirely rejecting Christianity, but removing Christ, which really places it in line with all otherworld religions at that point. If you have another gospel then it is a false one without any truth. Paul is astonished at this because it was relatively close to the time that the message of Christ saving us through grace had been preached. Paul knew and believed in his heart that there was nothing we could do apart from Christ death on the cross to obtain salvation and someone was coming behind him claiming to preach the same message, but with an entirely different meaning, which the churches in Galatia did not pick up on.

Following Paul’s rebuke, he quickly distinguishes as we see in 1:7 in the ESV, “not that there is another one…” There is only one gospel, but some people, specifically in the churches of Galatia, have been perverting it. F.F. Bruce in his commentary on Galatians believes that no one would actually consider this different message the “gospel” but spread it as such with the intent of confusion amongst the people. It is an arguable point as to whether these men of perversion came from within the churches of Galatia or were from the outside, Bruce, believes based on the circumstances that they had to be from the outside and came into the churches spreading this message as many evangelists do in our own churches today. Bruce provides some insight from Paul’s own testimony:

“Paul himself had for long sought justification before God by his observance of the Jewish law, until his Damascus-road experience taught him the fruitlessness of such a quest and the bankruptcy of the way of law-keeping as a means of getting right with God. The assurance of ultimate acceptance by God, which could never be his while he lived under law; he received on the spot when he yielded submission to the rise Christ. On the spot, too he realized that the law, to which he had devoted all his gifts and resources, had not been able to prevent him from pursuing the sinful course (as he now knew it to be) of persecuting the church of God (cf. v 13); the law had not even been able to show him that the course was sinful.”

Paul now tells us that it does not really matter who it is that is spreading this message. It could be a well-known pastor, an evangelist, Paul, or even an angel from heaven. Here is where Paul really gets serious with us as to the outcome of someone spreading this false message with the declaration that the person will be accursed by God. The language of being accursed by God points back to an earlier message seen in 1 Corinthians 16:22. Paul’s use of accursed here is a technical Greek term, anathema, which is a call for a person to be under a holy ban. We also see 1:8 looking back to 1:1 as to whereby Paul has the authority to come in with a message like this, being through Christ and Him alone.

Paul establishes the one true gospel first and then explains the false message that has come in as a way to separate the two messages entirely for us. There may be some similarity in language used, but definitions could not be anymore opposite. It should be noted here that although Paul is directing the current situation going on in the churches of Galatia, his language in 1:8 is referring to a hypothetical situation revealing that this message is indeed for us today as a false mix of the gospel is being spread everywhere. The most obvious groups for us are the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witness, but the groups that we mistakenly allow in are often those spreading a false message under the umbrella of protestant evangelicals.

Another way Paul deals with the seriousness of someone being accursed for spreading a false message mixed with the gospel is by repeating in 1:9 what he had just said the verse before. In the ESV 1:9 has been translated as a gospel “contrary to” where it could have also been translated as “in addition to” the gospel, which would make it clearer that anything added to the gospel ultimate contradicts the gospel. By repeating this accusation back to back reinforces it in our minds to understand our place if we allow this into our lives. In chapter 1:8-9 it also points back and refers to the reality of Matthew 7:21-23, where there will be some who attempt to get into the kingdom of heaven based on the “works” they did in God’s name; where in reality all they were doing is breaking the third commandment by taking the name of God in vain.

IV. Desiring to please God alone brings liberty and joy to your life. 1:10

In the last section of this passage Paul sets apart that he was not called to do what pleases man, but he was called to do what pleases God, this can be seen in the language he uses by referring to himself as a servant. Although Paul did often seek the best of man, the letter to the Galatians did not have that in mind, but through the rebuke Paul was seeking the Galatians and our best even if it appeared otherwise. Paul also reveals here that he understands the severity of the message given in 1:1-9 and that he is making it clear that he is only concerned with pleasing God as we should be.

It appears that Paul is reminding himself and the Galatian churches of the purpose of the letter, which is to please Christ and Him alone. In doing this Paul reveals the secret to a life lived to please God frees you up from the worry of pleasing anyone else. This is an important message for us to remember in the daily decisions of our lives whether large or small that if we are living our life to please God then it frees us up from living to the standards placed on us by anybody else.

So, as we see in 1:1-10, Paul is explaining that there is only one gospel, which he previously preached. It does not matter if the culture moves towards a popular movement where the gospel is intertwined with other things stripping it of its power because there is still only one gospel. That gospel is by God sending Jesus Christ to die in our place as our substitute, taking on our sin so that we could be looked upon as innocent. This is the one gospel and the only one.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

"What tools are to mechanics, books are to preachers" -Alan Black

As the summer season, minus the heat, is drawing to an end, it is time to embark on another list of books to dive into during the fall season. Another large list is before me, but I know and understand that when I look back on these books that are helping build my library I will be better prepared for the work that God has placed me in. Alan Black said, "Just as no mechanic can do an effective job without adequate tools to perform precision work, so no pastor can ever hope to expound the Bible without good books."

With that being said, here is the fall reading list:

1. Moral Choices-Scott Rae

2. The Mission of God-Christopher Wright

3. Readings in Christian Ethics-David Clark & Robert Rakestraw

4. The Gospel for Real Life-Jerry Bridges

5. Ethics as Worship: Readings for Christian Ethics Theory and Practice-Mark Liederbach

6. When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order-Martin Jacques

7. In Spite of the Gods: The Rise of Modern India-Edward Luce

8. Learn to Read Greek New Testament-David Alan Black

9. Using New Testament Greek in Ministry-David Alan Black

10. A Survey of the Old Testament-Andrew E. Hill and John H. Walton

11. Church Planter: The man, the message, the mission-Darrin Patrick

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Do you care...I often don't!

I just finished doing a study and writing a paper through the book of Jonah. It is funny how the hundreds of times that I heard this story growing up, even took part in a program called, "Go Go Jonah", that I never got some of the stuff out of that book that I did in this study and I believe I am not alone in that. As a side note, I still have, wear, and cherish the shirt from that program that I participated in at eight years old. It is an adult small and amongst my too small, but wear anyway t-shirt collection.

I often find myself like Jonah. I have embraced and enjoy the compassion that God has shown me, but I often do not want God to show that same compassion to others. Let me explain, in regards to being missional, I find it easy to show compassion and care for those that I like, are like me, and who I find it worth my time and effort to reach out to. On the flip-side of that I tend to not care about the people who I generally do not get along with or often times are not like me and my personality. It was only recently that I came to understand and realize that in reality I desire to show them no compassion and by choosing not to share Jesus with them I am saying that I don't care if God shows them compassion.

Jonah 4:1(ESV) "But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry," referring to the compassion that the Lord had shown to the people of Nineveh, whom he had no compassion. I often find myself with this attitude towards people or a group of people and it very well maybe a person or group of people that God has called me to share his love and compassion with just as was the case with Jonah. Jonah was not a good prophet in this story, even upon his obedience to go to Nineveh he was angry at God's mercy.

I believe many of us are like this in our everyday lives when we see a certain person or type of people come to embrace the saving grace of Christ when we believe they did not deserve it or we were looking forward to them receiving "what they deserved", which in reality is the same that we deserve about from Christ.

So take away points are that God saved Nineveh through a selfish man, Jonah, and he can also use you and me, selfish men to reach our "Nineveh's. Jonah's true heart was revealed here and it is a good reminder to examine our own heart where we are, whether that be the slums of India or in Urban Chicago.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Fun things to do, see, and go to in Raleigh.

Let me start by saying that I apologize for the lack of posts during the summer months, but if you remember from an earlier post I had quite a large reading list for the summer, which got knocked out by the way. Not included in that post was the numerous papers that were included as part of reading those books. Thankfully I am about one day away from putting the finishing touches on my last paper, leaving me with two finals before the summer semester comes to an end!

Now, the purpose of this post is to give a quick look at the cool places I have discovered to do, see, and go to in the city of Raleigh in my first year living here. It amazes me that it was almost one year ago that I was packing up my condo and gearing up for the move to Raleigh. The transition was not as easy as I was expecting to say the least, but after one year I have gotten used to being away from the small town beach life to now being in mid-size city life.

This list in no way captures everything there is to do and see in the wonderful city of Raleigh, but this is what I have discovered in one year. Do note, that I have discovered something new almost every week, including a couple on this list just this past friday. And this list is in no way in any particular order, but things I have come to appreciate in Raleigh and things and places you should check out when you come here to visit:

1.The Pit
2. Raleigh Times
3. Morning Times
4. Lily's Pizza
5. Shish Kabob
6. Big Boss
7. Flying Saucer
8. Dos Taquitos
9. La Crema
10. Goodberry's
11.City Market
12. Oakwood Cafe
13. The Third Place
14. The Pour House
15. Rialto Independent Theatre
16. $1.50 Theatre
17. Numerous Parks/Greenway Paths
18. Neuse River, Falls and Jordan Lake
19. Cameron Village, North Hills, and Triangle Town
20. Prince Hookah Cafe

Monday, June 28, 2010

Do you know your neighbor?

Do you know your neighbor? Before moving to Raleigh my wife and I discussed how we wanted to live intentional within the community where God provided for us to live and be missional amongst our neighbors. Although, we had the best intentions and it is not that we have not put forth some effort, but in some ways we do not know many of our neighbors. This was clearly brought to my attention today when I waved to a neighbor two doors down, but decided this time to walk over and introduce myself. We introduced ourselves and then she said, "I wish you could meet my husband, but he has been in the hospital for the last three months."

Immediately I recognized that good intentions only go so far and in order for good intentions to become reality we have to act on those intentions. I thankfully know this neighbor now and we were able to spend about fifteen minutes getting to know each other and I learned how I could be of assistance to her and pray for her and her husbands health. The tragedy is that people no longer know their neighbors in our society and Christians as a whole are generally know different or prefer to "protect" their families through the sin of busyness with church activities 24/7.

To be intentional and missional is going to look different for all of us. For some it will be getting to meet your neighbors for the very first time. For others it will be inviting some neighbors over for dinner this friday night. For others it may be offering to help a neighbor with a project or some yard work. It doesn't specifically matter what it is, but what does matter is that you do something in order to share the message of Jesus Christ.

Here are a few ideas from an Acts 29 pastor Jonathan Dodson in Austin Texas on missional living:

1. Eat with Non-Christians
2. Walk, Don’t Drive
3. Be a Regular
4. Hobby with Non-Christians
5. Talk to Your Co-workers.
6. Volunteer with Non-Profits.
7. Participate in City Events
8. Serve Your Neighbors.

http://theresurgence.com/Dodson_Simplified_Missional_Living

Monday, June 14, 2010

Summer Reading List

I constantly read, in part because I enjoy it, in part because a Masters degree requires it. Here is my summer reading list:

1.Evangelism Handbook: Biblical, Spiritual, Intentional, Missional. Alvin Reid

2. The Master Plan of Evangelism. Robert Coleman

3. Reinventing Jesus. Komoszewski, Sawyer, Wallace

4. Living By The Book: The Art and Science of Reading the Bible. Howard and William Hendricks

5. An Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics: The Search for Meaning. Kaiser and Silva

6. Building a Theological Library. Daniel Akin

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Gays & Lesbians in the Church

A continuously rising subject within the Church is gays & lesbians, which I will be the first to admit that the response of the Church as a whole has not been the correct biblical answer. The majority of church-goers carry around the attitude of one of my former pastors who once said publicly as he was preaching, "I don't want to be around them, I am disgusted like the rest of you." This is a sad and unfortunate response to gays & lesbians, but the opposite response of the church is just as bad, which is to embrace the lifestyle and accept it.

On the front page of the Life, etc. section of The Raleigh News & Observer was about Pullen Memorial Baptists Church in Raleigh, where I live, voting on a new "pastor" who is openly a lesbian. Scripturally, there are two issues here: First, the Bible is very clear that while men and women are created equal, they are also created with different roles, elder/pastor being exclusively reserved for men (but that conversation is for a future post). Second, Scripture is clear about practicing homosexuality being sin, which would disqualify one from the position of elder/pastor as would any continual unrepentant sexual sin.

The article goes on to mention that Petty's desire is to carry on "the tradition" of this particular church, which tells me that in this church as it is in many that tradition is elevated above Scripture. The article also refers to the rareness of women leading Baptist churches, which there is a reason for that if those few churches would just look to the Scriptures. The article ends with saying, "She's the person the church needs at this point in our history." The way the article ends points directly to the culture we live in where a lot of the church is attempting to read the Bible with the views of the culture, but the reverse should be happening where churches are reading their culture from the views of the Bible.

Now, for starters this is not a church I would ever attend for the two reasons I stated earlier in this post, but the response to gays & lesbians as a whole is not what is should be. Practicing homosexuality is a sin, just as looking at pornography, just as adultery, etc. Churches should be full of gays & lesbians, porn viewers, fornicators, adulterers,etc. because all are in need of Jesus and without Him they are stuck in what is called sin.

Instead of churches ousting gays & lesbians, there should be a biblical response of welcoming those in who identify themselves with the gay & lesbian lifestyle offering resources and providing biblical support to assist those who desire to overcome this lifestyle. My fear is that this news article is a reflection of our culture and many churches that are opening the door for an array of other sins becoming acceptable based solely on the fact that culture as a whole embraces them.

For more information regarding male eldership and homosexuality:
-http://www.esvstudybible.org/search (Gen. Eph. 1&2 Tim. Titus)
-http://theresurgence.com/alexander_strauch_1997_biblical_eldership
-http://theresurgence.com/reid_monaghan_2007_twisted_gender
-http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cSGIPqXhofE

Monday, May 17, 2010

Lessons from Southview to Starbucks

During my younger years, I attended Southview Christian School from 4th grade through 9th grade because my parents insisted. These were some of the foundational years of my life and I still describe my experience there as being only by the grace of God that I am following Him. To some this statement may not make much sense, but this particular school would fall into the "legalistic" camp, where they were more about following rules then they were about following Jesus. Now, looking back on those years of my life I realized that I struggled with many of the things placed before me because Jesus himself would have probably been kicked out of a similar school as many of the things found at institutions like that one are not found in the Bible. This school more closely followed the Pharisees, hardcore fundamentalist, with the sin of comission and omission.

I write all that to say that as I followed Christ through those years I was very confused and continually asked God, "why do you have me here?" It was about half way through my years at Southview that God impressed upon me that He had me there for a reason and when He was done using me there He would move me onto a new place. It was not immediately as I had hoped, but God was faithful to finish what He had for me there and eventually moved me on to a different place.

Years later, I am at a very different place, but not necessarily one where I want to be and I can't help but remember the lesson God taught me years ago at a place called Southview. As I work on my Masters degree, I have been working for Starbucks Coffee shop. It is not a place I want to be as I have a B.A. and I am working on an M.Div, but God is allowing the lesson of old to be a lesson of new as I start to have a new focus for the place He has placed me. Because that is really what it boils down to, God is sovereign and in control. Mark Driscoll said it this way, "Wherever you are that is where God has sent you in His providential love. It is not your home, it is your mission field." I may not particularly like the fact that I work for Starbucks, but God in His providential love has sent me to work there for a reason, it is not where I will permanently stay, but for now it is my mission field!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Creation Praising the Lord

Creation praising God is a common theme throughout Scripture, especially in the book of Psalms. Well the last couple of weeks we have had the windows open as it is that nice spring time weather. During the last week about 4:30 every morning I awake to birds singing and it is annoying! My initial thought was I need to yell and scare them away because they are disturbing my sleep. My next thought was to get a bb gun and shoot at them one by one until the quit showing up near my bedroom window.

This morning as I woke up to the same annoying birds, passages like Psalm 148 hit me, which refers to all creation worshiping the Lord. I was waking up late as is common in my busy life and it hit me that these annoying birds start their day off right in worship of the one true Lord over all creation and I struggle to wake up and get to work on time, much less to wake up and praise God before starting my day.

It may sound silly to get convicted through a group of annoying birds, but I think passages like Psalm 148 point to this. John Piper refers to the fasting lifestyle, where I will wake up and desire time with praising God more than even food for my body. I am obviously far from that, but I desire to be there as it is God who sustains my daily life not food.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Physical and Spiritual Shape

I decided today to go running for the first time in a very long time, in addition to going to the gym to work out. Before I attempted my run, in my mind I could run as far and as fast as I had before, but I soon realized I was wrong. I made it through maybe half my run before I found myself wanting to quit and give up...I did eventually walk for part of it, but I had to push through. I realized that I am no where near the shape I should be in, but it also hit me that spiritually people get the same way as they do physically.

To be out of shape physically and spiritually have a lot more in common than people think. Physically I am out of shape because I have gotten older, busier, and find it easier to eat things that are not good for me. I also lack the desire to take the time to make exercise essential in my daily life. On the outside I still look fairly in shape to most, I still weigh the same, but physically I am in much worse shape. Spiritually I find myself out of shape because I have gotten busier, and find it easier not to always spend time in God's Word. Just as with physical exercise I find myself lacking the desire to make time with God a priority in my life, to the point of going without a meal to have that time in His presence. As I go through weeks like this in my life I believe on the outside I still look spiritually in shape, I still believe the same, but spiritually many times I am dry and find the lack of desire to have that fellowship with God.

I wrote all of that to say that I have found myself physically and spiritually out of shape in some regards. I realize that I have a lot of work to do, but plan to push through and endure in both respects. What I wonder though, is how many other people in the church today find themselves in this same situation, but either never recognize it or have no one to help them "shape" up...

Contextualizing the Gospel in the New South

Everyone who cares about church planting at all needs to be at this conference on April 26 and 27 to learn from successful church planters throughout the south.
http://advancethechurch.com/events/advance10/
THE SOUTH IS CHANGING. Through urbanization and the vibrant growth of southern cites and towns, the South is becoming a center for innovative, intellectual and cultural growth. Yet, for the first time in its history, the church in the South is declining faster than anywhere in the country. Advance the Church believes this decline and the exodus away from the faith is due to internal failures rooted in gospel illiteracy and weak gospel contextualization–not due to societal or cultural change.

As we stand at this critical turning point, we must be prepared to respond. This conference is committed to equipping pastors, lay leaders, and members to respond by engaging the changing culture of the South with the unchanging message of the gospel.

As part of the effort to encourage revitalization within churches, Advance the Church is partnering with the Acts29 Network to provide a church planting boot camp on Thursday of the conference at Vintage21 in Raleigh.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A hookah bar, poker, and the gospel

Although in downtown Raleigh last night, it felt as if I had left and went to somewhere in the middle east. What started out as a cross cultural interview turned into a three hours of hookah, cigarettes, and tea. I will let you figure out who did what. My new friend from Syria told me all about his culture and treated me as if he had invited me to come interview him. He charged me for nothing and made sure that I always had plenty of fresh mint tea.

In some respects it felt like a scene from a movie as I watched four men from the middle east play poker at one table, a handful of college students with some hookahs and laptops at another, and then you had me and the owner engaged in conversation. The point of the interview was to learn about another culture and then at some point springboard into the gospel, wherever possible.

I learned more about the Muslim faith then I previously knew and did my best to distinguish the differences between Christianity and Islam. My goal was not to only distinguish the differences, but for the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth that does not exist for Muslims. I wish I had some incredible conversion story to share, which I do not, but I feel like last night was the beginning of a new relationship. This man has been treated poorly by some "Christians" in the past so he appreciated my willingness to listen to what he had to say instead of expecting him to only listen to me.

I write this to encourage people to not only reach the nations by going to them, but to also reach the nations by reaching the ones who have come to us. At one point this man said to me, "Matt, I am looking for that really good friend I will have that is from the United States." Perhaps I am that friend or perhaps not, but at least I can step in and show him the true love of the savior Jesus!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Weekend expectations

Looking forward to this coming weekend when Andrea and I will take a quick trip to Wilmington. On the agenda is sushi, time with friends, and the opportunity to teach on Sunday morning at Northside. It is always a blessing to have the opportunity to teach from God's word. I have been wrestling and praying about what to teach this coming Sunday, but I believe I am headed in the right direction for the audience that will be at hand.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Hatians are experiencing Pentecost

40,000 Haitians profess faith in Christ since Jan. 12 quake

Posted on Feb 25, 2010 | by Barbara Denman
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (BP)--A reported 40,127 Haitians have made professions of faith in Jesus Christ since a major earthquake hit the impoverished nation in January, according to pastors and directors of missions within the Confraternite Missionaire Baptiste d'Haiti (CMBH).

"Haiti is ripe for a spiritual movement from God," said Craig Culbreth, director of the Florida Baptist Convention's partnership missions department, which coordinates the work of the CMBH, upon his Feb. 22 return from Port-au-Prince.

During a Feb. 16-17 citywide holiday observance in Cap Haitien, Haiti's second largest city, Culbreth saw "thousands upon thousands filling the streets where people are seeking God and asking Him to spare them from what happened in Port-au-Prince. For me, it was a New Testament expression of what it looks like when the Spirit of God shows up. I have never seen anything like it."

The CMBH is the Florida Baptist Convention-funded partnership of nearly 900 Haitian Baptist churches throughout Haiti. Through the partnership the Florida convention employs seven indigenous missionaries in six regions.

Since the earthquake, the CMBH pastors have distributed 51 tons of rice, which provided 437,750 servings to Haitians in Port-au-Prince and outlying areas where refugees have fled. Additional feedings are expected.

During the week of Feb. 16-22, Culbreth was on his third trip to Haiti since the earthquake to determine how Florida and Southern Baptists could reach beyond Port-au-Prince and meet needs of refugees who left the capital city.

Together, he and Dennis Wilbanks, an associate in partnership missions, have visited five of the six associations, conferring and praying with the directors of missions and Haitian pastors in the associations.

Culbreth compared the window of opportunity where the people are hungry for the Gospel to the United States after 9/11 when hundreds flocked to churches.

He cited recent events in many of the 110 churches in the Port-au-Prince area where throngs of people have been seeking spiritual guidance in church meetings, which have been held outdoors because Haitians feared to enter buildings. Church leaders have reported 28,000 salvations in the Ouest (Port-au-Prince) association.

Many conversions took place during the three days of prayer and fasting called for by the Haitian government Feb. 12-14, Culbreth said.

"People were in the streets, literally begging God for forgiveness and mercy," said Wilbanks, who was in Port-au-Prince at the time.

Professions of faith also have been reported by Florida and Southern Baptist medical and disaster relief teams as volunteers shared the Gospel.

The upsurge in the reported conversions appears to fulfill a pre-earthquake vision by Louis LaBranche, CMBH director of ministry.

"Pastor LaBranche said he had a vision of God telling him that 1.5 million Haitians will be saved in the next five years. He believes it and so do I," Culbreth said.

Culbreth traveled to Leogane, the epicenter of the earthquake which is located 18 miles west of the Haitian capital.

"Reports said that 90 percent of the buildings have been destroyed, but I did not see a house that was not damaged. The roads are buckled and people are pouring out in the streets," he said.

Culbreth was in Port-au-Prince during the 4.7 magnitude aftershock Feb. 22, and he said Haitians continue to live in fear for their lives.

The next three months will be crucial to reaping a spiritual harvest in Haiti, Culbreth said. CMBH leaders are planning 14 area-wide crusades, including two each in five associations and four in Port-au-Prince. The Florida Baptist Convention has authorized $53,000 to purchase Bibles and tracts and to rent sound equipment for the Haitian leaders.

"This is their dream and vision," Culbreth said. "They are making the plans. We are only providing funding to make it happen."
--30--
Barbara Denman is director of communications for the Florida Baptist Convention. Note: The total for professions of faiths reported by the Confraternite Missionaire Baptiste d'Haiti is based on written reports by churches/pastors to the seven CMBH regional missionaries, who in turn report them to the convention's director of ministry. The regional missionaries provide numbers of professions of faith and baptisms as part of their reports on disaster relief ministry by CMBH churches.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Discipleship

Sitting here wondering why it is so difficult for the church today, specifically in the North American context, to make disciples. Most people and most churches are impressed and happy by their numbers because a bunch of people went down an aisle and signed a card. Many of those same people are the ones that you cannot find anywhere near a church five years later. It is time for the church to wake up and realize what has been known as "discipleship" the last forty plus years has not been working. The proof is seen in our churches and the decline in most of them, especially in the "Bible belt".

Now what about those people who still profess with their mouth Christ, but see no reason to be connected to the church? I have countless friends who still consider themselves followers of Jesus, but see no need for the "organized church." Here is a challenging question that my pastor asked at church last night, "Can God be powerfully at work in your life apart from being part of the body, the Church?" -J.D. Greear The answer was a big "NO" based on Ephesians 2:11-3:13. So to those same friends, I challenge them to show me in the Bible, where they see no need for the church or to be connected to a local body of believers? I don't care if it is house church, church plant, denominational, nondenominational, small church, mega-church, etc. The importance is to get connected because it is the means by which God provides for His bride the church to do His mission.

Here are a handful of quotes from my pastor, J.D. Greear, from this weeks sermon that I highly enjoyed and agree with:
"The church is plan A; the church is he means by which God's Spirit does His work."
"You have no right asking for the power of God if you have separated yourself from the means of that power."

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Disaster relief and social work...

I must admit, I have been very impressed by the relief efforts that have been put forth to help Haiti. I admittedly regret that I cannot personally do more to help. There is a word of warning though when doing relief work. As great as it is for Christians to be involved with relief efforts, as I believe we should be, they need not be the means to an end. If all we do is feed, clothe, and house people then we have vastly missed something. Yes, those things are good and we should be amongst the first people to be doing them, but we must not forget that what we are commanded to do is make disciples in all nations.

Providing food, clothing, and housing for people in need is great, but if that is all we do then we are doing them a great injustice. All of that will be great at the moment, but when these individuals come to the end of their life what will they say? "God, I was fed, clothed, and house by your people, they even told me to blessed in your name." This is not to knock disaster relief and social work, if anything this is to encourage it because we should love the world around us, but love the world in such a way that within our disaster relief and social work, the name of Jesus is proclaimed and a hope for eternity is given, not just for the moment.

If anyone is looking for a different way to help out Haiti specifically, go to http://churcheshelpingchurches.com/