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Lessons Learned from my Mormon Friends September 29, 2006

Posted by Joe in Random Musings.
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Lar’s away and I need to keep the ball rolling. Of course, I think he would admit that I have been doing so as of late anyway, but that is besides the point. Anyhow…

I spent most of my morning this morning talking to two young Mormon men. It was an interesting conversation to say the least. We spent probably 1 1/2 to 2 hours sharing. I trust it was a work of God’s providence (as all things are of course!) that I was upstairs at the time of their arrival. I just happened to be coming up out of my ‘seeking God room’ (as I like to call it even though it is used for everything–come to think of it, maybe I should just call it my primary home). Where was I? O yea, I was coming up out of my primary home to get my cell phone of all items and I heard a knock on the door. Erin and the kids were out on a cultural activity of sorts, so I invited them right in, gave them some water to drink and started to roll.

The first thing that I found refreshing is that you can get past the formalities pretty quickly with these guys. I mean think about it, they are there to talk religion. That’s what I do to, so let’s go for it! And that’s what we did. We talked about everything, with particular emphasis on the gospel of grace. Of course, as good Mormon missionaries do, they agreed with pretty much everything I said, even though they disagreed. And I mean that in a very nice way, just as they nicely agreed amist their disagreement (?). I think you get what I am saying.

In all seriousness though, they were some really cool guys and were as genuine as could be, humble, but firm in their convictions even though I said some very tough things (which maybe I will mention at a later date–or maybe not). I enjoyed it a great deal and wanted to mention two things that struck me after they left.

1) O for more Christians who lived with such reckless abandon for the cause of Christ! Well, I suppose this isn’t an observation, but then again, I didn’t say that I was going to give two observations. I just said two ‘things’ and this definitely consitutes two things. Anyhow, here we have two young men who have literally set aside their entire lives for two whole years to serve on mission for the cause of Mormonism. Their exact doctrinal stands (which can be very difficult to pin down without the help of some reference book on world religions–if you are looking for one, Josh McDowell’s Handbook of Today’s Religions is a good one to get by the way). Where was I again? O yea, their exact doctrinal stands we won’t go into, but their commitment deserves some attention!

They speak to their families two times a year. They email once a week and are able to write as many letters as they want. Those are the ‘rules’ but they are not a burden. These young men have embraced them with joy for their cause. They live to serve full-time for the next two years. And they find a great deal of joy in it. They told me themselves time and again, that what they receive is far more than what they give. Yes, we should be put to shame.

2) Random acts of service (or at least the willingness to do random acts of service) can serve as a powerful witness to the gospel. Here’s what these two young men told me. They said (with complete peace by the way), “Even though many people will treat us disrespectfully, we aren’t angry with them. We just ask them if there is anything we can do for them, any way we can serve them–even cutting their grass? Most just tell us to get out of here, but that’s ok. We really do want to serve in any way we can.”

This might not be a big thing, but it got me thinking. What if I, as a member of my community, walked over to my neighbors at random and asked, “What can I do for you? How can I serve you?” What would be the response? I doubt they would kick me out like they did my Mormom missionary friends. I mean, they know me. I’m no threat. They might pretend that they didn’t have anything for me to help them with, but what if I persisted? What if I kept asking? I can’t help but think that some walls would fall down.

Now, some of you might be saying, “Joe, I rode by your house the other day and your grass was a foot long, how are you going to serve others?” Well, actually my grass was about six inches long, and actually, that was me saying that last quote–nobody else from blog nation. Here’s my thought on that question, my question. First, I need to keep up with my own business. True enough, I slack on my own grass (although Abigail’s failure to take afternoon naps doesn’t help my cause but that’s another matter). Second, I need to make time to serve my neighbors. I need to make time to cut their grass. I need to stop making excuses that my mower doesn’t cut straight (which it doesn’t) and start finding ways to serve (and maybe get a new mower–a zero turn one would be nice!). I need to engage in conversation with my neighbors and stop ducking into my ‘primary home’ every chance I get. I need to ask for ways in which I can serve the good of those who surround me, no doubt with a view to showing them the love and beauty of Jesus Christ.

I’m a self-centered dude. That’s what it comes down to, and the Lord used a couple of misguided, but very passionate and humble young men to show me that this morning. What a joy! What a humbling joy! Lord, grant me the grace to engage my neighborhood in service for your name’s sake.

O yea, and one more thing: is it a coincidence that I read and memorized these words from Jesus this morning?

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles Lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave; even as the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:25-28).

Last place is sweet for those who will seek it. O Lord, grant me grace for the sake of Your name!
Seeking the joy of last place with you,
Joe

Out for the Weekend September 29, 2006

Posted by larrylaz in Random Musings.
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Joe,

You know, that title for your last post is a bit misleading; it could be interpreted to mean that we are slacking for an everlasting duration. That is, “for good”. I trust you didn’t mean it that way! But it is encouraging to remember the providence of God working throughout the story of Joseph, and for that matter, throughout all of human history. While there will always be people who speak of God’s sovereignty as a divisive, unsearchable mystery that should not be too worried about, I know that it is a most practical doctrine for me. I could not live a day in pursuit of God without the confidence that He is reigning triumphantly over all things and ensuring that even the most painful experiences of my life, He has governed for my eternal good.

I must keep that perspective this weekend as I go camping with some of the group from Koinonia! Camping is not my thing at all, but I think it will actually be good for me to get away from everything for a couple of days. I am hoping that God will meet me in the quiet of nature — without phones and internet and other stuff to get in the way. It is a small group of us going, and I think that will be for my good too. It seems like I have been too busy and/or sick to devote much of my energies to the private pursuit of Jesus, and I hope that this time away will re-focus me on Him who is my all in all.

Pray for me brother, that I don’t come back with pneumonia! Of course, on the basis of your post from a couple of days ago, I will just “claim” my healing in Jesus’ name! In seriousness, I am in need of a great dose of preaching to myself. I preach frequently to others, but not nearly enough to myself.

Have a good weekend,

Larry

Slacking for Good September 28, 2006

Posted by Joe in Scripture Meditation.
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Lar,
What’s up with our slacking brother? Actually, you might have an excuse. You are a little under the weather. But hey, this is blog nation here. I’m not going to let us drop the ball completely! So here’s a little somethin somethin.

I’m in Genesis right now (along with a few others books). I read Genesis 37-39 this morning and was struck by Joseph’s sharing his dreams with his brothers. You remember Joseph telling his ‘not so nice’ brothers his dreams right? Here he is, the favorite, spoiled one, telling his brothers that he had a dream that their sheaves gathered around him and bowed down to his. Naturally, his brothers hated this and despised him all the more. But what is amazing is that when he has another dream that points to the same reality, he shares it again. “Behold, I have dreamed another dream. Behold, the sun, the moon, and eleven starts were bowing down to me” (Genesis 37:9). This even fired up his father a bit as well.

I had to ask myself, “What in the world was he thinking?” As far as I can tell, there are only a few options: either he was really dull or really arrogant. There might be another, but I think a combination of the two could be probable. He must have known that although he was the favorite of his father, he wasn’t the favorite of his brothers. That had to be at least somewhat clear. So why would he share such dreams? In my opinion, he was probably just insecure (which is rooted in pride of course). Here’s this little 17 year old kid, who probably got picked on most his life trying to tell his brothers what’s up right? Not the wisest of moves. For as we know, the response of his brothers was to sell him off into slavery in exchange for 20 silver shekels.

It’s a good lesson to check our pride at the door and to face our insecurities whatever they might be. But that was not the main thing that struck me while reading this story. What hit me most was the fact that God uses this stupid move by Joseph to fulfill those dreams! That is amazing isn’t it? Joseph gets a little dull and arrogant and shares these two God-given dreams with his brothers. And in the wisdom of God, the Lord uses that not so smart move to make those dreams come to pass. Without the dreams, would they ever have hated Joseph enough to send him into slavery? Maybe not. And without that wicked act, Joseph wouldn’t have reigned, and the chosen people of God may have perished.

The Lord is awesome isn’t He? I mean, of course He is, but it is surely a delight to see it in the Scriptures day after day. And it is glorious to know that as children of God, the Lord is using even our dumb moves for our good and His glory. Romans 8:28 says “all” and means “all.” This includes our foolish mistakes (and our slacking) right? I think so. Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean I am going to try to be more foolish. That’s folly in and of itself. It just means that I can take comfort when I err, that my good and gracious God is working all things according to the counsel of His will.

I can’t wait to go to heaven and see the big picture of so many ‘minor circumstances’ that turned out to be quite major. It will take milleniums to search out the sovereign wisdom of God in our own live, let alone the whole of human history. It will truly be a joy!

Alright, catch you soon brother.
Beholding our good and sovereign God with you,
Joe

I’m Back September 27, 2006

Posted by larrylaz in Random Musings.
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Joe,

You really have been making some audacious claims over the last few days. First, there was your pronouncement that John Piper is bad; then you say that the Word of Faith guys are on to something!

Thanks for your belated birthday wishes. It is ironic that you mention being encouraged by my perseverance in pursuing Christ, for I feel like I have been woefully deficient in that this week. I have had a rough few days physically, which is probably why I haven’t had much of a will to post on the blog. But I haven’t been able to do much else either. I’ve been bugged by some sort of head cold or maybe it’s allergies, but either way it has made it difficult for me to do much. There have also been some ministry situations which have been occupying a good deal of my time and my emotional energy. I’ve had a few days straight here where I just wish I could stay in bed all day.

Yet God is faithful to keep me persevering. He always has a word that keeps me going just enough to get through each day. I know the Scriptures tell us we are more than conquerors, yet there are days for me where I feel like just a survivor. Nevertheless, He is faithful even to keep me surviving. I could not do it on my own. This morning it was Psalm 109:21, “Your steadfast love is good…” It was just that word “steadfast” that I needed this morning. His love is steadfast, enduring, persevering, unfailing. It really doesn’t matter how I feel; all the demons of hell cannot separate me from the love of Christ. What can a mere head cold do?

In praise of the One who keeps us from stumbling,

Larry

“Word of Faith” Folks Have Something September 26, 2006

Posted by Joe in Quotes, Random Musings.
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Lar,

That title had to make you want to read right? I was thinking it might. But I am serious, and I will tell you why (of course). Although many ‘word of faith’ folks go to a very unhealthy extreme of ‘trusting God for a Mercedes’ or speaking that blessing into your life or whatever, there is a good truth there that is distorted. As is the case with most error, it is simply a truth taken to an unhealthy extreme.

Here is the premise: who you become is determined by what you think. That is true, so I trust you will agree with it! We do become like what we think. No doubt we are called to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. There is a war for our thoughts, so we need to be fighting! And this, all the time. I have to confess that I have been struggling with some ‘defeatist’ thinking as of late. I have just been down, gloomy, lukewarm in some respects. My heart has not been full. Well, the Lord confronted me with my need for that ‘word of faith’ conviction. He brought to mind these wise words from Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones,

“Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them but they are talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you. Now this man’s treatment [in this psalm] was this: instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself. ‘Why art thou cast down, O my soul?’ he asks. His soul had been depressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says: ‘Self, listen for moment, I will speak to you.’”

Now that is a great quote. It is based, as you know, on Psalm 42 and 43, where David says, ‘Why are you cast down O my soul? And why so disturbed in me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him, my Savior and my God!” He is preaching to himself, rather than listening to himself. And there in lies the wisdom. It’s tough stuff, but it is right on the money. So the ‘word of faith’ folks have a point. In thinking about it, the issue is not the speaking truth to oneself, but the ‘truth’ that one is speaking.

That is where our differences lie. Where is that quote by Tozer that talked about this stuff? He said something to the effect that what we think about when we are free to think about whatever we will, shows us what we will soon become. Let us war for our thoughts brother! Taking every single one captive to obey Christ Jesus. Let’s get a little ‘word of faith’ in us and become more like Jesus for the glory of His great name.

Speaking to myself with you,

Joe

Belated Happy Birthday! September 26, 2006

Posted by Joe in Random Musings.
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Lar,

Forgive me brother! I missed your birthday yesterday. I am terrible with dates, but will have to talk to Erin about this one. Usually she doesn’t let me forget! Well, just another evidence that I am a sinner and this is a fallen world.

Happy birthday though! I am thankful for you, and I know that I am not alone. You are truly an encouragement each and everyday. Your jealousy to go hard after God and lead others to the same consistently stirs my soul. And that word ‘consistent’ is an important one to me. Or maybe it should be ‘persistent.’ There’s no slacking. I know you might not totally agree, but I am continually encouraged by your ‘consistent’ and ‘persistent’ pursuit of the Lord. More diligence is needed in our seeking God, and I am thankful that the Lord has given you the grace to be an example of what that is all about. Keep showing us brother! Lead the way.

I also want to encourage you concerning the growth I have seen, particularly in the way that the Lord has enlarged your heart to people. This also is a joy to behold and, I know, a great blessing to the kingdom. For no matter the preaching gifts (and they are great–and necessary!–also), a heart that longs for men and women to know and love and delight in the Most High God is simply irreplaceable. I want to encourage you to continually seek that burden. It is a wonderful thing to have–not only for yourself, but for everyone else as well. We need more burdened leaders brother, and I am confident that the Lord has raised you up to be such a one!

Well, I’ll catch you later today Lar. Thanks for everything. My love for you grows daily in the Lord.

Seeking Him with you,

Joe

Laughs September 25, 2006

Posted by larrylaz in Random Musings.
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Joe,

Thanks for the laughs brother. I don’t know how you find this stuff!

It’s going to be another light blogging day for me but I will try to get back into the swing of things tomorrow. Thanks to those who replied to the poll a couple of days ago. If you have not done so, scroll down a couple of posts and help me out. I already preached the sermon but I would be interested to hear what others think. Tomorrow I’ll share a bit about how I came across that quote and my thoughts on it.

Larry

September 25, 2006

Posted by Joe in Links.
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Lar,

You’ll definitely like this…

Peace,

Joe

A Strong Recommendation September 24, 2006

Posted by Joe in Recommendations.
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Lar,

It seems that we have gotten away from our book recommendations, so I thought I would ‘take a sabbath’ and do so. The book for this weekend is one that, as you know full well, is very close to my heart. In fact, you might say that in large part it is my heart.

160066015001_aa180_sclzzzzzzz_v66901699_.jpgThe Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer is a book that I encountered for the first time about 5 years ago. I can remember that the first time I read it, I underlined everything and understood about 5 percent! But from the first time I opened the book, it captured my heart. Tozer calls us to a wholehearted pursuit of the Lord God. He points us to the necessity of the ‘inner life’, to the knowledge of God that goes beyond the intellect and touches and transforms the inner reaches of one’s soul. He is not content with right doctrine (and actually might have missed the boat on a few things), for he wants to experience the Most High God, not simply fill his head with cold facts about Him. Needless to say, his message is needed today.

So if you haven’t checked this one out, I would encourage you to give it a good read. Tozer was a prophet in many respects, so even though he wrote this book about 50 years ago, his message is just as relevant today as it was then. You will enjoy and be exposed by his many insights! And if you have read, I would encourage you to read it again! I find myself inclined to visit it at least once a year. It is good to get a good dose of Tozer periodically, good for the soul, to center itself on God once again.

Alright, enough for now. If I have time, I will check back in later.

Seeking to know and love Him as All in All,

Joe

Desire and Discipline September 23, 2006

Posted by Joe in Links, Random Musings.
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Lar,

Looks like Blog Nation is a little busy! Either way, here is an article by Tim Challies that I was encouraged by. It is called “Planned Neglect.” I think he is right on the money here. This is a much needed message for us as Americans. It is wise to neglect what we must in order to enjoy what we truly desire (or what we want to desire as we ought!) We do it all the time in life really, but sadly, are slow to get it when it comes to the pursuit of God.

I find it to be interesting, however, that discipline and desire feed off of one another. Think about it: Why does an athlete discipline himself for the goal of greatness? Is it not because he desires it and knows what it takes to get it? Yes, absolutely. However, it is often true (as I have experienced) that the disciplined work fuels the desire. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. So a disciplined pursuit of God flows from a strong belief that He is all that our hearts will ever need and desire. We pursue because we believe. Yet the more disciplined we are, the more that desire has an opportunity to grow. We believe because we pursue.

So what comes first? Well, desire comes first. It is the root. The seed of desire leads one to discipline. Yet there is some wisdom in saying that one ought to discipline himself in order to truly desire what one ought. In fact, I think it is wise to say that one out to discipline oneself until that desire begins to consume the whole of one’s life and being (which is why we must be disciplined until the day we die–no days off!).

Our desire might seem very weak at times (like every single morning!). Therefore, I think it is wise to tap into the inner reaches of our souls, to set some time aside and ask ourselves: what is my innermost desire? What do I know to be the object (Object!) that can satisfy the inner reaches of my heart? Deep down, what do I really want?

I hope and pray that the answer is God. So after finding that answer, then we need to ask ourselves the question: what do I need to do to have Him? How do I need to live so as to more fully enjoy Him and make Him known? We let that one desire dictate the whole of our life. That’s it. It really is that simple–and radical–and joyful! We determine our discipline in order to fuel our desire for God!

And on the other hands, we tap into our innermost desire for God and then discipline ourselves in whatever way we must so as to enter into a greater enjoyment of His Person. That might be a little confusing, but maybe you can bring some clarifying words here Lar.

That being said, the way I see it, we cannot know true joy and power in this life apart from discipline. We were created to desire God and to diligently pursue Him. Cruise-control living simply will not cut it. We were made for so much more!

Alright, enough for now. May the Lord grant us a greater desire for Jesus and diligence and discipline in pursuit of His Person!

Seeking to neglect what I must in order to enjoy what I truly desire,

Joe

A Poll September 22, 2006

Posted by larrylaz in Quotes, Random Musings.
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In the three months that Joe and I have been blogging, we have never had a poll in which we have asked specifically for the response of our readers. But I want to do that today. In preparing for my sermon on Sunday I came across a quote that was of interest to me. I want to test its accuracy, at least in the eyes of our audience. So here is the quote:

“The days of speakers using loud, booming, “preacher” voices are over. The postmodern audience responds better to natural, more personal preaching styles that are relational and conversational. Today’s audiences generally prefer a more casual approach to preaching that does not sound like the preaching their grandparents heard. Your audience probably prefers something more akin to a conversation about God’s truth. Calvin Miller says this conversational approach is like saying to the audience, ‘Draw up your pew and let’s have a coffee-and- doughnuts communication.’”

The response I am looking for is this: Do you agree with this statement about the kind of preaching that people want to hear? I realize you are not all considered “postmoderns”, but I want to know your thoughts. So if everyone who reads this blog can click on the “comments” icon at the bottom of the post and take a few seconds to write yes, you agree, or no, you disagree with the quote, I would greatly appreciate it.

Joe, no response from you to sway the opinions of our readers. I already know your opinion anyway! I have intentionally left my thoughts out of this post. This is purely for the sake of researching for my sermon.

Thanks to all who take the time!

Larry

Back to Theology…for Now September 21, 2006

Posted by Joe in Random Musings, Scripture Meditation.
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Lar,

Yea, I didn’t think I would be writing about Constitutional Hermeneutics much, but I have to tell you, I love this stuff. I don’t love it b/c it is easy to think about and wrestle with from a Christian perspective, but on the contrary, because it is hard. And I am beginning to think that that is why we don’t like to think too much on these kinds of matters. For it is one thing to know the texts of Scripture, but another to understand how the truths we find in Scripture should inundate and dictate the whole of our intellectual life. There simply isn’t much time for aimless thinking. However much we dislike that truth, it is still true. We love to just ‘veg’ in front of the television and turn our minds off. But I ask, to what end? Where is this taking us?

I’ll tell you, if you are going to watch tv (which isn’t a favorite pastime of mine although it once was), you better be prepared. Your worldview is going to be assaulted by all sorts of godlessness. Sure, it might not be obvious in some contexts, but sometimes that is what makes things all the worse. Isn’t it worse when you are being attacked without your even knowing it?! I can guarantee you, if you watch and listen passively, your mind is bound to shrink and shrivel. You will lose your capacity to think deep and joyful thoughts about the Most High God. The same rings true with the computer. When we read the news or opinion articles, we have to ask ourselves, “How does the Bible lead me to think of this matter?” Even though the Scriptures might not talk specifically about Constitutional Hermeneutics (or whatever), it is wise to remember that the teachings of Scripture go far beyond its words.

Well, yet again, I say a whole lot more than I planned to. I wanted to say a few words concerning theology, so I still will. I was reminded today firsthand of the incredible truth of 2 Corinthians 4:4-6. It reads,

“In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants[a] for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

Let us reflect upon this and then joyfully adore the God of our salvation. We didn’t save ourselves brother. We were blind, walking in darkness, unable to see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. Yet the Lord reached down by the Spirit and said, “Let light shine out of darkness.” How did Charles Wesley put it in that famous hymn?

“Long my imprisoned soul did lay, fast bound in sin and nature’s night. Thine eye diffused a quickening ray; I woke, the dungeon flamed with light. My chains fell heart, my heart was free. I rose went forth and followed Thee.”

Millions walk in darkness and have no hope of light apart from a sovereign work of grace. They can’t ‘decide’ to make themselves see. They can’t ‘determine’ to deliver themselves from blindness. They need a miracle. They have no hope apart form a supernatural work. Let us remind them of this, whether it be from a pulpit or in private conversation. Believe it or not, it produces the humility that prepares the heart for that great, sovereign work.

It’s a humbling truth brother. What room do we have to be arrogant in light of the doctrines of grace? How can we look down upon a blind man for his blindness when we were once like them–and delivered through no doing of our own? It is impossible. Let our hearts be brought down to the dust. And let our mouths overflow in praise for our great God and Savior. Praise His name for His indescribable grace!

Rejoicing in Him with you,

Joe

Wow September 21, 2006

Posted by larrylaz in Random Musings.
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Joe,

I must confess that I never thought I would see a title to a post, “Constitutional Hermeneutics” on this blog! But what I really like about what you had to say is how you are approaching your classes with a God-centered worldview. I know we have often discussed the importance of merging the “sacred” and the “secular”, and it is good to see you embracing reading things like the First Amendment and coming to it with an expectation of seeing God more clearly through it.

If only all of us had eyes to see God’s fingerprints on even the most mundane parts of our day!

I’ve got to get back to my sermon prep; this has been an odd week where a few other ministry issues have taken some big chunks of my time. But God is showing me that through some tough circumstances, He is working great things. His wisdom is perfect, and infinitely higher than mine. That’s a lesson I am learning once again this week.

Back to work!

Larry

Constitutional Hermeneutics September 20, 2006

Posted by Joe in Random Musings.
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Well Lar, before I call it a day, I want to say a few more words regarding the subject of my last post. This is, in fact, where most of my reading lies right now, so it is a natural for me to speak about it. So take these for what they’re worth. I hope they serve to help you view the world through a God-entranced lens.

Lately, I have been doing quite a bit of reading on the first amendment. It reads,

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

I trust that we all would agree that the interpretation and application of this amendment by our various courts is a very important matter for our country today. And after just a week or so of reading and learning, I have to tell you that I have begun to taste how difficult this process really is. See, I used to think that the process of interpreting and applying this amendment was rather clear cut, one that a judge could get either right or wrong. Well, I no longer think so. For it seems to me that just like the Scriptures, one might agree on an interpretation but differ on an application. That is to say that when the nitty gritty details of life and court cases come, how that law applies to a particular situation can really be a tough thing to discern.

Judges have to consider every situation in its own context and the various implications for government and future cases. Take that last case I mentioned (with the kid wearing the more or less offensive (but true) t-shirt). When it comes to dress codes in school and the ability to exercise ‘free speech’, where do you draw the line? And what are the circumstances when kids cross the line? I mean, if a Christian has a right to wear an offensive t-shirt to school, does also a satanist? With our moral compass, this might seem like an easy question, but it’s not that simple. The concept of free speech in a secular society like or own is anything but comfortable. There is a line to be drawn, but where? And who determines where?

John Milton (author of Paradise Lost–a famous poem for those who don’t know) once wrote an essay on free speech that expressed the truth that the pursuit of truth in a fallen world must include the presence of error. Darkness serves as a backdrop for the light. Of course, he was a protestant writing in the 17th century, so later on in his essay, he also expressed his opinion that this exercise of free speech shouldn’t apply to catholics and others, but his point was clear. Without going into detail about his whole essay (which I can’t do), his premise is quite wise, and I believe, Christian. If we are confident that we adhere to the truth of Scripture, why do we fear the expression of that which is false?

And, what might be more important for us today, how do we fight against the presence (however big!) of darkness? What I mean by that is, what is the best way for us to influence our surrounding culture? What is the most effective means? Is to hold a strict possession of freedom of speech or to let everyone talk, with full confidence that one day, the truth will prevail? However uncomfortable it might make us, I believe we have to opt for the latter. And in reality, it is my conviction that the reason why we opt for the former is because we are not very confident ourselves.

Might it be that the reason why evangelicals are so caught up in political and external matters today (the courts, legislation, etc.) is b/c we are so weak spiritually? We are not salty. We don’t shine bright, so we must aim to mandate the presence of light. I’m not sure if that makes a great deal of sense, but I hope you can understand what I am getting at. For even though I respect the presence of evangelicals in politics and legislation (and everything else), we need to be very careful about imposing our will on others just because it is right (if it is right). We influence the culture best not by imposing our wills, but by losing our wills to another, so that we might humbly serve in a way that magnifies Christ–in every sphere of society and life. We walk with Christ and shine bright, not simply by mandating morality, but living with a view toward an eternity with Christ.

There is more and I haven’t stated my thoughts incredibly well, but I hope they serve to stimulate yours. In the end, I just long to see a church that is powerful, a church that is influential and attractive, b/c she is full of people who genuinely and wholeheartedly love Jesus. If the church were full of such men and women, who then went out to live their lives of self-sacrificial service in every sphere of society (school, military, business, politics, you name it), I can’t help but think that we would see radical change, real change, true change. We wouldn’t have to worry about mandating speech, because we would be so salty that others wouldn’t want to engage in such wickedness. The light would simply shine so bright. O Lord help us! We need your mercy.

Seeking to magnify Jesus in all of life,

Joe

Christians and Court September 20, 2006

Posted by larrylaz in Scripture Meditation.
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Joe,

It definitely was a slow day yesterday, and it may be that way for me over the next few days. I’m trying to get my schedule down, but it is pretty full right now: Greek, Grasping God’s Word, preaching every Sunday plus the other responsibilities with Koinonia, a wife who would like to see me. Things are a bit crazy right now!

But I couldn’t help but think about a passage of Scripture as I read your last post on the “Christians” who sued the school. You know I tend to see things through a lens that always relates to a Bible verse, and it was the well-known verse from 1 Corinthians 6 that stuck out to me:

The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated?” (1 Cor. 6:7)

In the context the issue is lawsuits between Christian brothers who were taking their disputes before unbelievers. But I wonder if there is a principle here that stretches beyond the fellowship of believers? Jesus did say that in the world we will have tribulation, and we who desire to live godly lives in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (John 16:33; 2 Timothy 3:12). I wonder if refusing to exercise our American “rights” is one way to compel those who would see us to ask what is the reason for the hope that we have (1 Peter 3:15)? Not many people ask me that, and maybe one reason is that I cling to my rights and have so conformed myself to our culture (except for really gross sin, like drunkeness and swearing!) that nobody can see I am hoping in something than different than everybody else.

Of course the real test of our faithfulness to Jesus is not in our abstaining from things like alcohol, but in living lives that look foolish if Jesus is not going to raise us from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:19). Maybe refusing the right to file a lawsuit is one thing that will point an unbeliever to the truth that we have a hope greater than what political freedom can give us.

Just some thoughts out loud here. Don’t take my ramblings here as truth!

Larry

Politics and the Christian September 19, 2006

Posted by Joe in Random Musings.
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Lar,

So this has been a slow day for us huh? Maybe because we did too much talking face to face! I guess that means we need to stop that. Well, I am headed out once again tomorrow, so we’ll be back to our old selves (Lord willing). Well, because it is a slow day, I figured I would share a few thoughts from some reading I have been doing lately.

As you know, I am taking a distance course from PSU, Comm 403 Mass Media Law. It is interesting–not as interesting as theology–but interesting nonetheless. I won’t go into detail, but we have to do a good bit of reading for the course (as always in school). One aspect of our reading is the reading of court cases that involve freedom of the press or free speech in general. One of the cases I read involved a “Christian” young man who went to school with a T-shirt that pointed out the shamefulness of homosexuality. Long story short, it was what the school called “A Day of Silence” one that was supposed to teach tolerance for those of another sexual orientation.

Well, this student felt that the mere presence of this day was wrong– that is was designed to show their acceptance of homosexual practices. I won’t go into detail as to whether or not he was right or wrong. In this instance, it didn’t seem to be the administrators motives, but I can understand where he is coming wrong. Apparently, they had had some difficulties, fights, harsh words, etc. between students, so they chose to embrace this day to cultivate some ‘unity’ or something. I don’t know fully, but it is definitely my opinion that it wasn’t the greatest move. I have to think you could come up with some better ways to solve that problem. I would start by inviting a Christian preacher in to preach the gospel–to both the homosexuals and the arrogant “Christians” who were making fun of them (that is, to everyone b/c we all need it!).

Anyhow, this kid goes to school with a shirt that says, “Be ashamed: our school has embraced what God has condemned” on the front and “Homosexuality is shameful, Rom 1:27” on the back. Interesting for sure. I don’t picture Jesus wearing it, but he wore it and would probably call himself a Christian. Well, the administrators did all they could to get the kid to take it off. He refused and chose to sit in the office for the day. Obviously, the prinicipal and others were concerned with some responses to such a shirt. Well, the kid and his parents sue and the school and some Christian attorneys come to his aid. The court battle goes on and ends up deciding in favor with the school. I think it was a good decision.

But here is what struck me and fired me up a bit: this is not an isolated incident. This is how thousands (millions?) of Christians approach politics. They think they have to ‘fight for their rights’. But I ask, what were they fighting for here, but the right to wear an offensive shirt? We are a sad sight. There is a reason we resort to political ambitions and court battles (which are fine in their proper context). I think in the end it is because we are so spiritually weak. The church lacks power. We lack influence, so we try to gain it the world’s way, with the world’s means. Of course, this is not to say that we shouldn’t fight political or social battles. It is simply to say that these should come second. The reality is it doesn’t matter how many court cases we win or lose, if the salt loses its saltiness, how will it be restored?

I could go on Lar (and there is much more to say about this case), but we need to think about this stuff. How are we to engage the culture of our day. In a thousand ways, no doubt, but first and foremost, let us remember that if we give more time to the culture and less time to God, we don’t serve anyone well. Our first and foremost responsibility as Christians–for ourselves and the world–is to love and live for God. It is to so walk with Christ that homosexuals and other sinners are attracted to Him. O might the Lord make us salty and bright again.

Think about it Lar, what if that kid, instead of walking in with an offensive shirt, chose the path of love, of service, of sacrifice just like our Savior? What if just one would do it in such a school? No court case is needed. The sacrificial love of Jesus is attractive to all. Rights? Let’s learn to set aside our so called rights. Let’s learn to die to self so that we might live and lead others to Jesus. May the Lord send His Spirit soon to humble His church and show the world His beauty!

Seeking the death that brings true life,

Joe

Yea… September 19, 2006

Posted by Joe in Scripture Meditation.
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I’m with you Lar. It’s out! For the most part, it has probably been used in a derogatory sense, so it is best. We by no means want to use words that could make another stumble. I’m looking forward to hearing a few more words from you. Until then, let’s meditate upon this (I think this is my text for preaching this Sunday),

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

I can’t wait until that day when I will really get the glory of that truth. The substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus Christ is so sweet that we will celebrate it forever! But until then, let us meditate upon it until we fall our faces in adoration of our God and Savior. Praise the Lord for the righteousness of Jesus Christ!

In His perfection,
Joe

A Quick Word September 19, 2006

Posted by larrylaz in Random Musings.
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Perhaps I will get a chance to write a bit more this afternoon, but if not let me just say briefly that I hereby put to rest the term “micromanagment” as a description of God’s character. I think majesty, sovereignty, dominion and authority will work just fine!

Larry

A Quick Word on Micromanagement September 18, 2006

Posted by Joe in Scripture Meditation.
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Lar,

One more thought before I call it a day for blogging. The Scriptures are clear, this I know. The hairs of our head are numbered. Not a sparrow falls to the ground apart from the will of our heavenly Father (Matther 10:29). This is ‘micromanagement.’

But what struck me is why? Why does God micromanage? I believe that the answer is simple. He is infinitely jealous to manifest the fullness of His infinite glory. And this infinite jealousy leads Him to do all that He must to fulfill that one, great, glorious, all-satisfying end. The Lord will not settle for a half-hearted manifestation of glory. He is jealous to manifest His glory fully in the whole of human and redemptive history. This requires micromanagement. And ‘micromanagement’ really is a bad term. Sovereignty is more biblical and better.

Isn’t it humbling that most evangelicals today need to learn from the pagan king Nebuchadnezzar? He said, “his dominion is an evelasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the eath; and none can stay his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?'” (Daniel 4:34-35)

Amen Neb (that’s what his friends called him). Let’s embrace it and respond with humble adoration for our great and glorious King! God’s micromanagement is beautiful, b/c the manifestation of His glory is beautiful! I love the ‘micromanagement’ (that is, sovereignty) of God! Let’s worship brother! Let’s adore our Sovereign King together.

Exalting in His ‘micromanagment’ with you,

Joe

Micromanagement September 18, 2006

Posted by larrylaz in Scripture Meditation.
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Joe,

You can tell it’s Monday by my number of posts today; I trust I’ll be slowing down as my week gets going. Your thoughts stirred a couple of more in me, but maybe I’ll write a bit of that tomorrow. What struck me was in your post, the mention of Yancey’s view that God does not micromanage the universe. I couldn’t help but think of Matthew 10:30, “But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.

If numbering the hairs on the head of every human who has ever lived isn’t micromanaging the universe, I sure don’t know what is!

Serving the Blessed and Only Sovereign with you,

Larry