Monday, November 30, 2009

Lloyd-Jones on Evangelicals and Lifestyles

In describing evangelicals in his book What Is An Evangelical?, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones says,

Evangelicals pay great attention to the way in which people live. They are strict in their behaviour. This used to be one of the most prominent characteristics of evangelicalism. I remember in my first contacts with the student movement, the people of the SCM and others used to describe those who belonged to the evangelical unions, the evangelicals, in these terms, Ah, they’re the people who don’t go to cinemas, they don’t drink, and they don’t smoke. I do not think they say that about them now. There has been a great change, but I am one of those who believe that there was a great deal to be said for the old position. The evangelical is careful about his life, careful to maintain good works, to live a life above reproach, not to be a hindrance or an obstacle to a weaker brother. The great ethic, the emphasis on holiness of the New Testament, is something which true evangelicals have always set great store by. They were called Puritans for that reason; hey were called Methodists because they were methodical and careful. They did not merely content themselves with an intellectual belief. No, their whole life had to be governed by their doctrine. ‘Every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure’ (1 John 3:3). This emphasis on holiness in personal life and in church life is a great characteristic of evangelicalism (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, What Is An Evangelical?, pp. 58-59).

I think the Doctor is onto something here.

Today, it seems like the biggest battle cry of evangelicalism is freedom—freedom to partake of or participate in whatever I want, no matter what. I know that is a bit of an oversimplification, but I am fairly sure there is a lot more preaching in evangelicalism on freedom than there is on holiness.

Why? Perhaps fear of being called a legalist. Perhaps a desire to stoop to immaturity.

We have perhaps too often allowed the lowest common denominator to dictate preaching.

Perhaps we are too unaware of the subtle influence of worldliness.

Perhaps we need to return to the days when the “emphasis on holiness in personal life and in church life is a great characteristic of evangelicalism.”

Friday, November 27, 2009


Why should we be thankful?

Well, simply put, because God said to be: In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:23).

There it is. Give thanks in everything because that is God’s will for you.

Allow me to dig deeper with three points of clarification:

First, giving thanks in everything shows submission rather than rebellion. To submit to God’s will in everything means that we thank him for it rather than rebel against it. This moment, whatever it holds, is God’s sovereign plan for my growth. It is one of the days that was ordained for me that God knew about before there was even one of them (Psa 139:16). So I submit with thankfulness, knowing that it could be worse, even if it were better.

Second, giving thanks in everything show humility rather than arrogance. To be humble in my present experience of God’s will for my life means that I will be thankful for it. Arrogant people don’t give thanks because they think they deserve whatever they received. They have an attitude of entitlement, rather than an attitude of humility. The discipline of gratitude flows easily from a humble heart. It is a particular display of humility to give thanks in things we don’t understand, because then we acknowledge God’s greatness in controlling all events, not just the “good ones.”

Third, giving thanks in everything show dependence rather than sufficiency. To be dependent on God means to receive with thanksgiving whatever he gives me knowing that if he did not give it to me, I would not have it. Paul said to the Corinthians, What do you have that you did not receive? And if you received it why do you boast as if you had not received it? (1 Cor 4:7). There is nothing in our lives that we have apart from God. Even the breath you just took is the gift of God to you. You are dependent on him, whether you like it or not. 

I should be thankful to God in all things because whatever I have is better than what I deserve. Even the “bad things” in life are a part of God’s loving and gracious control of his universe. Not even one hair of my head falls to the ground without his knowledge.

So live a life of submissive, humble dependence on God, taking each moment as an opportunity to fulfill his will for you by giving thanks no matter the circumstances.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Good Article on Church Growth

For those with growing churches, who anticipate space problems, here is a good article worth consideration.

It ultimately concludes that planting churches is better than multiple services, bigger facilities, or satellite churches.

Read it for a good explanation of why.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Cold Showers and Life

I have concluded that cold showers have a lot in common with life as it is supposed to be lived.

There are some things in life, like cold showers, that you just don’t want to start.

Putting them off won’t make them any easier. It will just waste time.

But once you start, they are not nearly as bad as you thought they would be.

They do what they are supposed to do.

And it certainly reminds you not to hang around too long in some things.

So do it … and get on with your life. Brace yourself and go.

(And if it’s colder than you thought it was, don’t blame me. You’re the one without hot water.)

The Resurrection

What would life be like if Jesus were a real person, who lived an admirable life, with powerful and effective teaching, who did good things for people wherever he went, who died a noble death of innocence, yet did not rise from the grave?

Some would have us believe that this life of Jesus brings great hope and inspiration for living. Even though his body remains in the grave, long since decomposed, his life and teaching provide the basis for a fulfilling life on earth.

Is this so?

We need only ask his closest followers, those who knew him best, who watched his admirable life, who learned from his powerful and effective teaching, who both observed and received the good things that he did for people wherever he went, who knew first hand of his innocence in death.

What did they do after this death?

They did not spring forward, driven to pass on this wonderful teaching. They did not go out to live it.

They mourned in sadness, in disappointment. They were not motivated to conquer evil by the memory of his life. They regressed to the old ways of life, bemoaning their fate now that their hope was gone.

In contrast to modern liberalism and its descendants, the mere life and death of Jesus was not a powerful motivation to live well and do good. Why? Because they who walked closest with Jesus knew the futility of it all apart from his resurrection.

Such powerful motivation and ministry that pervades the early church comes only from his resurrection.

These close followers of Jesus mourned his death and then quit. Such is the effect of a lifeless Christ, a resurrectionless Christianity.

Only a risen Christ can explain the phenomenon known for 1900 years as Christianity. Only a living Christ can provide the hope to live right, do good to all men, and be free from the power and damnation of sin.

A dead Christ is damning. A risen Christ life-giving.

Liberalism is not liberation. It is bondage—bondage to a doomed life of hopelessness, a life built on a charade.

Only the risen Lord can free from the nonsense which is theological liberalism.

And Christianity has nothing in common with it.

HT: Machen, Christianity and Liberalism

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Everyone Has a Theology

Theology, simply put, is a set of beliefs about God.

Everyone believes something about God.

Therefore, everyone has a theology.

It may be well informed. It may be poorly informed. It may be true. It may be false. Whatever the case, belief about God is universal. Even atheists believe something about God.

This is to say that no one is “without faith.” Sometimes we might hear people say, “I don’t believe anything,” or “I have no beliefs about God.”

However, such a statement is not true. Someone who says, “I don’t believe God exists” is saying, “I believe God does not exist,” (an atheist) or at the very least, “I believe that the existence of God is unproved” (an agnostic). It is simply an alternative belief.*

In evangelism, one of the steps is to find out what people believe about God.

Someone might say, “I don’t believe in God.”

We can respond with something like, “Did you know that God disagrees with you?” Of course, it is hard to imagine how that will help the conversation.

We can turn the atheist response on its head with, “Really? How can you be so irrational and superstitious as to deny there is a God?” This is an approach that actually has some merit, since there is nothing quite so irrational as denying the existence of the one true and living God. The truth is that while some might verbally deny the existence of God, most do not want to live in the kind of world that results from this denial.

We can respond with, “Interesting. Tell me what kind of God you don’t believe in. I might not believe in him either.” This is perhaps the most helpful response since it puts the ball in his court to explain his thinking. Oftentimes, when people are forced to listen to themselves talk, they find out very quickly just how incoherent they are.

It is also very helpful because it gives us the opportunity to do something most of us don’t like, but is often the most helpful tool for evangelism that is not found in the Bible. It is called “listening.” In other words, ask him to describe the kind of God he doesn’t believe in, and then shut up and listen. Resist the urge to show off your advanced knowledge. Resist the urge to interrupt his silly, nonsensical statements. Just listen for a while.

Listen carefully for the kind of God he has in his mind. Don’t make up your response until you have understood his or her objections. In other words, don’t fell compelled (at this point) to answer questions he or she isn’t asking.

When he quits talking, ask more questions to verify what he actually believes.

Then, use God’s revelation of himself to show how his beliefs are based on shifting quicksand, irrationality, inconsistency, and hopelessness.

And point him to Jesus as the revelation of God—the true theology.


*I have found Tim Keller very helpful on the idea of alternative beliefs. See his The Reason for God, which is an (almost presuppositional) apologetic for the Christian faith.

Friday, November 13, 2009

On Advertising w/ a Bonus Health Care Rant

I recently heard a radio ad for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. They bragged that they never turn anyone away. They insure everyone.

What they didn’t say? They have to.

In the state of Michigan, BCBSM is the insurer of last resort. Other companies can deny you coverage. BCBSM cannot.

Is it dishonest? Well, no.

But it is misleading because it takes an obligation and pretends like it is a voluntary commitment to health care.

And while I am here, I recently changed my plan and found out that my employer “cannot pay for my premium or reimburse me in anyway.”

I asked the phone jockey, “With what shall I pay it? I have no money that doesn’t come from my employer.” She didn’t know what to say. And with good reason. There is nothing to say.

You see, here’s the deal: If my employer no longer pays for my health insurance, my paycheck goes up by the amount of that premium and I pay for it.

Who is affected? Only me. My employer pays me the same amount in my salary package; BCBSM gets the same amount of money.

The only difference is that now my health insurance premium is taxable income.

To top it off, BCBSM says, “Your employer cannot pay for it or reimburse you in anyway for it. But we don’t care what arrangements you make with your employer.”

In other words, do what you want with reporting your salary, just make sure you write a personal check for your premium.

Ah, if only my conscience were seared. I could get away with it. But it’s not. At least not in that area.

I could set up an HRA which is pretax money. But it’s employer funded.

Here’s another one: If BCBSM catches my employer paying for it, they can cancel my policy. But if I reapply, they supposedly cannot turn me away because they are the insurer of last resort.

With all the fuss about health care,  you would think Congress would pass a two line bill that says, “All individual health premiums can be paid with pretax money.”

Now that would be a health care bill that would actually benefit someone.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Berlin Wall – Twenty Years Later

Here are some interesting pictures of the Berlin Wall. There are a few that you can click on that will transition from an old picture to a new picture.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The Valley of Decision

Decision-making is one of my specialties (as those who know me will surely testify … won’t they?)

Well, here’s the issue: I have BibleWorks 5 and Logos 3 (Gold edition).

Should I upgrade to BibleWorks 8 or Logos 4?