Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sin At Work

You have all see them, the signs that warn you to slow down on the road way that say "Men Working." Those signs are there to warn us to be cautious so that we do not injure or God forbid kill a man who is simply doing his job.

I was reading Brian Hedge's Christ Formed In You yesterday and I came across this warning on page 254:

"Not only do I need the help of others to see more of Christ and His glory, I need their help to see the sinfulness of my own heart more clearly." 

Listen to Hebrews 3:12-14:

"Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one  another every day, as long as it is called "today", that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end." (Hebrews 3:12-14)

Hedge's goes on to say, "This is a serious warning that both diagnoses the problem of sin (the hardening of heart in unbelief) and prescribes the cure (exhorting one another every day.) And the scary thing is that because sin is so insidiously deceitful, we may not even recognize the hardening process at work in our souls. (Emphasis mine)

This got me thinking! I think we need at the front, center, and rear of every sanctuary, or meeting place where the body gathers large, neon, unmistakable, and unavoidable warning signs that say:

Caution: Sin At Work

Just like the warning signs that are designed to protect men who work on our highways and byways, we need warning signs to remind us that sin is ever at work hardening our hearts to the ruin of our souls.

What do you think?

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Book Review: The Old Evangelicalism

Title:   The Old Evangelicalism: Old Truths for a New Awakening

General Subject Matter:  Theology

Theme:  Doctrinal recovery of subjects such as sin, regeneration, justification by Christ's righteousness, the cross, and the love of God, assurance of salvation

Thesis:  A saving conversion to Christ was the preeminent subject for study and for the pulpit

Author:  Ian Murray

Publisher:  The Banner of Truth Trust

Copyright Date:  2005

ISBN 0 85151 901 6

Sin, regeneration, justification by Christ's righteousness, the cross and the love of God, assurance of salvation- these are the truths that once thrilled churches and changed nations. They are the message that 'turned the world upside down.' Yet where evangelicalism continues to affirm these truths, without such results, it is often assumed that the must have new needs that cannot be met without something new. Hence the call for change, and such words as 'mere doctrine is not enough.' 

These addresses by Iain Murray challenge that mindset. He shows that biblical truths are never 'mere'. Where they have ceased to move and astonish it is because they have ceased to be rightly believed. Doctrinal recovery is the first need.

Murray, an outstanding historical and doctrinal writer has put together a number of addresses or sermons to develop his theme of the necessity of doctrinal recovery to preserve the truths of evangelicalism. Originally offered to pastors and theologians, Murray expanded these addresses for a wider audience. This is not an easy read because it is a collection of doctrinal studies of important biblical truth.
Murray uses persuasion to establish his point in each address (chapter). His purpose is to persuade the reader to reevaluate what made evangelicalism great. He outlines the benefits and then builds a case establishing the problems when the church abandons these points.

The strengths of Murray's book lies not only in the development of each address but also in his conclusions. Murray outlines his presentation and gives concluding truths and support. Murray also includes in his conclusion a section called 'Additional Notes.' Murray includes quotes and paragraphs from additional authors on the topic of his address.

Even though this was not light reading, it still held my attention and was extremely informative. This book is a very interesting book with great value to the church today. It is an extremely useful book for believers to understand how important biblical doctrine truly is.

Since it is not a 'book' but a collection of addresses it is impossible to summarize the book. One would have to summarize each and every address. However, I did not find anything that Murray did not substantiate with scripture and actual illustration. I recommend this book for every believer but especially every evangelical leader.

Watch for periodic book reviews by the Gospel-driven Disciples. Solomon said there was no end to the making of books, therefore we have to choose what we read wisely and with great discernment. Not every book is worthy of its purchase price. At various times I will offer reviews, both good and bad, of various books.

Friday, July 29, 2011


"I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment." (Philemon 10, ESV)

This appeal was made to a close friend of Paul, a man named Philemon in the only extant personal letter from the Apostle Paul. No other personal correspondence from the Apostle exists today. This very personal letter gives the church some tremendous insight into the personality of this great Apostle.

The historical narrative that we know as "The Acts of the Apostles" informs us that Paul once he was transported to Rome due to his appeal in Casarea, was placed under house arrest in Rome. As a matter of fact Paul lived in this house under arrest for two years while awaiting his hearing before Caesar. While he was under house arrest Paul was permitted to receive guests, visitors, fellow and co-laborers into his rented house. Paul is a prisoner of Rome yet our God has seen fit to allow Paul the freedom to preach, teach, write, and minister to all who came to the house.

While Paul was under house arrest he was able to write letters to the Colossian and Ephesian churches. Near the end of this period of house arrest he wrote a letter to the Philippian church. Of course near the beginning or sometime after he arrived he wrote a letter to his good friend Philemon.

During the time of Christ and the life of the Apostle Paul it is estimated that approximately half of the population of Rome consisted of slaves. Many of these slaves were highly educated and engaged in professional roles such as teachers, doctors, and even lawyers. A good many were engaged in industrial laborer including farming, ranching, and husbandry.

One such slave was Onesimus. He was owned by Philemon. Onesimus decided to run away and he robbed from his master possibly to finance his escape.  For reasons unknown to us after leaving the city of Colosse and the province of Asia, Onesimus traveled to Rome. Again, unknown to us how or why is the fact that he came into contact with the Apostle Paul. Whether he was arrested or heard of Paul and was curious, or he sought out Paul because of Paul's relationship with his master is totally unknown to us. All we know is that God providentially arranged for Onesimus to come under the teaching of Paul while Paul was under house arrest. At some point, under the teaching of Paul, God opened the heart of Onesimus and he became a believer.

Paul knew he had to do the right thing. However, the right thing was going to be, or could be very difficult and very delicate. Paul wanted to reconcile Onesimus with his master Philemon. We don't know how long Onesimus spent with Paul nor do we know what kind of relationship developed. Listen to what Paul wrote of his new "son" in the faith. "Tychicus will tell you all about my activities. He is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts, and with him Onesimus, our faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will tell you of everything that has take place here." (Colossians 4:7-9, ESV) (Emphasis mine) In the letter to Philemon Paul speaks of Onesimus as "of his very heart," and the was dear to Paul. This slave went from a runaway thief to one who is now worthy of the utmost trust. Paul said he was "profitable."

When converted to Christ Onesimus became a new man. He became the spiritual son and brother in Christ to Paul, to the Colossian Christians, and of course to his master Philemon. Now, becoming a Christian did not automatically give freedom to slaves who became Christians.

Slaves at this time were bought and sold as property or similar to livestock. Slaves were taken captive in world, some were born into slavery. Many sold themselves into slavery for debt they couldn't pay. A slave had no legal personality. They had no rights.

Let me digress for a minute: Paul never called for, marched for, sought legislation against, or demanded an end to slavery. A war did not have to be fought nor did civil rights activists have to commit civil disobedience in order to bring an end to slavery. First, the change in Onesimus - sinner to saint; thief to trustworthy - was a result of the influence of the Holy Spirit. Second, that relationship in Christ as an equal brother to his master were the things that undermined slavery. When Christians truly believe that we are equal in Christ, when they care for another more than themselves, when they think properly of themselves as they ought, when we bear one another's burdens, love one another, and recognize that we as Christians are one in Christ, slavery will end. The way to destroy prejudice, slavery, oppression, and crimes against people is to alter the heart of both slave and master, by perfecting heart motives, by softening the heart of the master, and by creating a sense of justice by the preaching of the gospel.

Listen, I know I am preaching/meddling, but you don't need to develop legislation, picket or worse, bomb abortion clinics to eliminate abortion. You just need to change heart of a woman and an abortionist by sharing the gospel and seeing the Holy Spirit transform lives.Will that effectively end abortion as we know it? No. But it will go along way to reduce the numbers of aborted babies. Look at the number of abortions today. We have Roe vs Wade, we attempt to elect politicians who are pro-life, we picket, and we even are guilty of civil obedience. Yes, we can do all we can through our legal and legeslative process to help protect the unborn, since we have these tools, but it will be the change of the heart by the gospel that makes the difference.

Here we have a slave whose heart was changed and he crucified his flesh and crucified his thieving tendencies, his disobedience, and etc. and he became a new man who was now loyal, truthful, honest, and trust worthy.  Paul now had to gently nudge and nurse Philemon into taking Onesimus back and not put him to death or severely punish him. Paul knew restitution had to take place for the theft and loss wages, so Paul offered to Philemon those on Onesimus's behalf. Paul sends Onesimus back and begs Philemon to act as a real Christian. Yes, Onesimus might remain a slave, but look very closely and study very intently I Corinthians 7:17-23.

We need to worry less about what we think we deserve and spend less energy on trying to improve our lot and climb social ladders and spend more time and energy using our current condition and status to honor Christ and share the gospel. Most us would prefer to ignore I Corinthians 7:17-23.

There you have it! Onesimus, a slave who became a thief and a runaway - ran into the Apostle Paul and the gospel. The Holy Spirit transformed Onesimus into a man who became loyal, trustworthy, and very profitable to Paul. A man who was willing to face the music and return to his master. Paul wrote a wonderful personal letter to his dear friend basically asking Philemon to act like a Christian and treat Onesimus as a fellow brother in Christ.


Join the Gospel-driven Disciples each Friday as we take a look at various men and women who have been used by God to shape Christian thought, theology, and teachings. (Subject to change by the Holy Spirit and my schedule)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Fire of 64

A major event in church history was the great fire of Rome. The fire began on July 19, AD 64. The historian Tacitus stated that the fire burned for five and a half days. Rome had been divided into fourteen districts. Eleven districts were ravaged by the fire with three of them being completely destroyed.

Pliny, another historian wrote about the fire with very little details. Several other historians never mentioned the fire. In one account some 132 houses and over four blocks burned in six days.

Cassius Dio claimed that the Emperor Nero sang the song “Sack of Ilium” while dressed in costumes from the theatre. Tacitus reported that Nero was in Antium at the time of time of the fire. His report concluded that the playing of Nero on the lyre and his singing while Rome burned was only a rumor. According to Tacitus when Nero heard about the fire he rushed back to Rome to organize a relief effort. It was reported that Nero paid for some of the rebuilding from his own personal funds and that he opened the palace as shelter for the homeless and provided food to be delivered to the survivors.

What we do know is that Nero developed a new plan for the city of Rome which required greater space between houses, new homes were built with brick, and they were built on wider roads. Nero built a new palace in an area that had been cleared by the fire.

What is the impact or importance of this fire in regards to Christian history? No one knows for sure who or how the fire began. To this day no one knows if the fire was accidental or an act of arson. According to Tacitus a good number of Roman citizens accused Nero of starting the fire. In order to steer suspicion away from himself Nero placed the blame of the fire on Christians. Nero even produced believers who “confessed” to starting the fire. However, it became known that these believers “confessed” under extreme torture.

As a result, Nero ordered Christians to be thrown to the dogs, while many were crucified, and some were burned as “lights” in his gardens. Tacitus gives the following account:

“As a consequence, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians [or Chrestians] by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first course of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. In accordance, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not as much of the crime of firing the city as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.”

There are five stories that have existed from AD 64 that attempt to explain this hideous and devastating fire:

  • Motivated by a desire to destroy the city, Nero secretly sent out men pretending to be drunk to set fire to the city. Nero watched from his palace on the Palatine Hill singing and playing the lyre. 
  • Motivated by an insane whim, Nero quite openly sent out men to set fire to the city. Nero watched from the Tower of Maecenas on the Esquiline Hill singing and playing the lyre. 
  • Nero sent out men to set fire to the city. Nero sang and played his lyre from a private stage. 
  • The fire was an accident. Nero was in Antium. 
  • The fire was caused by Christians. 
Today, modern students of this disaster tend to agree with Tacitus and believe that Nero probably did not cause the fire.  First, the fire started over a mile from where Nero would build his palace, the fire did destroy a portion of Nero’s own place, the fire started after a full moon which arsonists would have avoided in order not to be seen. It was never proven that Christians started the fire. It is quite possible that it was simply a tragic accident.

We do not know the total number of Christian believers who lost their lives as martyrs in order to diffuse blame from Nero. This is a significant event in Christian history however, as it shows the hatred that some people have and how far they will go to rid themselves of Christ and Christianity.

Join the Gospel-driven Disciples each Thursday as we unlock the meaning of various theological terms, definitions, and we talk about theological news and events that have affected Christianity and the Church through history. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Let's Get Back to Basics!

I read a statement a few months ago that has stayed with me in an almost haunting fashion. “Most believers are not equipped to do more than attend church.” On the surface this sounds like a tremendously over-stated exaggeration doesn’t it? Is it? I submit that there is more truth than myth in that statement. As being so it breaks my heart.

For every one church that is intentionally and strategically making disciples there are a huge number of churches that have become adept at information transfer and warehousing Christians. Almost all evangelical churches today utilize the “lecture” means of providing biblical and religious information to its constituency. It seems we have deliberately chosen to abandon the dialogue that use to exist in the early church as exhortations were given of scripture passages.

Jim Putman in his book real-life discipleship (sic) writes: “The ministry life of many churches is dominated by committee meetings and worship services and counseling sessions, but in many cases these produce little lasting fruit. Our churches make few converts. Few Christians have authentic, accountable relationships, and many are not growing in their faith. Few give, few serve in the church, and most live for the same things that nonbelievers do…Some [churches] are chasing fads. Others are asking how to modernize biblical words, worship services, or even our theology so it will be more to the liking of the potential consumer.” [1]

Putman goes on to say that organization is not the problem. Therefore we do not have to either re-organize in order to disciple nor do we have to de-organize in order to make disciples. We can add and organize any number of ministries we desire but if we are not intentionally making disciples we are like the office worker who hopes to organize, and clean his office by merely moving a piece of paper from one side of his desk to the other side. We cannot keep “shuffling” people or ministries around like stacks of paper on a crowed desk.

First, let me say, that I am aware of the fact that there are a number of dedicated and hardworking Sunday school teachers, Children’s Church workers, VBS leaders and workers, and Sunday classes from youth to our golden-agers. I do not desire to demean anyone of them as they serve God tirelessly in these positions. Second, I would advocate that we take a hard look at the “product” that is being produced by these ministries. The question that begs to be asked, “Are these ministries actually designed with a clear and uncomplicated way of training disciples to make disciples? Or, are these ministries merely dispensing information?

It is one thing to know God’s name, his address (place of residence), his Son’s name, and some of his likes and dislikes; it is altogether another thing to know him intimately and relationtionally. It is also another thing to be equipped and trained to make a disciple in accordance with the great commission in Matthew 28. We need to get to basics.


Join Gospel-driven Disciples each Wednesday as we bring articles, 
news, and information about Discipleship and the making of disciples.

[1] Jim Putman, real-life discipleship, (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2010), p. 10

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Religion and Faith in the News

Catholic Church bids for Crystal Cathedral
Looks like the Vatican likes looking through the glass in Garden Grove. It seems the Catholic Diocese has offered $50 million for the bankrupt Crystal Cathedral. Their bid is $4 million higher than a Newport Beach business and Chapman University. They seem to be serious since this is an all cash bid! Buying this property would save them some $100 million if they had to build a new "Catholic Cathedral" in Santa Anna.

Religious Identity Clarifying or Clouding the Election
President Religious BeliefsIt seems from various polls that the American people want their president to be religious. It also seems Americans are having a hard time trying to figure out what religion President Obama, and the two leading Republican contenders, Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann are. This bit of news is from a new poll conducted on July 25th, 2011. 
56% of Americans state that it is important for a presidential canidate to have strong religlous beliefs according to Public Religion Research Insitute. 
73% of white evangelicals and 74% of minority evangelicals belief that canidates can have differing views than them but most Americans don't know what religion various candidates really are. Only 44% of white evangelicals know Romney is Mormon while 8 out of 10 believe Mormonism is different than their own religion. Only 21% of minority Christians knew Romney was Mormon. 1 out of 3 Americans guessed Obama's religion as Christian while 18% guessed he was Muslim.

Prayer of the Week?

Pakistani persecution targets Christians
The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom wants the State Department to focus more on Pakistan and its treatment of religious minorities -- including Christians.  In the past year there has been "a real and significant decline in the status for religious freedom in Pakistan," according to Commission spokesman Knox Thames, who adds that it started in November 2010 when a court sentenced Christian Asia Bibi to death on a charge of blaspheming Islam.

Prayer and Protest: Denouncing Same Sex Marriage
Many New Yorkers are upset at the legalization of same-sex marraiges in New York State. Protesters gathered at the State Capitol on Sunday afternoon to pray for and push for a repeal of the new law. Rev. Norman Macklin of Empire Baptist Church Convention of New York says, "The fight for traditional marriage is not over!"  "It has only just begun!" Deborah Johnson of Albany says, "When God created man, He created woman and, in order for our families to grow and to flourish, it has to happen that way and that's the only way it could happen is through a male and female." The protesters chanted, "Let the people vote!"

These New Yorkers are upset about the State Senate's June 24th vote to pass the Marriage Equality Act. "They didn't vote for us," says Brenda Embry of Stuyvesant. "They voted in place of us."

Campus Crusade for Christ is dropping "Christ" from its name
We were not trying to eliminate the word Christ from our name. We were looking for a name that would most effectively serve our mission and help us take the gospel to the world. Our mission has not changed. Cru enables us to have discussions about Christ with people who might initially be turned off by a more overtly Christian name. We believe that our interaction and our communication with the world will be what ultimately honors and glorifies Christ.The global evangelical para-church Campus Crusade for Christ is changing it's name to 'Cru." Christianity Today spoke to the leader of the re-branding, Steve Sellers, the CCCI vice president and U.S. national director, who explained that Crusade"...has become a flash word for a lot of people. It harkens back to other periods of time and has a negative connotation for lots of people across the world, especially in the Middle East.The main idea -- according to a look at the change atChristianity Today -- is to evade the problematic word "crusade" and the passe term "campus" (which the massive group known for the Jesus Film, books, tracts and more has long outgrown) and face up to the fact that many of its branches already use different names.

Jerry Brown signs new law demanding Homosexual history be taught

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill making California the first state in the nation to add lessons about homosexuals and lesbians to social studies classes in public schools.
  • Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, the first openly gay Speaker of the California State Assembly, urges lawmakers to approve a measure requiring public schools to teach the historical contributions of gay Americans.
    By Rich Pedroncelli, AP
    Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, the first openly gay Speaker of the California State Assembly, urges lawmakers to approve a measure requiring public schools to teach the historical contributions of gay Americans.

Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, the first openly gay Speaker of the California State Assembly, urges lawmakers to approve a measure requiring public schools to teach the historical contributions of gay Americans.
Brown, a Democrat, signed the landmark bill requiring public schools to include the contributions of people who are homosexual, lesbian, bisexual and transgender in social studies curriculum. The Democratic-majority Legislature had passed the bill last week on a largely party-line vote.
"History should be honest," the governor said in a statement Thursday. "This bill revises existing laws that prohibit discrimination in education and ensures that the important contributions of Americans from all backgrounds and walks of life are included in our history books."