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Monthly Archives: November 2008

How should a Christian evaluate “The Shack”?

I am amazed as to the continued interest in The Shack. People keep reading the book and debating the value. Since a book group in our church has decided to read it, I wanted to provide them with some tools to evaluate what they read. If the book is read, it must be read with discernment.

Here are nine reviews of the book–balanced, positive, and negative–three of each. They provide a view of the waterfront as to how people respond to the book.

Balanced reviews

Positive reviews

Negative reviews

If you choose to read the book, these reviews will help you to process what you learn. But don’t stop with what the author presents about forgiveness and the Trinity. Don’t stop with what the reviewer says about the strengths and weaknesses and the subtle messages of the book. Find out what the Bible says about forgiveness, the Trinity, the inspiration and authority of Scripture, the importance and role of the local church, and every other subject touched on in the book and the reviews. Be like the Bereans, who “received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul (or authors and book reviewers) said was true” (Acts 17:11).

 
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Posted by on November 7, 2008 in Books, Theology

 

Arresting the downward spiral of society

Of perhaps greater concern than who sits in the White House or the State House were the ballot measures voted on Tuesday. Death with dignity passed in Washington. Amendments banning same sex marriage were approved in California, Arizona, and Florida. Colorado and South Dakota rejected anti-abortion initiatives. Michigan approved medical marijuana while Massachusetts decriminalized the possession of an ounce or less or marijuana. The ballot initiatives read like the end of Romans chapter 1 being played out in daily life. Our society is in a downward spiral, continuing to decay and grow darker.

Perhaps the benefit of the outcome of Tuesday’s election is that it will force the church to return to her roots and what God has called her to be and to do. Over the past decade, the church has either tried to become another PAC – Political Action Committee – or else has retreated to a protective fortress so as not to be contaminated by the world.

But God has not called us to either role. Instead, as citizens of the kingdom of heaven, we are to function as salt (Matthew 5:13) to arrest decay and preserve society from becoming worse than it is already. He has called us to be light (Matthew 5:14-16), to dispel the darkness and to reveal the Father’s glory.

 
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Posted by on November 6, 2008 in Culture, Politics, Theology

 

What does God have in store for America?

Now that the blue wave of Democrat fever has swept the country, what does God have in store for America?

Those who thought God was a Republican are acting as if he died. They are stocking up on sackcloth and ashes because life as they knew it has ceased to exist, or so they believe.

Those who thought God was a Democrat are having a Holy Ghost revival. They are popping the champagne corks because they have reached the Promised Land, or so they believe.

What people seem to forget is that God is neither Republican nor Democrat. Long ago, Joshua asked a similar question as he stood before the city of Jericho and faced the angel of the Lord. “Are you for us or for our enemies?” (Joshua 5:13). The angel replied, “Neither . . . but as the commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” (verse 14).

The question is not, “Whose side is God on?” God is God. The real issue is, “Who is on God’s side?”

After an election like yesterday, we need to be reminded that as the sovereign ruler of the universe, God can raise up kings and queens, and remove kings and queens. He can place anyone in power at just the right moment to accomplish his plan and purpose. The books of Nehemiah and Esther give testimony to that fact.

God’s plan is not dependent on who resides in the White House or the State House. God can use a godly king like David, a man after his own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). He can also use a pagan ruler like Ahasuerus (Esther 8-9) or Cyrus (Isaiah 45:1-13) to accomplish his plan and purpose. God can even speak through a donkey (Numbers 22). (No political pun intended or Narnian animal alluded to. This was a living, breathing, talking beast of burden who rebuked a prophet of God.)

If God is truly sovereign, the results of this election did not take him by surprise. He moved to put the right people in power to accomplish his plan and purpose.

Which brings us back to the original question, What does God have in store for America?

 
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Posted by on November 5, 2008 in Culture, Politics, Theology

 

When a prodigal returns

How do you react when a prodigal comes home? Do you welcome them back with open arms, saying, “All is forgiven”? Do you chastise them for the heart-wrenching grief that they put you through? Do you stand aloof, waiting to see if they have really changed? Do you guard your heart so it won’t be broken again?

As I taught Walk Thru the Bible‘s newest seminar this past week, Raise up a child, I was reminded of how my parents responded to my brother after he ran away from home.

My brother was 14 months older and six inches taller than me. My parents had been married 16 years and told they would not be able to have children when they adopted my brother. Shortly after that, they discovered I was on the way. Being adopted, there were times when my brother felt like he wasn’t loved or didn’t belong. He was and did, but sometimes he struggled with the feelings.

One Sunday afternoon when he was 17, it built to a crescendo, and he ran away. He left a note saying he was leaving and he hitchhiked 15 miles to a friend’s house. My parents were frantic and did not know what to do. I drove to a youth leader’s house to ask them to pray.

Fortunately, my brother’s friend and his parents convinced my brother to return home and even drove him back. As he walked in the door, my parents were on their knees praying for his safe return. Their reunion was straight out of Luke 15:24, “this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”

Years later, I was studying the concept of adoption in Ephesians 1:5, and I asked my brother what it felt like to be adopted. I expected him to say something like “special” or “chosen.” But what he said surprised me, because it showed how much his spirit had been healed since the time he ran away. He said, “I never felt adopted. I always felt like I was part of the family.”

While my parents were not perfect, they loved and accepted my brother and me and treated both of us like full members of the family.

 
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Posted by on November 4, 2008 in Family & Friends, Parenting

 

Raise up a child

 

Have you noticed that your child didn’t come with an instruction manual? That no one required you to pass a course before you could become a parent? That out of all the parents you’ve known who could mentor you, none were perfect? Who can you turn to for help?

 

 

Walk Thru the Bible Ministries has developed a new seminar for parents entitled Raise up a child.” Using principles gleaned from the parable of the prodigal son, the seminar aims to provide a “heavenly GPS” that can help us navigate through the pitfalls and perils of parenting.

 

 

The four points of the compass are:

 

Choices – Give your children the opportunity to make good choices, and they will develop godly character and maturity.

 

Consequences – Allow your children to face consequences—both positive and negative—and you’ll shape the future generations of your family.

 

Compassion – Help your children cultivate a heart that’s moved to action, and they will touch the world like Jesus did.

 

Consistency – Develop discipline in your own parenting skills, and cast off the mantle of the “scared generation.”

 

The material is available both as a DVD series for small groups and as a live seminar.

 

I taught the material for the first time this past week . I gained a number of insights from the material that I can use in my own family. It encouraged that I did a few things right in raising my children. I also found that it encouraged the seminar audience. The principles sparked a number of conversations and discussions about how to apply them in daily life.

 

While I am biased, it is a resource worth checking out. To find out more, click on this link.

 
 

Praying for my preaching

I am not satisfied with the quality or the impact of my preaching. While I am doing all right, I don’t want to be content with where I am. I want to grow and improve. I don’t want to settle for OK, fine, nice, interesting, good, or any other adjective for mediocrity. I don’t want to merely mark time. I am afraid of becoming complacent. I long to preach powerful sermons that make a lasting impact. I just don’t know how to do it.

When I read how Joe McKeever prayed specifically for his preaching, I knew I had to start doing the same. You can read his story, “I prayed for my preaching; And got answers I didn’t expect,” in The art & craft of biblical preaching, edited by Haddon Robinson and Craig Brian Larson.

I have rephrased some of his requests to express my own desires:

  1. I want a firm grasp of the Scriptures. I don’t want to preach if the text is not clear in my mind.
  2. I want the message from God to have a firm grasp on me, to grip my heart. I want to preach with genuine passion.
  3. I want to connect with the congregation. I’m tired of the “glazed-over” look on people’s faces. I want to have a good rapport with the people in order to communicate effectively.
  4. I want to see lives changed. I don’t want to settle for dispensing information. I want to see and hear that people have been transformed.
 
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Posted by on November 2, 2008 in Prayer, Preaching

 

Politics & Prayer

“We need to tell people to pray about the election in California,” said the voice on the other end of the phone. The individual had just heard a radio program talking about the measure on the California ballot about same-sex marriage. The radio announcer said to call your pastor and tell him to tell his congregation to pray for the people of California.

My first response was to think, “You want me to pray for an election two states away? I don’t live in California.” But I reminded myself that my in-laws live do in California and two of my children attend college in the state. So I am not completely apathetic about the ballot measures in other states.

As I reflected on this request, I began to wonder why I haven’t heard a call for people to pray about the issues in our own state, Washington.

  • Why isn’t anyone calling for prayer about the “death with dignity” issue on the Washington ballot?
  • Why aren’t we calling for fasting and prayer about our potential $3.2 billion state deficit?
  • Why is no one calling for repentance concerning all the negative campaign ads which reveal a lack of consideration for other people?
  • Why aren’t we calling people to pray, not that “our candidate” for WA Governor and USA President & Vice President would be elected, but that God would be honored and glorified in both the campaign and in the outcome?
  • Why aren’t we calling on God to guide our choices in every race so that His men and women would be elected?
  • Why aren’t we challenging people to pray that the people elected as judges would be honest and would practice justice and integrity in the courtroom?
  • Perhaps a more convicting question, Why do we rise up and call people to pray for an election, but we neglect to follow Paul’s instruction in 1 Timothy 2:1-2 to pray for our leaders each and every day of their term of office?

Yes, we should care and pray about the ballot issues in other states, especially as they relate to moral issues. But there is more on the ballot than just one issue. We should be praying for each and every measure, as well as each and every candidate.

May God be glorified in the election on Tuesday.

 
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Posted by on November 1, 2008 in Politics, Prayer