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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Jesus: Friend of Sinners

Brennan Manning reminds us that friends know everything about us but still love and totally accept us despite of our faults and weaknesses. They love us as we are and not how we should be.

This is the definition that Jesus adopted and demonstrated. It is not the case with everyone. It is not always the case with Christians. Often, if you fall, people like to distance themselves from you. They will not be there to help you up. But Jesus will: He is the one that sticks closer than a brother. He is the shepherd that will never leave us or forsake us (Heb. 13:5). He will pick us up as many times as it takes.

Mat. 11:19 tell us that many called Jesus a “friend of sinners.” This was not a compliment; this was a charge. The naysayers were trying to discredit Jesus and His message. You see, in that day, the religious order had “written off” certain groups of people like tax collectors. They would not associate with anyone beneath their holiness/religious threshold. Do you see any parallels between then and now?

There are so many great examples of where Jesus went out of his way to be “a friend” of a sinner. My favorite is where he met “the lady at the well” (Jn. 4). To understand the brouhaha of this meeting, we need to understand the cultural taboos of that day. Let’s keep in mind a few things:

  1. Observant Jews would not have walked through Samaria in the first place. Samaritans were considered unclean.

  2. This particular woman was of such ill repute that she had to get water from the well at noon – the hottest time of day. No observant Jew would speak to this woman.

  3. Jews believed that nothing good could come from speaking to an unrelated woman. Woman were uneducated, thus; you could not learn anything new. Further, women could seduce a man causing him to commit adultery (oh please). For these reasons, Jews avoided speaking with woman, especially women of ill repute. Many observant Jews had all sorts of religious rules that were supposed to keep them out of trouble (a hedge against transgressing the Law). Many of these rules were absurd.
Now you can begin to see why Jesus’ followers were surprised to see this interaction when they returned to find Jesus ministering to this woman at the well. Jesus broke all the rules to reach one woman who apparently was ostracized by her own people. Incredibly, Jesus turned her into an evangelist and many others were saved.

You are not too far from God that you cannot be changed by the power of the Gospel. If you waiting to get your life straightened out before you seek out this "Friend of Sinners," you have missed the point. Jesus loves and accepts us as-is. He meets us where we are, not where we would like to be.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Crucible: Faith and Endurance

This is a guest post from Christie Smith. To read more of her insightful writings, please visit Earth Psalts. I found "The Crucible" to be spot on and received permission to use it here.
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James 1:2-4 (NLT):
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
New recruits to the US Navy and Marine Corp know all about The Crucible. Each one must train for months under grueling conditions to pass the ultimate test of mental and physical endurance. Boot Camp was not designed to be fun, as anyone who has been there can tell you. My daughter joined the USMC fresh out of high school, and spent her 18th birthday being pushed nearly to the breaking point by her Drill Instructors.

Every moment during those three months of training is spent separating those who just don't have what it takes from those who can reach deep inside themselves for strenth. Those in charge of overseeing this transformation don't take the time to be gentle. They don't have time to waste! They know that in only 12 short weeks, they have to take naive kids who've likely never known a day's work and prepare them for the ultimate test of endurance, will, and strength. Hopefully that final event before graduation will be the worst that military life ever throws at them. But all too often, it is just the beginning.

For some reason, people have this crazy notion that when they accepted Christ, they'd just been given a free pass from anything difficult. They sincerely believe that their ticket to paradise is going to be on a luxury cruise ship, and that God has promised them a life of ease. Then when things get tough, they start shaking in their boots, their faith crumbles, and they give up.

It's a sad commentary, isn't it? Becoming a Christian is actually very much like joining the Military, only without a Recruiter telling you what to expect. There really is no excuse, either, because throughout the New Testament, Paul warns of persecution much worse than what most of us will ever face. Because he properly prepared those in his charge, they were well equipped to move through life rejoicing in even the smallest victories.

This day and age, we usually train on the fly. We haven't been taught what to expect, or how to handle the unexpected. As a result, we are way too easily discouraged. We read these sentimental poems with photographs of footprints in the sand, and think that our walk with Christ more closely resembles trudging through quicksand.

So let's change all that right now. Let's take a look at Paul's life after salvation and see if we can't shift our perspective. Hopefully we will never have to walk a mile in his shoes, but the day is coming when those who love God will be put to even greater tests than he did.

2 Corinthians 11:23-28

Are they servants of Christ? I know I sound like a madman, but I have served him far more! I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again. Five different times the Jewish leaders gave me thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm. Then, besides all this, I have the daily burden of my concern for all the churches.

Can you imagine suffering that much for any reason? It's bad enough to be thrown in prison, beaten, flogged, and threatened with death, even for someone who has committed a crime deserving of all those things. But Paul was innocent! His only crime was witnessing to others about Jesus. He had to float in an ocean like shark bait after one of many shipwrecks. He'd been homeless, starving for food and water, shivering in his sandals without even a blanket to keep him warm. He'd been the victim of more crimes than most characters on a soap opera. And on top of all that, he had to worry about the newer Christians he was trying to teach and give encouragement to! He had to settle their squabbles and give them tough love, and I can only imagine sometimes he might have wanted to turn his back on the whole stinking lot of them.

But he didn't. Instead, he felt honored that he had been accepted as a defender of truth and freedom. With every torture he survived, he rejoiced, because he hadn't been broken. Every day was one step closer to the ultimate test, to The Crucible, where he would be proven worthy of his rank. And still he would press on, always anxious to reflect well on his Commander In Chief.

Yes, I know, you're not Paul. I'm quite happy to say that neither am I. But I do wish I was more like him. I whine and complain when I can't afford to go out for a steak dinner, and pout if I have nothing left after paying bills. If Paul could see what a wimp I am, he'd roll over in his grave. But even though I slept through Boot Camp and missed the Crucible, God's teaching me to overcome my weaknesses. I may be a slower learner, but my reward will be the same.

James 1:12:
God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Storms of Life bring God's Presence

The books of Mark, Matthew and John all describe an awesome scene from Christ’s ministry, where Jesus walked on the water and calmed the raging winds. As a child, this story would simply remind me of how big God is. But there is much more packed into the narrative, as we will see. The following is synthesized from the three accounts (Mark 6:45-52; Matthew 14:22-33; John 6:16-25):

Jesus sends His disciples on a ship while He stays behind to pray. Jesus, knowing all things in advance, knew there would be trouble on the seas. Nearly comically, the text indicates that Christ watched, from the land, his disciples wrestle against the storm. I wonder what Jesus was thinking. I wonder what Jesus thinks during my personal faith building exercises. Does He cover His eyes and peek through His fingers at me, or simply hold His forehead with one hand? It reminds me of primary school, where teachers would sneak up on you... just to watch.

Perplexingly, as in the case with Lazarus, whom had been dead for three days, Jesus didn't act; He waited. Jesus had His own idea of when to show up and make things right. His timeframe never seems to coincide with ours. Jesus appeared to His disciples, walking on the troubled sea. To Jesus, this was normal behavior (i.e. doing the miraculous), but to his disciples, this was sheer consternation. The Text seems to state something unusual about Jesus’ intentions. It states that He “would have passed by them” (Mk. 6:48). This appears uncharacteristic of Jesus. Why would He pass on by when His people needed Him so desperately? John Ortberg explains that an observant Jew in that day would have immediately made a connection.1 The terminology would have harkened back to God’s theophany to Moses on the mountain (Exod. 19:20; 33:18-34:8) and other instances.

So then, Jesus was not going to walk on past His disciples, He wanted to bring them into a closer place in God via this miraculous experience. Do you think any of them were the same again once they saw Jesus, and then St. Peter walk on the water? When the storms of life come after you, and they will come, just know that although Jesus may not show up when you think He should, he is watching and waiting on the perfect time for your theophany.


1 John Ortberg, If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat (Zondervan, 2008).

Friday, December 19, 2014

Saving Big Bucks on a Christian Education -- Undergraduate Primer

The maximum loan limits for the ungraduated Stafford loan is currently $57,500. Somehow, I maxed out my Stafford limit! This does not include Pell and other grants that do not have to be repaid. Someone asked how I would repay my loans. My response was simple: “I will have to be successful.” I hope that is the case.

So, how can one save money on college loans? First, if you must borrow-- as about 75 percent of students must-- only borrow the minimum amount needed. Otherwise, the remainder will be refunded to you each semester. This extra money may be necessary for your living expenses. Just remember, the money is great until you have to repay.

My best advice on saving money on your degree is to start at a community college. In-state community colleges offer the same undergraduate classes at a fraction of the cost of a university. All community colleges have a transfer program: you can get half of your bachelor’s degree credits on the very cheap. Many community colleges have their classes online as well.

Do not forget about the CLEP program. For example, I passed the English CLEP test, which awarded 6 college credit hours (equivalent to 2 college classes) for only $50! This alone saved me over $2,000. For a list of CLEP classes, check their website. Using this technique, you will have to be well versed in the content, which means studying and being ready for a challenging test! As always, check with your college to confirm they will accept the particular test. Universities will have a limit on how many CLEP credits they will accept. Max those out, it’s the cheapest way to obtain college credits.

Let’s say you may not know a subject quite well enough to CLEP it. Many colleges allow credits from the website Straighterline. These classes are at your own pace. If you can study fast, you can certainly save money here; however, I hear these classes are not well polished. I think on top of the books, you pay $99 per month until you pass the class or withdrawal. Double check to make sure you college accepts credits from this company and you are taking the correct class.

City Vision Internships  offers your first year free at their college. The catch? You must intern for one year at a homeless shelter. You should check to see if their college credits can be transferred to the college you wish to finish your graduate or undergraduate degree. Some internships make holders of a BA/BS degree optionally continue their studies.

Website such as Fastweb will match you to a scholarship.The website generally requires an essay. It could be helpful to get you started on the path to a new career. I've personally found no value chasing these scholarships.

Finally, do not buy new books from the college bookstore. I suggest that you use Amazon.com and bn.com for price comparisons. Barns and Noble allows you to rent certain textbooks. It is generally easier, in my experience, to match up Barns & Noble edition numbers and publication dates for their used books. This way you know you are getting the correct book. The ISBN # alone is not sufficient. Match up those edition numbers to have the correct version. Textbooks are constantly updated for financial profit. Also, both websites have e-books which are cheaper than buying new. However, buying used books is the way to go if you want to save money. I would buy early in case there is a problem with these third-party used booksellers.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Jesus' Deity in the Book of John

In John’s Gospel, Jesus made seven “I am” statements, plus other general statements that simply claim that “I am.” Each “I am” statement shows Jesus’ deity in a different light. The fifth “I am” will be the subject of this essay. John 11:25-26 (KJV) proclaims: “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” This statement really ties all of the “I am” claims together and strongly points to Christ’s deity.

Jesus’ use of the name “I am” pointed to His deity. Elmer Towns explains, “This affirmation is taken from the root word for ‘Jehovah,’ ‘I am that I am’ (Exod. 3:13-14; Jn. 4:26, 18:5-6).” Other verses that would immediately come to an observant Jew would be, “I am the God Almighty” (Gen. 17:1); “I am the Lord, your healer” (Exod. 15:26); “I am the first and I am the last” (Isa. 44:6). These verses tie Christ’s “I am” sayings to the OT and shows that He is the same God, not a different one, that Moses and the prophets wrote about.

The “I am” statements must have been perplexing claims to Jesus’ hearers. They didn’t understand what He was talking about; however, they knew Jesus was making a claim of deity. “Jesus asserts his own divinity by his august claims of ‘I am’,” writes A. M. Okorie. He goes on to contrast the way Jesus spoke to the people versus how the prophets proclaimed God’s message. Jesus was more than a prophet. He spoke the Word of God with authority (Matt. 7:29). No prophet could make the claims that Jesus made. No prophet would want to make such claims because these claims made many wonder if Jesus was insane or a blasphemer.

Nevertheless, Jesus made these claims because they are true. He proved them all. This claim, about being the resurrection and the life, was illustrated in John 11. This was a time when Jesus’ friend Lazarus had died, and had already been laid to rest for four days in a tomb. Martha and Mary, Lazarus’ sisters, were waiting on Jesus to show up. They both knew of His reputation of miracles and His love for Lazarus. Surely Jesus would show up. Perhaps Jesus would even show up before Lazarus’ imminent death and heal his sickness.

Perplexingly, Jesus didn’t show up in time to heal his friend. Jesus seemed to have purposely waited too long. Although Jesus knew of Lazarus’ illness, he made no attempt to meet him straightway (v. 6). Jesus arrived four days late. A close friend would generally arrive on the first day of the death of a loved one. We can see the disappointment of the sisters in the text. Mary didn’t even bother to meet Jesus when He arrived. This shows the state of her faith; she was wholly devastated. Perhaps she was so overcome with grief that she was oblivious to Jesus’ late arrival. Besides, what good is it if Jesus shows up now – four days late! Conversely, the other sister Martha does meet Jesus and declares: “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died” (v. 21). The following short discourse tells us important details about what followers of Christ believed in that day. Martha continued, “But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee” (v. 22).

Here we see that Martha really didn’t understand to whom she was speaking with. She did not understand that Jesus was the very incarnation of God. Elmer Towns points out her faulty belief that Jesus was inferior to God when she said, “God will give you whatever you ask” (Jn. 11:22, NIV). Jesus was equal with God; He didn’t have to ask a superior for a favor. In these days, Jesus was merely an outstanding prophet or rabbi to most followers. When Jesus informed Martha that her brother would “rise again”, she didn’t understand Him. She responded, “I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” This shows that many Jews only believed in one final resurrection on “the last day.” Their worldview didn’t include the possibility of someone rising from the dead prematurely. Martha simply couldn’t accept what Jesus was telling her.

It was within this context that Christ makes a shocking claim. He informs Martha, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (v. 25-26). Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world (v. 27). Martha spoke those words; however, she still didn’t know exactly who Jesus was. On some level, this is always the case with God’s people since God is bigger than our comprehension.

When Mary realized that Jesus was calling for her, she hastily made her way to Him and stated the same thing her sister had previously, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died” (v. 32). Both sisters expressed their doubts about Jesus’ ability to right the situation. Jesus wept at the hurt He saw in the sister’s eyes, as Jesus too loved Lazarus. Jesus could also have been thinking of his own soon-coming crucifixion and death and the hurt it would bring His followers. The following sequence of events is only recorded in the book of John. Jesus instructed the onlookers to remove the stone that sealed the body within the cave. This was an incredibly inappropriate request to make concerning a man who had been dead for four days. Martha objected. Jesus assured everyone that if they would believe they would see the glory of God (v. 40). After a brief prayer for the sake of the onlookers, Jesus “cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.”

One of the most awesome sights ever witnessed followed.

Lazarus indeed came forth, still bound in his grave clothes. This miracle was not only an awesome sight to witness; it went against everything the Jews believed. How could one be resurrected before the last day? What kind of man could do such a miracle? The Pharisees concluded that if Jesus wasn’t stopped that everyone would believe in Him (v. 48) causing them to lose position and power.

One spiritual analogy especially sticks out to this writer. Verse 44 states: “Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.” This is what Jesus was talking about when he made the claim of being the resurrection and the life. The raising of Lazarus was a foreshadowing of the salvation that Christ would bring into the world. The apostle Paul points this out plainly in Eph. 2:1 (NIV):
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus …
Many see salvation as a ticket to eternal life, redeemable at a future date. This isn’t true: eternal life starts when one is born again. Believers already have eternal life through Christ. Elmer Towns sums it up concisely when he stated that all Christians have eternal life which is based upon Christ’s resurrection. This is a prime example of Christ’s deity. If this claim isn’t true, then everything in the Bible is meaningless and worthless. As Leon Morris points out, “Jesus does not say simply that he will give resurrection and life, but that he is resurrection and life.” The fact the Christ has power even over death clearly shows His deity.

Bibliography

Morris, Leon. Jesus is the Christ. Grand Rapids: Michigan, 1989.

Okorie, A M. 2001. “The Self Revelation of Jesus in the ‘I Am’ Sayings of John’s Gospel.” Currents in Theology and Mission 28, no. 5: 486-490. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCO/host (accessed October 5, 2013).

Towns, E. John - Believe and Live. Chattanooga, Tennessee: AMG Publishers, 2002.

Towns, Elmer L. Theology for Today. Mason: Cengage Learning, 2008.

This essay is (c) 2013 by J. Keith Tysinger and released into the public domain. It was originally an assignment for Liberty University. It may be the first essay that I made a perfect grade on.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Pneumatology: Spiritual Gifts

The following essay was originally for a class project. Please add a comment at the bottom and let me know what you think.

Pneumatology: Spiritual Gifts
 
 Spiritual gifts were given to believers at Pentecost for the edification of the Church. Spiritual gifts allow one to perform a service or ministry within the church. Spiritual gifts and the fruit of the Spirit are sometimes confused. Spiritual gifts are grace gifts, while the fruit of the Spirit includes the attributes of one who is “in step with the Spirit” (Gal 5:25). In Galatians 5, Paul contrasts our old sinful nature with our new nature in Christ. This new nature produces the fruit of the Spirit (v.22), “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” These attributes show ones spiritual maturity.

Baptism of the Holy Spirit

Christ was known as a worker of miracles, which characterized His kingdom. After His ascension, Jesus promised that He would send the Holy Spirit (Jn. 14:26) that would “will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” In the second chapter of Acts, we see the fulfillment of this promise. The Baptism of the Spirit was an empowerment of God’s people to edify the church and fulfill God’s will on Earth. Jesus was not going to leave His kingdom empty of the same power He demonstrated during his earthly ministry.

One spiritual gift that gets the most attention is perhaps the gift of tongues. A Biblical definition of tongues is given in Acts 2. The gift of tongues was sometimes used as a “divine affirmation” of new converts. In the early 19th century, a group of Bible students from Topeka, Kansas were asked to identify the evidence of being baptized in the Spirit. One student, Agnes Osmond, began “speaking in tongues” while researching this topic. The students then adopted the belief that tongues were the initial evidence of being baptized in the Holy Ghost. Pentecostals still hold this doctrine; thus, they believe that being baptized in the Spirit is a separate work of grace apart from salvation. However, we should never allow an experience to dictate our doctrine.

Using Acts 19 as a proof-text, Pentecostals often point out that some disciples had a separate experience in God after salvation. The passage doesn’t support their claim. It is clear the disciples in question received the Holy Ghost straightway after putting their faith in Jesus (v. 5-6) as opposed to John the Baptist. The Apostle Paul makes it clear that every believer has a measure of the Spirit (Eph. 1:13-14) as God’s earnest deposit. We receive the Holy Spirit when we are born again.

In many places in the NT where a believer receives the Holy Ghost, the receiver begins speaking in unknown tongues. However, St. Paul asked the question, “Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?” (1 Cor. 12:30). The implied answer is no. Apparently not every believer speaks in tongues, as not every believer has the gift of healing. This does not mean that tongues have already ceased nor any of the gifts ended. Indeed, St. Paul predicted that tongues will “be stilled” (1 Cor. 13:8) and that knowledge will “pass away.” Clearly this passage hasn’t come to pass. In fact, it sounds like hyperbole – he was simply pointing out the superiority and lastingness of love. The purpose of tongues, like the other spiritual gifts, is for edification. St. Paul teaches that unless someone interprets, the gift only edifies the one doing the uttering; conversely, it can hinder a service if misused.

Many cessationists would strongly disagree with my position, insisting that the Gifts have ceased at the end of the apostolic age. They cite 1 Cor. 13:8-10 to support their claim. Verse 10 states, “But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.” To apply this fairly obscure verse to the gifts of the Spirit is beyond dubious. It is clear that St. Paul is speaking of a time when believers can see, not “in part”, but “clearly.” The very fact that believers are still debating proves my point.

Conclusion

Speaking in tongues is not the necessary sign that one has been baptized in the Holy Ghost. Not every believer speaks in tongues, however, it follows that since the gifts are still in operation, tongues are still valid today. I can find no evidence that the gifts were to cease before the Lord’s return. That being said, many of the gifts appear to be in operation on Christian TV by super-star evangelists. I must add that everything that speaks in tongues and puts on a show is not of God.

Bibliography

Elwell, Walter A., ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2001.

Note: this essay was originally for a small class project at Liberty University (2013). It is released into the Public domain; Please use freely giving credit to this blog and/or author. This essay deviates from both classical Pentecostal and mainstream Baptist doctrine. I have found Baptists, however, to be much more open minded than I ever expected. I'm enjoying my stay at Liberty. They even respect my Charismatic Christian worldview. In fact, many students share it!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Recommended Foundational Books

I would like to list several books for you Bible students to enjoy. Every teacher, preacher and Bible student needs a solid Biblical foundation. Too often our only foundation is our Sunday School classes way back when. Those elementary classes aren't nearly sufficient. I've found the most valuable Christian books written are from authors that challenge me. Think about it. If an author sees everything as you do, you can't learn a single thing.

Following are some books that every preacher and teacher should read to build that solid foundation. Not only teachers, but anyone who wants to learn more about the Gospel should consider these fine books. If you are a teacher in any capacity, you should always be reading books that challenge your Christian worldview. Otherwise, this humble author thinks you should get our of the business.

The following books are a few for starters:


CREATION REGAINED:BIBLICAL BASIS FOR A REFORMATIONAL WORLDVIEW
 
by Albert M. Wolters. This is my favorite Christian Worldview book. As a new Christian, it could be the first book you read. It will give you a fresh perspective on the Bible that you will need to build on. It's also a great read!

CHRISTIAN BELIEFS: TWENTY BASICS EVERY CHRISTIAN SHOULD KNOW

by Wayne Grudem. Dr Grudem give a very balanced reformed view of the Bible. He also has some more involved books on Systematic Theology when you are ready.


HOW TO READ THE BIBLE FOR ALL IT'S WORTH

by Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart. This book offers an astute paradigm for interpreting Biblical text. It's written by two college professors that offer a lot of insight into reasonable exegesis of God's Word.

ALL ABOUT JEWISH HOLIDAYS AND CUSTOMS

by Morris Espien. If you are like me, the Jewish worldview is difficult to wrap one's mind around. This book, written by a Rabbi, can shed a lot of light on the way the Old Testament has been interpreted historically by observant Jews. The book offers a free education on important motifs in the Bible. Let's face it, most of us know little about the Old Testament and this book is a great primer on Judaism.

WHAT JESUS MEANT

by Gary Wills. He is also the author of another excellent book, WHAT PAUL MEANT. As a Catholic author, Mr. Wills brings to the table a provocative and fresh look at the Jesus of the Gospels. This is one of the most important books I have read. It is simply a must read. If you only read one book from my list, read this one.

IF YOU WANT TO WALK ON WATER YOU GOT TO GET OUT OF THE BOAT

by John Ortberg. This book had me spellbound. It is great for anyone traveling through the valley. I can't think of a better book to bring edification to the body of Christ.

I would be very glad to hear of additional foundational books. Please share your recommendations in the comments.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Encouragement

Sometimes we just need a word of encouragement. I thought I would share some encouragement from Brother Huskins.
Enjoy!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Decent to Compassion



I would like say kudos to Steve Wright’s new book, “The Decent to Compassion.” Mr. Wright now pastors "The Legacy Church" in Charlotte, NC. However the backdrop of the book is San Francisco’s Tenderloin district, where he fostered a church from the homeless, addicts and prostitutes.

His “congregation” was so unruly that he had to move to different locations because invariably the landlords didn’t want the hassle of this group. Sunday mornings would bring homeless men and women pushing their shopping buggies, cursing, and fighting among themselves. It was not unusual for fights to break out in the middle of service. This bunch was so bad that trash baskets had to be installed on either end of the altar so people could toss in their drugs after they gave their lives to the Lord.

This church was known as the “Hot Dog Church” because of the free meal after each service. It certainly wasn’t your typical church. It wasn’t one that Mr. Wright had signed up for, but it was exactly where God wanted him.

I have talked with some Christians who believe that non-Christians have no place in church. I can see the logic in this; however, I can also see the error.

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news! (Rom 10:14, NIV)


More information about the book can be found here: Decent to Compassion

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Can God Change His Mind?

Does God change His mind? This was a question in a computer Database class. Since I go to a Christian College, we integrate Christ and Biblical principles as often as possible, even in nonreligious classes. Here is the question and my response. The teacher called my response "compelling." Hmmm. Question from the teacher:
I'd like to invite you to read and comment on the perspectives presented in this blog titled "Does God Change His Mind?" As we discuss business rules, can you draw any comparisons or differences between the instances where God changes his response based on our behavior, which deviates from the doctrines he established for us, and the client who indicates "that's what I said, but that's not what I meant" as he is reviewing the prototype application designed using his specified business rules? As database developers, what steps can we take to minimize these types of scenarios? Prof. McCoy Source: "Does God Change His Mind? Divine Repentance by R.C. Sproul," Grace Online Library, retrieved July 3, 2012 from http://www.graceonlinelibrary.org/doctrine-theology/doctrine-of-god/does-god-change-his-mind-divine-repentance-by-r-c-sproul/
I think God can change His mind. In (1 Sam 15:10 [KJV]), the writer seems to imply that God can change His mind. “It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king: for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandments. Some translations use different words for “ repenteth” like “I regret”, “I am sorry”, and “I am grieved”. In any case, I believe God can see far off. He knows the beginning to the ending. Apparently, God promoted Saul to kingship despite knowing that Saul would fail. Saul’s shortcoming didn’t take God by surprise. Perhaps it was in Saul’s power all along to please God but Saul simply didn’t. Sanctification is partly the Christian’s responsibility, and partly God’s. It takes teamwork. God will not come down and force the liquor bottle out of our hand. There are things we must do in order to please God. (Rev 19:7 [NIV] declares that “Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.”

Finally, I think some try to make everything black and white, and simplistic. God is so great that sometimes we simply don’t have perfect answers for these types of theological questions. As religious studies major, the more I learn about God, the more questions I seem to have. I’m not even sure it is supposed to work like this.

I think God will be telling many of us “that's what I said, but that's not what I meant” on the last day. Sometimes we simply do not do our homework (praying, studying) God’s word to understand it, the same we fail with a client’s database design request (communicate and learning the business).