Sunday, December 23, 2012

Our Adoption Story--Short Version



This is the video of our adoption story as it was seen today on the campuses of Cedar Ridge Christian Church in Broken Arrow, Sapulpa, and Coweta.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

ReFOCUS

In ReFocus, Focus of the Family President Jim Daly challenges readers to confront the problems in our society with humility, kindness, gentleness, grace, and conviction.

Jim Daly recognizes that our culture has deep problems. He sees the deterioration of families, the violence within homes and on the streets, abortion, the acceptance and promotion of sexual immorality, alcohol and drug abuse, and numerous other issues with which we are dealing. He knows the temptation to self-righteously condemn people who struggle. He understands the temptation to focus on political and legal solutions to these problems. And he understands that we live in a time in which our culture has become increasingly hostile toward Christians and our worldview.

However, in this book, Mr. Daly does not focus so much on the problems of our postchristian culture as he does on the attitudes that followers of Christ should internalize as we try to have a positive influence within it. He calls on us to engage humbly and respectfully with people who disagree with our perspective. He emphasizes kindness and grace.

I appreciated this book. Jim Daly did an excellent job of promoting the Christian virtues of humility and kindness without sacrificing biblical ethics and doctrine.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

The New Living Translation


Over the years, I have read through the New King James Version, the New International Version, the New American Standard Bible, and the English Standard Version. I have appreciated each translation. It's a nice privilege to live in a place and time in which the word of God is available in a variety of versions.

A couple of years ago, I received the New Living Translation of the Bible as a Christmas gift. Over the last year, I have read through it too.

At first, I was a little skeptical about the translation. I doubted that it would convey the message of Christ accurately. After all, it was a translation that was based on a paraphrase of the Bible. How accurate and trustworthy could it be?

Then, I looked at the list of scholars on the translation team. I recognized the names of Darrell Bock of Dallas Theological Seminary, Scot McKnight of North Park Seminary, and D.A. Carson of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. I began to understand that this was not a list of lightweights among biblical scholars. These translators have a great deal of expertise in understanding the text.

As I began to read the NLT Bible, I found it refreshing. It does not follow the word-for-word translation philosophy of the New King James, New American Standard, and English Standard Versions. Instead, it focuses more on accurately conveying the thoughts within the text, much like the New International Version does. As a result, I came across several passages which were easier to understand in the New Living Translation.

For example, Philippians 1:20 in the ESV reads:

"as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death."

While that passage can be understood in the ESV, I found it easier to read and comprehend in the NLT because the language is much closer to the way I speak and think. In the NLT, it reads:

"For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die."

I have been so impressed with the New Living Translation that I have made it my primary translation for reading. (However, I have not found a better study Bible than the ESV Study Bible. I will continue to use it as my primary study Bible.) If you have not read the NLT, give it a shot. It's worth it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Discussion of Biblical Inerrancy



This video features an important discussion on the doctrine of biblical inerrancy which took place recently on the campus of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Radical Together: Reaching the Unreached



This was Greg Pittman's sermon today. It focused on the need for international missions, especially among groups of people around the world who do not have access to the good news of Jesus Christ..

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Going the Second Mile



This is a training video for employees of Chick-fil-A. I think it is an excellent illustration of the attitude behind Jesus' instructions for his followers to go the second mile.

"If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles" (Matthew 5:41, NIV 1984).

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Importance of Doing SOMETHING in the Face of Evil

For many years, Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky raped boys while those in authority over him looked the other way. Despite what they said and what they did to help people in other ways, those men who ignored the needs of boys in need of their protection failed in their moral duty to love others as they loved themselves. They placed more importance on maintaining their reputations than on doing the right thing in protecting those boys.

This is a reminder to all people (especially to Christians) that we have a responsibility to do something in the face of evil, no matter what it does to our reputations.
 
"Rescue those who are unjustly sentenced to die;
save them as they stagger to their death.
Don't excuse yourself by saying,
'Look, we didn't know.'
For God understands all hearts,
and he sees you.
He who guards your soul knows you knew.
He will repay all people as their actions deserve" (Proverbs 24:11-12, NLT).

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Faith in the Furnace

On Friday night, our son Christopher participated in the children's musical Faith in the Furnace at our local church. It was a huge production involving over 240 children and 100 volunteers. The play was based on the lives of the prophet Daniel and his three friends.

Christopher played the role of Abednego. He did a great job of acting in front of a huge crowd of people.

(In the photo, Christopher is the boy dressed in blue and orange standing on the far right.)

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Entangled



This is a very good sermon about pornography by Kyle Rodell, our student minister. The testimony at the beginning of the sermon is from Bryan Champ, our connections minister.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Why I Don't Support Same-Sex Marriage

A few weeks ago, a reader asked me to support the legalization of same-sex marriage as a civil right. As a Christian, I had to decline.

Jesus taught that marriage is the union of a man and a woman. "'Haven't you read the Scriptures?' Jesus replied. 'They record that from the beginning God made them male and female.' And he said, 'This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one'" (Matthew 19:4-5, NLT).

As God created people, according to Jesus, a man and a woman are meant to form a marriage, a sexual union. Whenever sexual activity occurs outside of a marriage between a man and a woman, Jesus refers to it in such terms as fornication (in older translations of the Bible), sexual immorality, adultery, and unfaithfulness. He affirms sexual activity within a marriage between a man and a woman, but he sees all other sexual activity as a violation of God's intent. He sees it as sin.

However, Christ gave his life on the cross as a sacrifice to take away the legitimate wrath of God against sin (including sexual sins such as homosexuality). He wants to forgive anyone and everyone who will trust him and turn away from sin to follow him. As the earliest Christians discovered, Jesus could forgive all kinds of sins and change all kinds of people. As the apostle Paul recorded, "Don't you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don't fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people--none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Corinthians 6:9-11, NLT).

Jesus Christ offers the same kind of grace to us today. For more information about sin, the Savior, and our response to him, please see my other blog at this link.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Foster Care Awareness



This was today's sermon at Cedar Ridge Christian Church. The congregation is cooperating with Oklahoma's Department of Human Services to care for children in the foster care system. More information about the state of Oklahoma's need for churches to help can be found here.

"Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you" (James 1:27, NLT).

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Guest Post at the Thoughtful Blog

Last week, Kirra Antrobus sent a message asking me to write a guest post for her blog. You can read it at this link. Thank you, Kirra!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

How Did God Inspire the Bible?

Last month, I was leading a Bible study for my den of Cub Scouts and their parents and grandparents. While teaching about how we listen to God by reading the Bible, a question arose. How did God inspire the Bible?

Second Timothy 3:16 states, "All Scripture is breathed out by God." However, it does not mention the methodologies used by God.

 I gave the boys a list of a few different methods used by the Lord to inspire the Scriptures:

 1. Dictation Sometimes the Lord dictated his message word-for-word to the writers of the Bible. For example, God told Jeremiah exactly what to write. "Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: 'Write in a book all the words that I have spoken to you'" (Jeremiah 30:2).

 2. Enhanced Memory Sometimes God enhanced the memories of the Bible's writers. Jesus promised his apostles that the Holy Spirit would help them to remember what he had said to them (John 14:25-26).

 3. Visions For example, as Jesus started sharing the visions of Revelation with John, he told John, "Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches" (Revelation 1:11).

 4. Research For example, the Gospel of Luke was based on extensive research. As Luke stated, "Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write a careful account for you, most honorable Theophilus" (Luke 1:3, NLT).

 This may not be an exhaustive list of the methodologies employed by God to inspire the Scriptures, but it helps to answer the question. However the Lord chose to inspire specific portions of the Scriptures, we can be assured that "those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God" (2 Peter 1:21, NLT).

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Jesus Movement: Revolution



This is Greg Pittman's sermon from last Sunday at Cedar Ridge Christian Church (our home congregation) in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

I Was Wrong

On March 4, I wrote a post ("What Can Salt Do?") which indicated that salt cannot reverse the process of corruption; it can merely slow the process. I implied that Christians, as the salt of the earth, cannot reverse the corruption within our societies; we can only slow the process.

However, I have been reading through the New Living Translation of the Bible this year. When I came across 2 Kings 2:19-22, I realized that I had been wrong about my understanding of the effects of salt. When it has the miraculous power of God behind it, salt can reverse the process of corruption. This has huge implications for the people whom Jesus called the "salt of the earth."

Here is the text:

"One day the leaders of the town of Jericho visited Elisha. 'We have a problem, my lord,' they told him. 'This town is located in pleasant surroundings, as you can see. But the water is bad, and the land is unproductive.'

"Elisha said, 'Bring me a new bowl with salt in it.' So they brought it to him. Then he went out to the spring that supplied the town with water and threw the salt into it. And he said, 'This is what the LORD says: I have purified this water. It will no longer cause death or infertility.' And the water has remained pure ever since, just as Elisha said" (2 Kings 2:19-22, NLT).

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Actress Shari Rigby's Story Behind Her Performance in October Baby



Shari Rigby plays the birth mother in the new movie, October Baby. This is her story about healing and forgiveness. It explains why she gave such a powerful performance in her role as a post-abortive mother.

Friday, March 16, 2012

October Baby



My wife Janet won tickets for us to view a special screening of October Baby this week. It was one of the most powerful movies I've ever seen.

October Baby tells the story of a young woman who discovers a secret that her parents had kept from her since her birth. After she collapses onstage during a play, Hannah learns that the medical problems with which she has struggled for her entire life are connected to her traumatic birth. In the process, she finds out that she was adopted.

Soon, she embarks on a coming-of-age road trip with a few friends in order to find her birth mother. Through a number of ups and downs (and a few shocks), she comes to a point where she must make a choice about how she will live her life.

This is a powerful story of sin, love, and forgiveness. You will be profoundly affected by this movie. If you have adopted a child, been adopted, or experienced an abortion, October Baby will affect you even more deeply. Please see it when it opens in theaters on March 23.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

What Is the Most Courageous Thing You've Ever Done?

While attending FamilyLife's Weekend to Remember marriage conference in Tulsa this past weekend, one of the speakers asked the men to talk to each other about the most courageous thing they had ever done.

That was a tough question for most of us. The man with whom I was talking said that he could not think of anything really courageous that he had done. With a little prodding, he finally told me that he had started his own overhead door company. He didn't think of it as a big deal, but it seemed courageous to me. After all, he had risked his financial future and his family's financial future on starting his own company. He had faced and overcome a few significant fears in doing it.

I had a little difficulty answering the question, too. Most of the things I had done in my life that could be considered courageous were actually simply acts of naivete. I was simply too ignorant of my situation to consider the risks. However, when it came down to a time when I faced my fears in a significant way, I could only remember going through the adoption process. I knew that I was risking our finances. I knew that I was risking rejection from potential birth mothers. I knew that I was risking the criticism of people who might not understand our decisions. I knew that I was taking a risk by pouring my heart into the life of a child. But I also knew that it was worth the risk of failure. I knew that I had to overcome my insecurities and fears in order to adopt a child.

What is the most courageous thing you've ever done?

"Be strong and courageous..." (Joshua 1:6).

http://mensteppingupblog.com/2013/01/21/definingcourage/

Sunday, March 04, 2012

What Can Salt Do?

We live in a deteriorating society.

It has become obvious to me in recent weeks as I've observed a few trends regarding the value of vulnerable children in America.

First, a few weeks ago, the cancer-fighting Susan G. Komen Foundation announced that it would no longer fund Planned Parenthood, the largest organization providing abortions in the United States. This was great news. An organization committed to saving the lives of people with breast cancer should never have been in any kind of partnership with an organization committed to eliminating the lives of pre-born children. It made sense to sever ties.

However, in a discouraging turn of events, within two days, the Komen foundation reversed its policy due to public outrage that it would not support the abortion industry. Public reaction in favor of funding the nation's largest abortion provider was so strong that the cancer-fighting charity felt compelled to reverse its decision.

Then, President Obama's administration came up with a regulation requiring all businesses and organizations (except churches) to provide contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs in their health care plans. Ignoring concerns from Roman Catholics who cannot support contraception, Christians in general who oppose abortion, and the president's promise from a couple of years ago to exclude abortion coverage in his health care plan, the Senate recently voted in favor of the president's decision. All health insurance plans in America will now pay for drugs to kill pre-born children.

Finally, the Journal of Medical Ethics has published an article by two medical ethicists promoting "after birth abortions" (infanticide) in all cases in which abortions are currently legal (in other words, in all cases). When people objected to this idea, the editors rejected those who protested as ignorant racists. Those who shape the philosophy of the age are preparing us to accept the legalization of infanticide. It may take a few years or a couple of decades, but it's the direction in which ethicists are going; and the law will eventually follow.

So what can Christians do? Can we save this society? Possibly not. But that may not be God's expectations of us anyway.

Jesus said, "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot" (Matthew 5:13, New International Version).

Salt can preserve meat, but it cannot reverse the rotting process. We can speak out against the atrocities of our society. We can lobby and vote to restrict the inhumanity. We can care for the vulnerable children, disabled, ill, and elderly. We can pray for our enemies. And we can let people know about the forgiveness offered through Christ. We may not be able to reverse the course of society, but we can still make a positive difference.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Attractiveness of Genuine Christians

"Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone" (Colossians 4:5-6, NLT).

In many cases, people are attracted to Christ first by his followers. When they see Christians who care about others, who exhibit thankful and kind attitudes, who enjoy life, and who live honorably, they begin to wonder about what makes the difference in their lives. Eventually, many discover Jesus as the one who makes the difference.

However, these kinds of Christians also have a positive influence on their fellow disciples who are looking for a little encouragement and direction in their lives. When I lived in Oklahoma City as a college student, I attended a small church full of such Christians. They were among the best people I had ever known. Since nearly all of them used the New King James Version of the Bible, I bought a copy of the NKJV and used it almost exclusively for the next ten years. Subconsciously, I must have associated the attractiveness of their lives with the translation of the Bible that most of them read.

When Christians live good and kind lives, they influence the people around them in ways that they may never know and in ways that their friends may not take the time to recognize; the influence is still there and it can be very powerful.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Our Move to a New Church

Back in November, I mentioned on this blog that my family and I were moving to Cedar Ridge Christian Church. On February 5, we made the move official by joining the church.

Today, my sister asked how we were fitting in.

We are fitting in very well. Christopher loves the children's programming. He has been learning quite a bit about God and the Bible. The church has a great scripture memorizing program for the children. In addition to learning several scriptures, he has learned the books of the Bible. He is able to recite every book of both the Old and New Testaments.

Janet and I have enjoyed our Bible classes, too. We go to a class together on Sundays; then, on Wednesdays, Janet attends a women's Bible class while I attend a men's leadership Bible class (which is one of the best Bible classes I've ever been in). We have not volunteered to teach classes yet, but we probably will soon. The worship assemblies have been good, too. We are slowly getting to know more and more members (which is a little challenging in a congregation of 1000).

My sister also wondered about how we were fitting in theologically, and about the church's practices in areas such as Communion. We are very comfortable with the theology of Cedar Ridge Christian Church. It is conservative. In other words, the congregation affirms the doctrine of the Trinity, the inerrancy of the Bible, the need for faith in Jesus Christ, the virgin birth of Jesus, the sacrifice of Christ in our place in order to save us, the resurrection of Jesus, and similar basic Christian doctrines.

Concerning practices, the church is very similar to many other churches. People who come to believe in Christ and repent of their sins are encouraged to be baptized (immersed) as soon as possible. Communion is observed every week. Members are encouraged to serve their communities and to share the message of Christ. Lately, members have been encouraged to go on mission trips to northern Africa, Mexico, and South Africa. We have been encouraged to live lives of moral purity and to care for people in need (particularly children in foster care who need to be adopted).

We are fitting in very well with our new congregation, and hope to become even more involved as time progresses.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Lessons that Crawford Loritts Learned From His Father

This is the video of Crawford Loritts' sermon from the recent Conference for Pastors at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. I appreciated his insights on the topic of fatherhood.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Pleasures of Sin

"By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time" (Hebrews 11:24-25, NIV).

What were the "pleasures of sin" that Moses refused to enjoy "for a short time"?

Hebrews 11:26 gives us a clue, in contrasting "the treasures of Egypt" with "disgrace for the sake of Christ". However, the pleasures of sin could not have been simply the wealth of Egypt. After all, in the previous verses, Joseph is highlighted for his faith even though he had the wealth of Egypt at his disposal as well. Joseph was never condemned for enjoying the treasures of Egypt.

So there must have been more to the pleasures of sin than merely access to wealth.

The difference must have been in how Egyptian society had changed in the centuries between Joseph's service in the royal court and Moses' adoption into the royal family. Joseph appears to have served a relatively decent Pharaoh, a man who treated his subjects fairly well. However, Moses lived under an oppressive Pharaoh, a man who would murder innocent children in order to secure his position in the world and oppress a religious and racial minority in order to benefit from their slave labor.

Several centuries later, the elites of Israelite society would imitate the attitudes of their ancestors' masters. The prophet Amos would say, "Woe to you who are complacent in Zion, and you who feel secure on Mount Samaria...You put off the evil day and bring near a reign of terror. You lie on beds inlaid with ivory and lounge on your couches. You dine on choice lambs and fattened calves. You strum away on your harps like David and improvise on musical instruments. You drink wine by the bowlful and use the finest lotions, but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph. Therefore you will be among the first to go into exile; your feasting and lounging will end" (Amos 6:1, 3-7, NIV).

In his commentary on the minor prophets, Dr. Harold Shank writes concerning this passage:

"Being in the seat of political power made them forget who had real power...Historians report a greater gap between the rich and the poor in North Israel than in nearby Judah at the time. Taxation, greed, and political graft all combined to create hardships for the poor. At the same time, Israel's religious faith mixed the worship of the LORD with the Baals (see Hosea's treatment of this issue) that created a sensual religion bent on pleasure and prosperity. For Amos, the chief result of political security was social insensitivity, where the luxury of the upper class created terror for the underclass... (T)he terror would include the father coming home from the lost court case, announcing that they could no longer live where they were (5:10-11); or the children watching the wealthy trample their father to the ground (2:7); or a family watching as their mother was abused by one of the wealthy women who had too much to drink (4:1)...Whatever creative energies the Israelites had, they were not channeled into care for the poor among their countrymen or regard for the future of the state, but were poured out with luxurious abandon in music to sweeten their revelry...Amos describes the details of oppression (2:7: 3:9; 4:1; 5:12), the result of seeking evil not good (5:14-15), where power and luxury lure people into thinking only of themselves, disregarding the hurting within the shadows of their own homes and having no regard to how their consumption affects their own future" (College Press NIV Commentary: Minor Prophets Volume 1, Hosea-Micah, pages 260-263).

Moses rejected such a perspective on life. He refused to be self-absorbed. He refused to remain silent and passive while people were suffering under the oppression of his government. He rejected the pleasures of sin that flowed from the mistreatment of innocent people. He decided to abandon the wealth and power of his position in order to suffer alongside the people of God.

Moses refused the pleasures of sin, and acted upon his faith in the God of justice. In doing so, he became a hero to generations of God's people who would follow him.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Relax. You Are Not Responsible for Changing the World

Perhaps I'm the only one with this problem. I read books and listen to sermons admonishing me to change the world...and I feel stress, anxiety, and guilt.

I look at the problems of the world:

*AIDS, war, and famine ravaging Africa
*140 million orphans in the world
*Millions of women enslaved in sex trafficking across the globe
*A billion people without knowledge of the true Christ throughout Islamic dominated societies
*Over 1 million abortions performed in America alone each year
*Inner-city poverty and crime

The list could go on and on, but the effect would be the same. I know that the problems are too big for me. I can't end any of them.

However, the good news for ordinary Christians like me is this: I'm not responsible for changing the world. I'm responsible for pursuing good, but I'm not responsible for the results.

The apostle Paul wrote, "The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people" (Titus 3:8). As a believer in God, I want to do good in every way possible. I want to help people in poverty, women who are considering an abortion, children who need parents, and everyone in need of knowing Jesus. I want to be devoted such good works.

But I also want to acknowledge my limitations. I can pursue good in every possible way for all the right reasons, but I'm not responsible for my effectiveness. The apostle Paul recognized this fact when writing about the effectiveness of his ministry (along with the ministry of Apollos). He wrote, "What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth" (1 Corinthians 3:5-7). I am responsible for pursuing good works, but God is responsible for the results.

If I can keep that in mind, I can accept the next challenge to change the world without slipping into despair. I'm not going to change the world, but I can do my part and let God work through me.

Friday, January 13, 2012

A Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

"But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream" (Amos 5:24).