Role-model Fathers (Encouragement)

It seems that so much happens relating my life to God that it’s impossible to write about it all. However I felt it important to post these videos because they’ve encouraged me so much. Both are about fathers who support their disabled sons in amazing ways.

The first is a video I saw was first shown to me at Promise Keepers. To say the least it’s about a father and son team (Team Hoyt) that do marathons and triathlons.

The second is about Howard Henry Hughes, an incredibly talented disabled musician, and his father.

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Published in: on March 22, 2008 at 9:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

Interpreting Scripture

I have no doubt that God can work through the unaided interpretation, or plain reading, of the Bible in powerful ways, but there is so much more to understand and benefit from when actually studying Scripture. I think there is a tendency to study Scripture when there is a controversy, especially when our beliefs are challenged. We must be ready to provide a clear answer. I would argue, and I don’t think many would disagree, even if there is no controversy, knowing your beliefs and why you believe them is essential to any faith. Studying the Bible is a way of growing as a Christian as well.

We’ve been discussing this topic in our church’s young adult group. For the past few studies we have been going through a book recommended by one of the members. The text we’re working through, How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth by Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart, is very thought provoking, and I believe their method is beneficial. However, because we haven’t completed reading it, I’m not sure if I would recommend it.

The book begins by describing the necessity of studying scripture and providing a definition of exegesis and hermeneutics. Later it details some differences between translations and offers general tips. When studying a particular passage, it recommends:

  • Don’t start with a concordance.
  • Read the passage in context. Start with the passage, then read the chapter, and also read the entire book of the Bible.
  • Make sure to check as many translations as are available to you so that you have a clear understanding where difficulties in translation have occurred, or if possible learn the Greek, Hebrew, and/or Aramaic languages in order that you may understand it in its original form. Be aware that today’s translations are other intelligent scholar’s interpretations.
  • Consider the type of literature you’re reading. Is it a letter, poetry, or a narrative?
  • Understand the time period and the audience. Bible dictionaries are a good resource for this.
  • Use cross references, and find where topics and words (in their original language) occur throughout the rest of the Bible.

These tips are only an introduction to interpreting and studying Scripture; of course it could be much more specific. There’s much more to learn in this area. While I do agree with the method and think How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth is a good resource, I disagree with how they present their conclusions as fact. There may have been a better way in my opinion, but I just concluded that for some statements they make, their study seems incomplete or very basic. At least it provides a motivation to study the topic farther. If one were to read it, it is best to be on guard, read it with a pencil or highlighter in hand, or even to take notes. As I said, I do believe it to be beneficial.

I also plan to read Living By the Book: The Art and Science of Reading the Bible by Howard Hendricks and some point for another perspective.

Published in: on February 13, 2008 at 5:58 pm  Comments (1)  

Sacrifice

I found some old writings a short while ago, and as I was remembering one story from high school, some thoughts went straight to my heart today. John 15:13 (KJV) says, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Tragedy, or sacrifice, always aims for the heart. Perhaps this is one of the reasons Jesus went through what He did for us. To view the story I was referring to click here.

Published in: on January 11, 2008 at 5:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

More Thoughts on The Golden Compass

About a month ago (yes, it’s been a while), I went to see the Golden Compass at the theater. It was as I expected; the movie was very anti-authority. It’s hard to understand how it is so much about “killing God” as the author claims. It seems that this is only possible if the “authority” is God. In the movie however, the authority was a group of people, much like a government or law/rule makers, maybe even similar to a church. So, in my mind, it would be more logical to say it is about anarchy, or at the least against organized religion. Because the church or religion does not equal God, either the author is confused, or I am. Christianity isn’t even about rules; it’s about following Christ’s example, trusting, and believing His sacrifice paid for sins.

As it was, it may be dangerous for the implications an anti-authority view might have, but I have a hard time understanding what everyone is upset about. I don’t think these concepts are new in entertainment.

Published in: on January 11, 2008 at 5:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Golden Compass

Controversy will always draw attention, especially, it seems, in entertainment. The Golden Compass will be opening at theaters this weekend, and for those that are unaware the author claims it is about “killing God” (or the authority – as the movie calls it). Many Christians are considering boycotting the movie because of this. Personally, I agree with those who think this is an excellent opportunity, for mature Christian adults, to engage with our culture.  While hardly any Christians will strike up a conversation about God at the theater, opportunities to discuss the movie and the beliefs portrayed will undoubtedly arise. My only concern for myself is giving the author more money or popularity, and this may be the sole reason some people refuse to see it. However, I claim that those who are boycotting it are actually promoting its popularity. Saying, “no” to something personally, and being vocal about the decision, actually tempts others to say “yes”. This is especially true if they don’t share the same convictions.

As for content, it seems no more harmful than The Chronicles of Narnia. Really, we should be more concerned about other movies out there, that really do have bad content. Ratings are becoming more and more liberal. It really upsets me when a movie is rated PG-13 and has what used to be R-rated content. Teenagers are seeing these movies without parental permission. I guess that’s the main cause for concern – for teenagers and younger children.

The real threat a movie like The Golden Compass poses is for children who are forming their world-views. I heard that the intention of the movie was to present a preview of the book series that families will see with their children, and then have the children ask their parents for the books for Christmas. I believe parents should first screen and be ready to discuss the movie if they allow their children to watch it.

For those of us who are firm in our faith, we know the Gospel will prevail.

Published in: on December 7, 2007 at 5:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

Love (continued)

I was recently reminded of two entries I wrote on love. It may have been because I’ve been listening to GCBC‘s Marriage Retreat messages (which are excellent by the way). I’m fascinated by the picture of marriage applying to Christ and His church.

God’s love is unfathomable; it’s so deep, so perfect. Many people think of 1 Corinthians 13 as the “love chapter” of the Bible. If God is love, as 1 John 4:8 states, the it follows that the description of love in 1 Cor. 13 is a description of God.

Verses 4-8:

Charity [love] suffereth long, and is kind; [love] envieth not; [love] vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. [Love] never faileth…

If these attributes are of God, and if we should be imitators of God, we should strive to have these qualities. Each could probably be elaborated on to a great extent, but I don’t feel qualified to go into such depth at this time. Thinking of God in this manner is amazing.

Published in: on November 29, 2007 at 10:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

War Against Sin

I’m at a point in my life, once again, where everything is pointing toward learning one truth. A week and a few days ago, I found a series of sermons on Romans 8 by Richard Owen Roberts. A few days later, Mr. Roberts mentioned root sins when he taught, and I really have had a hard time understanding the correlation between surface sins (fruit sins as he called them — the stuff on the branches of our lives) and the three root sins he mentioned which are unbelief, stubborn rebellion, and pride. Conceptually, these seem to be very closely related, and often I see how two of them, or all three, apply to a certain sin, as in Jude 5-7. Perhaps it is because I don’t quite understand their definitions properly.

Many people make the case that pride is the root of all sin, and John Piper holds that “insubordination and hostility” toward God is the root of all sin (Romans 8:7). I also remember Mr. Roberts saying something like this, “When we repent, we shouldn’t concern ourselves with the actions of sins. True repentance is repentance of who we are as sinners.”

I’m convinced God won’t let it stop running through my head until I understand it. On the way home from work last week, I tuned in to Moody radio and heard Justin Taylor talking about the works of John Owen pertaining to sin. Now this is interesting because Mr. Roberts mentioned his source was the writings of the puritans. John Owen was a puritan; maybe I should start trying to understand this by reading his works. Piper quotes Owen in a series he preached on Romans 8: “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” In his series, he makes it clear. This is war, and we ought to be prepared. I gained the sense that we, as Christians, must be constantly vigilant and willing to do whatever it takes to mortify sin by the Spirit in our lives.

Published in: on November 12, 2007 at 10:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Book of Jude

This last Saturday, Mr. Richard Owen Roberts came to speak at our young adult church group. His text was the book of Jude, and he had many insights into the text that most of us hadn’t thought of. I found his depth of thought amazing. I know I’ve heard a sermon on the book of Jude before, but I haven’t studied it in a very long time and have overlooked this single-page book before. Here are the points I can remember from the discussion. As I’ve noticed it is Mr. Roberts’ custom, he read the text in it’s entirety before beginning. Here’s a link so that you may read it.

Although he was a half-brother of Jesus, Jude introduces himself as the brother of James. The epistle speaks of humility, and Jude is very conscious of portraying humility himself because of his topic.

Jude is a logical author; he is very conscious about how he organizes his text. Much of it is organized in groups of three. Mr. Roberts focused specifically on a grouping of three in verses 5-8 and a portion where Jude violates his rule by listing five points in verses 12 and 13.

In verses 5-7, Jude gives three examples, one for each verse. In verse 8, Jude draws a correlation and summarizes, in reverse, the previous three verses.

Jude 1:5-8 – These verses are listed here in the King James version because it is public domain, but in our discussion, Mr. Roberts made it clear that he favors NASB (explained later).

5 I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not.
6 And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.
7 Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.
8 Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities.

Sodom and Gomorrah defiled the flesh; angels rejected their authorities and did not keep their own domain; and the people, lead by Moses, out of the land of Egypt, spoke evil of dignities or reviled angelic magesties. There were many more details brought up regarding these verses, but at this time, I’m struggling to remember them. The discussion turned to the three roots of sin. Mr. Roberts has found, through his studies, that there are primarily three roots of sin: pride, unbelief, and stubborn rebellion.

The root of sexual sin (verse 7) is pride. Repenting of pride is necessary for overcoming it.

Angels became demons when they rejected God as their authority (verse 6) and thought they could do things better. Their lack of faith was unbelief.

We also see unbelief in verse five. As an example of stubborn rebellion, Moses, in Numbers 20, struck the rock instead of speaking to it, and because of this, he never completed his life work and did not enter the promised land. Moses lost his temper and stubbornly rebelled.

1 John 2:16 was worth mentioning as well. “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” Here, these sins are listed chronologically. Youth typically struggle with the lust of the flesh, middle-aged with accumulating goods or wealth, elderly with the pride of life. Conquering each of these chronological sins in its time better prepares one for dealing with the next.

Looking next at verses 12 and 13, there are five descriptions of the evil men who had crept up in the congregation. They are described as hidden reefs, clouds without water, trees without fruit, wild waves of the sea, and wandering stars.

Jude 1:12-13

12 These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots; 13 Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.

Mr. Roberts stated that verse 12 is typically misinterpreted especially when so many different Bible translations (KJV, NIV, the Message, and others) describe these men as spots, blemishes, or warts. Really, they’re best described as “hidden reefs” as the New American Standard Bible and the English Standard Version state. The New Living Translation also gets this one right describing them as “dangerous reefs.” Uncharted reefs are terribly dangerous and always shipwreck boats, but charted reefs provide an excellent harbor. They are unmovable, sure, and safe to dock your boat on. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have it said of you, “I know where he is at.” or “That’s someone I can anchor my life next to.”

Clouds that do not hold water are broken promises to a thirsty world. We must strive to be clouds overflowing with living water, enough for ourselves and others. The story of the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well in John 4 was mentioned as an example. Psalm 23:5-6 and the story of Elijah mentioned in James 5:17-18 also relate.

Trees without fruit are useless. Jesus himself cursed a tree without fruit in Matthew 21. Christians should be as the tree described in Psalm 1, “planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.”

Wild waves of the sea are devastating as we know from news of hurricane Katrina and stories of tsunamis, but calm waves can be soothing and refreshing.

Wandering stars are impossible to navigate by. As Christians we must be fixed stars, shining for God’s glory, being the light of the world as described in Matthew 5:14.

Mr. Roberts also mentioned verse 21 which urges us to keep ourselves in the love of God. Always remember that God loves you and nothing you could ever do can change that. When you’re convicted of sin, keep yourself in the love of God and do not let it interfere with your relationship with Him. When things aren’t going right or if you suffer, and you are tempted to question God’s love for you, remember that God does love you and He will be faithful to work all things “together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28).

Afterwards, someone asked how to study a passage so deeply, and he stated that meditation on Scripture is essential.

Published in: on November 5, 2007 at 3:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

Technology Break

A short while back, I couldn’t remember a time when I took a break from technology or didn’t turn my computer on. Sure, I work with technology all day due to the nature of my job, but when was the last time I turned off my cell phone, computer, and TV for an entire day? I frequently read Justin Taylor’s blog, and I’ve taken an interest in some of his recent posts regarding this (Unplugging, Info-Techno Sabbath, and Techno Fasting). I wholeheartedly agree that those of us who eat, drink, and sleep in a digital world need a break from it sometimes.

Published in: on October 16, 2007 at 4:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

Lifeline Angola: Returning Hearts Celebration

A short while ago, my dad was sharing a story from his salvation testimony. He said that before he was a Christian, he was listening to a sermon at our church. The topic was sin (very similar to what we’ve been learning about at church recently from Psalm 51), and the pastor stated plainly that he was a sinner. My dad thought, “why’s he up there..” preaching, if he’s a sinner? It is amazing how God can work through us as sinners, and this struck me at this missions trip to Louisiana State Penitentiary. There are many godly men serving the community while at Angola prison. By listening to them, I would have never guessed that their past would have landed them there.

They call it Angola because it was previously a plantation where slaves from Angola, Africa, would work. It’s a maximum security prison spanning 18,000 acres and surrounded (on three sides) by the Mississippi River. Immediately, upon entering, I noticed how beautiful the landscaping and art painted on some of the buildings was. Later, I learned that trustee inmates were responsible. Everyone at Angola has a job. Certain jobs, as I understand it, are only available to moral and well behaved inmates. The structure and organization surprised me. I gathered a lot from the tour we were given, and while talking with an inmate later I told him that I thought this place was really cool. He replied, “Yeah, for a prison.” I had to constantly remind myself where I was and who I was fellowshipping with because it was so easy to forget.

The first night we were there, we were invited to a worship service with the inmates, and at the end there was a graduation service for those who had completed the Malachi Dads program – which is an Awana sponsored program for inmate fathers that want to connect with their children. These men were serious fathers, excellent role-models, and godly examples. Who would have thought that God would work in such a way! It seems impossible, right? To be a godly father while imprisoned, without being able to be with your children on a daily basis, seems so different and hard. Yet Christians “can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.” Someone said that, these men are possibly better fathers, in prison, than some of the children would have had outside. No one can deny that God is working in this place.

We went as volunteers, giving of our time, resources, and ourselves, but really, we received far more from God than we could have ever given on this trip. I only had a small glimpse at a prisoner’s perspective on God. It reminded me of the story of the pharisee and the tax collector and how each of them approached worship.

There is only one way I can think of describing the Returning Hearts Celebration (the day after the worship service). It was a picture of heaven. The unity in serving God was unparalleled, at least from what I saw and felt. Not to say that there were no issues, but everyone there had a servant’s heart and was well prepared, by the Lord, for the work He had prepared for them. Christian family assistants, volunteers, leaders, and fathers functioned as the body of Christ, for the glory of God, ministering to each other and to the children that attended.

At one point, I saw a child full of energy run up to his father and exclaim “Dad, this is the happiest day of my life!” The memory of the grin on that inmate father’s face brings tears to my eyes. Seeing and experiencing this event and what God is doing at that prison is a testimony to God’s grace. They make the theme verse of the Malachi Dad’s program ring true (Malachi 4:6), and I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. It was worth the 20 hour bus ride, the sun burn, and the lack of sleep. God sustained and provided for us, and I praise him for this opportunity.

Another volunteer and Awana employee said, “this is the best adult short-term missions trip in the United States and possibly the world.” All who went were truly blessed.

Resources:

Published in: on September 14, 2007 at 11:59 am  Leave a Comment