August 2007

images25.jpgConvinced that God has been erased from public schools, Southern Baptists are now working to open their own schools, where Jesus is writ large and Bible study is part of the daily curriculum.  “In the public schools, you don’t just have neutrality, you have hostility toward organized religion,” said Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest. “A lot of parents are fed up.”

At Southeastern and elsewhere, Southern Baptists have become convinced that fighting to change the system is futile. They say public schools have long demonstrated a commitment to teaching evolution over creationism, world faiths over Christianity, sex education over abstinence, moral relativism over Christian claims of truth. (read more)

~ Yonat Shimron — The News & Observer


Listen to this short audio clip from Mark Dever as he talks about the practicalities of discipling people.  He addresses these important questions:

  • What vehicles do you use to stimulate godly and edifying conversations with people?

  • What kinds of questions do you like to ask during discipleship appointments?

  • What are some constructive ways that you address sin in the lives of people you are discipling?

  • What are some things to avoid in making disciples?

up-t55lrkqdrssf05p11.jpgWhy is it that we all hunger for intimacy and yet fear it at the same time?  Why is that we long to be loved by others but we fear getting too close?  Where does that come from?  Lillian Rubin, social psychologist, calls this “the approach-avoidance dance.”  She explains how this is reflective of our struggle for intimacy:

Intimacy is an idea that excites our imagination, a word that seems larger than life to most of us.  It lures us, beckoning us with a power we’re unable to resist.  And just because it is so seductive, it frightens us as well-seeming sometimes to be some mysterious force from outside ourselves that, if we let it, could sweep us away.

We long for intimacy and yet we are frightened by it.  Why?

First, I think it’s reflective of our being made in the image of God.  God himself has close community and intimacy within the Trinity.  Our being made in his image means that we are relational beings that desire this same intimacy.  This is why only human beings have capacities for love.   In the very beginning God saw that it was not good for man to be alone.  And so, we know that it is God’s heart that we become closely connected to Him and to others so we can image forth the intimacy He has with Himself.  Thus, we hunger for intimacy because God has placed that longing in us that we might seek Him, and in our relationships with others, point the unbelieving world to Him. 

So, if we hunger for intimacy, why do we fear intimacy?  In one word–sin.  The Bible says that ever since Adam and Eve sinned against God in the garden all of us have inherited their sinful nature and rebelled against God too.  We don’t want him to get into our lives much less be the King of our lives.  And so we search for independence apart from Him and try to find our satisfaction in pursuing other things.  Like Adam and Eve, we try to hide the reality of our brokenness, and in turn, we fear true intimacy because it may expose who we really are.

images76.jpgIn short, we become trapped in this struggle for intimacy with a hunger for it and a fear of it.  So what do we do?  The answer is found in the cross.  Jesus died on the cross to take the punishment of our sins so that we could be reconciled to God and to others.  He became the one and only mediator between God and man.  So he is the bridge that brings us to God through our faith.  1 Peter 3:18 says, “Christ suffered once for all, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God.”  To bring us to God. This is the cry of the human heart.  The cry for intimacy that can only be answered in Jesus Christ. 

But you may ask, will we still struggle with this paradox of hungering and fearing intimacy even as Christians?  Of course, the answer is yes!  Our indwelling sin and the temptations of the devil draw us away from intimacy with God and others, which is why we must keep going back to the cross.  At the cross God breaks down the barriers of fear and loneliness and shame and beckons us back to the grace of resting in the finished work of Christ.  There we are reminded to rest in God’s presence and in the presence of others because of what Christ has done on our behalf. 

Michael Vick recently made this public confession: “‘I’m upset with myself, and, you know, through this situation I found Jesus and asked him for forgiveness and turned my life over to God. And I think that’s the right thing to do as of right now.'”

J. Grant Swank Jr. says,

If Vick is speaking truthfully, then he is an example of genuine repentance. If it is merely an emotional religious mood, then all the more his words will come back to haunt him at the judgment seat of Christ.

Time will reveal whether his personal testimony is meant for all time, or simply a momentary emotional sentence in a time of extreme stress.

Because of our first parents’ disobedience against God, all mortals are born with a bent toward sin. We are spiritually damaged from conception. Consequently, whether we commit the barbaric acts overseen by Vick or simply go through life in a worldly, respectable self-sufficiency apart from the Savior, all are in need of contrition. All are in need of repenting of a lifestyle that has shut Jesus out in order for the ego to sit upon life’s throne.

  • Read the rest of Swank’s article here
  • Read Chad’s thoughts on Vick’s actions

whoisjesus_r2a3_qtbm1.jpgThe man Jesus of Nazareth was, and is, many things.  He was a great preacher whose words, such as the Sermon on the Mount, still seize human imagination two thousand years later.

He was a healer who worked great miracles, healing the sick, bringing sight to the blind, making the lame to walk again, and even raising the dead.

He was a troublemaker whose criticisms of the powerful and wealthy were matched by his compassion for the weak, vulnerable, and outcasts of society.

He was crucified on a Roman cross as a danger to the Empire as “King of the Jews.” This was no accident, because . . .Jesus was sent by God to die on purpose as the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world by taking upon himself the divine curse of God’s wrath.

He is the one whom God raised from the dead after three days in the grave, and who now rules heaven and earth and is present with his people through his Spirit.

He is the one who will one day return, to bring both judgment and mercy.

He is the Christ, the Jewish Messiah: the one to whom dozens of prophecies in the Old Testament point, the fulfillment of all of God’s promises to Israel.

He is the divine Son of God. The one and only God-Man.

This man, Jesus Christ, God in human flesh, died for your sins and ours, in order that we might be saved from sin and judgment by believing in him. By his sacrifice, Jesus brings us, by God’s design, into a supremely satisfying joy in God that is beyond anything we can imagine. That’s good news. It’s called the gospel.

~ John Piper

100_0628.jpgMy heart is to see the family of God discipled in close community.  The many “one another’s” of Scripture show us the church is to be about doing “life together.”  Sadly, in large part, the church often becomes a passive, privatized place where people can come and go without anyone knowing it.  Even as I write this post I’m aware of the fact that there are many people today that are content in finding their fellowship with a computer in a made up dream world where they can control life as they see fit.

Oftentimes I fear the blogosphere can be a place where people can hide behind their computers and fail to communicate with real people face to face.  I admit that I have done that.  And I think most people would agree that technology has the potential of pushing people away from authentic, God-honoring community. Having said that I believe God has given us technology (and blogging) to be a means of his grace to people.  I have been the recipient of this grace through many Christians who have written many things that have encouraged my soul and spurred me on toward love and good deeds.  But we must not forget that Christianity is meant to be lived out in the context of real life by having real relationships with real people we can see.

More than ever we are living in a self-driven society that pulls us away from experiencing this type of environment that people long to have.  This is why a united church that lives out the metaphors of a family and a body attracts both believers and unbelievers to it.  Indeed, the gospel can be more clearly embraced and proclaimed if it comes from people who unite to become the “city on a hill” that points people to the beauty of Christ (John 17:21).

Therefore I pray that this blog will continue to be a means of promoting community amongst fellow believers in Christ and a safe place for those searching.  I welcome your comments as I seek to learn with you what it means to “no longer be stangers and aliens but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God with Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone” (Eph. 2:19-20).  

secondlife411.jpgMy friend, Chad Nuss, recently entered the blogosphere and posted some interesting thoughts on the cultural phenomenon of on-line gaming and viritual Internet interaction.  He mentions an article in the Wall Street Journal that recently reported the impact these virtual realities are having on our society.  The article went on to say that there are now around 30 million people involved in on-line gaming within virtual worlds.  One such site called Second Life boasts over 8 million registered users.

Chad says,

Second Life allows users to enter into a virtual world where they can create and control an online personality. Many of the features of Second Life mirror the characterisitics of real life. The article notes that within Second Life users can get jobs, attend concerts, own pets, pay mortgages, or any number of other activities experienced in reality. Second Life users can form long-term friendships and enjoy dating relationships with other users. In fact, as the article reports, it is common to find users getting married, divorced, and engaging in cyber sex.

Why are so many people seeking out these virtual worlds through on-line gaming?  Chad shares this important incite:

Our love for online gaming reveals to us our inherent longing for the Garden. Virtual worlds imitate the purity of life before the Fall by pretending to remove the immediate consequences of sin. However, we must remember we will not find an ideal world apart from the crucifixion. The cross guarantees for us a coming new world removed of every hint of sin. (Rom 8:18-30) In the meantime, everything we touch will continue to be affected by sin–even it is by the click of a mouse.

(Read the rest here …)

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