Thursday, October 30, 2008

The History of Thanksgiving, Pilgrims, and Capitalism

In the United States, Thanksgiving began with the Pilgrims who settled around Plymouth in 1621. During the winters of 1621 and 1622 they suffered many privations. Food and supplies were scarce and disease ran rampant in the region.

Nearly half the population died. The settlers at the time and historians both agree that there were two reasons for the problems of the Pilgrims. First, they were generally not experienced farmers. They were fortunate that some of the local Native-Americans helped them learn to farm the local crops. Second, and perhaps more tellingly, they had originally been organized into a commune where the produce of all was brought into a common store and then distributed among the inhabitants based on need.

The Governor at the time, William Bradford, was quick to recognize the problem. This excerpt from his diary, written in the 1620s, explains all:

The failure of this experiment of communal service, which was good and honest men proves the emptiness of the theory of Plato and other ancients, applauded by some of later times, - that the taking away of private property, and possession of it in community, by a commonwealth would make a state happy and flourishing...For in this instance, community of property (so far as it went) was found to breed much confusion and discontent, and retard much employment which would have been to the general benefit and comfort.

So every family was assigned a parcel of land according to the proportion of their number...It made all hands very industrious, so that much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been...and gave far better satisfaction.

Thankful for the re-institution of private property and the plenty which it provided, the Pilgrims invited their benefactors in 1623 to a three-day celebration. More than 80 "Indians" came to enjoy the festivities. They brought venison, wild turkey and other victuals. There was much singing, rejoicing and even sermons.

As Thanksgiving approaches, let us be thankful to God for his provisions and the country in which we live.

Much of this info was found here. is apparently more than a cooking site.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Book Review: Is Jesus The Only Savior

This is a great scholarly response to one of the prevailing questions of our day as the title suggests.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tuesday's Links

1. Albert Mohler has published a great post on the removal of the younger Schuller as the preacher on the Hour of Power broadcast. This is telling of the actual "ministry" of the Crystal Cathedral under Robert H. Schuller.

An excerpt:

Schuller built his worldwide ministry over a half century on the psychology of positive thinking and appealing to people turned off by the formality of traditional faiths. In contrast, his son's sermons have been full of direct references to the Bible.
"I was called to start a mission, not a church," Schuller told his audience Sunday. "There is a difference. . . . You don't try to preach . . . what is sin and what isn't sin. A mission is a place where you ask nonbelievers to come and find faith and hope and feel love. We're a mission first, a church second ."

2. A quote to consider from Abraham Piper

If you ask questions but you reject answers, you’re not actually asking anything. You’re just festooning tired, old propositions with trendier punctuation.

3. Tim Challies' latest blog has some good content on the use (and disuse?) of the gospel

This is some exceedingly bad news. And this is why so many churches seek to soften the news. It’s better, they think, to welcome into church the many people who will accept a softened message than the few who will accept such a tough message. And so they tamper with it, taking the edge off. Yes, we have sinned, but let’s think of it as just doing bad things or making mistakes.

4. Here's a link to, of all things, Oprah's website. Why? Because for those of you who can't wait to get your hands on a new Amazon Kindle (or to buy one for me), you can visit the link above for a $50 off coupon.

5. For those of you who live within a few miles of Barnes and Noble (It's more than 30 miles for me), here's a coupon for a free beverage. The only catch is that you have to use it by Friday.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Right Praying is Right Wanting

“Praying is not about getting God to give us what we want;it is about learning to want what God wants to give.”

- David deSilva, Sacramental Life: Spiritual Formation Through the Book of Common Prayer, 114

HT: Trevin Wax

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Halloween Evil or Edifying?

Here's an article that some of you may enjoy. I'm not a huge fan of Halloween myself, but I am cautious about referring to it as Satanic. Michael Spencer has posted his annual rant on Halloween. I think it's worthwhile reading for good conversation.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Most Important Election Issue?

I try to avoid politics here, but since abortion, which is a moral issue, has been politicized, I think it is appropriate to post this video from Catholic Vote 2008.

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Book Review: Five Leading Reformers

I've posted a book review for Five Leading Reformers by Christopher Catherwood at I encourage you to check it out.

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Monday, October 20, 2008

The Cross is a RISK

In Southeast Asia a few years ago, an IMB missionary spoke with me about his job there:

It is dangerous to spread the good news, but these people need the gospel more than they need my physical help. The cross is spelled R-I-S-K. I know that my I and my family may be in danger for spreading the gospel, but it must be done.

A news story out of Afghanistan today shows that the risk of the gospel is still real. The dangers of spreading the good news did not miraculously stop when the United States declared freedom of religion. Millions of Christians around the world still fear for their lives because they name the name of Christ.

Please read the story of Gayle Williams from FOX News and be in prayer for her friends and family.

It is said that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. May the sacrifice of Gayle Williams serve to promote the gospel in new and accelerated ways in Afghanistan and around the world.

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Friday, October 17, 2008

Spurgeon On Church Growth

I heard of a report of a church, the other day, in which the minister, who was well known to have reduced his congregation to nothing somewhat cleverly wrote, "Our church is looking up." When questioned with regard to this statement, he replied, Everybody knows that the church is on its back, and it cannot do anything else but look up." When churches are looking up in that way, their pastors generally say that you cannot tabulate the work of the Spirit, and calculate the prosperity of a church by figures. The fact is, you can reckon very correctly if the figures are honest, and if all circumstances are taken into consideration: if there is no increase, you may calculate with considerable accuracy that there is not much being done; and if there is a cleare decrease among a growing population, you may reckon that the prayers of the people and the preaching of the minister are not of the most powerful kind.

That is not a quote from Ed Stetzer's most recent book or Lifeway's most recent study. This is a direct quote from C.H. Spurgeon in his book The Soul Winner. The church growth movement may be somewhat new in the church (if 60 years is still new), but the ideas behind the church growth movement are not new at all.

Spurgeon realized that pastors bear a burden of responsibility in the affectiveness of the church God has given them stewardship over. He also realized that the laity bears a certain responsibility in the overall success of the church. In other words, we are all responsible for the ministry of the church to which we belong, whether pastor or lay member.

But, as a pastor, let me say to pastors, take note. The church on its back may be looking up, but that does not mean it is supposed to be on its back.

Does God ever desire to see his churches die?

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Great Lesson On Couseling from MAD TV

Believe it or not, this was sent to me by a person whom I counseled. He suggested this as a good link for my counseling sessions. I hope that many of you benefit from this.

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Books To Encourage Your Christian Growth

I've got two links for you today that I hope you will find beneficial. They are both book reviews and are both books that are worth your time.

First, click over to Passion for Preaching to see my review on Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline. If you have never studied the disciplines of the Christian life and how you can grow through personal discipline, I strongly encourage you to look into this book. As you will see in my review, it has it's flaws, but there are still great things to glean from this classic by Richard Foster.

Second, Trevin Wax at Kingdom People has posted a review of Jerry Bridges' book, Pursuit of Holiness. This is a great book that I read in college and re-read for a series of lessons I gave to a group of high school kids a few years ago. Noticing his review makes me want to sit down and enjoy it one more time.
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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Poverty's Hope

So the poor have hope,
and injustice shuts her mouth.
Job 5:16
Today is Blog Action Day, where thousands of people around the world join together with the "voices" of their blogs to raise awareness for a specific issue. This year, the issue at hand is poverty and we join with thousands, perhaps millions, of people around the world to grow in our understanding of poverty's grip on the world.
The Bible is far from silent on the issue of poverty. In fact, many people would suggest that the Bible is skewed in favor of those who have less. It was Jesus who said "Blessed are the poor" in the book of Luke. And, who can forget the difficulty of a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven (Luke 18:25)? The OT prophets cried out against injustice toward the poor and demanded just scales and measures.
As Christian people, what are we doing, not only to alleviate poverty, but to promote justice to the poor. We serve a God who cares for the poor, and I beleive he is honored when we work to overcome poverty in our world. There are things, small and large, that you can do to help with the issue of poverty.
1. Pray. If indeed he is the hope of the poor, then we have confidence that a God who answers prayer will hear and answer our prayers for the poor.
2. Give. How can you give? Well, you can give through the World Hunger Fund (our church does this every year), Compassion International, Samaritan's Purse (Shoeboxes), and even to the guy on the street corner.
3. Shop Wisely. This is an area where I do not excel, but we should all strive to shop in such a way that oppression of the poor is not encouraged. Fair Trade Agricultural products (such as coffee) are bought from developing countries at fair prices and are grown in ways that are not ecologically destructive.
4. Educate. Many people simply are not aware of the grip of poverty. Travel outside of the United States and you will be shocked at the poverty in which many of the world's people live.
We serve a big God who has called us to a robust gospel. Let's not allow our faith to be so small that it only focuses on our immediate surroundings. Jesus said the poor would be with us always, so maybe we can never completely erradicate poverty, but if we can help just a few people, then surely they will be grateful and God will be glorified. God is the hope of the poor, and we are the hands and feet of God.

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Blog Action Day

Tomorrow is Blog Action Day. Visit for more details.

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Your Church is The Body of Christ

In a recent commentary, Russ Moore from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has drawn some comparisons and conclusions regarding campus ministry. His thoughts are worth while. However, one quote caught my attention and I would like to build on it a bit.

Saying "I love Jesus" but hating the church is as irrational as saying to your best friend, "I like you--I just can't stand being around you." Your attitude toward the church tells you--simply--your attitude toward Jesus.

So, what is your attitude toward the church. I know many people (friends even) who hold to this, "I love Jesus, just not the church" kind of attitude. It has been my experience that most of these people don't have so much problem with the church as they do with authority. They resist the concept of anyone telling them what to do, and thus, the church does not fit into their "non-conformist Jesus" kind of lifestyle.

As Dr. Moore argues, the church is more than we give it credit for.

In the Bible, a local church--with all its ridiculous flaws--is an unveiling of the mystery of the universe (Eph 3:6). The church is in a one-flesh union with Jesus so that, as in a marriage, everything that belongs to Him belongs to her (Eph 5:22-33). A congregation, in covenant with one another as an assembly of Christ's people, is a colony of the coming global reign of Christ (Eph 1:22-23), a preview of what the Kingdom of Jesus will look like in the end (1 Cor 6:1-8). Where there is a covenant among believers, a disciplined community of faith, the spirit of Jesus is present among them, just as God was present among the people of Israel in the temple of old (Matt 18:15-20). When the church judges a repentant sinner to be a genuine believer, the congregation is speaking with the authority of Jesus when they plunge him beneath the waters (Matt 28:18-19). When the church judges an unrepentant sinner to be persistent in his rebellion, it is with the authority of Jesus that the congregation pronounces him to be a stranger to the people of God (1 Cor 5: 4-5; Matt 18:15-20). When we gather for worship as a congregation in covenant with one another, we are not simply fueling our individual quiet times with praise choruses. We are instead actually ascending to the heavenly places together, standing before Christ and all of his angels on Mount Zion (Heb 12:18-29).

So you've been burned in the church before, maybe you got your feelings hurt, but shouldn't you expect some of that? Let's be honest, who ever expected Christians to be perfect, you aren't. Are you truly out of church because you believe that to be the will of God, or is it the will of your flesh. Maybe you just don't like the way it's being done, or maybe you would rather spend a few extra hours on the lake. Either way, the real question you need to answer is not whether or not I will attend church, but whether or not I will obey God's command.

The church is the body of Christ, he promised to build it and he declared that it would be the vehicle through which his name would be proclaimed. Remember, even your church is part of Christ's body...will you honor him in and through his church?

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Monday, October 13, 2008

The Reformation: How a Monk and a Mallet Changed The World

I've posted a book review of The Reformation: How a Monk and a Mallet Changed the World at Passion for Preaching. I encourage you to read it if you are interested in the Protestant Reformation. This book is a great introduction to the Reformation and the Reformers.
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Friday, October 10, 2008

ESV Study Bible


I've talked enough about it, now it has arrived. Click below to get your hands on the new ESV Study Bible fresh off of the press.

And, the grandaddy...Premium Calfskin Leather

Even if you do not plan to buy yours today, check out the options from WTS Books, their prices are great. Enjoy!

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Doctrinally Rich Evangelism

Recently, I’ve read some debates revolving around doctrine and evangelism in the blogosphere (ie. JD Greear, Timmy Brister) and in scholarly journals (The Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry). The unfortunate issue in debates on doctrine and evangelism is that most seem to focus either on preaching (and teaching) strong doctrine or on being evangelistic. The fact of of the matter is that true biblical evangelism must be doctrinally rich and sound and that true doctrinal preaching should move its hearers to biblical evangelism. In Nine Marks of a Healthy Church,pastor Mark Dever writes:

Love for God is the only sufficient motive for evangelism. Self-love will give way to self-centeredness; love for the lost will fail with those whom we cannot love, and when difficulties seem insurmountable. Only a deep love for God will keep us following his way, declaring his gospel, when human resources fail. Only our love for God-and more important his love for us-will keep us from the dangers which beset us. When the desire for popularity with me or for success in human terms, tempts us to water down the gospel, to make it palatable, then only if we love God will we stand fast by his truth and his ways.

Further, Robert Smith Jr. asserts in Doctrine That Dances,

The ultimate goal of all doctrine is not to be informed about Bible facts but to be transformed by being in relationship with the person of Jesus Christ.

So, doctrinal preaching is not something other than evangelical preaching, but is instead evangelical preaching with an undergirding structure that safeguards evangelism from becoming something less than orthodox. I was once informed by a rather prominent youth speaker that he was not “concerned with all of that theology stuff, kids don’t need me to tell them they are bad, I just want to tell people about Jesus.” Without all of that “theology stuff,” however, we have something much less than the Christian gospel. David Dockery summarizes it well when he says, Christian faith should be both living and confessional! One can no more eat choice beef from a boneless cow and one can no more work safely in a skyscraper that has no structural steel than one can practice and communicate the Christian religion without basic Christian affirmations or doctrine.

It is for these reasons that I continue to teach and preach doctrinally and why I strongly encourage approaches to evangelism that are rich in their theology and doctrinal heritage. Tell The Truth: The Whole Gospel to the Whole Person by Will Metzger is a book that explains the gospel and instructs in evangelism methods with a strong commitment to the truths of God’s Word and the doctrines of the church. Metzger’s book is not for the faint of heart, it is evangelism training on steroids, but it is GOOD and has stood the test of time.

As Great Commission Christians we must be dedicated to Doctrinally rich evangelism that results in converted disciples, not inflated church rolls and baptism numbers. Metzger shows that reformed theology is not somehow unevangelistic, but rather in the heritage of men like Spurgeon and Edwards, the doctrines of grace should spur us on to greater evangelistic zeal, not through catchy and trendy methods, but rather as a result of the overflow of God’s grace in our lives. I encourage doctrinally centered ministry and I encourage Metzger’s book as a great resource for churches seeking doctrinally rich evangelism.

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Monday, October 06, 2008

Reformation Day Party

Reformation Day is fast approaching and a member of my church has just forwarded me information on supplies and instructions for your very own Reformation Day Party. According to the website, A Night of Reformation provides a fun tool to:

Teach the history of the Protestant Reformation in a fun and memorable way. Help Martin Luther's future wife escape from her convent, encourage Calvin's friend Farel as he tosses the Catholic priests' relics into the river, assist Martin Bucer as he attempts to negotiate a peace between Ulrich Zwingli and Martin Luther. Costumes, games and booths, prizes, food, teaching, singing and fellowship -- our church's Reformation Party is one of the highlights of our year!

Let me know if any of you go this route for your fall festival...maybe next year for us!

(And yes, for all who were already thinking it, I know I'm a dork)

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The Dangers of Prosperity Gospel

The following from Albert Mohler's website is well worth your time...

In another article -- fascinating on its own -- TIME's David van Biema looks at the influence of prosperity theology in the current credit crisis. His article, "Did God Want You to Get That Mortgage?," starts with a punch:

Has the so-called Prosperity Gospel turned its followers into some of the most willing participants — and hence, victims — of the current financial crisis? That's what a scholar of the fast-growing brand of Pentecostal Christianity believes. While researching a book on black televangelism, says Jonathan Walton, a religion professor at the University of California Riverside, he realized that Prosperity's central promise — that God would "make a way" for poor people to enjoy the better things in life — had developed an additional, toxic expression during sub-prime boom. Walton says that this encouraged congregants who got dicey mortgages to believe "God caused the bank to ignore my credit score and blessed me with my first house." The results, he says, "were disastrous, because they pretty much turned parishioners into prey for greedy brokers."

Lee Grady, editor of Charisma magazine, explained it this way: "It definitely goes on, that a preacher might say, 'if you give this offering, God will give you a house.' And if they did get the house, people did think that it was an answer to prayer, when in fact it was really bad banking policy."

It is easy to see how prosperity theology could lead to these unwarranted assumptions. Prosperity theology is a lie, and a false Gospel. We are not promised economic or financial prosperity in the Gospel. We are promised what money cannot buy and poverty cannot take away.

It is also easy for non-Charismatic critics of prosperity theology to look down on those who were so susceptible to its false promises. Many devotees of prosperity theology are desperate in ways the more privileged cannot understand, and they are prey to both lenders and preachers promising prosperity.

I must wonder how many other Christians -- far removed theologically from Charismatic prosperity theology -- might have bought into a very different prosperity theology. Have we all been seduced by the idea that prosperity is a given? Do we now think that prosperity is our right? Do we associate prosperity with the blessings we receive in the Gospel?
Perhaps we all need a refresher course in Christian economics and Christian theology. Niall Ferguson argues from the record of history in looking to the current crisis. Perhaps we should remember our own history lesson -- that far more believers in Christ have been and are now among the poor, rather than among the wealthy. We should hear Jesus warn against materialism and Paul remind us that we are to be content when we have plenty and when we have little. We should know that the Christian virtue of thrift is incompatible with the lies of those who push consumer credit.

We are not promised prosperity. When we do enjoy prosperity, we should be thankful stewards -- not peddlers of our own prosperity theology.

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Friday, October 03, 2008

Proper Blog Manners

I was once involved in a very serious disagreement with a friend that began over email. He and I both have very strong personalities, and have often disagreed. In this particular situation, however, the medium of email did a great deal to escalate the situation because the type-written word often does not convey tone inflections and body language. As a result of our exchange of emails, rather than us having a constructive conversation, my friend and I were ready to fight.

Emails can be a provocative medium to exchange sensitive ideas, and the blogosphere is no different. Denny Burk has posted a good blog on what he calls, Blog Trolls. Here are some examples from that blog:

When we disagree with one another, it’s critical that we do so in a way that is not disagreeable. The book of Proverbs teaches us that “The tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable” (Pr. 15:2). It also says that “A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger” (Pr. 15:1). Consider also this text, “Sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness” (Pr. 16:21). The Lord Jesus Himself was no stranger to controversy (Mt 12:34; 23:31). Nevertheless, it was said of Him that “All were speaking well of Him and wondering at the gracious words which were falling from His lips” (Luke 4:22).

The blogosphere has a way of giving even the most cowardly man sitting in his parents' basement courage to attack with his Mac. We should all heed Denny's advice on blog trolls and seek to avoid being lumped into this group. And, read the rest of Denny's article, I believe you will find it very beneficial.

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Reading Theology

Hat Tip to Barry Wallace for the following post.

I missed this article when it ran in the Baptist Press back in June. It’s extremely encouraging to me, though, so I wanted to pass it along.

The largest Southern Baptist Church in Alabama has over 800 members who’ve read and studied all 1290 pages of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology. Over 800 members. They include the church staff, middle-aged men, college men and 10th-grade boys. 10th grade boys, for Pete’s sake. I find that amazing, humbling, and incredibly encouraging all at once.

Because theology is profoundly important. J.I. Packer defines theology as “the study of God.” When we understand that, we understand that there is no more important study that we could ever undertake. To see so many members of one church who understand the value of theology is heartening, to say the least.

Read the BP News release, and Grudem’s reaction to the report. Then just go somewhere and get down on your knees and pray and (1) thank God for churches like that; and (2) ask him to give every one of our Southern Baptist churches the same kind of intense longing to know Him in Spirit and in truth, to know him exactly as He has revealed Himself in his word.

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