Archives For Evangelicalism

Once upon a time there was a girl named Goldilocks…you know the rest. With her insufferable nonchalance for private property, she samples a hijacked bowl of loot and declares it overheated. The next was unappetisingly tepid. But the third offering was deemed to be just right.

Like our picky little porridge connoisseur, cosmologists who explore our planetary neighborhood have also encountered an unexpected unique state of copacetic conditions. Our pale blue dot of a planet is the only chunk of real estate we know of that boasts an inexplicably perfect balance of temperature, gravity, atmospheric pressure, galactic location, solar proximity, axis tilt, rotation speed, and countless other marvels of serendipity. In short, Earth is the only known habitat for humanity that can be confidently described as just right.

Cosmologists, despite their proclivity for abstruse nomenclature, refer to this unparalleled equilibrium rather quaintly as: “the Goldilocks Effect.”balancing galaxy

For scientists who don’t acknowledge God’s wisdom and power in creation, the Goldilocks Effect is merely a description of what is essentially a lucky break on a cosmic scale. But if I were an insouciant atheist physicist (say that three times!) there would be a more pressing question on my agenda than “How did things get just right?” And that is the question “What keeps it all just right?”

Yes, this primordial stew of life support ended up just right. But for how long?
What sustains this vital balance? The answer doesn’t require the brain of an Einstein or a Hawking. The answer is in black and white (and red?) in the New Testament.

Exhibit A…

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“Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?” Luke 2:49

young messiahThose are Jesus’ only recorded words in Scripture before the age of thirty. Nothing else. In fact we don’t have anything in Scripture about Jesus between the age of two and the age of thirty. Niente. Zilch. Nada.

Other than informing us about an escape to Egypt, The Sovereign God of the universe that gave us Scripture chose before the foundation of the world to only give us one story about Jesus’ life between his birth and the start of his ministry. It is only right for us to ask ourselves why is it so? Why in the world do we have only one story of a young Jesus?

Hollywood can make a two-hour long movie about Jesus in this time period, but I can already tell you without having watched it that the movie will disappoint any Bible believing Christian. I believe that there is a reason why God gives us only one recorded statement of Jesus.

Having had the recent privilege of preaching through Luke 2:41-52, I had to ask myself why Luke gives us only one sentence from Jesus. I’m sure he knew about stories of Jesus’s childhood. He must have, and yet he did not think Theophilus needed to know about them. I concluded that their absence only make the words he does include that much more powerful.

Luke has some serious implications in giving us only one statement from the childhood of Jesus. We must pay attention to what he has to say.

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celebraterecoveryindiana.org

In yesterday’s post, we began an analysis of the packaged addiction program, Celebrate Recovery (CR). CR is founded on eight principles, taken from the Beatitudes, similar to the twelve steps of Alcoholic’s Anonymous (AA).

Created by John Baker and Rick Warren of Saddleback Church, CR claims to be a Christ-centered, biblically-based program. CR will be examined according to those claims, using the Leader’s Guide, by John Baker, as cited in yesterday’s post.

As stated yesterday, this review (completed with the help of Matthew Mumma, pastor of biblical counseling at Cornerstone Church) will demonstrate that CR contains two major problems: (1) Though claiming to be biblically based, its teachings are often constructed from a misuse of Scripture and an erroneous hermeneutic. (2) Though claiming to be Christian based, its theology often clashes with sound Christian theology. In today’s post, the second problem will be addressed.

2. Much of CR’s theology clashes with sound Christian theology.

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Enslaving behaviors are as old, and common to humanity, as sin itself. Since our fall at the dawn of time, we have been naturally enslavement to every destructive behavior possible. In response, various efforts have been made to deal with the problem.

One such effort is a packaged addictions program called Celebrate Recovery (CR). John Baker and Rick Warren of Saddleback Church created the program in 1991 to help people with various addictions. Rick Warren writes, “[D]uring the ten-week series that I preached to kick off this program, our attendance grew by over 1500!” (John Baker, Celebrate Recovery Leader’s Guide, 12). During the past 25 years, some 20,000 churches in the United States have reportedly used CR, with some 2.5 million people having completed the program. Needless to say, CR has had a major influence on the church.

CR’s stated purpose is “to encourage fellowship and to celebrate God’s healing power in our lives as we work our way along the road to recovery” (21). Further, Warren claims that CR is “more effective in helping people change than anything else I’ve seen or heard of” (12).

Generally, the program runs on a one-year repeating schedule. Participants are taken through the material in 25 lessons and testimonies, meeting once per week for 52 weeks. Rick Warren writes that CR was born when “I began an intense study of the Scriptures to discover what God had to say about ‘recovery.’ To my amazement, I found the principles of recovery—in their logical order—given by Christ in His most famous message, the Sermon on the Mount” (12). More specifically, CR teaches that the Beatitudes (Matt. 5:3-12), which are said to be “eight ways to be happy,” contain the progressive path to addiction recovery.

The eight principles upon which CR is derived are as follows (the principle is stated, followed by the corresponding Beatitude):

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When I do campus evangelism, I often start the conversation this way: “What are two reasons you stopped going to church?” I’ve asked hundreds of students that question, and the most common responses make me think that church youth groups have failed dramatically.

I understand that every human being is responsible for their own sin, and that even the best of youth groups will have students that fall between the cracks. But the fact of the matter is that too many pastors have believed the lie that teenagers cannot handle certain truths. They have accepted the culture’s belief that today’s teenagers’ attention span has shortened, and that their ability to comprehend deep truths has dissipated.

Whether you’re a parent or a youth pastor, you have to understand that adapting to the culture is something that pagans do. The Church is called to be counter-culture, and we must, despite what the world tells us and sadly what many fellow Christians tell us, stay faithful to Scripture and teach the whole counsel of God. So here are five truths that most teenagers (christian or not) are not being taught, that we must teach, in order to have a Biblical youth group.

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Kim Jong-Il really loved the people of North Korea. In an incredible documentary called “Inside North Korea” he shows how he cares about the health of his people so much that when they were suffering from poor vision and even blindness, he hired famous cataract surgeon Sanduk Ruit to come in and provide free eye surgery for many North Koreans.

Of course I hope you realize how stupid the title of this post is. The documentary does an incredible job of revealing how crazy this situation is. The people are suffering from blindness because of malnutrition – malnutrition caused by the evil North Korean regime. Maybe the most fascinating part of the documentary is when the people see for the first time post-surgery. None of them thank Dr. Ruit, but each and every one of the “healed” begins praising Kim Jong-Il.  You could even call it worship. One man even declared his desire to please Jong-Il by killing as many Americans as he could.

trump and clintonThe fact of the matter is that North Korea does not do wonderful things, it does evil things, and saying that it does wonderful things not only is laughable but it is to ignore and lie about common sense. And this is why I am so disgusted with Donald Trump’s answer about Planned Parenthood. When challenged by Cruz on the fact that he supports Planned Parenthood he said, “Planned Parenthood does wonderful things, but not when It comes to abortion”. That is the equivalent of saying that Kim Jong-Il did wonderful things, but not when it came to human rights. Of course no one knows why and when Trump changed his views on abortion, but he once stated that he was extremely pro-choice.

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complaining chalkboardEarly in 2007 Pastor Will Bowden of Kansas City realized his church had a chronic problem with complaining. (Welcome to the pastorate Will). He felt that the congregation was carping mainly about trivial issues—choice of hymns, informal dress code, and the like. So Bowden challenged his bleating sheep to a pledge: to stop for 21 consecutive days all griping, gossiping, and gainsaying. Those who accepted were issued little purple bracelets so that if they violated the pledge, they’d switch the bracelet to the opposite wrist and reset the count to zero. After months of self-muzzling effort, some folks were victorious and were rewarded with certificates of happiness conferred in church.

Two problems with Bowden’s idea I’d like to voice (irony aside)—are: first, that I didn’t think of it myself. Recognizing the insidious habit is half the battle won. And the second problem with a 21-day challenge is that it’s only 21 days. As insurmountable as three whine-free weeks sound, the challenge falls short of the Apostle Paul’s injunction to stop complaining… forever.

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I love watching soccer. Believe it or not it is something that I find enjoyable. And before you mock me let me remind you that billions of people across the world enjoy it as well. I love telling the coach of my favorite team how wrong he was in his decision making. I love sharing my opinion with the referee over his decision-making abilities, or his need to visit the ophthalmologist as soon as possible. Let me tell you it is very difficult for me to remain silent while watching my favorite team play. The only problem with all that is that no one can hear me, well maybe my neighbors can, crazy soccer fanbut those involved in the actual outcome of the game can’t. The coach, the players, the referee all have no idea that there is some guy thousands of miles away yelling at them through the television screen.

This spectator mentality is what we see in many churches. Many people show up thinking that the Church is there in order to serve them. In fact if we are honest everyone naturally thinks this way. We all are born thinking that the world exists for our purposes. Many young pastors like me actually encourage this. They set up churches to look like rock-concerts with a mini, story-filled sermon jammed in the middle that will rarely last longer than 20 minutes. The Bible is set aside and the service seems to be geared to make unbelievers feel welcome and comfortable.

The writer of Hebrews has a different mindset. He is convinced that being part of the Church implies being more than a spectator.  In fact, he encourages all believers to be active participants. In Hebrews 10:24-25 we find a famous passage. A passage we usually rush to when we find someone who claims to be a Christian but doesn’t attend church. While it certainly is the go-to “don’t skip church” passage, it is so much more. In just two short verses we are given five implied commands that could radically change our Sunday morning.

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Stephen Nichols, President of Reformation Bible College, Interviewed John MacArthur on his 5 minutes in church history podcast, and asked him if he were to be stranded on an island which five books would he bring with him?

Here is the transcript of the interview.

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January 28, 2016

Tor and the Trinity

by Jesse Johnson

Wheaton College Professor Larycia Hawkins, in yellow, stands next to the Rev. Jesse Jackson as she prepares to speak during a Chicago news conference earlier this month.

It started with a hijab during Advent, and ends with a foundational lesson in the Trinity.

Larycia Hawkins, a professor of Politics and International Relations at Wheaton, decided to wear a hijab to her classes. She explained on Facebook that she did this as part of her “advent worship” in order to demonstrate that she:

“Stand[s] solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book. And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.”

In addition to her strange identification of Christians as “people of the book” (which is an Islamic category), her expression of solidarity with Muslims was poorly timed, to say the least.

For many Middle Eastern Christians, the hijab represents the brutal oppression of women by Muslims. Moreover, in much of Iraq, Egypt, Syria, and Libya, this was the first Christmas season in 2000 years without Christians to celebrate it. Islamic terrorists (who require women to wear a hijab by law) have essentially eliminated churches through much of the Middle East. So from the comfort and safety of Illinois, an American Professor publically showed “solidarity” with those who are slaughtering Christians by wearing a symbol of Islamic female suppression.   Continue Reading…