Wednesday, March 28, 2007

President Thompson?

Here is a link to a good article on the qualifications of Fred Thompson for the Presidency and why the Democrats fear him: http://PatriotPost.US/alexander/edition.asp?id=524
The Hand is not endorsing anyone for President yet. If their are reasons why Thompson should not be the Republican nominee, I have not yet heard them. However, of those Republicans who are already running or might run, Thompson is the only one I might be able to vote for without holding my nose. In time, I might even get enthusiastic about his candidacy. He might be the only one who could unify the party and defeat the Democratic nominee. However, I am reserving judgement until I know more than I already do about Thompson. I think the efforts of prominent Christians to line up Christian support for McCain, Giuliani, or Romney has been a mistake. Why pledge support for someone whose reliability on Conservative issues is in doubt when there might emerge a more acceptable candidate later on? Why let an unacceptable candidate get a lock on funds now when the election is still far away? If there are good reasons why Thompson should not receive the Republican nomination, let me know. The Hand wants to hear from you!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Monday Morning Devotions

Read Ps. 1:1-3
For anyone who places their trust in Jesus Christ, God the Father transforms that man or woman into the image of the Son Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. God does the work, yet He does give us a part to play. We can divide our part into the negative and the positive. We put off sin and habits that cause us to sin. We avoid certain people, places, situations. The negative always comes first. Then the positive is added: new people, good places, we cultivate new habits and thought patterns. As we do, God does the work by His grace. This glorious process is illustrated in Psalm One. Verse one deals with negative actions, the putting off of old associations that cause us to doubt God and His ways. Verse two deals with positive action: meditation upon God's Word to transform our minds. Verse three describes the result: "He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth fruit in its season,whose leaf also shall not whither; and whatever he does shall prosper."(NKJV) The tree does nothing to make itself grow. But it is in the right place for nature to produce not only growth, but in this picture, non-stop growth. We do not change ourselves into Christ's image, but with God's help, we can create conditions where God's grace operates to undertake the transformation process for us.
Recently I found notes on holiness. I don't remember making them. I have no idea if they were made while I was a pastor, or a student at WBS. Whenever they were made, they make a good addition to this post.
What is Personal Holiness?
Loving God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength and loving our neighbor as ourselves. This is "Christ-likeness." This is not an "it" that one comes to the altar to receive when the pastor or evangelist encourages us to come forward to receive "it". I can only be Christ-like if the love of God is in my heart through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit; the love of God and man that comes from God is in my heart. Christ-likeness is Christ in me. In Him we find our purity, power and assurance. Jesus is our Holiness, He loved His Father perfectly.
Love of God equals obedience.
Love God perfectly, then obey Him in all things.
Holiness is perfect love. Of God and man.
Isn't Holiness just a goal? Is it possible for followers of Jesus to be perfect in love? It is a goal, but an attainable goal. We are commanded to be perfect as God is perfect. (Matt 5:48) To demand something impossible for us is not in God's character. He is a good Father; He calls us to be Holy, then He empowers us to be Holy.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Newt: Bill Clinton's Eager Student

For those of you who say that morality is a major concern of yours in chosing the next president, and who believe that Newt Gringrich to be the best choice, I have a question for you? Newt has admitted to being unfaithful in marriage. But it is acknowledged by all that the timing of the announcement was to make such news old news by the time of the next election. By that time, conservative voters will have gotten over their shock and vote for Newt and his conservative agenda. Newt is not the first to follow this strategy. He learned it from one whom Newt has charged with lowering the moral climate in Washington. Who is his teacher? Bill Clinton. How do you feel about Newt adopting Clinton's tactics in dealing with his own sins?

Temptation: 2 Different Responses. A Sermon

Q. What does the Bible's account of Creation say about God?
Read Gen 1: 4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25 (It was good), 1:31 (Indeed it was very good), 2: 15 (Adam in the Garden, given responsibility for it, named animals) 2:18 (Given a helper), 2:17 (God gives only one law).
A. God is good all the time; all the time God is good. (African Proverb)
Gen 3:1- The Serpent appears. Why Satan chose the serpent? More cunning than the other animals God had created.
"Has not God said..." Satan wanted Eve to think of God in a way contrary to all the evidence of Creation. He is trying to get her to think that God was holding out on them as to all the good things in life. "Does God want what is best for you?" he is asking Eve.
Gen 3:4-5. Satans strategy to cause one to sin revealed here:
1. Make us doubt God.
2. To present sin as a positive good: "It isn't really sin." Not only deny the danger of sin, but present it as a positive good. Assert its positive effects.
3. Give a false image of God.
Example: The issue of all forms of pre-marital and extra-marital sex. Satan tries to convince us that God is some kind of cosmic-killjoy who really does not want us to be fullfilled in all areas of life. We convince ourselves we must take action (sin) to bring about this fullfillment, otherwise, we will not experience all that life has to offer.
Gen 3:6. Eve reasons to herself: It is good for food (lean not on your own understanding), it is pleasant to the eyes (it satisfies her sensual appetites) and the tree is desirable to make one wise, to be like God (pride).
IITim. 2:14 states that while Eve was deceived, Adam was not. Then why did Adam eat the fruit? Because his wife wanted him to. You will often find that when you are tempted to sin, the temptation will be in the form of relationships. Eli would not reign in his sons because he honored them above God. We fear that to honor God above all will destroy our relationships. Perhaps it will. If you claim to folllow Christ and have never had one relationship sour or end because of it, you must ask yourself who is more important: the Lord or the relationship. For the words of Jesus on this subject, see Matt. 10: 34-39.
Gen 3:7. The eyes of both Adam and Eve were opened and they were ashamed of their nakedness.
Why did Adam and Eve listen to Satan? They were under no persecution, nor were they fasting forty days like Jesus in the wilderness. They did not have scripture to battle Satan as Jesus did, but God had provided all the evidence they needed to refute Satan's lies about God. They should have known that God had nothing but good in store for them. They should have resisted their pride and remained as they were.
How did Jesus handle Satan differently?
Luke 4:3. "If you are the Son of God..." The temptation was not just only hunger on Jesus's part. Satan was basing his temptation based on Jesus's Sonship. He wanted Jesus to try to prove his identity through mere tricks rather than the Old Testament criteria Jesus gave as proof in Luke4: 18-19. Satan was trying to locate any pride in Jesus so he act upon it as he did with Adam and Eve.
Luke 4:4. Jesus replies to temptation with the Word.
Luke4:5-6. Satan is trying to get Jesus try to do God's will, to make things right, in a way other than the Father's. Again Jesus replies with God's word.
Luke4: 9-12. Satan again tries to tempt Jesus, looking for any pride on Jesus's part, any desire to declare who He is in a way apart from the Father's will. Again, Jesus replies from the Word.
Luke4:13. Satan is through for now, but he has not given up. He will return at a more opportune time, with a much more subtle strategy. When?
Matt 16:13-23. Jesus and his disciples have just had a significant moment of fellowship together as Peter declares Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of the Living God. But then Jesus announces that He must die, and Peter rebukes Him. Jesus reply: "Get behind me Satan!" In the same way that Satan used Eve to cause Adam to sin, here Satan is using Jesus's relationship with Peter to tempt Jesus to forsake the will of the Father. Temptation through a loved one. Jesus chose the Father's will over His love of Peter. Will we love the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit above all other relationships?
The version relied upon was the NKJV.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Friday Night Frozen Dinner and an Intellectual: "The Next Christendom:The Coming of Global Christianity" by Philip Jenkins

This book has been on my radar screen for many a year and so I am glad that blogging has given me an opportunity not only to read it myself, but also to bring it to the attention of those who would be interested in its unique insight.
Professor Jenkin's book is a gaze into the future, a look at what the church at the end of the twentieth century might look like. It is both hopeful and disturbing. On the hopeful side, he profiles the practices and beliefs of the Church in Latin America, Africa, and Asia, and finds a high value placed on Scriptural authority and holy living. As the Church shrinks in Europe and North America, the numbers of Christians are growing in the third world. By 2050, white Europeans will no longer be in the majority in the Church. Not only will most followers of Jesus live outside traditional Christendom, but they will be those who reject western moral decadance. Their loyalty to Scripture will determine their practices. Witness todays isolation of the U.S. Episcopal Church over the isue of homosexuality. By ordaining an openly practicing homosexual as a bishop, the American church thought that it was moving the world-wide Anglican Communion towards its toleration of "alternate lifestyles." The Bishops and their flocks in the third world would have none of it, and today the American Church faces the likely prospect of being removed from the Anglican Communion. Some American Anglicans are already seeking to be put under the authority of Bishops in other countries who adhere to the mandates of Scripture. As the Church's future moves ever southward and to the east, this bodes well for Bride of Christ. It is possible that a strong church in the south may be used of God to bring revival to the West.
However loyal to Jesus the Southern and Eastern Church may be, it will not look like the fundamentalist Churches of America and Eurpope. For one thing, the twenty-first century Church will be more willing to acknowledge and do battle with supernatural forces that the Bible identifies as our true enemy. To people in these regions, the supernatural is an everyday reality, while we in the west equate such beliefs with pagan superstition that has to be done away with. Jenkins identifies this issue as the main distinguisher between western and future Christian belief. Churches that are Pentecostal in practice will have influence over three continents. Some will be independent in their roots, while churches that have their roots in Western Institutions will be prominant as well. How does this strike you? Does it make you fear for the Church's future. I do not. While I am not Pentecostal, I do welcome the Church's battle with the supernatural. Will there be excess? Of course. Yet this appears to be God's doing and I think God knows who is best to spread His message. The Societies of the third world are also patriarchal in nature. Christians from these regions are not likely to sympathize with a western feminist agenda. It looks as if the Church of the future will look to strengthen the family rather that seek policies that break it up. This is ironic indeed, considering that the religious left thought these regions, especially Latin America, ripe for political revolution and the establishment of Marxist governments. To paraphrase a quote from Jenkins: "The left chose the poor, and the poor chose the Pentecostals." Not only does it seem that this is the future of the Church elsewhere, but as Christians from the South and East come to be missionaries in the West and North, they may bring permanent cultural changes with them.
Jenkin's picture is not all optimism. The very regions where Christians are growing are also areas where the influence of Islam is expanding. With the proliferation of modern weponary, this could lead to catastophic wars of religion. Genocide could be practiced on a scale similiar to or greater than the genocide in Rwanda. The control of the world's natural resources could also come into play as Islamic states try to coerce the West into supporting Mulims over Christians. The U.S. support of Israel may be the target of blackmailers demanding we sever our ties to Israel or face a cutoff of oil. It is possible that Europe and the United States, once seen as the home of the Church may align itself against the Church for political reasons.
Jenkins presents compelling evidence for his vision of the Church's future. He gives readers compelling portraits of the Church in Africa and Latin America and Asia. His comparison of the strength between these churches and western ones is a withering indictment of the road the West has traveled. The end-notes provide excellent material for futher study. Of special interest are the end-notes containing websites that let one explore religious trends world-wide as well as those sites maintained by Churches themselves. In future posts, I hope to make use of these websites to give you a small glimpse into the Church of the future. One issue Jenkins barely addresses is how the Third World Church will be affected by Western culture. Will the Eastern and Southern churches be able to resist the worldly influences of a Western cultural invasion? Another issue Jenkins does not address in great detail is the influence of the "Prosperity Gospel." How many inroads will be made by this western heresy into the world-wide Church?
Jenkins has a new book out on how Christians in other countries seek to follow Jesus. This book will appear in "Friday Night Frozen Dinner and an Intellectual", as well as a book by Francis Collins, the head of the Genome Project, on science and religion. In the near future, I'll be keeping company with Marvin Olanski's "The Tragedy of American Compassion." I wish I had posted earlier on Jenkins, but I have been afflicted with a head-cold related to allergies. I believe I am allergic to my current residence.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Amazing Grace: The Movie

I rarely go to see a movie in a theater. Last year was a record for me in this regard. I went to see three movies. However, last night I went to see "Amazing Grace", the true story of Christian William Wilberforce's fight against the British Slave Trade. I was not disappointed. It surpassed all my expectations.
Wilberforce has been a hero of mine for some time. From the 1790's to the 1830's, he dedicated his life to freeing Britain of slavery against great odds when no one else was brave enough to do so. For a member of the House of Commons to champion such a cause would have seemed political suicide to most. Yet he felt a clear call from God to fight this fight. Another fight he waged, not much mentioned in the film, was his efforts to save his countrymen and women from lives of the godless decadence which is just as bad as what we witness today in Europe and America. His fight to end slavery was sucessful. His campaign for Christian living helped transform England in the Ninteenth century.
The film makes it clear that Wilberforce's motivation for all that he did was his faith. He could have been portrayed as a heroic humanist, yet the makers of this film chose to be honest in their portrayal of why he fought against the slave trade. That Wilberforce struggled with whether to leave the public eye for a life of Christian meditation, and that his political ally William Pitt convinced him he was needed in the public arena, is handled convincingly. Also well done is the contrast between Wilberforce's faith and his friend Pitt's lack of belief. The relationship between the two is brought out well by the actors. The film makes it clear that most of Wilberforce's fellow abolitionists were Christians, thereby giving a good indication to the audience how the movement was rooted in the Gospel. While not treated in a substansive manner as was Wilberforce's hatred of slavery, Wilberforce's hatred of the profligacy that was threatening to distroy all of society was brought out.
Upon reflection, I think the portrayal of Wilberforce is one of the best representations of a Christian I have ever seen. His early struggles to live as a Christian in a sinful world are well handled. His love of people, including his enemies, is realistically presented. He is neither censorous, nor monkish, nor prudish. He is a man whose behavior revealed a serious renunciation of all things that offended God mixed with a natural good humor that made his personality attractive to those who met him and knew him. It is interesting that his early Christian walk is marked by a renewed curiousity about the world God created. His love for man and animals is presented well.
The actors are all first rate and the screen play is well written. Some historical facts may be stretched. My only disappointment was that the relationship between John Wesley and Wilberforce and the anti-slavery movement was not mentioned. Without Wesley, there might not have been an anti-slavery movement. I do not know how well "Amazing Grace" is doing at the boxoffice. If you have a chance to see it at the theater, I would take the opportunity. If you miss it, buy the DVD. It is acceptable for all ages.