Monday, June 30, 2008


New Gospel Presentation: Four Circles

Christianity Today is featuring the story of James Choung, an MIT grad that works with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, who has come up with a different way to share the Gospel. Now, don't throw it out just because it's new. The Four Spiritual Laws were new once, you know? I don't get the impression that Choung is trying to change the Gospel, just the way the message is presented.

As I'm drawing the four circles, I'll tell a story like this: The world, our relationships, and each of us were designed for good, but all of it was damaged by evil because of our self-centeredness and inclination to seek our own good above others'. But God loved the world too much to leave it that way, so he came as Jesus. He took everything evil with him to death on the cross, and through his resurrection, all of it was restored for better. In the end of time, all will be fully restored, but until then, the followers of Jesus are sent together to heal people, relationships, and the systems of the world.
Choung's presentation, called "The Big Story," is designed to tell the Gospel story to Generation Y, a group that IMHO, Christianity has had a very difficult time understanding, let alone reaching (the business industry appears to be having the same problems)... but that is a different issue.

The main focus of the presentation is fixing the world. Choung says: "The overriding spiritual question today is: What is good? What will really help the planet be a better place? And our faith better have an answer for it to be relevant today." Choung's response to the world's problems is the Kingdom of God. This theme is the focus of the presentation, turning away from traditional methods seeking a decision, and seeking "transformation," as Choung calls it.

When watching the video of the presentation (see below), I was instantly concerned with the lack of Scriptural support and the familiar twinge of "felt needs" evangelism, seeking to bend the Gospel to fix whatever needs a person has (for instance, presenting the Gospel to the alcoholic as a way to break addiction); it seems man-centered, but in a new way.
'No, you can't do this without Jesus. We need Jesus to help us become the kind of good we want to see in the world. Only he can fully help us put to death our self-centered ways so that we can truly live. So if you really want to be a part of healing the world in a way that lasts, you have to go through Jesus.'
It is although Choung is saying, "You don't like the world, then change it! But you need to have Jesus before you can do it," as though Jesus is merely a means to an end. This looks like a sad Gospel presentation indeed.

However, I don't think that is Choung's intent. Choung seems to be searching for a way to explain Christianity, and even to raise questions in the mind of the lost, but, as stated before, without seeking a "decision" for Christ. This may not be a true Gospel presentation, but rather, a simple an overview of Christ's mission. There's nothing about praying a prayer, and there isn't much information about how to "receive" Christ. This is just a starting point for a conversation about the Gospel. In the article, he mentions that "Icons and stained glass windows helped preliterate Christians understand biblical stories and themes." This alludes to the purpose behind his Four Circles.

If I am understanding Choung's purpose, then this would be a great conversation-starter. I think that it would appeal to Millenials. It has a positive, inviting tenor, all while maintaining that Jesus is the only way to God-- a very difficult thing to pull off in our relativistic culture. Additionally, this presentation seems well-suited for explaining Christ's mission to a person totally unfamiliar with Christianity, as is the case as America moves further into its Post-Christian days.

I commend Choung for his effort to put the Gospel into the language of a new generation. This something that desperately needs to be done. Reading his interview and his blog, his desire to share the story of Christ is both fervent and admirable. However, he needs to be more explicit about the use of this diagram. Is it a converstion starter, or is it intended to be a Gospel presentation? If used inappropriately, this could lead to another generation misled about the purpose of God in this world.

What are your thoughts? Check out the article and this video, and let me know what you think:

You may also want to watch Part 2.

Friday, June 27, 2008


High IQ Equals Atheism?

In a forthcoming paper for the journal Intelligence, Richard Lynn, emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Ulster, will argue that there is a strong correlation between high IQ and lack of religious belief and that average intelligence predicts atheism rates across 137 countries.

The paper...cites studies including a 1990s survey that found that only 7 per cent of members of the American National Academy of Sciences believed in God. A survey of fellows of the Royal Society found that only 3.3 per cent believed in God at a time when a poll reported that 68.5 per cent of the general UK population were believers.

Professor Lynn told Times Higher Education: "Why should fewer academics believe in God than the general population? I believe it is simply a matter of the IQ. Academics have higher IQs than the general population. Several Gallup poll studies of the general population have shown that those with higher IQs tend not to believe in God."Times Higher Education

This may seem threatening enough, but do you see the flaws in Lynn's argument already?

Andy Wells, senior lecturer in psychology at the London School of Economics, said the existence of a correlation between IQ and religiosity did not mean there was a causal relationship between the two.

So, what is a "casual relationship"? It means that just because both numbers seem to match, there is nothing that proves that higher intelligence causes lack of faith. Here is a diagram that illustrates another seeming correlation but no causal relationship (click for larger):

This is disappointing scholarship. I'm shocked that a person could get any press or even an audience to present this kind of work. I don't think I could get away with it in my current Master's program. Lynn is jumping to conclusions based on simple data without any investigation as to the cause of these trends.

Of course, this totally ignores the poor logic that Lynn uses, see the third quoted paragraph above. He equates an "academic" with "higher intelligence."

At this point, Lynn's conclusions are simple conjecture. He would need to do some significant studies to find some correlation between "higher IQ" and agnosticism/atheism.


Friday Video: Evangelism Linebacker

This is a little old, but I still laugh so hard I cry when I watch it.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Colson: Greenhouse Pigs Must Die

Chuck Colson has a great article about the results of the "misanthropic [use that word sometime this week!] worldview of the environmental movement."

He writes about an online game for kids that shows them how much their lifestyle impacts the environment. However, it shows how long you should have lived according to the rate at which you consume environmental resources. If you exceed the amount allowed, it shows you the age that "you should die at."

Is it worth killing humans if it means saving the planet? If you follow a naturalistic worldview to its logical conclusion, yes. And this game subtly shows us this.

Colson's article is quick and to-the-point. It only takes a few seconds to read, then you should check out that crazy game


Using the Bible to Prove God is not [always] Circular Reasoning

Let me begin by saying that more often than not, the Bible is used in a circular argument. But what is circular reasoning? It is a logical fallacy in which the original premise is assumed true, and it therefore provides no evidence for its conclusion. Thus: "X is true. The evidence for this claim is that X is true."* Sometimes this can be called “begging the question.”

Common boneheaded example:
Q1: Is there a God?
A1: Yes.
Q2: How do you know?
A2: Because the Bible says so.
Q3: How do you know the Bible is correct?
A3: Because it was inspired by God.
From “How Thinking Goes Wrong”

I hope that this argument seems silly to you. Can you see how the next logical question is to start over again with “Is there a God?” This could go on forever. Yet, I hear this kind of argument all the time. So do many non-Christians, specifically atheists and agnostics. And people have seen this so many times that if you even begin a conversation about the existence of God with the reason that the Bible says so, instantly the other person in your conversation will plug his ears and begin screaming, “Circular Reasoning! Circular Reasoning!”

The trouble with this (besides making a person burst out screaming in a public place) is twofold: 1.) The person screaming is using a term from logic, and that makes them look smarter than you, whether they are or not, and 2.) The circle in the circular reasoning hasn’t quite been completed yet. They may think you are begging the question, when in fact, they are jumping to conclusions.

Here’s what I mean: They haven’t asked Question 3 yet (How do you know the Bible is correct?), and you haven't had a chance to respond. This is where things get interesting, and this is where we Christians need to understand what we believe. (By the way, if you don’t know why the Bible is reliable, can you really say that you trust the Bible?) For, if your response to Question 3 is nothing more than Answer 3, you have nothing to offer neither yourself nor the person to whom you speak.

I’ve been working my way through Voddie Baucham’s The Ever-Loving Truth, a book about engaging post-Christian culture. Additionally, I’ve found some of his stuff on YouTube, and I like his approach. Here’s what he says about the Bible:
[The Bible is…] a reliable collection of historical documents written down by eyewitnesses during the lifetime of other eyewitnesses that report supernatural events which took place in fulfillment of specific prophecies and claim to be divine, rather than human in origin.

I like that he points out the Bible is made up of “historical documents.” It is not merely a silly “spiritual” book. It includes accounts of actual events, documented by lots of people (not just one person).

My argument here is that if one can prove that the Bible is a reliable source of historical fact, then one has a good start on proving that the Bible is a reliable source of information on the existence of God.

Now, one common counter to this kind of claim is that there is no “scientific proof” that the Bible is true. Let me just let Baucham speak for himself on this one.

Seriously, go check out that link. The original poster disabled embedding, so I can't post it here. Just be sure to come back.

Here’s the main point: the Scientific Method cannot prove anything unless it is observable, measurable, and repeatable (this is part of the problem I have with all of the certainty about evolution, but that’s another post for another day). The past is “proven” through the Evidentiary Method which requires internal consistency, corroboration, and reliability. Baucham’s argument is that the Bible meets these three requirements far better than any other historical documents from that time period.

I would like to add that this is not a new, groundbreaking argument. It is very similar to things I have seen from Josh McDowell and Hank Hanegraaf. But the reason why it is used often is because it makes the point very well. Baucham simply clarifies the difference between the Scientific and Evidentiary Methods.

Conclusion: The Bible can be used to support the argument of the existence of God, but its reliability must be proven first, and that cannot be done by the scientific method, but rather by evidentiary means (which are just as “rational”). Furthermore, the Bible stands up to this test quite solidly.

Here’s the playlist of his entire message, just in case you’d like to hear the whole thing.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Ministry Idea - Cardboard Testimonies

Hillside Christian Church in Amarillo has posted a video on GodTube with a powerful way to share testimonies in your worship service. I like this because of its simplicity. The message of each person's life is shown in a quick, vivid way. Have you ever tried anything like this?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


How To be Ineffective in Ministry

If there's one thing I know, it's how not to do something. Now, I've been in ministry for around 10 years now, and one thing I've learned is that I'm no expert, but I have come up with a few tried-and-true methods on how not to be effective in ministry.

Here's the List:

6. Base Your Ministry on Programs
Programs are the framework around which we structure ministry. And, to paraphrase A. W. Tozer, without the working of the Holy Spirit programs can be a great way to prop up a spiritually dead ministry. In fact, if you find a meeting format that really works, you can turn it into an automated ministry machine, simply change the scripture reading each week.

Another thing you can try is to change your programs with every new ministry fad. Surely if it worked in Southern California, it will work in your [Midwestern/Northeastern/Southern] congregation. And, if that doesn't work for you, try something else- quick. I'm sure you can find a large selection of books on this topic at your local (or online) Christian Book store.

5. Stop Growing
I've found that one of the best ways to be effective is to share what you are learning and going through with your congregation. Ergo, if one stops growing they can certainly suck the life out of their ministry with little or no effort.

This is a great method for the person who has already figured out the answer to life, the universe, and everything. Be a know-it-all. Don't read books. Refuse to accept challenges to your theology or methods. In fact, you may even want to avoid other ministers from whom you can learn.

4. Stop Caring About People
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting that you should be mean to people. That would be way too overt. Just stop caring about them. Avoid conversation. Don't pray for your people. Be sure that you only handle crises that occur during business hours. Even better, stay hidden in your office all week long- don't even go out in public where you may accidentally have a soul-bearing conversation with another person.

3. Fail In Your Personal Life
Nothing can invalidate years of ministry faster than personal failure. I have several friends that turned away from Jesus because our ex-youth minister literally left his wife and kids for a church organist. How's that for ineffectiveness?

Burn out by doing it all yourself. Never delegate. Sexual failure is easy if you have unhealthy relationships with the opposite sex. Ruin your home life by neglecting your family and working too many hours. Get caught with your hand in the cookie jar; steal money from the church. Of course, the easiest way to wander into these traps is to avoid accountability.

2. Forget What is Really Important.
This works for both workaholics and lazy ministers. Find something else to do. For the busybody, find something else "good" to do, like have a Christian Blog (wait a minute...), or take on someone else's ministry responsibilities. Start a new project. Make lots of phone calls. John Piper calls these things "sacred substitutes."

For the ministers who need help with GTD, play on the internet all day. Get a Facebook or MySpace account. Try or YouTube. Find a hobby and work on it during your office hours. Read the paper. The most important thing you can do is to lose sight of the most important thing you can do.

1. Stay Away From Jesus
Far and away, this is the best way to not be effective in ministry. If you neglect daily prayer and Bible study, you most assuredly fail in every spiritual endeavor that you pursue. Why? Well, because our relationship with Jesus is what it is all about, right? It is the source of all direction and passion in our ministry. If you cut that out, what is left, besides a lifetime of work without heart or purpose. Is there any better way to define "ineffective"?

While I'm sure that this is no exhaustive list, I think that there is a lot that I have learned through making (most of) these mistakes. I hope that you can see through the dripping sarcasm and find some truths you can use.

How does your ministry measure up? Are you already following any of these methods? What have I forgotten to mention?

Monday, June 23, 2008


Intriguing New Tool - Wordle

This is the entire text of 1 John entered into Wordle, a tool that generates word clouds based on the number of occurrences of each word in a block of text. [Click for larger image ]

This could possibly give some interesting results by visually displaying the importance of words based upon the author's frequency of use. As you can see (if you click on the pic above), besides the word "God," John uses the word "know" even more frequently than "love" in his first epistle. This visually (and therefore, quickly) underlines the purpose of John's letter: "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life." John was combating the lies of the false teachers by giving assurance and knowledge.

I need to check if Wordle works with the ancient Greek text. Give it a shot with the text you are working on and let me know what you find.


Calvinism: So Easy a Caveman can do it


Plush Plagues

Keep this in mind for Passover season next year:

Keeps the kids entertained during Passover. This plush yellow plagues bag contains representations for all of the plagues...The frog, lice, cow and locust wriggle and roll their eyes, quiver, buzz and move when you pull their string.[]

Saturday, June 21, 2008


Christianity and Stephen Colbert

Watch these two videos and notice how aggressive the host and crowd are during Tony Perkins' interview on Homosexuality versus NT Wright's book about Heaven. What does this say about the concerns/priorities/questions that our society has?

Friday, June 20, 2008


For Ben

I stumbled upon this pic today, and I just had to share.

Dispensationalism Heresy Sticker


Friday Video: 'Pissing' Against the Wall

I came across this a few weeks ago, and I just thought I share this insightful sermon...

You know, I've checked out Steven Anderson's website and a few of his videos on YouTube, and I have to admit that although I disagree with this man's overall theology and praxis on so many levels (it is at some points ridiculous), I think like him. Granted, there are some ways that the man couldn't be more wrong, but Anderson is definitely dedicated to preaching the Gospel. In fact, I don't think that he would like neither me nor my theology at all, but I would be proud to call him my brother in Christ. He's definitely a King James-Only Independent Fundamentalist, but he is working hard at his role as an Evangelist and Preacher.

We need to be sure that we don't forget what is the most important in life and ministry. I'm reminded of Augustine's exhortation: "In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, charity."

I guess the hard part is differentiating between the "essentials" and the "non-essentials." Where's the line?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Religion or Relationship?

If Christianity is really not about Religion, but about a Relationship, then Then why do we invite people to church and not to Jesus?

That's all for now, thanks.


Tim Schmoyer on Sin

"Dear Wormwood,
...On the outside he appears to many people to be the perfect guy, someone people of all ages admire, respect, and trust. However, sometimes his own hypocrisy defeats him on the inside as he struggles with God working effectively through his gifts but seemingly inactive with the areas in which he desperately needs God’s transformation..."
[Tim Schmoyer]

Tim's got some good thoughts on sin, guilt and distraction à la The Screwtape Letters.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


How to Share Your Faith Using the Incredible Hulk

"Whether you're an action/sci-fi movie fan or not, if you find yourself in the midst of conversation about The Incredible Hulk, try using the conversation to talk about stress - how you deal with it and how your personal relationship with Jesus impacts you when stressful times smash into your world and threaten to turn you into your own raging version of The Hulk."
[Christian Post]

Now, don't get me wrong, but I don't remember any place in the Bible that talks about Jesus dying for our stress. Sure, He's the Prince of Peace, but it doesn't seem to me that Paul, for instance, had a low-stress life. Remember all that stuff about being beaten and stoned and shipwrecked and hungry and cold and naked? Should we include that in our Gospel presentation?

Is this sort of Evangelism misleading?


How To Organize a Rummage Sale

I've decided that I'm going to start a regular column of How-to posts, and I thought if I posted them every Tuesday, I could call it "How-Tuesdays" but I don't know if that term would be very Search Engine Friendly, so I'll just keep that term in the tags and not the title of the post.

First up is something still fresh on my mind, the church-wide Rummage Sale. We held one this weekend, and it was incredible! This type of event can be a great way for your church to raise funds for building projects, church ministries, or mission trips.

I take my list from my days in the Army (if that isn't already apparent):

Steps for a Successful Sale:
Step 1: Planning. Don't fall victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous is never get involved in a land war in Asia, but only slightly less well-known is this: Poorly-planned Rummage Sales can turn into a disaster... fast.

It goes without saying, yet it must be said that you must pray about this before you start. Everything we do as the Body of Christ must be done under His leadership. Before you consider any part of your promotions or sales policies or even what brand of Hot Dogs to buy, ask yourself, "Is this the sort of thing for which Jesus died?" Don't turn your church into a circus for Jesus.

Be sure you know what you are getting into. A good Rummage Sale (hereafter known as "the Sale") takes many people working many hours with the potential to raise minimal funds. The amount of funds you are able to raise will vary directly in proportion to the amount of effort you spend during the planning phase working out details and finding problems before they happen.

Consider the following questions:
  • Will our Church members support this kind of fundraising?
  • Where will the sale take place?
  • How will we represent Christ through this event?
  • Will you have information about your Church available to visitors?
  • Who will be in charge of _______?
  • Will we have concessions?
  • What will be our policy on check writing, returns, etc?
  • What will we do with the leftovers after the sale?

Be vary careful as you choose a date. Make sure you aren't competing with the town fair in the next community down the road. Saturdays seem to work best, but don't pick the first Saturday of summer vacation, because everyone else will.

Don't forget, of course, that this will certainly bring people to you who wouldn't otherwise step inside of a church. The only thing stronger than most people's aversion to Christians is their attraction to a potential deal. This, as is anything we do in- or outside of the Church building, can be a chance to reach out with the Gospel. Be prepared.

Step 2: Preparation. The largest part of this step involves gathering donations for the sale. The easiest way to do this is simply to announce it to the church. Use handouts explaining what kinds of donations you need, when/where the sale will take place, and when/where to take the donations (You figured that out during the Planning phase, right?). Will you offer to pick up donations? If so, who will be in charge of that?

You must advertise. This is one of the single most important factors in the success of your sale. The most important place to advertise is in the want ads of your local paper. This is cheap, and people looking for sales look there first. You may also want to take out ads in nearby communities as well. TV and Radio stations often have free Community Calendars that will give you some free advertising.

There is a plethora of free places to advertise on the internet. Use them. Craigslist is a great place to start, but do some research on Google for other places to put your ads.

This is also when you gather supplies. You're probably going to need bunch of stuff to pull this off. Here's a list of some things you will most likely need:
  • Cash Register
  • Dolly or Handtruck
  • Clothing Racks
  • Millions of Hangers
  • Lots of tables
  • Sacks
  • Tons of masking tape and markers
  • Trash Bags
  • Food for Concessions
  • Lots of friends with Pickup Trucks
Don't forget any city/county/state permits you may need (e.g., Garage Sale, Food Service, etc.). Don't try to slip past this one. Christians need to lead the way in integrity in our communities. Besides, can you imagine the headline if you get caught? "Local Church Found Operating Illegal Garage Sale"

Allow lots of time to sort and price your donations. Make sure the cutoff for accepting donations allows for time to get the donations ready for the sale. We spent 4-5 hours on 5 straight nights preparing the sale. To give you some size comparison, our church size is around 150 people at Sunday Morning worship, so be sure to allow more/less time as needed based on the size of your sale. Don't underestimate.

Step 3: Execution. The day of the sale, make sure you are ready to open early, as there will most certainly be antique dealers, eBay enthusiasts and others who will be ready to burst through your doors as though their livelihoods depend upon it (because it does). We opened a half our early because we were ready.

Make sure your sale is clean and organized. It may be called a "Rummage Sale," but if you just have piles of stuff, people will assume it is all trash. If your items are valuable enough for you to fold and display them neatly, then they will be valuable to your customers. We tried to sort things by department, like a retail store.

One of the most significant lessons we learned this weekend was that you need people out on the street to attract people to your sale. You don't have to have clowns and a ferris wheel, but a few students with signs or someone grilling and selling hamburgers can draw attention to your event. This can be a lot of fun, and helping out on the grill can be a good way to get a snack and some fresh air if you need a break during the day.

Step 4: Exit Strategy. After the main event, be prepared to clean up the mess. If you hold the sale at your church, and if it is on a Saturday, how will you re-set the church for Sunday Services?

The best way to start cleaning up is to have less stuff to clean up. This means getting rid of your sale items before the sale is actually over. This, I've found, is best accomplished by having a 50% off sale during the last few hours of your sale. If you have signs/people outside the building, make sure this is prominent. Don't advertise this in advance. For instance, don't state in your ad in the paper "Everything 50% off after 3 PM." People may wait too long to come to the sale.

Make sure you have a place to store your leftovers that won't interfere with your regular church services. We utilized some unused class space for this.

Besides having a bonfire in the parking lot, how will you get rid of all the leftover stuff? Give it away! Who can used your unused stuff?
  • Charities
  • Thrift Stores
  • Groups preparing for Mission Trips
  • Shelters
You may even be able to find some groups who will pick up your stuff for free! Try to arrange this in advance so that you can get rid of the leftovers as soon as possible.

One final tip: Be sure to sort the leftover goods. Put clothes into trash bags and label them with masking tape. Mark boxes. Organize them as you store them. Put clothes in one area and old LPs in another. This will help if one or more of your charities are only taking one kind of item. For instance, we helped a mission team that only needed shoes, and they were easy to find because we labeled the boxes clearly in our storage area.

Our sale was a great success. We managed to raise more than three times what I had originally anticipated, plus we had a great time getting to know people from our church. I hope that yours will be just as great!

Care to share your experience/advice? Let me hear it in the comments!

Monday, June 16, 2008


1 John 2:1-2 - Sinless Perfection is Required?

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.[1 John 2:1-2]

I tend to question everything I hear come out of a preacher's mouth. I believe that when a person makes a claim, especially when they claim that they are speaking for God, I want to have some verification, something to substantiate that claim.

There are so many times when the Bible calls for a Christian to live a Holy life-- one that does not sin, one that obeys Christ commands. In fact, we will see that John (the one called a "Son of Thunder" by Jesus because of his bold speech) says this very thing several times in this letter (1 John 2:3, 29: 3:6, 9-10, 24; 5:4, 18).

Preachers always tell us that, of course, John isn't talking about total sinless perfection, but I've never heard anything to substantiate that claim. I've never been given a serious explanation. They tell us that John means that a Believer's life will not be characterized by sin. Sure, it just makes sense that God doesn't expect Christians to be flawless, it's just not possible. But I've seen too many other examples in which human logic (or even what seems "fair" or "just" to us) fails to match God's expectations (as a basic example: "Surely a loving God wouldn't send people to Hell").

So, I've always had this annoyance in my mind, somewhat like buying a puzzle and finding that one piece in the background is missing-- a piece that isn't critical to make out the subject of the puzzle, like missing an eye on that fluffy puppy dog. But even missing part of the background would make me want to take the puzzle back. How do we know for sure (e.g. from Scripture) that the Bible doesn't call for sinless perfection from Believers? Where is this one piece, the solid evidence for the argument that we must live Holy -but not flawless- lives?

Right here in 1 John 2:1.

We see in this verse that even though John makes some very black-and-white statements about following Christ's commands, he does leave room for grace. He says, "I don't want you to sin, but if you do..." This is how we know that Scripture does not call for sinless perfection among believers.

But how does all of this mesh with John's requirements for flawless obedience? Let's take a look at 1 John 3:6-10.
No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.[1 John 3:6-10]

There are two very interesting observations that we can pull out of the Greek in this passage. The first is that John doesn't always use the verb "to sin" to put the action in his sentences. Several times he uses the verb poiew, which means "to do" in its simplest form. This makes his statements read something like "to do sin." The action is in the doing, or practicing of sin.

The second observation is that when he does use the verb "to sin" it is in the Active voice, which, in the Greek, means to do something in an ongoing or recurring fashion. In fact, Greek students would render an Active verb as "sinning" instead of merely "to sin."

The point: John's words clearly tell us that it is the regular practice of sin that shows that one "has not been born of God."

In contrast, John speaks of abiding in Christ (3:6), and that God's seed remains in [those born of God] (3:9). These two words (abide and remain) are from the same Greek word, meaning "to live" or "to dwell" (see John 15). So, while an Unbeliever lives a life in sin, the Believer lives a life in Christ, a life under the covering of His sacrifice (1 John 2:2)

In conclusion, John makes it very clear that a true Believer will life a Holy life, but it is not assumed that he/she will be absolutely sinless. This is true for two reasons:
1. He makes an allowance for forgiveness as found in 1 John 2:1; and
2. Even in John's calls to Holiness, he says that believers will not live a life of sin, but rather a life in Christ.

The final question we must answer, then is: "How do I know if I am simply sinning or living a real lifestyle of sin?" What do you think?

Friday, June 13, 2008


Friday Video - New Counseling Technique

If only it were this easy...


1 John 1:5-10 - Part 2 - The Modern Deception

We ended the last study with the statement that John's audience was confused about what it meant to have Fellowship with the Son of God. My point here will be that John's words are relevant today, as people still are mislead about what it means to be saved.

If you are a Christian, if you are saved, how do you know it?
Take the time to answer that question. Your response will be important in a moment.

Now, let me ask you this: Does Baptism save someone (this is called "Baptismal Regeneration")?*

For a Baptist, the answer is an easy "No." Why is this such an easy response? Because this battle was fought during the 19th century for us. But how does this relate to our conversation?

The idea 150 years ago was that at Baptism a person "received Jesus Christ." This sounds ridiculous to a modern Baptist, but today we still follow a strikingly similar practice.

The modern theological fad is "Decisional Regeneration." We never think of it as such, but essentially, most of us believe that when we "make a decision for Christ" He saves us. But this is not Biblical at all. Did Jesus ever ask someone to pray a prayer? What about Peter or Paul?

Most of us don't know it, but the invitation at the end of a sermon is a practice that is only around 200 years old. The Altar Call has its roots in Revivalism, and was made popular by, among others, Charles Finney, an (in)famous lawyer-turned Evangelist. Now, I'm not going to take the time to bash Finney. I'm just noting that the Invitation is a relatively new development in Christianity (and I'm also inviting you to question why you do what you do every week in church).

The point here is that a Decision doesn't save a person any more that Baptism does. So, if the Decision, and likewise, Baptism aren't the mark of a true Christian, what is? This is exactly what John tells us in this First Epistle.

    A Believer is someone who...
  • Admits they are sinful (1 John 1:6-10)
  • Keeps Christ's commandments (2:3-5)
  • Loves his brother (2:9-11)
  • Does not love the World (2:15-17)
  • Confesses the Son (2:23)
  • Abides in Him (2:28)
  • Practices Righeousness (2:29)

...And this is only a cursory reading of the first two chapters. This book is filled with the description of a genuine Believer. Did you catch the main point? It is all about action. These things are all about how one lives his/her life.

If you told most modern pastors that you weren't sure if you were saved, they'd probably ask you if you ever prayed to receive Jesus. I don't think that would be John's response. He'd ask you to check your life. Are you fighting sin in your life? Are you loving those around you with action (see 3:18)? Finally, do you have His Spirit (4:13)?

Take some time to question your salvation. It's okay. In fact, it's encouraged by both Paul and Peter:
Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?[2 Corinthians 13:5] out your own salvation with fear and trembling...[Philippians 2:12]

Therefore, my brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure... [2 Peter 1:10]

In fact, ask your congregation to test their salvation. John Piper, speaking to pastors, said this:
Catch on to the affectional nature of Christianity, conversion. It is not merely a decision to believe a fact. It is a heart treasuring Christ and His glory more than football, sex, money, power, play, toys. You gotta make this an issue Sunday after Sunday so that they feel scared that they're not saved.

You know, I think some pastors are so afraid that somebody might walk up at the end of the service and say, "you really jostled my assurance this morning." If we don't jostle people's assurance when they're not saved, we send them to hell.[Watch the Video]

There is a great article about the connection between Baptistmal and Decisional Regeneration Here.

Tim Challies has an old article on this topic as well.

This article was the one I read many years ago that first opened my eyes to the problem of how we use the Invitation. If you only follow one link on this post, click this one.

NOTE: I'm a Baptist, and to keep things simple I'll assume that I'm writing to Baptists. We believe that Baptism is not essential to salvation, but rather, it is a public display of one's faith in Christ. If you disagree, that's okay with me (for right now). I don't want to turn this into a debate about a side issue. My point here is not to argue Baptismal Regeneration. Cool your jets and stay with my main point: How do we know we are saved?

Thursday, June 12, 2008


Dealing with Sexual Failure

Verwer’s burden in that conference was the tragic number of young people (like many of you) who at one point in their lives dreamed of radical obedience to Jesus and were joyfully willing to lay down their lives and sacrifice anything to make Jesus known among the nations, but then faded away into useless, American prosperity because of a gnawing sense of unworthiness and guilt over sexual failure that gradually gave way to spiritual powerlessness and the dead-end dream of the middle class security and comfort.

In other words, what seemed so tragic to George Verwer—as it does to me—is that so many young people were being lost in the cause of Christ’s mission because they were not taught how to deal with the guilt of sexual failure. [John Piper]

For the amount of effort John Piper has put into fighting for Christian Hedonism, it is surprising that the most popular resource on his website right now is a message from Passion07 entitled "How to Deal with the Guilt of Sexual Failure for the Glory of Christ and His Global Cause." As you can see from the quote above, his focus is on restoring those whose lives and potential ministries have been destroyed by guilt over sexual sin.

Is this something you're familiar with?

Although I may have been able to guess the gist of his message theologically, Piper's wisdom and insight to even address this issue is fathoms beyond me. While so many of us are focusing on teaching purity and resisting sin (excellent things!), Piper knows the heart of those called to ministry and shines a bright light onto the hidden weight that hinders of so many young ministers.

Piper sets the foundation of his encouragement upon our forgiveness that was secured by Christ's death on the cross. He then pauses to address what some may see as a license to sin (Romans 6:1-2). Perhaps the most illuminating statement I found in this message is Piper's remarks on true, saving faith:
The mark of faith is not that I never sin sexually. The mark of faith is that I fight. I fight anything that dims my sight of Jesus as my glorious Savior. I fight anything that diminishes the fullness of the lordship of Jesus in my life. I fight anything that threatens to replace Jesus as the supreme Treasure of my life.[emphasis added]

Have you ever fought sin (in whatever form it may be) for so long that you wondered if you really were a Believer? Piper's words here are the most wonderful encouragement for my soul. He would argue that the simple fact that one is fighting sin shows that one has faith in Christ.

I hate to admit it publicly, but I needed to hear that.

The rest of the article is a great read. Be sure to check it out.

Do you struggle with guilt? How do you handle sin in your life?

About the Author

I'm John Regan, author of Louder Than Jesus Fish. I'm writing this blog for two reasons: 1.) To encourage and challenge ministers in their personal and 'professional' lives; and, 2.) To discipline myself to carefully interpret, exposit and apply Scripture.

The Christian life is about knowing God, not knowing godliness, or even knowing about God. In a postmodern American Christianity where people carelessly espouse Jesus with their words, yet live even more careless lives, I want to inspire a simple solid relationship with Jesus. I want to get back to the basics of Christianity. I've seen too many ministers that are caught up in sin or distractions (even good ministry-related distractions!) and have forgotten what life is all about. My hope is that my writings will offer Bible Study with some real substance for those in the trenches of spiritual warfare, as well as thought-provoking discussion to motivate and encourage fervent action over mere cognitive validation of the truths of Scripture.

I'm pretty much a regular guy. I'm a husband, father of three awesome kids, Army veteran, "Minister of Students and Worship," and seminary student.
My Wife and I


Every Porno Has Somebody's Daughter In It

'Nuff Said. Live Offensively.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


You've Been Left Behind
Apparently people can find a way to cash in on anything Christian, even the Second Coming. Simply put, this website will send an email to all of your friends should the rapture occur. You can contact up to 62 email addresses, write a personalized message, and even leave documents for your un-raptured friends... all for the low cost of $40/year.

So, what happens if you are a Postmillenialist? Wouldn't it be too late for them then?

HT: Purgatorio


1 John 1:5-10 - Deception

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.[1 John 1:5-10]

So the primary reason for the gap in “Daily” posts is that I have been at our Association’s Youth Camp for the last week. The secondary reason, however, is that I’ve been wrestling with the present passage. You see, I’ve come to the conclusion that if the Bible is truly the Word of God, then each sentence, phrase, and word must have significance, and I’ve set out to dig it up. For this reason, my “Daily” posts may be less than daily as I seek to uncover the Truth which may be buried in the text.

Case in point: These six verses are very common to someone who has been a believer for any length of time. In fact, they seem very simple on the surface. But something told me that there must be more to them than simple exhortations to “live by the truth.” There must be real significance in their meaning. The question I asked this passage (and should be the question we ask all texts) was, “Why did John write this?”

To begin, verse 5 is typical John. He loves analogy and uses Light and Darkness often in his writings (e.g. John 1:4,5). The following verses (6-10) are linked. There is some sort of pattern to them. They each begin with “If we say…” and they seem to say the same thing--that we shouldn’t claim to be sinless. But is that all? They all speak of light and truth and forgiveness/purification. There is something connecting these exhortations, these warnings. What was John getting at?

To further analyze it, I broke the passage into three parts:
#1.) vv.6,7- If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

#2.) 8,9- If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

#3.) 10- If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

After I wrote out each statement individually, I marked the ideas that were repeated. I found that the metaphors were all intertwined. For instance, in #1 “fellowship” is repeated within itself, and there is a link to #2 through a “redemption clause” (as I call it), both tell us that there is a way out of our sin. (“But if we walk in the light...” and "If we confess our sins...")

There are several connecting points between the three verses, For instance, they all talk about claims we may make, but they do not all discuss the exact same claim. #1 speaks of Fellowship, while #2 speaks of having (literally, holding) no sin, and #3 speaks of not committing the act of sin.

To break down this passage even further, I diagrammed each sentence. I’ll spare you the crumpled notebook paper full of scribbles and lines, but I will tell you that finding the central verb in each part, the center of the action, helped me sort all of this out.

In #1, the central thought is the word pseudometha, a verb that means, “we are lying”. #2 is different. Split between two words it is “we lead astray / ourselves.” Finally, #3 says “we are making / him / a liar”.

Do you see the connection in the action here? I didn’t at first, but then it hit me. After 4 days of tossing this around in my mind I found only one common link: Deception. This is the key to this passage and, as I quickly noted, the theme of this entire book.

As noted previously, John started this letter with great effort to establish his credentials as a reliable witness to Jesus’ life. Also, he is combating false teachings (most likely Gnosticism), as noted in 4:1,6. If you connect this introduction with the action in these verses (6-10), it becomes obvious that John was trying to expose lies and present the Truth.

At this point in my study the words began leaping off of the page. John was warning about the lies being spread among the believers. He was urgently trying to show them what was Truth as well as how to identify the lies.

2:26- “I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray.”
3:7- “Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray.”

This is why he repeatedly uses words like light, darkness, confidence, false prophet, antichrist, liar, truth, believe, and testify.

Perhaps the most striking is the use of the word “know.” John uses it (in its many forms) 33 times in this short letter. The only New Testament book that uses the word more frequently is John’s Gospel. The only other book that even comes close (with 27 occurrences) is Luke. Obviously, knowledge is the assurance of the facts. However, this word has an even deeper significance.

Gnosticism is a heresy that, at its core, says that one must obtain secret knowledge to get to heaven. In fact, Gnosticism has its root in the Greek word, gnosis, which is the same basic word that John uses so many times in this book (gnosis is a noun, and we have been discussing its verbal form). It is as though he is specifically trying to undermine Gnostic influence among the early believers.

Over and over again, he gives tests--almost quantitative measures--of what it means to be a true Christian. In fact, 1:6-10 includes three of them. This letter is riddled with ways to recognize a believer:

2:9- “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness.”
3:6- “No one who lives in him keeps on sinning.”
3:21- “Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God.”
4:8- “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
5:12- “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”

It is obvious that John was writing to a people who lived in a culture filled with lies and deception, people who were confused about what it meant to have Fellowship with the Son of God.

More on this tomorrow, including some application. For now, what are your thoughts?

Monday, June 9, 2008


"I'm Not a Christian Anymore"

While ironically wasting time on GTD blogs today, I found this very revealing introduction to an article on self-forgiveness. Heads up; there's some strong language in the full article.
I’m not a Christian anymore. Perhaps I got a raw deal when God was passing out churches—mine was shaken apart in my late teens by a pastor who got busted for sneaking a few hundred thousand out of the offering plate to buy Nazi war memorabilia, not to mention banging a few dozen women who came to him for marriage counseling—but I’ve made my peace with the Prince of it.Joel Johnson, 43 Folders

1. What does an article on self-forgiveness on a GTD Blog tell us about the human spiritual condition?

2. What does this say about importance of integrity in the life of a minister?