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I’ve been so far behind, I think I saw my future self passing me on the way home!  Here’s a great post from Michael Patton over at the Parchment & Pen blog.  (Michael seems to be going through a rough patch lately.  Send up a prayer or two for him if you think about it.)

Not too long ago I wrote a blog post about 14 examples of the type of apologetics (defending the faith) that Christians should not use. Due to an enthusiastically sent email I received today, I have a 15th example. And I am not happy about it.

I know how it is. We believe what we profess and we are quick to accept anything and everything that confirms some aspect of our faith. I am the same way. However, what we believe is too important for us to be uncritical, even about those claims that seem to support what we believe.

These pictures below represent supposed archaeological finds of giants in Greece. The person who sent these to me (and lots of other people after being forwarded many times) believes this to be proof of the giants that lived in the days of David (Goliath and his bothers; the Nephilim, etc.). The title of the email was “Nephilim – Giants in Greece.” The last words on the email were these: “And in the final analysis…….. The Bible does tell the truth and with precise accuracy….. No doubt about that!!!!”

I must admit that my critical admonition here is only going one way. I have not checked to see if this is true. I simply know it is not.

The enthusiastic, “No doubt about that” from the sender scares me for many reasons.

1. I am frightened by the lack of critical spirit this represents among Christians who blindly accept any bit of “evidence” that seems to support the faith. This is not the way God wants us to use our minds, even if the uncritical conclusions support his truth. We simply can’t do this folks.

2. I am also afraid of a faith built upon such tabloid evidences. Whether it is the Bible code, the Shroud of Turin, the lost day of Joshua, crying statues of Mary, or Noah’s Ark sightings, these type of things usually don’t last. If your faith is built on them, it won’t last either.

Could it be that we find evidences that confirm our faith? Certainly. We do all the time. It is not the finding of evidences that concerns me, but the uncritical method with which these evidences are evaluated by many well-meaning Christians. I am sure that some Sunday School teacher is going to use these pictures in a PowerPoint presentation this Sunday to show how Christianity is true.

Want to set people up to leave the faith later? This is the first step.

3. Finally, this gives our critics great ammunition. I know that critics will always find their reasons for rejecting our beliefs no matter what, but let’s make sure we do our part to help them reject and criticize for the right reasons. Let them take on our best apologetics, not these side shows.

In short, if you are reading this and your conversion is strongly supported by any tabloid support for Christianity such as this, please, please, please, rethink your faith. I would rather have you not believe having looked at good evidences for Christianity, than to have a believe built upon this type of manipulated sensationalism. More than likely, most (if not all) of these types of things are going to fall apart.

Most Christians are not too critical when it comes to this type of thing. They think that they are supposed to believe it. And I know that this does not only go for Christians. Atheists, Mormons, Muslims, and any other faith-based belief system is going to have those who uncritically use “evidence” that is, in the long run, counter-productive. But I am not talking to them right now. They can use all the pancake apologetics they want. But we (Christians) simply don’t need to. We have enough evidence for our faith to keep up from resorting to such things.

How would you encourage a Christian to resist sin while knowing that God will ultimately work it for their good?

That’s really a good question.

Very practically, the devil and our own sin can incline us to use the sovereignty of God to justify complicity in sin. And it’s at this point that we need to have a strong commitment to the authority of the Bible and the authority of God telling us how to live with the truth that he has revealed to us.

So many of us learn a fact, like “God is sovereign” or “God loves me” or “God hates sin,” and we start spinning implications out of our brain, some of which aren’t biblical!

They look rational. They look like they should be believed. “Well, if God is sovereign, then he is responsible for evil. Therefore we can’t be responsible. Therefore let us sin that grace may abound,” blah blah blah, and it’s all unbiblical!

If we’re going to latch on to big truths like the sovereignty of God, we’ve got to latch on to them the way God ordains for us to latch on to them. We’ve got to latch on to them biblically. That is, we have to see them in connection with all the other biblical truths.

Among those biblical truths is Paul contemplating the thought in Romans 3 and 6, “Shall we sin that grace may abound?” He just said in Romans 5:21 that where sin abounded, grace much more abounded. And here goes somebody with their logic: “Cool! I’ll just make grace abound everywhere! I’ll just click on as much pornography as I can, and commit as much fornication as I can, and steal as much as I can, and be as greedy as I can. Praise God’s grace!”

And Paul answers that in chapter 3 that those people deserve to be accursed. And he says in chapter 6, “Shall we sin that grace may abound? God forbid! For how can you who died still live in it?”

Now there’s a truth as important as the truth of God’s sovereignty.

Christian, you’re dead. You’ve got to come to terms with what that means. You can’t just say, “Well God is sovereign, therefore all my sins are his doing. Therefore I can sin.” No! Be biblical. Think God’s thoughts. This is complex. Don’t depend on your own brain. Depend on God’s brain. And God says, “Dead people don’t sin” (Romans 6:3).

So you need to figure out what it means to be dead. And put to death what is earthly in you. “If we live according to the flesh, we will die. If we, by the Spirit, put to death the deeds of the body, we will live.” That’s a truth as big as the truth of God’s sovereignty. You can’t throw that out and just go do your own logical thing.

So my answer is, Be biblical. We’re working here with infinite realities that our brains are not capable of managing on our own. You can’t learn one truth from God and then manage it with your brain. You have to constantly submit every thought that you have about God to other thoughts about God so that God manages your brain. Otherwise you will take a truth and distort it in some sinful way.

This is really big. Bottom line: be thoroughly biblical. Test everything by the Bible.

(My thoughts often turn to Phernando & Faustino, our brothers in Honduras that are serving the LORD faithfully under our care.  Some practical thoughts here.)

By Mark Rogers

In an effort to learn how we can best encourage missionaries, I emailed some and asked how they would most like to be served and encouraged. This list is drawn from their responses, including many direct quotes.

1. Pray for them and let them know that you are doing so frequently.

“One of the most encouraging/inspiring things we receive from people is a quick note via email to say that they are ‘thinking’ of us.”

2. Send “real mail.”

“Send a small care package. Some little fun food items that we can’t get where we serve is a good idea.”

“One idea is to send a special package before an American holiday (like Thanksgiving) filled with things that we can use to decorate for that holiday.”

“Send us a birthday card. This doesn’t have to be some long handwritten note, just a little card – maybe even printed at home.”

“Real mail is always special. Really, the thing with real mail is more than just getting some nice stuff from home (which is nice), but it seems a more tangible reminder that the people I love and miss love and miss me too and are thinking of me.”

3. Pray for the people the missionaries serve and not only for the missionaries and their families.

4. Recruit others to pray for the missionary’s area of service (city, people group, etc.) or for the missionaries themselves.

“This can be an amazing thing to have a person or group of people actively supporting the work that we are doing overseas – becoming an advocate for our city/work. It really encourages us to know that there are people going to bat for us and raising more prayer support for the work.”

“Become an arm of our work in the United States. Some ideas include handling our newsletter distribution, website hosting (i.e., hosting a virtual website for the city), logistical arrangements, or short term team orientation.”

5. Go visit them with the purpose of serving and encouraging them in their work.

“Have a group of your people come to minister to us as we are seeking to pour out our lives to others. This could be hosting a small retreat in country for our team or something similar, or coming to prayer walk the city we live in.”

6. Send them updates and pictures of you and your family (by mail or email).

“It would especially be nice to receive end of the year updates or Christmas card pics. We want to stay connected to you! We love hearing from friends and family and enjoy keeping up to date on what’s happening in your life!”

“If you have a friend overseas, stay in touch with them. Don’t let cautions about being careful with spiritual language keep you from talking about the day to day “un-spiritual” things you would talk about if you met up for lunch one day. Sometimes the least spiritual emails are the most helpful, because somehow I feel less distant when friends talk to me like they always did before I left. Share updates on family, school, work, life, sports—whatever it is that you used to talk about with them.”

7. Ask questions about their work.

“Ask not only how we are doing, but ask about our work and try to learn all you can about the people or city where we are serving.”

“I know that this has been said, but truly CARING about the work is the best way to encourage us.”

8. Continue to be a Christian friend and continue to minister to them.

“Don’t stop being the church to us when we leave. Whenever security allows, spiritual conversations are good for our hearts. Missionaries struggle with the same sinful attitudes that plague Christians everywhere. Leaving home to live among unreached peoples, may be a step of faith in the process of sanctification, but it is not a step that roots out all sin. It is likely to lead to and expose all kinds of previously unnoticed and unexpected sin. Having friends that know me, are patient with me, and expect me to be the same struggling sinner I was when I left helps me stay humble when tempted toward arrogance, and hopeful when tempted toward despair.”

“Even for us with strong member care, it is helpful to receive pastoral care from the stateside church’s pastor who many times will know the missionary personally and have the history with them to be able to invest and mentor them and their family and marriage.”

“Ask us those hard questions. Do a little pastoral counseling with us.”

“Please don’t elevate us onto some false pedestal. We are normal people too who have been forgiven much and for some reason God called to live and minister overseas.”

9. Support them financially.

“Finding out if we have any specific needs and meeting those needs is great.”

10. Seek to encourage them when they are on stateside assignment.

“Let us talk to you and your congregations, and small groups. We want to share what God has been doing and would love the opportunity to talk about it, raise awareness and hopefully gain more prayer support.”

 “Invite us out to lunch or dinner. Nothing fancy is needed. Remember we’ve just been in places where we may not have been able to even enjoy a little Mexican food.”

No missionary mentioned this to me in emails, but I know it is a blessing when someone shares their summer home or cabin for a missionary family to get away and relax for a few days.

“Let us know about any good books that are must reads. Tell us about any good resources that may benefit our personal growth or ministry work: things like conferences, training for ministry/leadership, and so forth.”

 Mark Rogers is a Ph.D. student in historical theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL.

I’ve enjoyed posting interesting things to the blog, and I hope you have enjoyed a few of the things you’ve read here.

If you spend much time at all on the Internet, you know there are temptations just a click away.  And I’m not just talking about sins of the flesh – there is really awful theology in cyberspace, along with dangerous people you can talk to (and with whom you can easily become emotionally attached).

One of the things I’ve done is to try and create some walls that give me enough space to play so I have enough to read but not so much that I get overwhelmed.  The tool I use for this is an iGoogle page.

Google allows you to create a personalized page for free.  You can add content to it, add additional pages, and make it look however you want.

If you notice on my page here, I have the weather on the right side of the page so I can see at a glance how hot/cold it will be today, and I have several locations loaded as well.

On the left side you see my Google bookmarks.  These are links to the web sites I like to visit frequently.  I like to think of these as my walls.  As long as I’m going to these places only, I need not worry so much.  I can add or subtract links whenever I want.

One of the things that I recently discovered is that I can add a box that automatically shows when a new article has been posted on a particular website.  It works the opposite of the links in a sense.  With a link, you click on it to go to a particular web site.  You don’t know if there is anything new there, you just go & see.

With this technology, called RSS, anytime the content changes, you are informed.  The three most recent links are there, by title.

If you want to know more about setting up an iGoogle page or an RSS feed to it, give me a buzz.

Here’s a 3-minute video to get your day started.  Bear with it through the first minute.  Dr. William Lane Craig is debating an atheist on what appears to be Firing Line (hosted by the ever sharp-witted William F. Buckley).  About a minute into the video, Craig begins his quick dissection of his foe.

I particularly love how Buckley adds a quick stitch at the end.

H/T: Justin Taylor

[An old post from Josh Harris’ blog.  Josh wrote a book called “I kissed dating goodbye” and is the pastor at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland.]

Today at work I got a call from Shannon. “This is so sad,” she said. I could hear Emma wailing in the background. “An animal got into the chicken coop and ate two of the chickens.”

Shannon put Emma on the phone. She couldn’t stop crying. I tried to console her. “Sweetie, maybe God knew that animal really needed to eat,” I said in a soothing voice, using that special “daddy wisdom” we’re given in these moments. “But it didn’t eat them,” she sobbed, “it just killed them.” Um, okay, never mind.

Last spring Shannon had what I thought was a crazy idea: we would get four chickens as a homeschool project. Our neighbors were going to get chickens. It would be fun. I relented. One day we got four fluff balls with legs. They were undeniably cute.

We named them Fluffy, Afro, Nelly and Slowpoke. They lived in our kitchen, then in our basement. They grew and they began to stink up the whole house. So we hired a friend from our church to convert half of our shed into a chicken coop, complete with an outdoor cage section. The chickens grew past the cute fuzzy stage to the awkward chicken-adolescent stage. But somehow our affection for them grew.

We fed them, we gave them water, we cleaned up their poo. Our reward? For three or four months, there was no reward. No eggs. The neighbors had eggs we had none. This was a difficult time. I’d rather not talk about. But, finally, they started laying. We’d get three eggs a day. Not bad, huh? I’ve done the math and figured out that when you figure out the cost of the coop and the feed each egg cost about $50. Man, those were good eggs.

Then this summer my chicken, Afro, was lost to a fox. He was the slowest of the four and often left out. One night he didn’t come back to the coop with the other chickens. Was it despair? Was it rebellion? Was he hanging with the wrong crowd? We’ll never know. The next day a fox got him. At least that’s what we guess happened. All we found of Afro was a pile of feathers.

We hoped tragedy would only strike once at the Harris Farm, but then came today. I thought losing two chickens was bad. Then tonight, actually just an hour ago, I went out to check on the lone chicken. I opened the door and found her on the ground ripped open. I heard scampering in the outdoor cage section of the coop and ran outside. Sure enough Mr. Racoon was still there. He was trapped.

I was so pickin’ mad I started swinging at him with a hammer I had brought to try and patch up the coop. If you’re a big racoon fan you should probably skip this part. I was doing my best to kill that little beast. The funny thing is that I actually like racoons. I read that book about the pet racoon when I was a kid. What was it’s name? I can’t remember, anyway I don’t mind racoons but tonight all the fatherly, protective zeal of a chicken farmer came out in pure rage. I swung that hammer like an insane man. The racoon would climb up the side of the coop and I’d knock it down. I’m surprised the neighbors didn’t call the cops. It was totally dark and my flashlight bobbed around, spot-lighting the racoon every few seconds and then “Wham!” It finally ran back inside the coop and climbed out the front window before I could get to it. In an instant it was gone.

I went and cleaned up the chicken with a trash bag. Gross. Earlier that night our family had held a chicken memorial service where we talked about what we liked about our chickens. Emma was doing better. Shannon had told her she could get a rabbit. Joshua Quinn was happy because his chicken was still alive. Tomorrow morning I’ll have to tell him the sad news.

I know most of you are just laughing. You cold heartless brutes. But all my chicken-keeping friends around the world understand. I know you mourn with me. Goodbye, Slowpoke, Nelly and Fluffy. Thanks for the memories. Thanks for the eggs. Rest in peace.

Guys, I gotta tell you this has been a really busy week.  I’m slammed at work and have been hosting an out of town guest there all week.  Things should slow down by Friday.  Until then I’ve been light posting stuff.  Sorry.

Pray for my wife, if you don’t mind.  She’s feeling a bit under the weather.  Probably a kidney stone.   God bless her.

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