July 10, 2004

Study of Mark: Mark 3:22-30

22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, "He is possessed by Beelzebul," and "by the prince of demons he casts out the demons." 23 And he called them to him and said to them in parables, "How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. 27 But no one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house.

28 "Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin"— 30 for they had said, "He has an unclean spirit."

This is a tough passage. We don't WANT there to be a sin that God won't forgive. We don't want to think that there is a line that cannot be crossed. Giving Satan credit for the work of God is over that line.

We tend to focus on the negative in this passage. Look at the positive -- all sins will be forgiven, except that one. And to be honest, if anyone is giving Satan credit for the finished work of Christ, they aren't even looking for a way out. They aren't repentant.

No matter what you have done, no matter what sins you have committed, if you are searching for the forgiveness of Christ, you will find it. He has promised that.

This passage is another example of people wiling to believe anything about Jesus except the truth. He has been defeating demons, and they claim He is one. He points out that he has been damaging Satan's work -- why would He do that, if He was in league with the devil? He also points out the purpose of His early work -- he is weakening Satan's hold, so that He can deliver the crushing blow at Calvary. He is showing that He has the power to "bind the strong man".

It's easy to forget that Satan is defeated. He lost at Calvary, but he continues to deceive, convincing people that Christ wasn't who He claimed to be. Our job is to show and tell -- show the world that Christ lives within us, and tell them that He can live within them as well.

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July 08, 2004

This Week in Church History

July 8, 1741

Jonathan Edwards was one of the most influential theologians of his day. His writing influenced preachers on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, and helped to fuel the Second Great Awakening, just as he was influential in the First. Today, though, marks the anniversary of his preaching a sermon that was highly uncharacteristic of him.

"All you that never passed under a great change of heart by the mighty power of the Spirit of God upon your souls; all that were never born again, and made new creatures, and raised from being dead in sin...you are thus in the hands of an angry God; 'tis nothing but his mere pleasure that keeps you from being this moment swallowed up in everlasting destruction."

Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God is often cited as an example of fire-and-brimstone preaching that characterized the Great Awakening, not to mention the preaching of modern-day backwoods fundamentalists. Few people realize that the sermon was, in fact, an exception for Edwards.

Jonathan Edwards wrote books on science and nature. He wrote and preached logically and systematically. Later theologians would list the study of his books as a requirement for revival. And yet, as Sinners shows, he was perfectly capable of letting people know in no uncertain terms what their spiritual condition was, and what they needed to do about it. He was the personification of Evangelical Calvinism for later evangelicals (Presbyterian AND Baptist) who were confronted with growing hyper-Calvinistic opposition to evangelism. His works are still widely available, and there is currently a resurgence in the reading and study of this most influential man.

"Therefore let everyone that is out of Christ now awake and fly from the wrath to come."

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July 07, 2004

A Principled Man

John Kerry hates abortion.

I know, that comes as a shock to anyone who has seen his voting record on abortion. After all, he voted against the partial birth abortion ban six times. He's made waves in Catholic circles because of his pro-choice voting record. But he has a "good reason".

He can't let his personal beliefs interfere in his public life, and inflict his religious views on others.

I know that many people will stand up and cheer. Not me. It strikes me as incredibly inconsistant that Kerry holds to beliefs that he considers to be Truth, but that he's not willing to share those beliefs, or let those beliefs influence anything about his public life. As I've mentined before, I cannot imagine any form of spirituality that doesn't influence every aspect of your life. It seems to me that if abortion is wrong for me, it is wrong, period. Maybe I'm being simplistic, believing in things like absolutes and everything, but I cannot do otherwise. I serve a God who claims to be the Truth -- truth is an absolute. If I believe abortion is wrong, I am going to do everything in my power to keep abortions from happening. John Kerry is too worried about what people might think about him imposing his beliefs on others to take a stand on an issue that he claims to have a rather mainstream stance on.

What will John Kerry do in the event of a global crisis? Do something to help, or sit back and say, "I think we should help, but I cannot impose my morality on the people of {fill in the name of the next hotspot here}." I certainly hope we won't have to find out.

{edit} Take a look at what GetReligion has to say about this.

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July 06, 2004

Overwhelmed and Aggravated

Ok, I have a ton of reading to do, MOST of which I've finished because of the storm that ran through here a little while ago that nocked the phone lines out. I still have a bunch to do so I don't get behind.

AND I'm aggravated at BlogSpot. I'm really tired of not being able to access my blog, and I KNOW that you all are getting tired of not being able to get here. I'm looking at options -- what I THINK I'm going to do is combine this blog and my home page into one central site, and host it though 1to1 or doteasy or someone like that. I LIKE free things, but I'm learning that there's a tradeoff. If I can afford better, I'm going to do it. If anyone has any other options, let me know.

This is about all I'm going to be able to write tonight, but I should be able to do the TWiCH AND the Mark study tomorrow. Stay tuned!

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How Have We Survived?

As it turns out, our parents did everything wrong! (At least, according to the "experts.") I was spanked, told "no," and even given cough surup. Can you believe, we aren't supposed to give our kids cough syrup? That's what CNN said today.

I was taught to obey and be respectful. Although my skirts might have been a tad too short, nothing hung out that shouldn't have. At 35 years old, I'm proud to say that I am a Bible-believing, God-honoring Christian. Some may find that a small accomplishment, but with what I see, it's about the best thing out there.

It's no wonder people don't bother to stay healthy. A few weeks ago, I find out that I shouldn't be out in the sunlight from 7:00 am to 10:00 am because of UVA rays that give you skin cancer (and can reach through glass). Now, I was already avoiding the sun from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm so I wouldn't get skin cancer from UVB rays. Of course, by 3:00 pm I have to stay inside so that I don't get West Nile from an infected mosquito. Then, when I thought I was safe inside my nice cozy home, they tell me "indoor pollution can be up to five times worse inside than outside.

My question to you tonight: Are you relying on the scientists or the Great Physician to help you live?

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July 04, 2004

Advisory -- Slow Posting Ahead

Monday evening, I leave for seminary. THIS time, I KNOW I'm starting a class -- I'm registered and everything. I have no idea how this will effect my posting schedule. I'm not even sure I'll have my laptop with me, as my wife is headed to Virginia to spend two weeks working on her Masters thesis (on the reaction of Virginia Baptists to the American Revolution), and she needs a mobile computer as much as I do. I have a PDA, but no wireless internet.

They have a computer lab at Southern, but I don't know if I'll be able to get on in there. I'm not even 100% sure where it is, though I'm sure I'll find out. I'd like to think that I'll stll be able to post regularly, but I honestly don't know. Just keep checking back, or subscribe to my RSS feed. If you need a good RSS reader, I've got a few recommendations:

  • NewsDesk, which is what I'm using now. I like it a lot.

  • BottomFeeder is a good program that I used to use all the time, and still use a little. It has a great search feature that lets you save search topics and re-search regularly.

  • RssReader looks promising. I may take this one for a test drive.

The most important feature of all these programs is the price -- they're free. And they check all your RSS feeds automatically, so you don't have to keep hitting sites, only to find out that it hasn't been updated yet.

Of course, you could also subscribe through the Bloglines link over there on the left, as many of you have done. It's just as easy as an RSS reader, and you don't have to install any software. And it's just as free!!

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Happy Fourth of July!

Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. They collapse and fall,
but we rise and stand upright.
(Psalms 20:7-8 ESV)

I think that verse, more than any other, should be how Christians feel about their country -- no matter where they live. Yes, we should try to make things better for everyone. Yes, we should be responsible stewards of creation. But our ultimate trust should be in God alone. Reminds me of a song:

I have heard how christians long ago
Were brought before a tyrants throne
And they were told that he would spare their lives
If they would renounce the name of Christ.
But one by one they chose to die
The Son of God they would not deny
Like a great angelic choir sings
I can almost hear their voices ring.

I pledge allegiance to the Lamb
With all my strengh
With all I am
I will seek to honor His command
I pledge allegiance to the Lamb.

Now the years have come and the years have gone
But the cause of Jesus still goes on
And now our time has come to count the cost
To reject this world, and embrace the cross
And one by one let us live our lives
For the One who died to give us life.
Till the trumpet sounds on the final day
Let us proudly stand and boldly say


To the Lamb of God who bore my pain
Who took my place, Who wore my shame.
I will seek to honor His commands
I pledge allegiance to the Lamb.

Parableman has a great post on this topic today. And Patriot Paradox has a post that will get your blood boiling.

In between burgers and hot dogs, think about what this country means to you -- and how much more the Kingdom of God should mean to you.

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July 03, 2004

Celebrating the Underblogs!!

Head on over here and let people know about all those underrated blogs out there. I think this is a great idea -- of course, I'm about as unknown as they come (except for the 10 people who read me regularly -- thankyou thankyou thankyou!). Let's get some recognition for some great blogs -- and go through the list on the site, maybe you'll find a new favorite!!

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Bush's Mass Mailing List

Not usually a political blogger, but I found this story over at Christianity Today. Seems the President is getting some addresses and phone numbers for a mass mailing/telemarketing program.

And he's getting them for free.

The President is asking supporters to send him their church directories. This is going to give him a wealth of information -- names and addresses especially, but also phone numbers and possibly some demographic information (age, number of kids, etc.).

Marketers pay a LOT of money for these lists; in fact, these lists are one of the biggest expenses involved in any marketing campaign. Bush is going to get them for free.

Needless to say, Bush opponents are up in arms. I can understand why -- the Bush campaign is getting thousands of dollars worth of marketing information for free. I'd think that this is streatching the campaign rules a little bit. Bush had better be careful here.

Other things the Bush campaign is asking are for volunteers to encourage their churches to hold voter registration rallies, recruit churchmembers for the campaign, and put together voter information packages. Some church/state separationists are upset about these things as well.

I don't like the church directories being given to the campaign. I have no problem with any of the other things Bush is doing; after all, the Democrats have been doing it for years, with Rev. Jesse Jackson at the head of the campaign. Part of the problem is that people don't think of Jackson as a minister -- he's first and foremost a politician. Part of the problem is that church/state separatists tend to be more toward the liberal side of the spectrum, and they don't notice the beam in their own eye.

I'm not sure how I feel about this plan. I can see that it's very efficient, politically, for the campaign. I can see, however, that it could cause some problems in churches that are politically diverse. It can cause concern about tax-exempt statuses for many churches. And I'm not sure it's going to gain the President many new voters (though I could be wrong here).

I know that if my church held a voter registration drive, I'd participate. I know that if my church held a campaign dinner, or if someone asked me to volunteer on the campaign, I'd probably say no. I support President Bush, but I don't want him to think that he's getting a free ride from Christians simply because he's a Republican. He needs to make sure he doesn't forget about us two years after re-election, as has seemed to be the case.

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July 01, 2004

The NAE and Civic Engagement

I promised this yesterday, but I've been mulling over what I want to say. Some of the things in the document, I don't agree with. Some things in the document, conservatives won't agree with. But I think that there is a lot that is worthwhile here, no matter what nation you live in.

One thing to remember is that this document encompasses all evangelicals -- or is meant to. Not all evangelicals are politically conservative, and their influence can be seen in the document.

One thing that the document makes clear is that "disengagement is not an option". We have to remain engaged with our nation as much as we can be, to try to make the changes to our society that government can make. This is something that I think people have misunderstood about things that I have said -- I don't believe that we should just go away and let the nation go; we have to be engaged. The isue that I have is that many Christians seem to think that if we can get the politics straightened out, everything will be OK. The government cannot fix everything, and we shouldn't expect it to.

One thing that conservatives will disagree on is the ammount of government. The NAE does not advocate a small government; in fact, it sees a role for government in welfare (and welfare reform), protection of the sanctity of life, international peacemaking, and many other areas. It also calls for improved access to health care for all citizens.

The Bible makes it clear that God cares a great deal about the wellbeing of marriage, the family, the sanctity of human life, justice for the poor, care for creation, peace, freedom, and racial justice. While individual persons and organizations may rightly concentrate on one or two issues, faithful evangelical civic engagement must champion a biblically balanced agenda.
In other words, don't ignore the poor. Don't ignore environmental issues. Don't ignore racism. If we are truely going to bring a Christian worldview to our politics, we have to make sure that it is consistant.

We will differ with other Christians and with non-Christians over the best policies. Thus we must practice humility and cooperation to achieve modest and attainable goals for the good of society. We must take care to employ the language of civility and to avoid demonizing those with whom we disagree. Because political work requires persuasion and cooperation with those who do not share our Christian commitment, we must offer a reasoned and easy-to-grasp defense of our goals.
In other words, no name-calling, from either side.

I especially like this quote:
Christians engaged in political activity must maintain their integrity and keep their biblical values intact. While they may frequently settle for "half-a-loaf," they must never compromise principle by engaging in unethical behavior or endorsing or fostering sin. Evangelicals should join political parties and fully express their biblical values. In doing so, they must be careful not to equate Christian faith with partisan politics.
The emphasis there, of course, is mine. The whole Republican=Christian thing is not only untrue, it's unbiblical, as is Christian=Republican. Party politics are not tied to faith in Christ, as I tried to illustrate elsewhere. All we can do, and what we need to do, is make sure that our political views reflect our Christian beliefs. That may involve supporting (gasp) a Democrat. Or an Independant. Or Libertarian, or Constitutional, or Green. Political parties will take us for granted, unless we make sure they know we vote issues, not party.

There is a large section on protecting liberty of conscience, which should relieve the folks who think we're a bunch of Reconstructionists. Then again, they probably won't listen to us at all.
Because human beings are responsible to God, these guarantees are crucial to the exercise of their Godgiven freedom. As God allows the wheat and tares to grow together until the harvest, and as God sends the rain on the just and on the unjust, so those who obey and those who disobey God coexist in society and share in its blessings (Matt. 5:45; 13:24-30). This "gospel pluralism" is foundational to the religious liberty of all.
THIS is where our call to evangelism comes into play. Government MUST allow all faiths to practice their beliefs, including those faiths who are called to proseletyze. We must be about the Lord's business, and government cannot interfere. At the same time, we must realize that other faiths are allowed to exist in our society, and not strive for laws that restrict their practice.

We commit ourselves to work for laws that protect and foster family life, and against government attempts to interfere with the integrity of the family. We also oppose innovations such as same-sex "marriage." We will work for measures that strengthen the economic viability of marriages and families, especially among the poor. We likewise commit ourselves to work within the church and society to strengthen marriages, to reduce the rate of divorce, and to prepare young adults for healthy family life.
I'm curious about how many people who are in favor of the Marriage Ammendment are divorced. Do they not realize that divorce is interfering with the integrity of the institution of marriage as much as the whole 'same-sex marriage' issue? There are more heterosexuals who get divorced every day than there are homosexuals who want to get married. Consistancy. We should oppose divorce with the vigor we oppose gay marriage.
We further believe that care for the vulnerable should extend beyond our national borders. We link arms with Christians everywhere in calling on individuals, churches and governments to do more to reduce the scandal of widespread poverty in a time of abundance.
Kinda puts a damper on the Constitutional Party's foreign policy platform, doesn't it?

The paper goes on to discuss government's role in providing for the poor, and taking responsibility for the economic well being of it's citizens. I think that they give government too big of a role in this area. I think that the church should be the primary provider of welfare for the poor, with the government stepping in only when they church cannot, or does not.
Restoring people to wholeness means that public social welfare must aim to restore people to self-sufficiency. While basic standards of support must be put in place to provide for those who cannot care for their families and themselves, incentives and training in marketable skills must be part of any well-rounded program.
Sound familiar??

They also call for sound environmental stewardship. God gave us the earth to care for -- to have dominion over, true, but also to care for and take care of.
Because clean air, pure water, and adequate resources are crucial to public health and civic order, government has an obligation to protect its citizens from the effects of environmental degradation. This involves both the urgent need to relieve human suffering
caused by bad environmental practice and the responsibility to use foresight in egulating
the use of land and resources to minimize the effects on the poor and others who are less
able to protect themselves. Because natural systems are extremely complex, human actions can have unexpected side effects. We must therefore approach our stewardship of creation with humility and caution.

I really think that this paper, if adopted with anywhere close to the language it contains in this draft, will change the way evangelicals are perceived by the secular world. It will also result in our modern fundamental brethren deciding that we have compromised. Oh, well -- they'd do that anyway.

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This Week in Church History

June 29, 67

Rome. The seat of all power in the known world. The heart of the Empire.

According to The People's Chronology, this is the date when the apostle Paul was beheaded.

The date itself is speculative -- the year has been thought to be anywhere from 62 to 67, and it's doubtful that we'll ever know for sure. What is important is the example of the life of Paul.

Paul was the most successful church planter in history. He planted churches throughout Asia Minor -- almost everywhere he went, a local church was born. He knew the importance of fellowship among Christians.

Paul also knew the importance of discipleship. He wrote constantly to the churches he helped to start, keeping track of their development and their problems, writing to encourage or correct. His letters were so influential, so obviously inspired by God, that even the apostle Peter included them with other inspired writings as Scripture (2 Peter 3:15-16).

Paul also pioneered the missionary movement. Not satisfied with waiting for people to come to him, Paul went out, teaching first in the synagogues, then everywhere he could -- always trying to reach people with the gospel of Christ. He was committed to the idea that the Gospel was for everyone, Jew or Gentile, male or female, slave or free. In spite of opposition, even from other apostles, he remained committed to this idea until his death.

There were many factors that led to Paul's death. He threatened many cities economically -- trade in idols and sacrifices was lucrative, and the growing Christian church threatened that. He also threatened Roman political power -- Christians could not worship the emperor as a god, which is what the Empire demanded. This new sect threatened to destabilize the Roman way of life, so it had to be stopped. The fact that not even the power of Rome could stop its growth shows that Christ's words were true: the gates of Hell would not prevail against His church.

Paul's influence on Christianity is unmistakable. It is ironic, then, that Paul had dedicated himself early on in his life to ending the influence of Christianity. The power of the presence of the risen Christ on the road to Damascus was overwhelming, though, and the results show how Christ can change anyone's life -- no matter how messed up, sinful, or confused.

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