The rebuke of a friend is sweet

Yesterday, a friend of mine took me to task for something, and while it wasn’t pleasant, it was comforting to know that he cares about me. He wasn’t mean or rude or unfair to me in any way, he was honest, he was direct, he was gracious. It was quite humbling.

We all need a friend or two like that. The sort of person who will look at us and say the thing that needs to be said and not necessarily the thing that would be most pleasant. The sort of person who knows how to cut you, but kindly, the sort that Proverbs 27:6 speaks of when it says, “faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful”.

I think there’s a great deal more to be said about friendship, but I wanted to get this down while it was fresh in my mind. And to Bruce, who I’m not entirely sure will read this, I wanted to say thank you. You are and have always been a friend, and I appreciate that, more than you may know.

Treating the Scripture as a Person

Imagine the following scenario:

Your husband or wife calls you and tells you that they need to talk to you about something important when you get home. When you arrive, they usher you into the living room. “I’ve been thinking,” they say, “about how uncertain words are and how difficult it is to truly understand someone. I know that you try to talk to me, and that you expect me to understand what you’re saying, and I appreciate that, I really, really do, but I’ve made a decision. From now on, I’m just going to interpret what you say the way I want to, based on what makes the most sense for me. I think that will make things simpler.”

When they finish speaking, you sit, slightly bewildered, collecting your thoughts. Finally, you ask, “Why? I know we have misunderstandings from time to time, I know that sometimes I confuse you, but fundamentally I thought we’ve understood each other.”

Their response leaves you breathless, “Exactly,” they say, “This seems like the right thing to do. It means so much to me that you understand. I think we’ll get along so much better now. I hope you know how much I love you, and how much you mean to me.”

How would you react to such a conversation? Shock? Confusion? Bewilderment? You might begin to wonder if your loved one has some sort of dissociative disorder. You might even wonder if it’s you who have the disorder. You might wonder a thousand different things, but no one would think that this is normal.

But what if instead of you, the person being addressed was God Almighty? And what if instead of a loved one, it was you who had sat God down for the talking to?

How often do we treat the Word of God as less than a person? How often do we forget that when we open up the Word to read, it is not a dead man, but the living God Himself who is speaking to us? How often do we let the fact that we must interpret the Word, pervert itself into the idea that we can interpret it, anyway we want?

How often do we forget that the exact message that God wants us to know cannot be rendered unknowable? I don’t know about you, but I forget it all the time.

Christians and Science

There is a lot of talk today about the difference between science and religion, about the gulf between the Christian and the scientist, the chasm that separates faith from fact. There is a tone to the rhetoric that suggests that these two areas are not only incompatible, but that the Christian’s ability to view the world is inherently limited, and is therefore operating at a distinct disadvantage.

The heart of the idea that is being sold is that the scientist deals with the real world, with atoms and energy, with metals and chemicals, with universal laws and cold hard facts, while the Christian is left in the fanciful world of magic and fairies, of gods and miracles, of spiritual and invisible things that are only knowable through that slippery thing called faith. This idea supposes that the theologian who is studying the nature of grace is doing something fundamentally different than the astronomer who is studying the nature of the heavens.

The problem with this is that it is a lie.

Continue reading “Christians and Science”

Soulwinning, Methodology, and Going in unto Hagar

Abraham had a problem. God had made a promise to him, and to the best of Abraham’s understanding, God had not delivered. Plus, the way things looked, God was not planning on delivering any time soon. And it was starting to bother Abraham. It was also worrying his wife. It worried her enough that she finally approached Abraham and said to him:

Behold now, the LORD hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her.

Sarai makes it clear to Abraham that she knows it is God who has kept her from having children. She recognizes that God is the one who opens and closes the womb, but at the same time, she also doesn’t believe it or at least is not satisfied with it, because she tells Abraham to go into Hagar and see if God will bless that union and give him the promised heir by her (as if God does not control the womb of Hagar as well).

What happens next? We all know the story. Hagar brings forth Ishmael, and fourteen years later, Sarah née Sarai, brings forth Isaac, a son of her own. A few years later, Ishmael is sent away, and he grows up away from his father and his step-mother and brother. The next time we see Ishmael in Scripture, he is meeting Isaac to bury their father Abrhaham. Go a few verses further and we are reading Ishmael’s obituary as it were.

And these are the names of the sons of Ishmael, by their names, according to their generations: the firstborn of Ishmael, Nebajoth; and Kedar, and Adbeel, and Mibsam, And Mishma, and Dumah, and Massa, Hadar, and Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah: These are the sons of Ishmael, and these are their names, by their towns, and by their castles; twelve princes according to their nations. And these are the years of the life of Ishmael, an hundred and thirty and seven years: and he gave up the ghost and died; and was gathered unto his people.
(Genesis 25:13-17)

We know a little more about Isaac. We know that he married Rebekah and that he had two sons, Jacob and Esau. We know that he became wealthy. We know his story in greater detail without having to look it up. But, here is my question:

If we accept the premise that the spiritual counterpart to bringing forth children is seeing souls born into the family of God, then what is the spiritual counterpart to going in unto Hagar?

I believe that as Christians (both individually and collectively as the Church), we often find ourselves in situations that bring us to say, the LORD has restrained us from bearing. The LORD has not given us souls. We know and testify that salvation is of God, that it is by the working of His spirit and by His hand alone that sinners come to repentance, but at the same time we do not believe it, because we go in unto Hagar. We go in to the world and we say, perhaps by these methods that we once thought were wrong, we might raise up souls unto God. What it terrifying is this. More often than not, by these methods, we see fruit.

What we have forgotten is this, Ishmael had twelve sons, each of them a prince with castles and land, and Issac had only two, one of them a shepherd living in semi-exile. If someone looked at the fruit of Abraham’s life, at his child with Hagar and his child with Sarah, which one would they conclude was more “successful”. Would they conclude that going into Hagar was such a bad thing after all? Could they even conclude that it was a good thing? Based on Ishmael’s life, would the modern church have told Abraham: Go down into Egypt and purchase from the slave blocks one hundred Hagars and get them all with child and raise up an army of Ishmaels? Sometimes, I wonder.

What I am saying is this: the ultimate fruit of Ishmael was not determined in his or in Abraham’s lifetime. In many ways it has still not been completely determined and will only be known in full, in eternity. But It is no different with our methods of winning souls today. It is not immediate results that tell us whether we are doing the work of God or not. There was no lack of people to dance around the golden calf that Aaron made, yet Noah preached 100 years and only reached his household.

What do you think? Does this hold up to the light of God’s Word? Have we gone in unto Hagar? If so, how do we make things right?

A Message for Monday: The Evangelization of the Home

I had the opportunity to speak at my church last week and I ended up bringing a message about the evangelization of the home. You can listen to it right here, or if you want a copy for yourself, you can click here to download it.

[audio:The Evangelization of the Home.mp3]

Let me know what you think.

The First Type of Evangelism, part III

In the part one of this ongoing series, we talked about the Shema Yisrael and its connection to what Jesus Christ calls the first and greatest commandment. In part two, we discussed evangelism in general and the dangers of over-simplifying the Gospel. Today, I wanted to go in a slightly different direction and talk about marriage as a form of evangelism. But before we can do that, we need to lay a little more ground work.

We are spiritual beings, and that’s important to remember, if for no other reason than the fact that we are constantly forgetting it. And it’s so easy to do. We wake up in the morning, and the first things we are faced with are the pressing demands of our bodies.

“To the bathroom,” screams our body, “but you should also start the coffee. Also, how about some breakfast? I’m thinking sausage and pancakes and maybe some eggs… Or a bagel!!! One of those asiago cheese thingies with bacon scallion cream cheese… But first, I need a shower, and a good gargle or two — what did I eat before I went to bed?!? — and by the way, HOW’S THAT COFFEE COMING?!?!”

Continue reading “The First Type of Evangelism, part III”

The First Type of Evangelism, part II

In my first post in this series, I discussed the Shema Yisrael and its connection to what Jesus Christ calls the first and greatest commandment. In this post, I want to backtrack a little bit and talk about evangelism in general. Before we go further, it might be useful to define what an evangelist is. The word “evangelist” is a transliteration of the Greek word evangelizesthai1 which means to “bring good news,” from eu- “good” + angellein “announce,” which is from angelos “messenger.” So an evangelist is one who brings good news, and since the word gospel means the “good news”, within Christendom an evangelist is one who brings or proclaims the Gospel.

Continue reading “The First Type of Evangelism, part II”

A Sermon for Sunday: Closing the Generation Gap

If you have never heard Voddie Baucham preach, you are missing out on one of the truly great experiences of the 21st century. If you have heard him preach, but you have never heard his message, Closing the Generation Gap, then you have some work to do. Preaching in 2006 before a large group of Southern Baptists pastors and their ministry associates, Baucham delivered a timely, engaging message on why Christianity in America is dying, and what we as Christians can do about it.

It is a message that still needs to be heard.

[audio:Closing the Generation Gap.mp3]

Click on the play button above to listen to the message, or right-click here and choose “Save Target As” or “Save Link As” to download the mp3. (Note: I have contacted Mr. Baucham and have been granted permission to distribute this message.)

Worshipping Youth

I’ve been thinking about this for a while now, and though I don’t have time to go into depth, I would like to throw out a thought. Let me start with a couple of assertions:

  • Christian American culture worships youth
  • Christian American culture does not respect parents and elders
  • Our attitude is in conflict with Scripture

Continue reading “Worshipping Youth”

The Extraordinary Value of Women

Over at Challies.com, Tim has started a series on what Scripture has to say about the value and status of women. And you should head on over and read it, because he makes some pretty significant claims. For example:

I think it is important to affirm that there is no system of religion that exalts women higher than biblical Christianity. That is quite a claim, I realize, but one that can be easily proven by examining Scripture and comparing what Scripture says about women to the way they are treated by other religions or by those who adhere to no religion. Those who think the Bible is unfair to women and somehow feel they need to raise the status of women always end up damaging women. The result of decades of feminism testifies to this truth for womanhood has suffered terribly in our society.

Intrigued? Click here to check it out.