Saturday, March 31, 2012

Dream Game #1: UK vs. UofL, 1983

Tonight will be an epic game between archrivals Kentucky Wildcats and the Louisville Cardinals. What makes this game so epic is the setting of the game:  the Final Four. The chances of such a matchup are small, and yet here we are. But this is not the first time these two teams have met in the NCAA tournament. Below is a little bit from the 1983 tournament where the two teams met.  This is the game that really started the rivalry. Louisville won.

For more:
Blogizomai - Louisville Wins the 2012 Big East Tournament: Highlights
Blogizomai - Should There Be a Separation Between Sports and Faith?: The Problem With Tim Tebow
Blogizomai - A New Wall of Separation: Why There Should Be a Separation of Sports and State
Blogizomai - Before the First Snap: President Obama's Pre-Super Bown Interview

All Around the Web: Links For Your Weekend - March 31, 2012

Trevin Wax - Are You Equipped to Respond to the Prosperity Gospel? | A helpful review and post from Trevin.

I recall a class discussion in seminary about the prosperity gospel and its popularity in North American churches today. The conversation jumped from Benny Hinn to TBN to Joyce Meyer in just a couple of minutes. The class consensus was that hardcore prosperity teachings were so “out there” that they would easily be dismissed by the church members we would be serving. Our professor pushed back: “You’d be surprised at how much prosperity-tainted teaching is in conservative churches.” He was right.

Kevin DeYoung - Does Calvinism Make People Jerks? |A great one from DeYoung.

No. But Calvinism is a useful tool for jerky people to act like jerks.

Reformed folks have been stereotyped as the cranky Christians on the block. I’m not interested in debating whether the stereotype is deserved or not. Sometimes it is; sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes we are the meanies because we have the audacity to believe what we believe and the temerity to say that others are wrong. No problem there. That’s Christianity (not all of it, but part of it).

And yet, who among us has not met the quintessential Calvinist curmudgeon? How many of us have been that curmudgeon? Some of you still are! We might as well admit it: Calvinists can be jerks.

But the problem is owing to the jerks, not to the Calvinism. I’ve seen feminist jerks and social justice jerks, libertarian jerks and liberal jerks, hipster jerks and “you Calvinists are Taliban fundamentalists” jerks. The problem is not predestination. It’s pride

Resurgence - 10 Tips on Preparing and Preaching for Easter |

1. Make it all about Jesus
2. Make it SPECIAL
3. Make it MOMENTUs
10. be sure to follow up

Dr. Denny Burk - Jason Meyer Selected as Candidate to Succeed John Piper | Here is an example of Meyer preaching.

MINemergent - Bible is a true story | This pretty much sums up what the Emergent Church believes about the Bible and why it makes no sense.

The Bible is a true story but not always factual. The truth of the Bible doesn't come from the facts of the stories, but rather from the spiritual meaning of those stories. The true ideas the Bible teaches have little to do with history, geology, or any matters of the natural world, but have everything to do with the spiritual world and the things that really matter in our lives.

Wittenburg Door - Noah's Blog | Some good humor here.

Day 27
Not to diss my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather, but I’ve been hanging out with animals a lot, too, and I think I would have named some of them differently…
Rabbit Hoppity-hoppity
Dog Rowrf
Duck Waddle-waddle-flap-flap

The Blaze - CNN Legal Analyst Downgrades Supreme Court Outlook for Obama Admin: From ‘Train Wreck’ to ‘Plane Wreck’ | This is one man's opinion, but the conventional wisdom appears to be that Obamacare will be struck down. We shall see in the summer. Regardless of what happens, this will put the debate over health care back in the public which is not a winner for President Obama. At the same time, if it is struck down, Romney doesn't have to defend Romneycare as much as many fear.

Washington Times - HURT: Brutal week for Obama, the worst of his presidency | Indeed.

So, in one week, Mr. Obama got caught whispering promises to our enemy, incited a race war, raised serious questions about his understanding of the Constitution, and then got smacked down over his proposed budget that was so wildly reckless that even Democrats in Congress could not support it.

It was as if you lumped Hurricane Katrina and the Abu Ghraib abuses into one week for George W. Bush. And added on top of that the time he oddly groped German Chancellor Angela Merkel and got caught cursing on a hot mic.

Even then, it wouldn’t be as bad as Mr. Obama’s week. You would probably also have to toss in the time Mr. Bush’s father threw up into the lap of Japan’s prime minister. Only then might we be approaching how bad a week it was for Mr. Obama.

Not that you will see any trace of embarrassment in the face of Mr. Obama. He has mastered the high political art of shamelessness, wearing it smugly and cockily. Kind of like a hoodie

Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr. - The Bible Meets the Modern Age: A Conversation with Former President Jimmy Carter | A great interview from a seminary President and a former American President regarding the Bible. I'm guessing that this is the most listened to podcast Dr. Mohler has done thus far.

Mohler: This is Thinking in Public, a program dedicated to intelligent conversation about frontline theological and cultural issues with the people who are shaping them. I am Albert Mohler, your host and President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. In the history of our nation, only 43 men have served as President of the United States. The 39th president was Jimmy Carter. Any opportunity to discuss anything with a former president of the United States, represents a historic opportunity. I am very thankful for that opportunity today and of the conversation that follows.

Jimmy Carter served as the thirty-ninth president of the United States. In 2002, he won the Nobel Peace Prize, the only US president to have received that prize after leaving office. He’s the author of many books, including the most recent, The Lessons from Life Bible. And it’s the Bible we’re going to talk about.

President Carter, welcome to Thinking in Public

Typography from Ronnie Bruce on Vimeo.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Repost | Free Books For Poor Pastors: How to Build a Library Without Spending a Penny

I am a poor pastor of a rural church and one that loves to read books.  The challenge is buying books which can be an expensive hobby.  If I bought every book that I have read in the past year, I would be in more debt than the United States government.  And for the past year, I have sought ways to build my library and to read great books without just checking out books at nearby libraries.  And thanks to the power of the Internet, pastors with a blog and a mailing address can build a library without costing them a penny.  Below are a few programs that I have found helpful to do just that.

1.  Booksneeze -Ran by Thomas Nelson publishers, Booksneeze offers anyone and everyone with a blog assess to a selection of their books.  Booksneeze is the easiest to use and the best program that I have found available.  All you have to do is sign up at their website, choose a book, read it, and write a review (it doesn't have to be long or complicated) onto your personal website and sites like Amazon or Christian Book Distributors.  That's it.  You can keep the book of your choosing and then immediately choose another.

Booksneeze offers books for both e-readers and print. Below are some of the books that I have received and reviewed from Booksneeze and I currently am awaiting another book to arrive.  There is almost always a great selection including theology, Christian living, politics, fiction, and children's books.

"Nearing Home" by Billy Graham 
America: The Last Best Hope - Volume 3
"Has God Spoken?" by Hank Hanegraaf
"Why God Won't Go Away" by Alister McGrath  
"Billy Graham in Quotes
"No He Can't" by Kevin McCullough
"Washington: A Legacy of Leadership" by Paul Vickery  
"Max on Life" by Max Lucado 
"Slave" by John Macarthur
"The Jesus Inquest" by Charles Foster 
"Finding Our Way Again" by Brian McLaren 
"Outlive Your Life" by Max Lucado
"The Hole in Our Gospel" by Richard Stearns 
"Saint Patrick" by Jonathan Rogers
"A Century Turns" by William Bennett
"Sir Winston Churchill"
"On this Day in Christian History"
"Storm Warning" by Billy Graham

2.  Blogging For Books -Ran by WaterBrook Publishers, this publisher, similar to Booksneeze, offer a selection of their books for free to those with a blog.  Like Booksneeze, all one must do is select a book, read it, write a review on both their personal site and on a consumer site like Amazon, and then select another one from their site.  Though similar to Booksneeze, I have found that the choice of books is slightly smaller and is personally not always the sort of books that I prefer. I have oftentimes chosen several books from Booksneeze while waiting for this program to offer a book that I want to read.  That does not mean that they do not offer some great books - they have.  As the list below makes clear.

"Culture Shift" by R. Albert Mohler
"Radical Together"

3.  Amazon Vine -This is technically my favorite program because of the abundance of items (not just Christian books) and because of the availability of Crossway Books.  The catch with this program is that you have to be invited by Amazon in order to join.  How do you get that invite?  I don't know.  If I had to guess, I would assume that when one has posted a number of reviews at Amazon, as I have, eventually you will be invited, but that is only a guess. The website says:

Amazon Vine is an invitation-only program. Vine Voices are selected based on several criteria, but primarily on the helpfulness of their reviews as judged by all other customers and by their demonstrated interest in the types of products that are featured in the program. Customers who consistently write helpful reviews and develop a reputation for expertise in specific product categories are most likely to be invited into the program.

This program is similar to the other too but have more options and I have found better books through this program than any other.  Being that it is Amazon, it is not limited to publishers which is nice.  It includes more than just religious works but includes fiction and non-fiction and even items that aren't books (some items available are just strange). Unlike the previous two, one can only request two items per month and sometimes that is the difficult part, but as one can tell from below, there are some great books to choose from.  I am currently waiting to read and review one other book and will soon request two more.  Again, this program is absolutely free.

"Life's Biggest Questions" by Erik Thoennes
"Welcome to the Story: Reading, Loving, and Living God's Word" by Stephen J Nichols  
"King Solomon" by Philip Graham Ryken 
"Am I Really a Christian?" by Mike McKinley
"The Beginning and End of Wisdom" by Douglas Sean O'Donnell

4.  Gospel Books | This program offers exclusively Kindle books and offers readers free books, deals, and books that are cheap. The beauty of this site is that one does not have to review the books or sign up.  The people at the website does the work for you.  I have downloaded a few books, but most of the books offered for free on Kindle aren't best-sellers.  The easiest way I have found to keep up with the site is through twitter.

5.  Creation Conversations - Ran by Master Books, part of New Leaf Press, there is a smaller selection of books that include Ken Ham books along with Home-school books, apologetics, and some other options.  This is not my favorite choice, but I have received some great books from it.  I have read some great books from this program, but am still new to it.  If you love Ken Ham and love some of the books coming out from Master Books, this is a great option.  Again, this is a free program and you must write a review on your website and on Amazon.  But you get to keep the books.

"Already Compromised"

6.  Tyndale Blog Network - I have not requested or reviewed any books through this program yet.  Though currently they have a Tony Dungy and a Gary Chapman book available for request.  Tyndale is simply not my favorite publisher though they have published some great books over the years. I have not ever found them offer a great number of books for bloggers.

There is one major thing missing from these programs (and if there are more, please let me know) is academic books.  Though there are some throughout these programs, none of them offer much in terms of academic depth.  As a seminary graduate, I still love to read difficult and deep books of theology, history, languages, or Scripture.  Thus I have been unsuccessful, beyond checking books out at libraries, in reading such books for cheap or for free.  One can oftentimes get lucky through buying used at Amazon, Ebay, or great used bookstores, but publishers like Baker Academic and IVP do not offer programs like this.  But with the money you can save through these programs, perhaps that will save you some to put towards these other works.

Repost | Occupy Wal-Mart?: So This is What the Kingdom of Heaven Looks Like

On black Friday a number of Occupy Wall Street protestors made their voices heard by protesting one of America's most prestigious evil corporations:  Wal-Mart. The protestors interrupted the Black Friday shoppers there minding their own business in an effort to raise awareness of the evils of companies like Wal-Mart and why they shouldn't shop there. But all they accomplish was the arrest of ten of their protestors. Though this Black Friday protests against businesses most associated with Wall Street (like Amazon, Dollar Tree, Home Depot, and others) fizzled out, they did manage to make the news.  This is just one example of it.

I am left wondering:  is this what the Kingdom of Heaven looks like?

For several months now, the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) and similar "Occupy" movements have "sprung" up inspired to challenge the 1% who are withholding all of their wealth from the rest of us.  Beyond that message of wealth equality, it is difficult to tell what the OWS is really about. A brief survey of some of the protestors will only leave one confused.  Some are honest enough to say that they want atheistic communism or at least a form of socialism, others want government (that is tax payers) to pay for their student loans, some think college should be completely free, many decry capitalism, defend the environment and planet, stand for social justice, and on and on it goes.  In many ways, the protests have been an opportunity for any and every left wing cause to voice their opinions.  The problem, however, is that without a unified voice, its hard to hear everyone talk at once.

But the real concern we should have with the OWS movement is how easy many Christians (mostly moderate, progressive, and liberal) have latched onto this social, economic, and political movement.  To do so, however, only stains the gospel confusing it with political progressivism, economic socialism, and radicalism.  The mantra of many of the Christians supporting the OWS protests is Jesus' message of the Kingdom of God but as I look at the movement as a whole and what they stand for I am at a lost of where in these protests they see such a Kingdom.  Is this what we have been waiting for all of these years?  Is this what Jesus died for and established?

Just read some of what progressive, social justice Christians have been saying and you will find that they are not only sympathetic towards the OWS, but fully endorse and are among its participants.  Jim Wallis is its the most prominent example.  At the start of the "movement," Jim Wallis went down to the New York protest and recorded a number of videos rejoicing at the protests suggesting that finally the Kingdom of Heaven was here (see below).

So enthusiastic is Wallis regarding this movement, that he encouraged churches to open their doors (and facilities) to the protestors over the Thanksgiving holiday.  He wrote on his Sojourner's website:

Our faith communities and organizations should swing their doors wide and greet the Occupiers with open arms, offering them a feast to say “thank you” for having the courage to raise the very religious and biblical issue of growing inequality in our society.

Concentrations of wealth and power, unfairness in our political process, the loss of opportunity — especially for the next generation — and the alarming rise of poverty in the world’s richest nation are all fundamental concerns for people of faith. So let’s invite the young occupiers into our churches and ministries for good conversation and a great meal.

If our mayors and police departments are making the Occupiers feel unwelcome, why don’t we welcome them to stay on our church property if they need someplace to go?

Open our church basements and parish halls as safe places to sleep — shelter and sanctuary as cold weather descends upon many of our cities.

It’s time both to embrace and engage this hopeful movement of young people who are articulating the underlying but often unexpressed feelings of a nation which, by a three-quarters majority, believes, with the protesters, that the economic structure of the country has become unfair and skewed to benefit the most wealthy.

These are gospel issues, and are therefore the business of the churches

There it is.  The OWS, made up of socialist, "anti-crapilists," environmentalists, liberals, communists, secularists, pagans, and atheists is doing the work of the gospel.  Really?  Certainly the OWS has called for the equality of wealth (how is that not socialism again?) and the end to poverty, but what the OWS has left in their wake is anything but the gospel.  Is this really what the Kingdom of God looks like?

Take for example a report from the Los Angelos Times that after Thanksgiving cleaning crews removed over 30 tons of trash following the protests in Los Angelos.  They report:

Sanitation officials said Wednesday that they expect to haul away 30 tons of debris from the Occupy L.A. encampment –- everything from clothing to heaps of garbage to oddball curiosities left behind by the protesters who lived at the City Hall tent city for two months.

Andrea Alarcon, president of the city Public Works board, said workers already have removed 25 tons of belongings from the City Hall park, all of it heading straight to a landfill.

Sanitation crews also have vacuumed up about 3,000 gallons of water that had washed into a catch basin in recent days and are testing it for hazardous materials, she said.

The sheer volume of personal belongings left behind after the early morning Los Angeles Police Department raid has astonished city workers: books and CDs, luggage and boom boxes, mattresses and dining chairs, cellphones, electric razors, a small red guitar with its neck snapped –- all surrounded by dozens of collapsed and empty tents.

A steady flow of people stopped by the park Wednesday to take photos and video and watch workers in white hazmat suits rake trash into neat piles.

And the environmentally concerned OWS protestors say nothing? If this story was related to Glenn Beck's rally in Washington DC, I can only imagine what the enviromentally concerned in this movement would have said.  Similar stories could be written throughout the country.  OWS protestors have left behind tons of trash, debris, and human waste. Videos are rampant of protestors defecating on police cars, throwing debris at police, burning trash and other items, and leaving behind endless filth.  Cities around the United States have been forced to spend millions of dollars, that they do not have, just to clean up and to clear out the endless loads of trash and environmental damage left behind by the OWS protestors.

This is just one example.  Countless stories could be given of violent riots, the spreading of diseases, the destruction of private and public property, and countless arrests.  For all of the talk about Tea Partiers being racist and what not, nothing is said by the same people about the violence, greed, vitriol, and lunacy of many in the OWS movement.  It has become the height of hypocrisy to say "Blessed are the peacemakers" while joining another late night protest march that requires police to wear riot gear in this movement. Even sympathetic journalists and politicians have abandoned them and rightfully so.  What was once a movement of the masses has become a place for anger and unpopular discontent. After countless stories of arson, violence, arrests, and deaths no wonder the number of supporters continues to dwindle.

And this is the Kingdom of God?

Christians who identify themselves with such boycots, protests, and policial movements risk confusing the pure gospel with political hypocrisy, economic corruption, and social upheaval.  As I survey the New Testament, including both the apostolic letters and the Gospels, I am hard pressed to find where Jesus or the Apostles advocated protesting tax policy or spitting hatred at the rich.  Maybe it is just my translation, but I have yet to uncover a political Jesus or a protesting Paul.

But what we do find is much better.  Economic justice is so ill-defined that we will never arrive at the Utopian dream that Wallis and other protestors have fed us.  How much should the rich be taxed?  How much should the government spend in entitlement and welfare spending?  And how do we do this with a $15 trillion debt?  At what point will people finally conclude that we live in an economically just society?  Ever?

The gospel is so much better than this.  It breaks down the pride that establishes the barriers of wealth and political class.  If you are rich, then God bless you.  If you are poor, God bless you.  Even though Jesus was a broke outsider with a funny accent He never once demanded economic or social justice, but instead declared a gospel that would build a Kingdom that unites all people irregardless of their bottom line or luxury cars.  But this Kingdom isn't about politics or money, but about repentance and the sacrifice of the self.

For all of their protest against war - after all didn't Jesus say that those who live by the sword will die by it? - Wallis and other OWS protestors seem the miss the broader point.  Those who are consumed by wealth (or the lack there-of) will be destroyed by it.  Scripture is silent about boycotting political systems, but it is not silent on the dangers of wealth and power and that includes the poor.  Demand more money and you will be consumed by an idol of greed.  Demand more influence and fight to get your way, and you will be consumed by an idol of power.  The cycle continues.  Such idols will never be quenched and they will never give us the peace and contentment we are looking for.

This does not mean that standing against injustice or inequality is always wrong.  Its not.  The gospel confronts racism and oppression, but it does not place its hope in a President or in politicians, but in the power of the Spirit to regenerate individuals who together reform society.  Wallis and company confuse the Kingdom with a political Utopia.  They foolishly believe that society can be reformed through the policies of corrupt men.  This is foolish.  Political systems are corrupt because the people that run it and the society that give them such power are corrupt.

Corruption and greed are a serious problem in our society, but before the protestors (and the Christians who are joining them) shout in self-righteousness, perhaps they should look in the mirror.  There is no doubt that things are bad.  Our nation is in serious trouble.  The world is a mess and we could easily fall into another Great Depression much worse than the 1930's due to the policies and actions of politicians in both parties.  But the answer to this mess must go beyond capitalism, socialism, taxing the rich, or increase social justice spending.  What we need is Jesus.  What we need is the gospel.  Policy never changed human nature.  But the gospel daily regenerates all of us selfish, self-centered, greedy, hypocritical sinners bent on establishing our own Kingdom, and not the Kingdom.

Here is the Occupy Wal-Mart video:

Here is Jim Wallis at an Occupy Wall Street protest:

Sojourners CEO, the Rev. Jim Wallis, on #OccupyWallStreet from cathleen falsani on Vimeo.

Jim Wallis (Sojourners) - A Church Sanctuary for the Occupy Movement
Sojourners - Jim Wallis on #OccupyWallStreet: "This Could Really Change Things" (Video) 
LA Times - Occupy L.A.: 30 tons of debris left behind at City Hall tent city
CNBC - Demonstrators Plan to Occupy Retailers on Black Friday 
Red State - #OccupyWalMart Protesters Occupy Handcuffs On #OccupyBlackFriday

For more:
Blogizomai - Would Jesus Occupy Wall Street?
Blogizomai - Jesus Was Not Political:  The Danger of Equating Jesus With Our Political and Economic Policies
Blogizomai - Repost | Jesus Was a Socialist Who Supports Progressive Income Taxes: MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell Tries to Makes His Case
Blogizomai - Have We Forgotten the Gospel?  Glenn Beck, Social Justice, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ    
Blogizomai - The Gospel and Pulpit Freedom Sunday:  How Christians Have Missed the Point 
Blogizomai - Why I (Hesitantly) Signed the Manhattan Declaration   
Blogizomai - To Build or Not to Build, That is Not the Question:  Where is the Gospel in the Ground Zero Debate? 
Blogizomai - To Build or Not to Build, That is Not the Question:  Where is the Gospel in the Koran Burning Debate?
Blogizomai - What Would Jesus Do About Illegal Immigration?:  Confusing Jesus' Message With American Policy   
Blogizomai - Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition:  The Gospel and the Shameful "Guns in Churches" Message

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Worship Experience Unlike Any Other: The Subtle Nature of Idolary

Last weekend was an amazing worship experience.  I've probably never experienced anything like it. I laughed and cried. I raised my hands in the air (something I rarely do in worship) and my eyes to the heavens.  I screamed and hollered.   I danced (and I don't dance) and sang all to my god.

That's not a typo.

I worshiped last weekend but not on Sunday morning where I weekly gather with like-minded Bible-believing, Jesus-saved Christians where I preached and serve as pastor.  No.  I worshiped Saturday afternoon as I watched my favorite team, the Louisville Cardinals, knock off the Florida Gators and got a berth to the Final Four where they will play the Kentucky Wildcats - their archrivals in Lexington.

If you watched the game, and especially if your a fan of Louisville, you can understand the experience.  Florida hit everything in the first half. By about half-way in the second half, it looked like the game was over with.   Florida was just too much. Foul problems. Shooting percentage. And one dagger from the Gators after another.

And then it happened. The Gators would miss and Louisville would score.  The comeback started and finally in the closing minutes Louisville tied it and then eventually went ahead with just over a minute left. When Louisville finally won by four, I received phone calls from friends and family, text messages, tweets, and Facebook posts. Some were excited like me. Others were just haters. I was excited.  The last team I expected to win both the Big East Tournament and go to the Final Four was Louisville.  They struggled during conference play and finished seventh in the Big East conference. I expected Louisville to finish the season with another first round (technically the second round) loss for the third year in a role.

This is idolatry and I'm guilty of it as are most men in my church . . . and your church as well.  Millions of Americans have been worshiping for weeks now as March Madness is one of the most watched and followed sporting events in America. We fill out our brackets, we watch and take in what the experts say, and wait with anticipation who will get upset, who will be this year's Cinderella, and how far will my team go? We love it. And in reality, we worship it.

Sports is a lot of fun and I am have a firm belief that Christians can and ought to enjoy the world in which God has made.  We ought to enjoy nature, family, beauty, art, movies, sex, and sports. The problem, as Mark Driscoll oftentimes says, is when we turn these good things into god things.

If you want to know if your guilty of idolatry or worshiping a false idol consider a few things. Where/how do you spend your money? I have a lot of Louisville hats, shirts, slippers, posters, decorations, and even pot holders. And so do my kids.  I'm guilty of idolatry. Also, what/who changes yours emotions from feelings of exuberance to depression? Louisville certainly does that for me. When they win I celebrate and when they lose I start questioning the coaching staff. My emotions and attitude change. I'm guilty of idolatry. Furthermore, where is your heart? I look forward to the start of football season and get more excited when the pre-season starts in basketball. This past year Louisville started in August when they took a trip to the Bahamas.  Louisville basketball in August; what gets better than that right? I already can't wait until next year. New recruits. An improved veteran team. The skies the limit! I'm guilty of idolatry.

How about you?

Maybe your idolatry isn't the Louisville Cardinals, maybe its something else. Idolatry is almost always subtle. So subtle that we don't even realize it. Maybe its your boyfriend/husband. Do you fear being alone, him leaving, and spend your waking hours thinking about him? You may be guilty of idolatry.  Are you guilty of dependence? Do you just long to have a companion? Do you fear being alone? Are you tempted to latched onto the first person that notices you? Maybe its sex. What do you do online when no one is around? Do you size the opposite sex by outward appearance? When your girlfriend/spouse turns you down do you get angry?

What is your idol? Idolatry makes great promises but never fulfills them. We fear a hell (I don't want to be stupid or fat or lonely or poor or sexless) and an idol promises us a heaven (education or diet pills or a boyfriend or a career or a wife). But those functional heavens never deliver. There will always be someone smarter than you. You will never look like that model. A room full of friends can only deliver so much. That boss can make us miserable. The sex may become less frequent. And all of a sudden we find ourselves back at square one. But instead of repenting of our idolatry we oftentimes double down. We try to prove ourselves even more, we try to lose more weight or change our style, we chase after more men, we get a "better" job, or we starting looking for another spouse. But again, they fail us too.

What we long for - things like contentment, peace, love, joy, satisfaction, respect, etc. - is good, but can never be found apart from the gospel. Idolatry has us chasing contentment with greed and we wonder why we never find it. Love in lust or infatuation and we wonder why we never find it. Joy in anger, peace in strength, and respect in pride and we wonder why we never find it. The gospel changes all of this by simply exhorting us to stop looking. Stop trying to be something you aren't. Stop trying to look different. Stop trying to have enough, learn enough, get enough, or be loved enough. You never will be.

Real joy is something that isn't determined by circumstances.  Idolatry only offers temporal happiness.  When Louisville wins I'm happy. When they lose I'm disappointed. So goes the way of idol worshipers. The gospel plants our joy in the saving work of Jesus Christ. We have value, not because of the notches on our belt or how we feel about ourselves, but because the God of this world considered us worthy of His life, death, and resurrection. Christ has rescued us. So who cares about my circumstances, income, or singleness?

Real contentment is when we are satisfied - when we have enough. How many championships is enough? How many Final Fours are enough? There's always next year right? So goes the way of the idol worshiper. The gospel plants our contentment, again, in the saving work of Jesus Christ. I have been redeemed from my enslaving idols. I don't need more, I have enough. Who cares if I'm poor? Who cares if only my dog loves me (but there is the church right?)? Who cares if I'm not a supermodel?

Real love is relational, not selfish. Too often we think our spouse is here on earth to make us happy and thus they become little idols. When they help with the laundry or when the sex is good, we're "in love." But when things get tough or money gets tight, all of the sudden we get ready to leave. But the gospel recovers for us what real love is. Love is sacrificial. Love is selfless. Love is submissive.  Love is forgiving. And Christ exemplifies all of these at the cross. You will not find real love until you surrender.

We could go on and on. But let us focus quickly on the church. If we worshiped in our churches the way we do in front of the TV in March, then the church wouldn't be as dead. If we longed for Christ the way we long for relationships with the opposite sex, the church would be more vibrant. If we desired the glory of God the way we desire an increase in our bank account, the church would be a light to the world. And if we proclaimed the gospel the way we do the birth of our children, the cause of Christ would forever be known throughout all the earth.

Who or what are you guilty of worshiping? The big game is Saturday but I can't wait until Sunday.

Louisville First Cards Forever from evan westendorf on Vimeo.

For more:
Blogizomai - Matt Chandler on the Idol of March Madness
Blogizomai - Repost | Christianity And . . .: The Subtle Formula of Idolatry
Blogizomai - Louisville Wins the 2012 Big East Tournament: Highlights
Blogizomai - Louisville Basketball: A Decade of Highlights
Blogizomai - Jr. on Sr.: Louisville Guard Opens Up About His Dad
Blogizomai - Should There Be a Separation Between Sports and Faith?: The Problem With Tim Tebow
Blogizomai - A New Wall of Separation: Why There Should Be a Separation of Sports and State

A Theology For a Social Atonement: Walter Rauschenbusch & the Foundation of the Social Gospel - Harmitology

Part 1 - A Theology For a Social Atonement: Walter Rauschenbusch & the Foundation of the Social Gospel - Introduction
Part 2 - A Theology For a Social Atonement: Walter Rauschenbusch & the Foundation of the Social Gospel - Survey 
Part 3 - A Theology For a Social Atonement: Walter Rauschenbusch & the Foundation of the Social Gospel - A New Theology
Part 4 - A Theology For a Social Atonement: Walter Rauschenbusch & the Foundation of the Social Gospel - Harmitology

A Survey of A Theology of the Social Gospel


The Need For a New Theology


Unlike most systematic theologies that begin with bibliology or Theology Proper, Rauschenbusch begins with harmitology dedicating six chapters to the subject.  Criticizing hyper-individualism in Christian theology, Rauschenbusch argues that sin is social.  Noting Martin Luther’s point that Christians in his day believed eating butter on a day of fasting was a greater sin than to “lie, swear, or commit fornication,”[1] Rauschenbusch then highlights a New York pastor who suggests that the “chief marks of a Christian” are that “he attends church, reads the Bible, and contributes to the support of public worship.”[2]  A different minister in the same congregation went on to suggest that drinking, playing cards, dancing, and going to the movies are four sins a believer ought to abstain from.
Sin is defined apart from such individualistic terms.  Sin is simply selfishness.  This definition, he argues, “is more in harmony with the social gospel than with any individualistic type of religion.”[3]  The “climax of sin,” as he puts it, is not seen in the one who swears or “denies the mystery of the trinity,” but instead seen in “social groups who have turned the patrimony of a nation into the private property of a small class, or have left the peasant labourers cowed, degraded, demoralized, and without rights in the land.”[4]
All sin is social and affects society at large.  Particularly heinous to Rauschenbusch is organized sin seen in particular institutions and social ideals like capitalism[5] and private property.[6]  Selfishness organizes into organisms much greater than mere card playing and dancing to systems of government and economics that promote injustice, class warfare, inequality, racism, sexism, and abuse.  The selfish sin of greed, for example, may lead to lower wages and corporate power which contributes to graft and poverty.
In all of this, Rauschenbusch denies the doctrine of original sin and the Fall.  He argues that the Old Testament placed no emphasis on the Genesis 3 account and scarcely alluded to it. Jesus never referenced the story in the Synoptics and only made a brief allusion to it in John 8:44.  Both the prophets and Jesus had a deep consciousness of sin even without the doctrine of original sin. It is not until the Apostle Paul that the text is given any theological treatment and it is to the two references in Paul (Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15) that the Patristics seized upon to develop this doctrine. As to the Genesis 3 text itself, Rauschenbusch affirms the Documentary Hypothesis which relegates Genesis 3 to the Jahvist narrative originating from Ephraim during the ninth century B. C.
This leads to two conclusions.  First, the doctrine of the Fall as traditionally articulated “is the product of speculative interest mainly, and that the most energetic consciousness of sin can exist without drawing strength from this doctrine.”[7]  Secondly, if Scripture offers the substance of Christian thought, then original sin does not have the authority it has assumed.
But what does this mean for the social gospel?  One major problem with original sin is it blames sin on a past event that present generations cannot influence.  Likewise, such doctrines prevent Christians from seeing the contributions made by and the blame for vices like syphilis, wars, and the heavy burdens of public debt on more recent generations, not on Adam. “One of the great tasks in religious education reserved for the social gospel,” Rauschenbusch writes,
is to spread in society a sense of the solidarity of successive generations and a sense of responsibility for those who are to come after us and whom we are now outfitting with the fundamental conditions for existence.[8]

It is difficult for Rauschenbusch to see how the thought of Adam and Eve has any direct influence on younger and future generations.  But this does not mean that the doctrine of original sin is without merit.  Rauschenbusch does not completely reject the idea of original sin, but just in how it has been formulated.  The question is, how “is sin transmitted from generation to generation?”[9] The answer is original sin, but with a different meaning.
Sin is inherited from one’s parents, but sin is also “transmitted along the lines of social tradition.”  In other words, “One generation corrupts the next.”  Like a helpless child born with syphilis because of his mother, so too social evils are embedded onto the individual from the social body.[10]  Thus sin is transmitted from generation to generation by both “biological propagation” and by “social assimilation.”[11]
Harmitology, then, is no longer to be understood as individuals in rebellion against their Maker in need of individual redemption, but as social.  All sin is social and is organized into society and its various structures and organizations and that system of social evil gets transmitted from generation to generation.  This is a different direction than traditional harmitology and reflects the goals of the social gospel. A social harmitology demands a social soteriology.

[1] Ibid., 36.  The reference is taken from Martin Luther, “To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation,” trans. Charles M. Jacobs, rev. James Atkins, in Three Treatises 2nd ed., rev. (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1970), 75.
[2] Rauschenbusch, A Theology For the Social Gospel, 36.
[3] Ibid., 50.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Rauschenbusch disparaged capitalism and leaned towards socialism and communism.  See his argument in Walter Rauschenbusch, Christianizing the Social Order (Waco, TX:  Baylor University, 2010), 235-323.
[6] Rauschenbusch had a lot to say about the evils of private property.  See Walter Rauschenbusch, The Social Principles of Jesus (New York: The Women’s Press, 1917), 116-30, Rauschenbusch, Christianizing the Social Order, 336-51.  In Christianity and the Social Crisis (London:  The MacMillan Company, 1907), 230 Rauschebusch argues “The abolition of private property in land in the interest of society is a necessity.”
[7] Ibid., 41-42.
[8] Ibid., 43.
[9] Ibid., 57.
[10] This is common sense to him but laments that few contemporary theological books acknowledged it. Ibid., 60-61.  See Ibid., 61 for a list of theological works cited by Rauschenbusch that make this argument.
[11] Ibid., 61.

For more on Walter Rauschenbusch:
You can read Waltar Raushenbush's groundbreaking book, "A Theology for the Social Gospel" online here.
Review - "A Theology for the Social Gospel" - Part 1
Review - "A Theology for the Social Gospel" - Sin
Review - "A Theology for the Social Gospel" - Atonement  
Theology - Orthodoxy vs. Unorthodoxy: A Look at Rauschenbush's "A Theology for the Social Gospel"
Blogizomai - "The Kingdom is Always But Coming"

On the Atonement:
Blogizomai - Its Not Just a Theory: Stott on Penal Substitution
Blogizomai - Theology Thursday | Does McLaren Reject Penal Substitution: A Review of the Evidence
Thesis - Brian McLaren and Emergent Soteriology:  From Cultural Accommodation to the Social Gospel
Blogizomai - "Salvation Brings Imitation": Piper on Christus Exemplar
Theology - God as Butcher: McLaren on Penal Substitution  
Theology - The Postmodern Social Gospel:  Brian McLaren Proves My Point  
Theology - Allison: A History of the Doctrine of the Atonement  
Theology - Where Theology and Life Intersect: A Theological Case for Christus Exemplar and Why It is Necessary - Part 1 - Introduction
Theology - Where Theology and Life Intersect: A Theological Case for Christus Exemplar and Why It is Necessary - Part 2 - Christus Exemplar and the doctrine of sin and depravity
Theology - Where Theology and Life Intersect: A Theological Case for Christus Exemplar and Why It is Necessary - Part 3 - The History of Christus Exemplar
Theology - Where Theology and Life Intersect: A Theological Case for Christus Exemplar and Why It is Necessary - Part 4 - Christus Exemplar and Humility
Thesis - Brian McLaren and Emergent Soteriology:  From Cultural Accommodation to the Social Gospel
Theology - Does McLaren Reject Penal Substitution:  A Look at the Evidence
Reviews - "Death by Love" by Mark Driscoll  

For more:
Blogizomai - Accommodationism Breeds Irrelevancy: Why Liberalism Fails and the Transcendent Gospel Triumphs
Blogizomai - Repost Friday | How To Change the World: The Advantage and Power of the Gospel and the Limits of the Social Gospel
Blogizomai - What Would Jesus Vote?:  Jesus, Health Care, and the Gospel
Blogizomai - Have We Forgotten the Gospel?  Glenn Beck, Social Justice, and the Gospel
Blogizomai - Who Isn't One?:  Brian McLaren and Social Christians
Blogizomai - Repost | What Did the Cross Accomplish?: External Hope or Internal Reformation
Blogizomai - Have We Forgotten the Gospel?:  Glenn Beck, Social Justice, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ
Blogizomai - Crossing the Wall of Separation: The Danger of the State Wooing the Church
Blogizomai - Weekly Recommendation - "Generous Justice" by Timothy Keller
Theology - Repent for Health Care is At Hand: Did Obama Just Legislate the Gospel?
Theology - The Postmodern Social Gospel: Brian McLaren Proves My Point 
Theology - The Bible and Poverty: The Gospel as the Remedy 
Theology - What Does It Mean to be  Christian?
Review - "Jesus Wants to Save Christians
Review - "UnChristian"
Reviews - "The Justice Project
Review - "The Hole in Our Gospel" by Richard Stearns
Review - "The Gospel According to Jesus" by Chris Seay  
Review - "Outlive Your Life" by Max Lucado 
Review - "When Helping Hurts
Review - "Everything Must Change
Review - "The Great Awakening" Part 1
Review - "The Great Awakening" Part 2
Shortblog - Glenn Beck and Social Justice
Shortblog - The Power of the Gospel in Bringing Social Change:  Perhaps We Need to Reconsider Our Efforts
Theology - Is Wallis a Marxist?  A New Video Surfaces

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Duke vs. Kentucky, 1992: The Greatest Game in College Basketball History

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the greatest game in college basketball history.  Unless of course your a Kentucky Wildcat fans.  Twenty years later, Kentucky fans still aren't over it.

Here is the Sports Century special that ESPN did on the game that looks at the game as a whole and is really good.

For more:
Blogizomai - The Rivalry: UK vs. UofL - Part 1
Blogizomai - Cardinals Win Over Arch Rival, Kentucky Wildcats
Blogizomai - Louisville Wins the 2012 Big East Tournament: Highlights
Blogizomai - Louisville Basketball: A Decade of Highlights
Blogizomai - Jr. on Sr.: Louisville Guard Opens Up About His Dad
Blogizomai - Should There Be a Separation Between Sports and Faith?: The Problem With Tim Tebow
Blogizomai - A New Wall of Separation: Why There Should Be a Separation of Sports and State

"Precious Blood": A Review

I've been thinking a lot about blood lately. I've been preaching through the Gospel of Matthew in recent weeks and we are at a major turning point. The confession of Peter at Caesarea Philippi changes the narrative drastically. No longer is the story about life, vibrancy, and public miracles. Instead, its about suffering, judgment, wrath, a public death, and blood. Blood.  The Bible is, to say the least, a very bloody book. Not just because it is full of tales with murder and war, but God is a God that requires a lot of it.

It is this thought that moved me to the wonderful book Precious Blood: The Atonement of Christ edited by Richard D. Phillips with contributing chapters by Philip Ryken, Carl Truman, RC Sproul, Joel Beeke, and several others.  The book is basically broken up into two parts:  biblical/systematic theology and historical theology.

The book begins looking at the biblical/systematic theological truth of the atonement.  Why is the cross necessary?  The contributers walk the reader through what Scripture says and why penal substitution is the root meaning of the cross.  The first chapter is fascinating.  Written by Beeke, the author looks at the Passover and relates it to Christ. The parallels between the lamb in Exodus and the Lamb in the Gospels is striking and Beeke draws some conclusions that I had not seen before.  Likewise, the chapter looking at the atoning work of the cross is helpful. Walking the reader through the images of the temple (propitiation), the market (redemption), and the courtroom (justification) is a helpful way to understand the precious blood of Jesus Christ.

The section on historical theology is pretty straightforward.  There's a chapter on the early church and their soteriology, on medieval theology, the Reformers (of course!), the puritans, etc. The two most helpful chapters here are the ones on the theology of the Early Church and on the more contemporary issue of responding to those in the non-violent atonement camp.

Regarding the Early Church, the contributor slowly guides the reader through the complications of asking what the early church believed on this issue.  We must remember, the author notes, that the early church, though wrote theology, were as much apologists for the gospel.  They were having to fight off Gnosticism, Marcionism, docetism, all the while running for their lives from various persecutions.  But that does not mean that nothing is said on the subject.  The author lays out the case in their belief in the recapitulation theory, the ransom theory, and even penal substitution.

But the most helpful chapter to me personally was the last chapter which was a response to the critics of penal substitution.  It is increasingly popular in evangelicalism today to write off penal substitution as a form of "divine child abuse." The chapter walks the reader through what has been said on the subject and how a right view of God, man, Christ, and the cross - as the Bible presents it - demands a correct understanding of penal substitution without all of the unnecessary rhetoric. The author makes an excellent point here.  All of the talk about being open to other views on the atonement, and the author agrees that there is something to Christus Victor and others, this is all really an effort to undermine penal substitution. It is, if you will, a "anything but propitiation," campaign that has gained a lot of traction.

Overall this is an excellent book on an important subject that you need in your library.  The gospel is under assault and books like this will contribute to the recovery of the gospel.  I conclude with the books conclusion:

But what about the culture? Is it true that our postmodern world does not register with the legal considerations of penal substitutionary atonement? If this is so, might it be that the world so little knows the truth about God and that our culture has, in its sensual addictions, as Paul puts it, suppressed the truth of God in unrighteousness and 'exchanged the truth about God for a lie' (Rom. 1:18, 25)? If this is the case, and an assessment of postmodern culture based on a belief in the authority and truth of Scripture is bound to reach such a conclusion, then for Christians to collaborate in so deadly a deception will neither advance the true cause of the gospel nor reflect the merciful love of God towards the world.

But is it really true that the biblical gospel of Christ's atoning death as our penal substitute cannot hope to reach today's world? Once we see that the gospel reveals not another warmed-over version of failed humanistic thinking but, rather, a rejection of Western individualism for a saving, covenantal solidarity with God's own Son, who loved us enough even to take our sins t the cross, then perhaps Williams is right when he suggests that, contrary to its critics, 'penal substitution has a bright future and will preach well.' -225

For more:
Blogizomai - The Problems With Penal Substitution: McLaren on the Atonement
Thesis - Brian McLaren and Emergent Soteriology:  From Cultural Accommodation to the Social Gospel 
Theology - God as Butcher: McLaren on Penal Substitution
Blogizomai - Its Not Just a Theory: Stott on Penal Substitution
Blogizomai - Theology Thursday | Does McLaren Reject Penal Substitution: A Review of the Evidence
Blogizomai - "Salvation Brings Imitation": Piper on Christus Exemplar 
Theology - The Postmodern Social Gospel:  Brian McLaren Proves My Point  
Theology - Allison: A History of the Doctrine of the Atonement  
Theology - Where Theology and Life Intersect: A Theological Case for Christus Exemplar and Why It is Necessary - Part 1 - Introduction
Theology - Where Theology and Life Intersect: A Theological Case for Christus Exemplar and Why It is Necessary - Part 2 - Christus Exemplar and the doctrine of sin and depravity
Theology - Where Theology and Life Intersect: A Theological Case for Christus Exemplar and Why It is Necessary - Part 3 - The History of Christus Exemplar
Theology - Where Theology and Life Intersect: A Theological Case for Christus Exemplar and Why It is Necessary - Part 4 - Christus Exemplar and Humility
Theology - Does McLaren Reject Penal Substitution:  A Look at the Evidence
Reviews - "Death by Love" by Mark Driscoll
Reviews - "In My Place, Condemned He Stood"
Reviews - "It is Well"
Reviews - "The Lost Message of Jesus"

Hump Day Humor: Not Going To Be Able To Jump It

Clearly a Tennessee fan!

HT: Card Chronicle

For more:
Blogizomai - Hump Day Humor: The Three Little Pigs
Blogizomai - Hump Day Humor: I Walked on the Moon
Blogizomai - Hump Day Humor: Open Heart Surgery & the Seat of Our Emotions
Blogizomai - Hump Day Humor: Grandson With a Dog Collar
Blogizomai - Hump Day Humor: Beezow Doo-Doo Zopittybop-Bop-Bop
Blogizomai - Hump Day Humor: Top Ten George W. Bush Moments
Blogizomai - Hump Day Humor:  Chopsticks Are Better Than Sticks  
Blogizomai - Hump Day Humor: Did you hear a Click?
Blogizomai - Hump Day Humor: Christmas Shopping Prank
Blogizomai - Hump Day Humor:  Cannonball!!  
Blogizomai - Hump Day Humor: A Bowflex Machine?
Blogizomai - Hump Day Humor: Rick Perry Bad Lip Reading
Blogizomai - Hump Day Humor:  North Comma South Carolina  
Blogizomai - Hump Day Humor:  Animal Rights Consistency  
Blogizomai - Hump Day Humor: Unanswered Questions
Blogizomai - Hump Day Humor:  Fun With Dick and Jane  
Blogizomai - Hump Day Humor: Leprechaun in Alabama
Blogizomai - Hump Day Humor: This is Not a Joke - Affirmative Action For the Ugly-Americans
Blogizomai - Hump Day Humor:  Office Pranks
Blogizomai - Humorous Hump Day:  Church Greeters and Hand Sanitizers
Blogizomai - Humorous Hump Day: Mark Lowry's Mamma Had Enough
Blogizomai - Humerous Hump Day: Brian Regan Cell Phones 101
Blogizomai - Humorous Hump Day - Harry Carry and the Moon Made of Rips
Blogizomai - Humorous Hump Day: Voltswagen Pinata
Blogizomai - Everybody Needs Toucan Subs: Bad Lip Reading Does It Again
Blogizomai - Taxidermatology: The Most Lifelike Dead Animals Around
Blogizomai - This is News?: The Politics of Personal Distruction Continues
Blogizomai - The Election Commercial Season is Upon Us: Discernment in the Season of Political Ads
Blogizomai - Fuzzy Math & Even Fuzzier Theology: Abbott & Costello Meets Modern Theology
Blogiozmai - They're Only Giving Him Material: Letterman Responds to the Jihadists After Him
Blogizomai - Adam & Eve on Comedy Central: Colbert Takes on Mohler & Traditional Christian Theology
Blogizomai - Everything is Amazing, But Nobody Is Happy: An Important Lesson
Blogizomai - The BCS Applied in Real Life
Blogiozmai - Repost Friday: Happy RamaHanuKwanzMas!
Blogizomai - Judge Free Zone?: Daily Show Illustrates Discriminatory Discrimination
Blogizomai - Man Dozes Off During Vice-President's Speech

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Killed For Honor: The Real War on Women

From Al Arabiya News:

At least 943 Pakistani women and girls were murdered last year for allegedly defaming their family’s honor, the country’s leading human rights group said Thursday.

The statistics highlight the growing scale of violence suffered by many women in conservative Muslim Pakistan, where they are frequently treated as second-class citizens and there is no law against domestic violence.

Despite progress on better protecting women’s rights, activists say the government needs to do more to prosecute murderers in cases largely dismissed by police as private, family affairs.

“At least 943 women were killed in the name of honor, of which 93 were minors,” wrote the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in its annual report.

Seven Christian and two Hindu women were among the victims, it said.

The Commission reported 791 “honor killings” in 2010.

Around 595 of the women killed in 2011 were accused of having “illicit relations” and 219 of marrying without permission.

Some victims were raped or gang raped before being killed, the Commission said. Most of the women were killed by their brothers and husbands.

Only 20 of 943 killed were reported to have been provided medical aid before they died, the Commission wrote.

Despite the rising number of reported killings, activists have praised parliament for passing laws aimed at strengthening women’s protection against abuses.

Rights groups say the government should do more to ensure that women subjected to violence, harassment and discrimination have effective access to justice.

Last year, a Belgian court sentenced four members of a Pakistani family to prison for the murder of their daughter, who defied them by living with a Belgian man and refused an arranged marriage

You know your spoiled when your culture considers the fight (some would say "right") over free contraception a war on women while in most nations women are fighting for their right to live. Both men and women in America choose what to do with their bodies when they engage in sexual intercourse and thus must choose to live with their actions or inactions. These women, however, have no choice. They are real victims in a society that sees them as a threat and unequal to their male counterparts.

I bet these ladies look at our "war" and wish it were that easy for them.

Al Arabiya News - Nearly 1,000 Pakistani women ‘killed for honor’ 

For more:
Blogizomai - It Takes One to Know One: Large Families and Smug Fecundity

"The Treasure Principle" by Randy Alcorn

Show me how you spend your money and what you treasure most and I will show you your real god. That's the truth of the gospel and that is the truth articulated in the wonderful book The Treasure Principle: Unlocking the Secret of Joyful Giving by Randy Alcorn. The book isn't about money, but about treasure. Its about joy.

There's no doubt that Jesus talked a lot about money. As Alcorn points out, Jesus talks more about money than He does about heaven and hell combined. There is good reason for this. Alcorn writes:

Why did Jesus put such an emphasis on money and possessions?

Because there's a fundamental connection between our spiritual lives an dhow we think about and handle money.  We may try to divorce our faith and our finances, but God sees them as inseparable
. (9)

He's right.  Show me how you spend your money and what you spend it on and I will show you where your treasure is. Or as Jesus put it, where your money is, there your heart will be also. Alcorn shows that sacrifice presents us with the gift of joy. This goes against natural wisdom. Normally, we think wealth and possessions make us happy (who doesn't want to be rich right?), but Alcorn shows biblically and scientifically that that is not the case.  For example, Alcorn shows a study that compares lottery winners with the paralyzed. Though at first the lottery winner is joyous over their fortunes and the paralytic is distraught by their paralysis, years later their roles begin to change.  The lottery winner finds themselves not as happy as they had intended.  The paralytic, on the other hand, slowly begins to enjoy life again.

This does not mean that we ought to seek out poverty or paralysis. What it does mean is that real joy is not in what we own but in the gospel. The treasure principle is in the gospel - Jesus Christ Himself.

I highly recommend this little book.  One can easily read it in one sitting.  It is simple to read and can be enjoyed by believers of all walks of life. It is a message we need to hear. In a culture as rich as ours chasing our tails of greed, we need to hear Alcorn on this.

For more:
Reviews - "Whose Money is it Anyway?"
Blogizomai - The Transcedence of Greed: What Economics Can Teach Us About the Gospel
Blogizomai - Alcohol Today, Marijuana Tomorrow: When Money Changes Our Values

Monday, March 26, 2012

Climate Change Explained

This is the best video I have come across explaining the issues and problems with man-made global warming/climate change and what are some real answers.  Even if climate change is man caused, are we solving them by growing government, giving up our dollars, and pushing for technologies that aren't as good and efficient means of energy?

The debate over climate change is a debate that Christians need to have because it is a debate about theology. Manmade global warming advocates now make climate change our original sin. Thus it is important for us to understand the real cause of climate change in order to identify any potential solutions. Is it manmade or is warming natural? Is it a reflection of man or of God's creation in a fallen world?  Also, the solutions oftentimes offered for global warming reveal a false soteriology and eschatology. Environmentalists suggests that the only means of salvation (soteriology) is to end all economic activity or even go extinct (see the video and the links below). But we ought to know better than this. The answer isn't poverty or death, but the gospel.

The following video reveals some of the holes in our understanding and approach to climate change.  It is not a Christian video, but one that offers some real insight. Again, this is a theological issue.

HT: The Right Scoop

For more:
Blogizomai - The Gospel and Environmentalism:  Why Christians Are Rightly Uneasy With MOdern Environmentalism (Part 1)
Blogizomai - The Gospel and Environmentalism: Why Christians Are Rightly Uneasy With MOdern Environmentalism - Part 2
Blogizomai - Even Environmentalists Need An Easter:  What Christians Can Learn on Earth Day
Blogizomai - Mohler:  Is Cap and Trade for Babies Next? 
Blogizomai -  The Real Solution to Global Warming:  Human Extinction
Blogizomai - The Dark Reality of Secular Eschatology: Saving the Planet With One Child at a Time
Blogizomai - The Power and Danger of Worldviews: What James Lee Teaches of Us About Our Worldview
Blogizomai - "Our Beliefs Are Formed First": Michael Shermer and the Truth About Science

Tim Keller on Cohabitation and Marriage

Tim Keller on cohabitation and marriage from his wonderful book The Meaning of Marriage.

Despite the claim of the young man in the Gallup survey, 'a substantial body of evidence indicates that those who live together before marriage are more likely to break up after marriage.' Cohabitation is an understandable response from those who experienced their own parents' painful divorces,but the facts indicate that the cure may be worse than the alleged disease.

Other common assumptions are wrong as well.  While it is true that some 45 percent of marriages end in divorce, by far the greatest percentage of divorces happen to those who marry before the age of eighteen, who have dropped out of high school, and who have had a baby together before marrying . . . 

Many young adults argue for cohabitation because they feel they should own a home and be financially secure before they marry. The assumption is that marriage is a financial drain.  But studies point to what have been called 'The Surprising Economic Benefits of Marriage.'  A 1992 study of retirement data shows that individuals who were continuously married had 75 percent more wealth at retirement than those who never married or who divorced and did not remarry.  Even more remarkably, married men have been shown to earn 10-40 percent more than do single men with similar education and job histories. 23-24

He then adds:

During the last two decades, the great preponderance of research evidence shows that people who are married consistently show much higher degrees of satisfaction with their lives than those who are single, divorced, or living with a partner. It also reveals that most people are happy in their marriages, and most of those who are not and who don't get divorced eventually become happy.  Also, children who grow up in married, two-parent families have two to three times more positive life outcomes than those who do not. The overwhelming verdict, then, is that being married and growing up with parents who are married are enormous boosts to our well-being. -26

For more:
Blogizomai - The Gospel & Marriage: Keller on Love, Forgiveness, & the Example of Christ
Blogizomai - "The Meaning of Marriage" by Timothy Keller
Reviews - "Real Marriage" by Mark & Grace Driscoll
Blogizomai - "After All, We'll Never Be the Right One Either": Stonestreet on "The Right One" Fairy Tale
Blogizoami - "Is Hell For Real Or Does Everyone go To Heaven?"

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Repost | What Would Jesus Vote?: Jesus, Health Care, and the Gospel

Yesterday marked the 2 year anniversary of the passing of the Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare.

We all remember the bracelets that everyone wore several years ago reminder us to ask ourselves "What Would Jesus Do?"  This inevitably led to a similar question being asked every November during an election:  "How Would Jesus Vote?"  Many have come to their own conclusions and answers to those questions.  But here is another one:  "What Would Jesus Vote For?"

The House of Representatives recently passed a health care overhaul billed that was signed by President Barack Obama and by 2014, the entire bill will be fully enacted forcing every American to have some form of health insurance or pay a penalty.  And, as expected, many Christians find themselves asking if Jesus were a Congressman from Bethlehem, KY (a real place) would He have voted for the health care bill?

Some argue yes.  Gordon MacDonald at the Out of Ur blog argues that Americans and Christians should rejoice over recent political events because it is exactly what Jesus would have wanted.  He writes:

I am glad not because I am a Democrat or a Republican but because I think that Jesus, who seemed to take great interest in health issues, is glad. Looking back on his life among people like us, he often acted as a healer. He seemed to delight in curing diseases, restoring disabled people to wholeness, and rewiring damaged minds. You cannot divorce these encounters from the rest of his public ministry. Health-care was in his frame of reference.

He then goes on to describe one of his favorite Jesus-for-health-care stories.  The story is of a paralyzed man who is lowered down from the roof by his friends in hopes that Jesus would have pity on the man and heal him.  We all remember the story right?  Eventually Jesus does heal the man and for the first time, the man leaps to his feet, picks up his mat, and walked home.  Now that's health care!

The real moral of the story isn't just in the man's healing, but to what lengths he had to go to in order to gain access to such wonderful health care.  MacDonald writes:

Then, too, I wonder about all the people (apparently including religious leaders) who had crowded into that house and who’d made it impossible for the man in his original condition of paralysis to get to Jesus in a more conventional way—through the front door. How does it happen that people rationalized, that since they got there first, the suffering guy outside should be left to his own devices?

MacDonald is stunned:  did the people not care about this paralytic man?  And that question brings us to our modern times; too many Christians are like those preventing the sick and the helpless from gaining access to much needed health care.  This of course reminds him of another story in the New Testament, this one taken from Acts 3:

I love the moment in Acts 3, when Peter and John approach the Temple and spot a disabled man (from birth) begging. Earlier they wouldn’t have given him the time of day as they hurried on their way. But Jesus had rubbed off on them. Now they noticed the victim. And in this case they tried what they would have resisted trying in the past. They healed the man in the name of Jesus. 

I imagine the dilemma of Peter and John as they stand there. I hear them asking how you call Jesus Lord and not ultimately inherit some of his compassion for those who are sick and diseased?

Peter and James, just like Jesus, notice the unhealthy victim, take notice and offer the man real (and free) health care.  The two apostles offer the man what everyone had been denying him:  health care.  The message of the New Testament is clear:  the Savior and early church believed in universal health care that punished insurance companies and over-paid doctors regardless of its affect on their national debt.

Really?  Can we honestly say that Jesus or the apostles would have gone that far?  Can we really draw such conclusions from the healing of the paralytics of Jesus and the apostles?  Is that really why Luke included both accounts?

It says a lot about modern Christianity that sees in these texts answers to modern political questions and issues like health care and not the gospel.  The purpose of these healings is not to tell us how to vote or to show us what we should support, but to remind us that Jesus Christ is the Savior of men and our only hope for salvation.

When Jesus healed the paralytic He did so almost reluctantly.  At first He seems to ignore the man's current paralysis and simply declares "You are forgiven."  That is the gospel!  When sinners are forgiven and granted new life by their Savior, Christians have historically called that conversion.  To be converted means to embrace the exclusive gospel of Jesus Christ.  But those surrounding Jesus listening to him teach (and refused to get out of the paralytics way remember?) were outraged.  Who can forgive sins but God?

Exactly!  No one can forgive sins except God; ergo:  Jesus is God in flesh and thus has the authority and power to forgive this man of his sins.  Still unbelieving, Jesus demonstrates His power and authority by healing the man.  Jesus looks at His dissenters and asked, "which is easier:  to say, 'Your sins are forgiven' or to say 'get up and walk?'"  The answer is obvious.  Anyone can say, "your sins are forgiven," but it takes a supernatural gift and a supernatural person to heal a man born paralyzed.  And so in order to demonstrate His deity granting Him the power to forgive, Jesus healed the man.

This text has nothing to do with health care, but with the gospel.  Shame on us for ever speaking of this text and saying nothing about the gospel.  Jesus was more concerned with the mains spiritual state than his physical well being.  That doesn't mean that his paralysis wasn't to Jesus' concern, but that unless the man be forgiven, he is no better being able to walk than he is being paralyzed.  The text is about the gospel, not health care.

The same is true regarding the text from Acts 3.  The man in need is begging because he physically is unable to walk.  He wants money, not health care.  Instead of offering the man money (because they had none), the apostle heal the man in the name of Christ.  The purpose of the story is two-fold:  based on the man's faith in Christ's ability to heal, he was healed.  Secondly, the subsequent arrest and testimony before the religious leaders illustrate the power and hostility of the gospel.  To those who are weak, poor, and sick, the gospel is an ready friend.  But to the rich and religious establishment, the gospel is a threat.

Again, the purpose of Luke's inclusion of these stories is not to tell us something about Obamacare, but about the gospel.

Why is it so shocking to say that Jesus couldn't care less about this whole debate?  If Jesus was alive today he would not have been a Congressman.  How do I know?  Because in the 1st century he was neither an adviser to Pontus Pilate's or a Roman Senator.  In other words, Jesus was not a politician and said little about politics.  Jesus' main concern was the gospel of God, not the politics of man.

During this whole debate many Christians have forgotten the gospel.  I am against this law primarily on grounds of what it will do to the economy (in that it will raise taxes), increase our national debt, add another entitlement which encourages poverty rather than alleviate it, it is an assault on the Constitution, and it will lead to tax-payer funded abortions.  But at the end of the day, the gospel is more important.  Christians should spend more money on missions than they should lobbying to or against any bill brought before Congress.

The gospel affects the world through sacrifice and loving service, not through taxes and mandates.  Have we forgotten this message?  The Early Church made a habit of voluntarily selling everything they had and giving it to the poor not because the government made them, but because Christ did the same for them on the cross.  It is time for Christians to return to the cross.  Real health care goes beyond healing physical ailments (though that is important) but to the forgiveness of man's souls.

When former President Bill Clinton was running for the presidency in 1992, one of his advisors gave him advice that essentially won him our nation's highest office.  The advice was that regardless of what he may be asked or any speech he may give, "It's the economy stupid!"  The point was to the remind the then governor to stay on message. If he would do that (and he did) he would win the presidency.  The rest, as they say, was history.

It is time for Christians to heed the same advice.  Regardless of what Capital Hill is debating or what the President is proposing, "It's the gospel stupid!"  Remember the gospel and the rest will be history.  The campaign we join should not be about political answers to spiritual problems, but to the message of surrender  and forgiveness.  Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand!

Out of Ur - Jesus and the Health Care Bill:  It may cost us a bit more, but our nation has taken a compassionate step in the right direction.


For more:
Commentary - The Politics of Cowardice:  Health Care Passes
Commentary - Some Life Not Worth the Investment:  The Dangers of the Health Care Bill
Senate Health Care Bill
Shortblog - Another Political Lie: Abortion and Health Care
Shortblog - Is Health Care a Right?:  Williams Weighs In
Onenewsnow - Healthcare is NOT a 'Right'
Shortblog - Health Care, Ideology, and the Gospel:  Colson Weighs In