Friday, July 30, 2010

Christianity Challenges Every Culture's Heroes

Last night at the dinner table, my family was discussing the challenges that missionaries face in different cultures.

For example, the cannibals on one South Pacific island had difficulty accepting Christ's gospel because they saw Judas Iscariot as a hero. Their culture promoted betrayal as a virtue. If you could make someone believe that you were his best friend and then betray him, he would become the choicest morsel.

In one area of Asia dominated by an oppressive regime, missionaries experience difficulty in persuading new believers to confess their faith publicly because of fear of persecution. In their culture, a hero is synonymous with anyone who survives, whatever the cost. Cowardice is a virtue.

As we discussed the situation, we came to realize that Christianity challenges our culture's definitions of a hero, too.

In government, a politician can become a hero despite his support of the unnecessary killing of pre-born children. Apathy, neglect, and malice become virtues.

In entertainment, a rap artist can become a hero by performing songs advocating murder and the abuse of women. Hatred becomes admirable.

In business, a man can become a hero by being ruthless and dishonest with his competitors. Selfishness, greed, envy, and dishonesty become our values.

In video games, one can take on the persona of a hero by becoming a virtual rapist and cop-killer. Senseless violence and ruthlessness become virtues.

Christianity challenges every culture's heroes. The Holy Spirit tells Christians, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect" (Romans 12:2).

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Receiving the Gift of the Holy Spirit

This is an excerpt from Forgotten God by Francis Chan:

"A multitude of people had gathered. Peter preached a powerful sermon, and when they heard his words, they were 'cut to the heart' and asked how they should respond. Peter answered, 'Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself' (Acts 2:28-39). The text says that on that day around three thousand people became part of God's kingdom and accepted the gift of the Holy Spirit.

"...When I was preaching through this passage at my church, my seven-year-old daughter, Mercy, understood. She came to me afterward and said, 'Dad, I want to repent of my sins and be baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.' I loved the simplicity and greatness of her faith. She didn't need to debate the finer points of how and when, exactly, the Holy Spirit would come. She just wanted to obey the passage to the best of her ability. I realize Mercy doesn't have the biblical knowledge many of us do, but I wonder how many of us have the faith she has.

"Is that your response to the Word? Is it clear to you that you're supposed to repent, be baptized, and receive the Holy Spirit? If so, have you done it? If not, what keeps you from doing it today?

"Why do we sometimes feel that we need to debate this endlessly, running through every possible hypothetical situation and answering every theological question first? When will we simply respond to the truth we have heard and then work through our questions from there?" (pages 68-69).

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Contact Church Prays

"Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

During our Sunday morning worship assemblies, the Contact Church devotes a part of our time together to praising God through prayer. We take 5 to 10 minutes to thank God for what he has done for us and to ask him to help us with our needs. (We also have a Tuesday evening prayer meeting in which we spend some time in a study of the Bible. Then the men and women separate from each other into different groups in order to pray.)

This month, I have been leading the prayer and praise time on Sunday mornings. I stand in front of the congregation while other members let me know their reasons to praise God and the concerns that they want to take to God.

This is a taste of what is on the hearts of members of the Contact Church from this morning's prayer time.

We praised God for:

*Waking up
*Our homes
*Our clothes
*Our food
*Wisdom to live life
*Being clean and sober
*Being able to be with the church today
*A baby boy to be born in the next few months
*God being a refuge, a shelter, and our help in times of trouble
*Members who are celebrating birthdays

We asked for:

*A co-worker's successful heart surgery
*God to comfort the heart of a member's daughter who is facing difficult times
*Reconciliation between three girls who were involved in a fight last week
*Healing of a member's injured nose
*Comfort for a member whose friend was murdered last week
*Repentance and conversion of the murderer
*A member's brother to change his life while in jail
*Comfort for a member's friend whose mother died last week

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Euphemism of Taking Up One's Cross

This is from Forgotten God by Francis Chan:

"'Taking up my cross' has become a euphemism for getting through life's typical burdens with a semi-good attitude. Yet life's typical burdens--busy schedules, bills, illness, hard decisions, paying for college tuition, losing jobs, houses not selling, and the family dog dying--are felt by everyone, whether or not they follow the Way of Jesus.

"When Jesus calls us to take up our cross, He is doing much more than calling us to endure the daily, circumstantial troubles of life. The people in Jesus' day were very familiar with the cross. Having witnessed crucifixion, they understood the commitment and sacrifice of taking up a cross.

"It is a call to radical faith.

"Jesus is calling us to be willing to suffer anything and forsake everything for the sake of the gospel. His call is to love those who have cheated us in business; those who have spread nasty rumors about us; those who would kill us if they could; those who disagree with us politically, practically, and fundamentally. His call is to consider everything a loss for His sake. His call is for total surrender. He calls us to give up our lives as a living sacrifice. His call means realizing that His power is made perfect in our weakness, that when we are weak we are also strong (2 Cor. 12:9-10)" (Pages 124-125).

"And he said to all, 'If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me'" (Luke 9:23).

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Inerrancy of Scripture

The ESV Study Bible contains several very good articles. This is an excerpt about the inerrancy of the Bible from the article "Biblical Doctrine: An Overview."

"The doctrine of inerrancy means that the Bible is entirely truthful and reliable in all that it affirms in its original manuscripts. Another way of saying this is that the Bible does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact. Because God is the ultimate author of the Bible, and because God is always perfectly truthful, it follows that his Word is completely truthful as well: He is the 'God who never lies' (Titus 1:2). It would be contrary to his character to affirm anything false. God is all-knowing, always truthful and good, and all-powerful, so he always knows and tells the truth and is able to communicate and preserve his Word. 'O Lord GOD, you are God, and your words are true, and you have promised this good thing to your servant' (2 Sam. 7:28). 'Every word of God proves true' (Prov. 30:5; cf. Ps.12:6; 119:42; John 17:17).

"Inerrancy does not require twenty-first century precision or scientifically technical language. The following quotation from the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy summarizes what inerrancy does not mean:

"'We affirm the propriety of using inerrancy as a theological term with reference to the complete truthfulness of Scripture. We deny that it is proper to evaluate Scripture according to standards of truth and error that are alien to its usage and purpose. We further deny that inerrancy is negated by Biblical phenomena such as a lack of modern technical precision, irregularities of grammar or spelling, observational descriptions of nature, the reporting of falsehoods, the use of hyperbole and round numbers, the topical arrangement of material, variant selections of material in parallel accounts, or the use of free citations' (Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, Art. XIII).

"The inerrancy of Scripture gives the believer great confidence in the Bible as his sure foundation for understanding all God wants him to know and all that he needs for godliness and eternal life."

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Frogs, Tadpoles, and Righteousness

"A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal,
but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel" (Proverbs 12:10, NIV).

A few days ago, I was going to empty my son Christopher's outdoor toy box after a rain. As I was about to tip it over, I saw something make a splash. Upon closer inspection, I discovered that a couple of frogs and a number of tadpoles had made the outdoor toy box into their new home.

I called for Christopher. Immediately he asked me to allow the frogs and tadpoles to keep the water, since the tadpoles would die without it.

Of course, I agreed. There was no need to kill the tadpoles. In addition, it became a practical way to apply the principles of one of Christopher's memory verses.

Now Christopher checks on his frogs and tadpoles several times a day as he lives out Proverbs 12:10.

In the picture above, Christopher is holding one of the frogs in our backyard.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

When They Thought No One Was Looking

In this video, a homeless man gets caught by a security camera as he is rescuing an American flag that had fallen to the ground during a storm in Texas last week. He did not know that he had been caught on video doing something good. His good character was clearly revealed when he thought no one was looking.

It reminded me of a story told by Jesus Christ. In the story, Christ is judging the nations at the end of the age when he surprises those who did not realize that anyone was paying attention to them in this life:

"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me' (Matthew 25:34-40).

The homeless man in Texas was surprised to find out that his good deed had caught the attention of others. The people in Christ's parable were surprised to learn that their kind actions had caught the attention of their Savior. In both cases, they were simply doing what was right without drawing attention to themselves. In fact, at least in the case of the people in the parable (and possibly in the homeless man's case also), they did not even pay attention to their own actions, because they had to be reminded of what they had done.

Their good character was revealed when they thought no one was looking.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Why Do People in Trouble Seek Out Tony Dungy?

A few months ago, I was listening to ESPN Radio. Former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy was the topic of conversation, because a National Football League player was in trouble and wanted his help. Coach Dungy has had a history of trying to help men who have messed up their lives. He has helped NFL players, coaches, prisoners, and ordinary men who are trying to be good husbands and fathers. The radio program host asked his co-host, "Why is it that every time players get themselves in trouble, they call on Tony Dungy to help?"

That's a good question.

I can think of three good reasons:

1. Tony Dungy cares about people. He is more than a philanthropist (as good as that would be); he cares enough to get involved with people on a personal level. He will help people through their hard times. He will stand by their side through their trials. When people face difficult times, they truly appreciate someone who will be with them.

2. Tony Dungy is a man of faith. He is committed to following Jesus Christ. When one realizes that circumstances are far beyond his control, he will want to seek out someone who leans on God. The man of faith becomes an encouraging and stabilizing presence in a time of crisis.

3. Tony Dungy is a man of wisdom. He embraces a godly perspective of life. He lives it, and he shares it with others. When a man is trying to get his life straightened out, he wants a wise mentor who can guide him through the process of applying biblical wisdom to his chaotic life.

In many ways, Coach Dungy exemplifies the qualities that should mark Christians and churches in general. He is not flashy. He does not draw attention to himself. He does not chase the latest fads. He simply lives a rock-solid life of love, faith, and wisdom that has a tremendous appeal to those who are at a point in their lives in which they can appreciate it.

"A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,
and favor is better than silver or gold" (Proverbs 22:1).

Wednesday, July 07, 2010