Friday, May 29, 2009

Reject the basic assumptions of civilization, especially the importance of material possessions.

We continue with our series based on The 10 Dumbest Things Christians Do, by Mark Atteberry. The following are some notes from my Sunday school lesson at Providence Church.

DUMB MOVE #3: Living Below the Level of Our Beliefs

There are some more obvious sins, but what about the sneakier ones?

Atteberry offers 3 Sins that often “slip past our spiritual radar” in our daily living:

1. Materialism (Matthew 6:21) ~ An attitude of the heart, more than how much money is in the bank. It's a malady that can affect you regardless of income or things possessed.

“Take an honest inventory of your life and see if you find any evidence of materialism.”
• “Are you so deep in credit card debt that you need a snorkel to breathe?”
• “Are your closets and garage jam-packed with stuff you never use and can’t even remember why you bought?”
• “Do you find spending money at the mall an exhilarating experience, but putting money into the offering plate a painful one?”

“There’s no way to do the math, but just imagine if we could add up all the time, energy, and money Christian people waste on the pursuit of things they don’t need and will probably never wear or use.”

2. Worry (Philippians 4:6) ~ An attitude of the heart, more than presence or absence of difficulties.

“The naïve don’t have much of a problem with worry.”

“It seems logical to think that older people would worry less, but the opposite is usually true. We tend to worry more because we know from experience how cruel life can be.”

Worry not only steals your joy, but “it also serves as a wrecking ball to your witness. It’s a flashing neon sign you carry around with you … a sign that says, ‘Don’t be fooled by my words; I really don’t trust God to take care of me!’”

3. Superiority (Luke 18:11-14) ~ An attitude of the heart, more than accomplishments.

“I, too, have slipped into that cocky, superior attitude that causes me to throw out words of judgment and condemnation as easily as I might make a comment about the weather.”

“And I, too, have a spiritual rap sheet … enough embarrassing failures on my record to completely disqualify me from ever judging someone else. But I do it anyway.”

“This, of course, is one of the biggest reasons why unbelievers hate us so much. They see us a pious, condescending snobs.”

Just as athletes need to play to their potential, Atteberry offers 2 Ways to “Elevate Our Game” with regard to living our faith:

1. Put the power back into preaching. (2 Tim 3:16-17)

“Have we become so obsessed with seeker-friendly that we’re reluctant to offer the whole counsel of God?”

2. Move your heart closer to the Lord. (Isaiah 29:13; cf. John 14:21)

“Here’s the bottom line: History proves that when powerful preaching and tender hearts come together in the presence of almighty God, incredible things always happen. Lives are changed. Families are changed. Churches are changed. Sometimes entire communities are changed. But when the meat of the gospel is replaced by spiritual junk food and the hearts of worshippers are far away, then people will be able to go right on living, guilt-free, far below the level of their beliefs.”

Discussion Questions:
1. “Of the three sins mentioned in this chapter—materialism, worry, and an attitude of superiority—which one have you found is the most likely to fly under your radar and take up residence in your life? Could you add others to the list? What would they be?”
2. Atteberry wrote: “We may believe that God is alive, on His throne, and in control. But when we allow ourselves to worry, we’re living below the level of that belief.” What are the beliefs we’re living below when we fall into the sins of materialism and superiority?
3. Regarding each of those 3 aforementioned sins, what is the antidote of each? In other words, what truths can renew your mind (cf. Rom 12:2) for each to get you back on track?

“A hypocrite knows more than he is willing to do; but a true saint desires to do what he knows, and to know more that he may do more, and better.” - Puritan Vavasor Powell

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I have two books at my bedside, Lieutenant, the Marine Corps Code of Conduct and the King James Bible.

Blogger James Galyon tagged me for a Facebook note and I was curious as to how the blogosphere would answer as well.

Here's my offering. What's in your Fave 15?

"15 books you've read that will always stick with you. First 15 you can recall in no more than 15 minutes."
  1. The Bible
  2. Knowing God, J. I. Packer
  3. The Holiness of God, R. C. Sproul
  4. Green Eggs and Ham, Dr. Seuss
  5. George Whitefield, Arnold Dallimore
  6. Conscience of a Conservative, Barry Goldwater
  7. Bondage of the Will, Martin Luther
  8. Today's Gospel: Authentic or Synthetic?, Walter Chantry
  9. Animal Farm, George Orwell
  10. On Rhetoric, Aristotle
  11. The Reformed Pastor, Richard Baxter
  12. Dracula, Bram Stoker
  13. Point Man: How a Man Can Lead His Family, Steve Farrar
  14. Soul Winner, Charles Haddon Spurgeon
  15. A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life, J.I. Packer

Honorable Mention (in alphabetical order)
  • Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
  • The Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin
  • Let the Nations Be Glad!, John Piper
  • Stop Dating the Church, Joshua Harris
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway

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Monday, May 25, 2009

Sounds like somebody's got a case of the Mondays.

Parable: What if Starbucks marketed like the church? (HT Brent Thomas)

Check out Doug Wilson throwing down with Obama over abortion and judicial appointees. (HT Ron) No, really, check it out.

Read about those great things money cannot buy.

Read about the American Psychological Association's revision to their statement regarding homosexuality and the "gay gene."

Check out Steve Camp's Top 10 favorite living Bible teachers/preachers. (HT Jade) (Incidentally, my Top 5 to hear from would be: R.C. Sproul, John D. Hannah, John Piper, Tommy Nelson, and Tom Ascol.)

Read Logan's Top 10 Baseball Movies. How could he neglect to include Major League?

Read Voddie Baucham on Assault Weapons and Homosexual Marriage.

Read Al Mohler on the "False Apology Syndrome."

Read about 10 Powerpoint Tips for Preparing a Professional Presentation.

Read 8 Great Family Rules to Help Any Home by Ray Fowler.

Read about the Gallup poll showing more Americans are pro-life than pro-choice, for the first time since Gallup started asking that question in 1995.

Read what the Rev. Dr. Chaplain James W. Galyon, PhD means when he says, "I'm confessional."

Read about research that shows men with big muscles cut cancer risk by 40%. I'm off to sculpt my guns!

Read Things I Don't Like to Hear by Stephen Altrogge. What would you add?

Read about the Utah man charged with attempted homicide when he beat a pregnant girl with the intent for her to miscarry ... at her request.

Read Benjamin J. Montoya's case for the importance of biblical languages in the SBC.

Read John Piper's thoughts on 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 and a spouse's rights over his/her spouse's body.

Read Mounce on 1 Timothy 2:15 and women being saved through child bearing.

Read about how to avoid contaminated food at the supermarket.

Read Doug Wilson on nostalgia regarding discipline in "Spanking Stories."

Check out 24 Terrifying, Thoughtful and Absurd Nursery Rhymes for Children.

Read "What difference does a church covenant make?" by Barry Wallace.

Read about why Yuval Levin thinks Obama's Notre Dame speech should give some optimism for pro-lifers.

Check out 10 movies that can teach you about money.

Read Westminster Seminary's Truth about Angels & Demons, responding to the popular movie.

Read Lionel Woods' assertion that the Old Testament is boring ... unless you understand that it speaks of Christ.

Learn why Google wants you to Google yourself.

Read Jonathan Leeman on the alternative to the multi-site church: Why don't we plant?

Check out Rev's great collection of Memorial Day related quotes.

Listen to yesterday's Providence Church sermon on Matthew 5:27-30, "Passion for Purity."
"To obtain a man's opinion of you, make him mad."
–Oliver Wendell Holmes


Saturday, May 23, 2009

A PERSON is smart. PEOPLE are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals and you know it.

We continue with our series based on The 10 Dumbest Things Christians Do, by Mark Atteberry. The following are some notes from the Sunday school lesson at Providence Church.

DUMB MOVE #2: Winning People to the Church Rather than to the LORD

According to Gunny, there are 2 ditches into which people can drive, with regard to church importance:
  1. 1. Church is an option
  2. 2. Church is an idol

It would seem Atteberry is particularly dealing with those for whom (their) church becomes an idol that is prioritized over Christ. People put their faith in church, rather than in Christ.

Could part of the problem be the expectation that people expect the church do or be what only Jesus can? Is the church oversold and Jesus undersold?

“They come into the body with all kinds of false assumptions and unrealistic expectations. They begin their faith experience with their hopes and dreams pinned on a group of imperfect people rather than the Lord of the universe. How can they help but be disappointed? How can we be surprised when they leave?”

Like with medication from the pharmacy, there are certain warnings people need to know about church.

What people need to know about the church:

Warning #1: You will encounter some difficult and unpleasant people.

“I frequently say that I’ve met some of the greatest people in the world in church. What I rarely say (but what is just as true) is that I’ve also met some of the weirdest, most irritating people in church.”

“Some people are shocked when they get their feelings hurt at church. Considering the odd assortment of people who make up the average congregation, I’ve always thought it would be a lot more shocking if they didn’t get their feelings hurt!”

Warning #2: The church you join is not always going to be like it is today.

“So change is inevitable, but nothing to be afraid of.”

Changes in pastor, music, location, and fellowship (but what happens when factions arise & a fight breaks out?) are those most likely to most difficult for members to deal with.

“… even good changes can seem bad if you aren’t expecting them.”

What people need to know about Jesus:

Jesus, not the church, is the way.

Jesus, not the church, is the truth.

Jesus, not the church, is the life.

“… our witnessing needs to be Christ-centered and not church-centered.”

“We should never be surprised when there are defections among the Lord’s followers. Nor should we panic. After all, Jesus Himself didn’t have a 100 percent retention rate.”

“But we must take responsibility for the many people who became disillusioned because we misled them into thinking that the church would be the answer to all their problems—that it would save them, transform their lives, and meet all their needs.”

Remember Gunny's 2 ditches?
  1. 1. Church is an option
  2. 2. Church is an idol
Atteberry tells the story of how Michelangelo fashioned his statue of David. He did so by first constructing a house around the stone in which to work. Similarly, the church is the house/environment in which the Lord does His work of sculpting.

"Many people come into it possessing no spiritual form or beauty and emerge sometime later completely transformed. But it isn't the house that brings about those changes, it's the Master Sculptor."

Getting people into a church is important, but their hope lies in the one who makes the transformation.

Discussion Questions:
  1. What are the dangers in making the church an idol, expecting the church to do what only Christ can? How do you know if you or others have fallen into this trap?
  2. The primary relationship for the Christian is with Christ. But why must we remember that the secondary relationship to the church is not expendable or optional? What are the dangers of making the church optional, unnecessary in the process whereby God makes us more like Christ? How can the story of the statue of David help keep the proportion right?
  3. Why might a church “market” itself in such a way that the church is oversold and Jesus is undersold?
  4. Of Atteberry’s two “warnings” about the church, which is more vital for visitors of Providence Church to know? How can those warnings be communicated honestly, but without scaring everyone away?
(Click to buy a copy of The 10 Dumbest Things Christians Do, especially if you want to read along.)

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Failure is never quite so frightening as regret.

I've seen and/or heard comments such as this many times: "I've chosen to live my life with no regrets."

I think, on the one hand, I understand why someone might say this:
  1. To attempt to reassure his or her self that he or she is not a bad person based on making some poor choices.
  2. To attempt to convince us that despite making some bad choices, he or she is still a good person.
  3. To affirm God's ultimate control of the universe (cf. "providence"), meaning that what happens was meant to happen.
Let me say, however, that I just don't get it ... and I believe in a sovereign God that freely and immutably ordains all things that come to pass! But, I do not think it's inconsistent for a Christian to live with regret.

To live with no regrets, it seems to me, would mean never having made a mistake or a lapse in judgment or whatever. Right?

I understand the whole notion of God bringing good from bad, but that doesn't make the thing done good. Even Joseph recognized that the actions that resulted in his position of power & authority in Egypt were "meant for evil." (cf. Gen 50:20) A positive outcome does not validate a negative action.

To regret poor decisions and/or offending a holy God with sin doesn't mean we can't appreciate and enjoy the "fruit" of that which we regret, however. In fact, we probably should.

A classic example is pregnancy for an unwed mother. Some would err and say she's done nothing wrong since God will bless her with a beautiful baby. Others might err by saying that since she's done wrong, we shouldn't celebrate that gift of new life.

A baby is not a punishment, but a blessing to be enjoyed, but that doesn't mean we condone the behavior that brought us such joy.

In addition, I don't think we have to wait for the results to know if a decision was right or wrong. Sometimes that may be the case, but the end does not justify the means.

So, I try to live my life with no regrets, meaning I try not to do the wrong thing, but do the right thing. But, when I fail or waffle, I repent of my foolishness and/or lack of judgment and drive on.

I don't dwell on it to the point of paralysis, but regret does not necessitate that. If you waffle, regret it, and learn from it ... so you don't do it again.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

It's alive! It's alive!

In a prior post that mentioned "regeneration," I was asked a question I thought merited its own post.

Mark wrote:
How does one re-generate the unbeliever? Does it not require that the unbeliever be generated first into a believer before he can be re-generated?

Am I missing something?

Good question, Mark, especially linguistically.

Regeneration has to do with being born, with the "re-" related to being born "again" (cf. John 3:1-8).

They're alive physically, but dead spiritually. So, God must make the dead alive.

In fact, only God can regenerate. The dead cannot give life to themselves. It's kind of like the Law of Biogenesis in science.

Eph 2:1-5
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins ... But God ... even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved (ESV)

Prior to God making them alive, they love the darkness and hate the light (John 3:19-20). Unless they are born again, they can't even see the kingdom (John 3:3), let alone see the kingdom, like the kingdom, choose the kingdom, and then be born again.

Hence, the priority put on regeneration preceding faith.

Thou biased, I like our church doctrinal statement on the subject:

"VIII. Regeneration ~ Regeneration is a change of heart, wrought by the Holy Spirit, who brings to life the dead in trespasses and sins enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the Word of God, and renewing their whole nature, so that they love and practice holiness. It is a work of God's free and special grace alone, apart from which humanity is powerless to positively respond to God."

(our doctrinal statement is essentially the Abstract of Principles, the first Southern Baptist doctrinal statement)
See also Only a fool looks for logic in the chambers of the human heart. It's my post dealing with regeneration, instead of faith, being thought of as a gift (from God).

I think you see a nice word picture of regeneration in one of my favorite hymns, And Can It Be? by Charles Wesley:
Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
fast bound in sin and nature's night.
Thine eye diffused a quick'ning ray.
I woke the dungeon flamed with light.
My chains fell off. My heart was free.
I rose, went forth, and followed them.
Amazing love, how can it be
that Thou my God shouldst die for me?


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The word I'm searching for ... I can't say because there are preschool toys present.

I've been tolerant for a while, but a new addition to my pet peeves list is stickers on books. I hate when I buy a book and they've put a sticker on it, denoting the price or "sale" or whatever. It's can be such a beating trying to get that thing off without leaving any residue.

C'mon! It's 2009. Can't we do away with such book desecration?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Sounds like somebody's got a case of the Mondays.

A few quick hits, though doubtful this segment will permanently return ...

The imputation of Christ's righteousness is awesome in and of itself, but it sounds even more glorious from Scotsman Sinclair Ferguson.

Check out 13 Quick Facts about Scientology.

Read John Owen and the "normal" Christian Life: Or Sanctification in an Era of Confusion by John D. Hannah.

Win some great books from Chris Brauns at A Brick in the Valley. The deadline for entering is May 14th.

Read Why You Should Read the Puritans by Joel Beeke.

Read about the dad accused of using a shock collar on his kids.

Check out the visual difference between the fast food advertised and what you actually get.

Read what Thabiti Anyabwile had to say about 60% of SBC baptisms being "rebaptisms."

Read 22 Ridiculous things Abraham Piper believed as a child.

Check out great ways to share the gospel on Twitter.

Read why Tony Felich thinks the term "homophobic" is invalid.

Read about God's discipline is with regard to the future, not the past.

Check out some D.A. Carson audio on the use of the OT in Hebrews.

Read Denny Burk's commencement address at Boyce College: Graduate from Boyce, not from the Bible.

Read Eric Redmond's Baptist Press article, "We're not the Bigoted Ones."

Read about how a vital 20 minutes of a husband's day can transform the marriage.

Read about why text messages are 160 characters long, among other interesting related info.

Read about how to get your email inbox to zero everyday.

Read 14 questions to ask your Bible.

Read about 50 things everyone should know how to do.

Read simple suggestions for missional living. (HT Jade)
"I have long since come to believe that people never mean half of what they say, and that it is best to disregard their talk and judge only their actions."
-Dorothy Day


Thursday, May 07, 2009

That place was a rip off.

Should Southern Baptists attend the SBC annual meetings?

I have been to two (2) SBC annual meetings. The first was in Dallas, because my pastor/mentor Kirk Taylor took me and it was local. The second was in St. Louis, because I could enjoy other things STL has to offer (e.g., family, Cardinals, and White Castle).

When I found out the 2009 meeting was in Louisville, I was interested because they have The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary there and White Castle. Funding issues aside, the SBC annual meeting doesn't typically show up on my radar screen of conferences I might attend.

Each year I go to the Desiring God pastors conference in Minneapolis, but it's uncommon I have the resources (time & money) to go to another conference during the year. If I do, Together for the Gospel or the Founders conference or the Ligonier Ministries pastors conference or various other conferences would get resource priority over the SBC annual meeting.

I'm not alone among my generation of Southern Baptists, but why is that? Is it just a matter of opportunity cost?

After reading Alvin Reed's post "Why Should I Attend the Southern Baptist Convention?" I have a more solidified understanding of why more of my generation are absent.
"NOTE: those my senior wanted to change the world for the gospel and believed the way to do that was through convention involvement; those my junior believe such involvement in the convention actually hinders their ability to change the world for the gospel!"

Is there a lack of confidence in the Cooperative Program? If so, why? Since each Southern Baptist church is autonomous, what are the worthwhile reasons for cooperation? Has the SBC lost focus or have the priorities been obscured by lesser endeavors?

If YOU don't go, why not? If you do attend, what motivates you to do so?


Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Sometimes, I can't tell at all what's going on in that head of yours.

It's not very common, but every once in a while I get a church that expresses interest in me as a pastoral candidate. Years ago I had a church interested when a friend passed along my name.

The first thing I do in such a situation is look for a doctrinal statement. After reading the church's, I wrote the following:
"I had a quick question for clarification regarding the doctrinal statement of the church.

It says that one of the tasks of the Holy Spirit is to 'to regenerate the unbelieving,' but then in Salvation the statement says that, 'all who repent (turn from sin to God) and receive by faith Jesus as personal Savior & Lord, are born again of the Holy Spirit. '

My query is just whether the church views regeneration (being born again) as preceding (as is stated in former) or following (as is stated in the latter) faith."

The following is response from the chair of the search committee:
"Dear Rev. Hartman,

I am sorry it has taken me so long to respond to your email. I can certainly see why you would have a question. We believe in salvation by grace through faith in Jesus alone. We believe that the true believer, sealed by the Holy Spirit is eternally secure. I appreciate your bringing this to our attention, b/c to tell you the truth I think it is probably a typo., which needs to be fixed. We definitely believe that faith is the prerequisite to salvation.

If you would like to send a resume, it can be forwarded to me at ..."

While I appreciated and agreed with the response, the fact that my issue wasn't even understood told me there was no need to submit a resume.

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Friday, May 01, 2009

I fear you are underestimating the sneakiness, sir.

Previously, I had written about Christian population growth and the obligation to be fruitful and multiply.

I'm even more convinced in that area and in our need to be more diligent in our evangelistic efforts where Muslims are concerned.

Watch this video clip about the world's changing demographics. (HT Gary Son) If it doesn't shiver your timbers, perhaps nothing will.

This should be particularly troubling to those who understand the essence of democracy ... majority rule.

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