Monthly Archives: January 2008

Evil Everywhere

Just a month after I moved to Romania in 2000, one of the school deans told me a disturbing story.

He and his wife had a fender bender one day. They were driving behind a tractor, when suddenly the man driving the tractor slammed on his brakes, causing the dean’s car to bump into the back of the tractor. There was no serious damage done to the dean’s car – only a broken headlight.

What the dean discovered upon talking to the tractor driver was shocking. The reason the man had slammed on his breaks was because a Gypsy woman had pushed her little boy out into the road in front of the tractor. In Romania, tractor accidents are insured up to thousands of dollars for the damages they cause (life, auto, medical expenses, etc.) The Gypsy lady was willing to sacrifice her son for the money. The dean’s wife saw the child make his way across the road without getting hurt, even though he was in tears.  This is one of those stories that I wouldn’t have believed had it not been for an eye-witness testimony. It’s just so troubling.

The length at which some people will go to obtain money is appalling. Anyone who denies the biblical doctrine of total human depravity should look again at stories like these.

Of course, we have our own versions of this kind of depravity even in America. Husbands murder their wives to collect the insurance; children kill other children in imitation of what …

Posted in Reaching Romania | 4 Comments

Book Review: The Character of a Disciple

Daniel Doriani is senior pastor of Central Presbyterian Church in Clayton, Missouri. His book The Sermon on the Mount: The Character of a Disciple (P&R Publishing, 2006) takes the reader through the Sermon on the Mount with an eye to current scholarship on the Sermon and with a heart for regular church-goers. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a book on Jesus’ most famous sermon that so effortlessly combines top-notch scholarship and pastoral application.

Doriani’s book emphasizes how the Sermon serves as a description of the disciple’s character. The chapters read like short sermons, complete with helpful illustrations and exhortation to Christian living. Doriani expounds the meaning of each text and then offers sound, biblical advice on how we should put the text into application.

At times, I disagreed with Doriani’s exposition. He tends to see the Sermon through a Pauline lens at times when such interpretation is unnecessary. However, the good outweighs the bad. Whether you’re looking for a book that will help you understand the more difficult parts of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount or a book that will serve as a devotional guide as you work your way through the Sermon, you won’t be disappointed by Doriani’s work. The Character of a Disciple is one of the better books on the Sermon to appear in recent years.

written by Trevin Wax. © 2008 Kingdom People Blog

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Book Review: Consuming Jesus

Does the consumerist mindset of contemporary evangelicalism harm our witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ? In Consuming Jesus: Beyond Race and Class Divisions in a Consumer Church, Paul Louis Metzger answers “yes.” And Metzger goes even further: consumerism affects the church by reinforcing the race and class divisions of society.

Consuming Jesus is one of the most engaging books I’ve read in recent days. Metzger exposes evangelicalism’s consumerism for what it is: a capitulation to the market forces of capitalist culture that is detrimental to the unity of the gospel across races and classes. 

Meztger begins by showing how evangelicals first retreated from culture and politics, which prepared the way for a disordered consumerist vision that blinds us to racialization, the market mindset, success, and social structures. He critiques the political aspirations of both the Religious Right and Left. He takes on the church growth strategists’ emphasis on homogeneity. He challenges churches to no longer prop up the materialistic lifestyles of congregations that keep rich and poor, black and white apart.

What I Liked

1. Metzger is prophetic in his call for evangelicals to open their eyes to the race and class divisions in our churches. I like how he pulls from all corners of the church for his critique: from Jonathan Edwards to Martin Luther King, Jr., from John Wesley to John Perkins. Metzger is not interested in promoting another already-in-practice agenda. He looks at the faithful witness of Christians throughout history to challenge the church to move back to its mission.

2. Metzger challenges us …

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Church Bulletin Humor 4

• Miss Charlene Mason sang, “I will not pass this way again,” giving obvious pleasure to the congregation.
• “Ladies, don’t forget the rummage sale. It’s a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Don’t forget your husbands.”
• The sermon this morning: “Jesus Walks on the Water.” The sermon tonight: “Searching for Jesus.”
• Next Thursday there will be tryouts for the choir. They need all the help they can get.
• Barbara remains in the hospital and needs blood donors for more transfusions. She is also having trouble sleeping and requests tapes of Pastor Jack’s sermons.

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Dear Dad and Mom, Thanks for Shooting Mario

Dear Dad and Mom,

I’d like to use this space to publicly thank you for being parents that were willing to take the hard road instead of the easy road.

Thank you limiting my access to computer games and Nintendo when we were growing up.

I realize it would have been much easier for you to let the Nintendo babysit us four kids. But you put our well-being ahead of your own comfort and taught us to read, write, make music, create radio shows, play in the backyard, and make movies. We’re the better for it today.

Thanks for not giving in to our whiny pleas for the newest video games that our neighbors had. Thanks for insisting that we would be better, happier, more well-rounded children by causing us to entertain ourselves instead of sit like zombies in front of Mario and Luigi.

Thanks for not being legalistic about Nintendo. We appreciate the rainy days in which you brought down the Nintendo from the closet top shelf and let us play our hearts out. But thanks even more for putting the Nintendo back up when the sun returned.

Thanks for allowing us to play educational computer games. But thanks also for the thirty-minute timer you set for us each time we played.

Thanks most of all for being involved, for caring about what we were putting into our minds. Thanks for giving us a childhood that some of our friends missed out on – the backyard romps in the clubhouse, the creek Kingdom, all the …

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Joel Osteen’s Negative Message

Everywhere you turn nowadays, there’s Joel Osteen!

He’s on the cable news channels, pontificating about the political process, Mormonism and how “God is the judge of the heart.”

He’s on the bookshelves, smiling from the covers of Your Best Life Now and Become a Better You, promising new life and hope to the downtrodden.

He’s on TV, trumpeting his feel-good gospel of positive reinforcement to a watching world.

Osteen has legions of followers, but he has garnered a large group of critics too. Where is God in his message? What about sin? What about grace? What about Jesus?

Osteen answers his critics in the following way: I focus on the positive. Sin and punishment and all that isn’t my message. I want to help people and don’t want to beat them down all the time.

By answering his critics this way, Osteen has painted his critics as a bunch of denigrating, pulpit-pounding, sin-obsessed pastors. He wants to focus on “the positive.”

But does Osteen do this? I’m afraid not. I’ve listened to Joel Osteen’s messages. I believe he sincerely wants to help people who feel beaten down by life and who feel guilty for their failures and mistakes. The “positive” message he proclaims is this: Do better. Try harder. Believe you can succeed. In other words, you can change! Just do it! God will help you, of course, but you have to make it happen.

Though Osteen claims he has positive sermons, I believe he is proclaiming the most negative, unmerciful message possible. Like telling a clinically depressed person …

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Longing for Judgment

For the next several Mondays, we will be looking at the teachings of Jesus in Matthew 25, specifically the scene of the Last Judgment, when the Son of Man judges all nations. 

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then he will sit on His glorious throne. Before Him will be gathered all the nations, and He will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And He will place the sheep on His right, but the goats on the left.”
- Jesus, to the disciples (Matthew 25:31-33)

Jesus spoke of the coming Day of Judgment by comparing people to sheep and goats. In first-century Palestine, sheep and goats often intermingled during the day. But at night, the animals would have to be separated. Here, the one doing the separating is Jesus Himself, the Son of Man.

As the story unfolds, the nations are brought before the throne of Jesus. But nations do not face God’s judgment together. Jesus proceeds to separate the individual people one from another, putting some on His right and others on His left.

Every human being who has ever lived will stand one day before God. Before His throne, there is no middle ground, no separate section for the “good intentioned” or “sincere.” You are either on one side of Jesus or the other. Jesus sees only sheep and goats, no mutations in between.

Today, many Christians shy …

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Cloud of Witnesses Series

A tour of the grave sites of some famous Baptist forefathers…

Introduction: Southern Seminary

James P. Boyce (1827-88)

John A. Broadus (1827-95)

Basil Manly, Jr. (1825-92)

A.T. Robertson (1863-1934)

E.Y. Mullins (1860-1928)

John Sampey (1863-1946), Ellis Fuller (1891-1950), Roy Honeycutt (1926-2004)

Reflections

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A Follower's Prayer

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
     and the fact that I think I am following your will
     does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you
     does in fact please you.
And I hope I have the desire in all I am doing.
I hope from that desire,
     and I know that if I do this
     you will lead me by the right road
     though I may know nothing about it.

Therefore I will trust you always,
though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

Thomas Merton

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Cloud of Witnesses: Reflections



My recent visit to the graves of famous Southern Seminary presidents and professors helped me put some things in perspective.

1. Our heroes are just people.

The resurgent emphasis on the Puritans in recent years has given young evangelicals the opportunity to connect with the past by reading and researching the lives of the Puritan faithful. And yet, our heroes were not always biblical, not always Christ-honoring, not always heroic. In short, they were fallible. The same is true of Southern’s heroes. The same will be said of us.

2. Death is coming.

It’s hard to visit a cemetery and not walk away with a sense of your own human fragility. What is your life? It is but a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away…

You think of the dignified, well-respected presidents and professors of Southern Seminary and you’re tempted to picture them with an aura over them. But then you visit the cemetery and see the founders buried together – Fuller and Mullins not too far away, Honeycutt and Moody close together, and you realize that though these men’s academic and pastoral careers spanned multiple generations, they are all united under the soft ground of a Louisville cemetery. Death is no respecter of persons. The bodies of our great Baptist heroes share the soil with everyone else in Louisville at the time.

3. Faithfulness Remains.

Though Southern’s presidents and …

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