Thursday, February 07, 2008


This blog has been moved here. Come visit my new home.

Jesus' Van

Thanks to Barry Carpenter for passing this along to me. It's hilarious whether you are a Rob Bell friend or foe.

Biblical Masculinity

Steve Shank interviewed CJ Mahaney at The Pursuit conference (a regional conference from Sovereign Grace Ministries) about biblical masculinity in 2007. The entire interview is helpful but I found Mahaney's advice to parents about teaching their young men about what it means to be a godly man especially helpful.

I think what I would say to a young man, is that there are categories he needs to familiarize himself with from Scripture. Two would be categories revealed particularly in Proverbs – the wise and the foolish. And I would want any young man (and this has broader application for all of us, but particularly for a young man) to familiarize himself with those two categories.

Those are the only two categories that exist. There are no other categories from God’s perspective. One either identifies with the wise or the foolish. Proverbs is a wealth of wisdom given by God as a gift from God to that age group in particular — to protect them from walking with fools, from being a fool, and from experiencing the consequences of being a fool.

Those who say that wisdom is the fruit of experience haven’t read Proverbs. There is wisdom there that will protect us from the experience of being a fool or emulating the example of a fool. So I would want to impress those categories and familiarize themselves with the numerous and detailed descriptions of the wise son, the wise man, the foolish son, the foolish man.

And I would want those categories to inform that young man and to protect him from sin and to provoke that young man to want to identify with the wise. I would want that young man to be protected from being numbered among the fools.

Proverbs describes a fool as someone who doesn’t acknowledge the relationship between character, conduct, and consequences. God says of that individual – you are a fool.

Often in Proverbs the father is informing the son, “in the end,” a little phrase that appears throughout Proverbs. He is trying to draw his son’s attention to the consequences of sin. Sin in its initial stages appears attractive and can even be pleasurable to some degree. The wise father is drawing the attention of the son to what takes place as a fruit of sin and in the end trying to help establish that relationship between character, conduct and consequence. And then protect the son so the son instead pursues wisdom.

I would also say to that young man, when Proverbs says “the companion of fools will suffer harm,” you will not prove to be an exception to that (Proverbs 13:20). A wise son, a wise man, hangs out with wise men and therefore becomes wise. Proverbs warns us (as an expression of God’s kindness), “the companion of fools will suffer harm.” Now that harm is not always immediately obvious to a fool because often that harm begins in the form of a conscience that goes from sensitive to seared. So that harm isn’t always evident in consequences that are obvious to all. But be assured, the companion of fools will suffer harm.

And I would say to all of us fathers that we must understand that this category of “companion” is broader than just the individuals our children hang out with. Television is a companion. The Internet is a companion. The iPod is a companion. These are all means of transferring foolishness to one’s heart and therefore we need to help equip our sons and daughters with these two categories to protect them from being numbered among the fools and experiencing the consequences of fools and to, instead, be numbered among those who are wise and to taste the sweet fruit of wisdom.

There are treasures to be savored here, not just for parents, but for us all as we pursue godliness. We need to walk among the wise as wise men, not as a fool among the companions of fools. And we need righteous discernment to help us know the difference.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Top 10 Least Christian-Friendly Countries

1. North Korea
2. Saudi Arabia
3. Iran
4. Maldives
5. Bhutan
6. Yemen
7. Afghanistan
8. Laos
9. Uzbekistan
10. China

You can see the full report here.

Now These Guys Have Got Skills! - Watch more free videos

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

How to Give Godly Criticism

Mark Dever offers five helpful tips for giving constructive, godly criticism. These are especially challenging for those, like me, who evaluate and critique everything and everyone.

Proverbs 26:27 says "A lying tongue hates those it hurts, and a flattering mouth works ruin." I think that Christians, and especially pastors, should have words which reflect hearts of wisdom and love toward those we speak to. And it's in reference to those obligations and opportunities we have (and out of my own mistakes in doing this well!) that I offer the five points of criticism. Here are several ideas on HOW criticism is best offered:

1. Directly, not indirectly. If you're anything like me, you might have a temptation to imply something, to presume something, to do anything to avoid a direct confrontation. Be very careful, however, before adopting this pattern, especially in criticism. If you're not careful, you'll have people regularly looking at your words and asking themselves what you "really mean."

2. Seriously, not humorously. Again, I might want to give some piece of advice through a humorous aside, but I probably am giving criticism this way because of my own fear of man. I want them to like me, and so I don't want to directly confront them. I want to be able to dismiss my own words if their cost proves higher to me than I had estimated. And humor can appear to be a useful vehicle for this. I can disown the words I've spoken, explaining them merely as humor if they're not received well. I should know better. I should know that if something is worth correcting, I should show respect to the other person by taking it seriously. I should never joke about something I'm really concerned about in someone else, without first having spoken seriously to them about it.

3. As if it's important, not casually. Similar to the previous point, but distinct, is the idea that the other person deserves me to give a certain level of importance to the issue, or I probably shouldn't be offering them correction at all. Eleazar Savage has a wise section (pp. 487-490) in the book of books (Polity) on minor offenses that we as Christians should simply bear with in each other. Don't use up the other person's emotional energy on criticizing them if the matter isn't really very significant.

4. Privately, not publicly. A remark around other people could have negative effects on other people's opinion of the one you are offering criticism to. You probably won't have the opportunity to follow up with all of them about the nature and reasons of your criticism. Your friend will probably only struggle more with fear of man issues, having those confused with the merits of the criticism you have offered. Now your friend may well be left open to the Evil One tempting him to be distracted by what this or that person will think of him. You honor your friend better by offering the criticism in private.

5. Out of love for them, not to express your feeling or frustration. It's interesting how my "honesty" can sometimes be inspired by my own frustration. Good criticism should not be "my frustration"-driven, but "your need" driven. If I ever offer a friend criticism it should be in the time and manner that will best serve them, not that is most convenient and emotionally satisfying for me. One way we show that love is by sincerly encouraging them (not flattering them) in areas where God's grace is clear in our friend's life. The more they can believe that we mean this for their good, that we love them, and see real good in them, the less open they are to pridefully dismissing our criticism.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Hungry Haitians Eat Mud

This morning my daughters had Fruit Loops and oatmeal for breakfast. This afternoon we will eat lunch together as a family as a part of our weekly Wednesday routine. This evening after bible study we will probably go out to dinner with our friends Barry and Lauren. At the end of the day we will enjoy three satisfying meals, and in some cases, we won't even finish what is on our plates because we are "full".

Todayt Charlene, 16, and her 1-month old son will eat cookies made from dried yellow dirt in Haiti's central plateau.

When my mother does not cook anything, I have to eat them three times a day," Charlene said. Her baby, named Woodson, lay still across her lap, looking even thinner than the slim 6 pounds 3 ounces he weighed at birth.

Though she likes their buttery, salty taste, Charlene said the cookies also give her stomach pains. "When I nurse, the baby sometimes seems colicky too," she said.

Food prices around the world have spiked because of higher oil prices, needed for fertilizer, irrigation and transportation. Prices for basic ingredients such as corn and wheat are also up sharply, and the increasing global demand for biofuels is pressuring food markets as well.

The problem is particularly dire in the Caribbean, where island nations depend on imports and food prices are up 40 percent in places.

This story brings tears to my eyes as Randall Goodgames "Share The Well" echoes in my ears. I'm half a world away, wondering what I can do about hunger in Haiti, AIDS in Africa, or human sex trade in the Far East. The words of the prophet Micah reverberate in my gut this morning, "He has shown you, O man, what is good and what the Lord requires of you. But do to justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with my God."

Father, I may not be able to show mercy to Charlene in Haiti today, but surely there is someone. Open my eyes, that I may see the world as you see it today.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Rick Love Responds to Piper's Criticism of A Common Word

Rick Love, International Director of Frontiers who lent his signature to the document A Common Word Between You and I has responds to Piper. It is worth reading.

A couple of points with noting. Love states the document does not "promote or renounce evangelism" but is merely a response to the invitation to dialogue. While this seems fair enough I do wonder if the Muslim clerics would find the acceptance of the invitation as disingenuous if/when they become aware that the intent of this dialogue may not be the acceptance they seek, but rather an opportunity to expose the illegitimacy of Islam as a viable road to salvation and that Muslims must no longer worship God in ignorance, but through Jesus Christ.

Love also says:

I believe that Muslims worship the true God. But I also believe that their view of God falls short of His perfections and beauty as described in the Bible. Thus, I try to model my approach to Muslims after the apostle Paul who said to the Athenians: “What you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you" (Acts 17:23).

While I understand Love's point, he seems to be reaching. I do not understand how you can divorce "the true God" from the concept of the Trinity as revealed in Scriptures. How can Muslims worship the true God, which by Love's definition is only God the Father, while excluding the necessity of also worshiping Jesus and the Holy Spirit? I would certainly affirm that Muslims have a high view of God, but the God that they worship as Allah is not the same as Yahweh who says let us create man in our image. The Trinitarian concept of God must have a seat at the table when dialoguing about whether or not Muslims and Christians truly worship the same God.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

"Pinch" Those What?

About a year ago I heard this audio and laughed hysterically for days. My sister-in-law found the video footage and I couldn't resist posting it. Disclaimer: the video is of a "blooper" from a bible study. It's not inappropriate (in my estimation), but some more conservative folk might not laugh as hard or loud as I did. Consider yourself warned.

Obama on the Gospel

In a recent interview with Christianity Today Barak Obama makes some comments relevant to how evangelicals should understand his faith and influence on some criticual issues to evangelical Christians. When reading his comments about abortion you would do well to also read Denny Burk's response to what Obama has said.

Here are Obama's comments about gospel.

"I am a devout Christian. I believe in the redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I believe that that faith gives me a path to be cleansed of sin and have eternal life. But most importantly, I believe in the example that Jesus set by feeding the hungry and healing the sick and always prioritizing the least of these over the powerful."

What I find most interesting (but not necessarily surprising) is that Obama places a higher priority on the social implications of the gospel than he does the gospel itself. He elevates how the gospel is supposed to be worked out in our lives above the gospel itself. While I certainly do not expect Obama or any other presidential candidate to be a theologian (though we all are to some degree), there is nothing more important than the gospel itself, not even the implications of the gospel to culture. Perhaps it is this understanding that is at the root of how the gospel has failed to shape Obama's political positions on moral issues such as abortion that should be, but clearly are not, informed by the gospel.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Responding to "A Common Word Between Us and You"

On October 13, 2007, 138 Muslim scholars and clerics sent an open letter to leaders of Christian churches, everywhere. The letter highlights what Muslim clerics say they beleive Christians and Muslims have in common: a Scriptural mandate to love God and love people. In response to this gesture of peace from the Muslim world, 300 Christian leaders signed their name to a letter drafted by scholars at Yale Divinity SChool's Center for Faith and Culture in support of a Christian response to A Common Word Between Us and You. Some of the leaders who signed their name to this letter are Joseph Cumming (Yale Divinity School), Leith Anderson (President, National Association of Evangelicals), Bill Hybels (Pastor, Willow Creek Community Church, Chicago, Illinois), Tony Jones (National Coordinator, Emergent Village), Brian McLaren, Richard Muow (President, Fuller Theological Seminary), Robert Schuller (Founder, Crystal Cathedral), John Stott (All Souls Church, London), and Rick Warren (Pastor, Saddleback Church, California).

John Piper already has an excellent response to this letter. After reading both documents for myself (which you can see here and here) I have a couple of observations, primarily because some well-respected men in evangelical circles have affirmed in writing that they believe that Christians and Muslims can achieve peace by loving God and loving our neighbor as our Scriptures command because they believe that this explicit tenet in both the Bible and Qu'ran are sufficient common ground for peace between Christianity and Islam.

The Christian response says:

"If we can achieve religious(emphasis mine) peace between these two religious communities, peace in the world will clearly be easier to maintain."

A significant problem presents itself immediately:
How is religious peace possible between Muslims and Christians as long as their are significant differences in how each of us view the person of Jesus Christ? The Muslim letter states, "The basis for this peace and understanding already exists. It is part of the very foundational principles of both faiths: love of the One God, and the love of the neighbor. These principles are found over and over again in the sacred texts of Islam and Christianity."

But what about Ephesians 2:13-16? "But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might creae in himself one new man in place of the two, so making pecae, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing hostility."

The second issue is that the sacred texts of Islam also betrays that there can be any real peace between believer and unbeliever. Citing the Qu'ran 9:29: Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book (Christian or Jew), until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.
There is another concerning aspect of this ecumenical olive branch extended between Muslim and Christian leaders. In what way does this document injure the biblical call to evangelize people from all nations, tribes and tongues, including Muslims? The document implies that, from a spiritual perspective, Muslims seeking to live in cultural and social peace with Christians, are okay spiritually. This letter makes dangerous assumptions, such as: Allah and Yahweh are the same (in our understanding of their character); the love of God for man and Himself can be divorced from the person of Jesus Christ, which is implied from the Christian side by this statement: "Our love of GOd springs from and is nourished by God's love for us". Sure it is, but not apart from Jesus Christ (1John 4:8-9.

Will any Muslim who may agree with the spirit of this letter in hopes of achieving worldwide peace (is this really possible apart from Jesus) not take offense at the Christian who signs this document and then proselytizes them? My concern is that this document harms the evangelistic impulse that should drive us to share the gospel with Muslims because it implies that they have no need for a Savior.

I certainly affirm the need for open dialogue between Muslims and Christians. Less open hostility and deliberate efforts to find common ground as a part of the human race is an admirable goal. I also believe that it is imperative that we live to do good to all men, both friends and enemies. As followers of Jesus we should show respect for Muslims and their religious convictions, never becoming belligerent or hateful in our response, always willing to respond with gentleness (as we should all people, regardless of their religious persuasion). However, the greatest good for mankind is found in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and we cannot sincerely seek the good of others and divorce the importance of Jesus from the equation. There can be no peace, not lasting peace, apart from the establishment of God's Kingdom through the reign of the Son of God Jesus Christ. There can be no "religious" peace between Muslims and Christians until there is agreement that there is only one prophet, Jesus.