Thursday, May 31, 2007

Praise the Lord!

We received what we were hoping for today. Yesterday, Bobby had a PET scan to determine whether or not his Lymphoma is gone. Bobby's doctor told us today that the PET scan results indicate that his body is clear of cancer. In fact, he does not even have to return to the doctor's office for an entire month. This means no more chemotherapy, no more nights in the hospital, and no more pain for Bobby. We praise and thank the Lord for His amazing grace.

You can find out more information about this at

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Who was that author anyway?

If you are anything like me, you probably have at least one book that you are currently reading, several others sitting on a bookshelf waiting to be read, and many more you would like to either buy or check out from a local library.

However, sometimes I cannot remember either the title of a book I want to read or the author's name of the book. Well, I can't help with the book part, but I hope the following site helps with the author issue. I recently stumbled across this Christian Authors Database. This site lists many of the most well-known Christian authors along with their most popular books. The site is wide-ranging and does not focus on any one denomination or theological school of thought.

In particular, I enjoyed looking up specific authors who I had heard of but have never read. This exhaustive listing will help me (and I hope you) remember the names of the great Christian authors we need to be reading.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

I'll admit it

A few days ago I posted about a new, satirical blog site called Religion Roundtable. The purpose of the site is to point to truth through humor.

I'll admit it. The site is mine.

So many blogs exist that are so serious (maybe including "Hammer and Nail"). So, while being inspired by Tominthebox, I figured that I would jump into the satirical blogosphere. I hope you enjoy it, and remember to not take it too seriously.

Friday, May 25, 2007

My favorite picture

When you move overseas, as we did, you never know what you might run into. I know you may have seen this picture before, but I thought it would be worth a reminder. This is an actual photo of a restaurant in the city in South Asia where we lived. Although tempting, we never did dine there.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

A Convicting Article

Thank you, Dr. Black, for this post. It is convicting for me. Thanks also for the reminder that we need to be practicing these things in our own communities.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

How should we teach if they cannot read?

I have spent most of my life with people who can read. However, when we were serving in South Asia, we met many national Christians who could not read. Everything they knew from the bible came from what they had been taught by others. They had no way to test what was being said by looking at the scriptures (see Acts 17:10-12). These illiterate folks, many of whom knew much of the content of the bible, were forced to depend on others for their teaching.

The situation with the South Asian Christians brings two related things to mind. First, those who are teaching (whether in South Asia or here in the USA) had better be doing a good job of it because others' spiritual knowledge may depend almost completely upon them. I am reminded of James 3:1 which says, "Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment."

Second, when you hear others teach (here I am referring to teaching within a group, not to individual instruction), do you think the teachers are assuming that everyone who is listening can read? If you teach, do you assume this? Now, this can be at least somewhat remedied by people within a church knowing each other well enough to realize whether or not there are people among them who cannot read.

Why does this even matter? Because if a person cannot read, he cannot look back over the scripture that is being taught. Therefore, he might not understand nearly as well what the teacher is saying. He also cannot check to see if the teacher is correct or not. The illiterate man is certainly limited in his ability to "rest in the text" and dwell upon it.

So what should teachers do? I have a few suggestions, but I would like to hear from you also.

Here is what I think we could do to help those among us who cannot read:

1) Read the scripture passage at least twice out loud (see I Timothy 4:13).
2) Repeat the key thrusts of the text several times.
3) Keep the teaching simple (not in content, but in rhetoric).
4) Encourage those who can read to make a point of sitting with those who cannot.
5) Memorize scripture together as a church body.

These are some simple ideas that may help. What other ideas do you have? How can we help those among us who cannot read God's Word on their own?

Friday, May 18, 2007

Looking for a good laugh?

If you are looking for a laugh, go to Religion Roundtable. It is a new satirical blog inspired by Tominthebox News Network. Enjoy!

Doctrine: Why does that matter?

Many people within the church today say that doctrine does not really matter. That say that we should "love one another," and not worry about the rest of the stuff. It is all just details to them. Even the specifics of salvation are not that important. To read more on this, click here.

Others within the church take the above position, but to a more moderated degree. They agree with scriptural teachings on salvation; however, they in essence say that the rest of doctrine (defined as what we believe and practice) does not matter. To them, unity within the church far supersedes the "details" of doctrine. Unity becomes a trump card over all doctrinal disagreements after salvation.

I agree that unity within the body of Christ is crucial. After all, Jesus prayed for this in John 17. Also, this is the first topic Paul addressed in I Corinthians. It is clear that we should strive for unity within the church.

We are also told that all scripture is breathed out by God (II Timothy 3:16), is given by the Holy Spirit (II Peter 1:21), stands forever (Isaiah 40:8), and does not change (Matthew 5:18). So what do we do with scriptural teachings that are clear on doctrinal points? Do we ignore these and act as if they do not exist? Do we accept various interpretations as long as they do not violate the basics of the gospel?

Two key issues are the two ordinances given to the church by Jesus: baptism and the Lord's Supper. First let's look at baptism. If some Christians hold to infant baptism and others hold to believer's baptism, what should we do? Do we say, "It doesn't really matter because we are all saved anyway."? Or, do we search the scriptures to find out the truth? Regarding baptism, scripture always shows it to be an outward confession of inward salvation. If this is the case, should we accept infant baptism as valid? If we do, isn't this the same as ignoring scripture?

What about the Lord's Supper? Some Christians hold to transubstantiation (the elements literally become Christ's body and blood). Those who hold to this are mostly Catholics; yes, I do believe that some Catholics are headed to heaven. However, I reject transubstantiation as unbiblical. Why? Because the book of Hebrews makes it clear that Christ was sacrificed once. He will not be sacrificed again. So what do we do with this? Do we, within the same church, accept multiple interpretations of the meaning of the Lord's Supper? In the name of unity, do we ignore Hebrews?

Here is another important question: If unity is the most important issue, and therefore multiple interpretations of baptism and the Lord's Supper exist, what does the church teach new believers? What about other doctrinal issues such as the Holy Spirit, church discipline, and spiritual gifts?

If unity becomes the most important issue at hand, it forces us to ignore key doctrinal issues. However, if we do this, what we are saying is that God's word does not matter. If unity is supreme, we have to pick and choose what parts of scripture we want to talk about. We'll have to ignore those passages that teach about issues that divide some people. For example, if you accept multiple definitions of the Lord's Supper, be certain to avoid I Corinthians 11.

Possibly the most important and troubling fact is this: if unity reigns supreme, and therefore multiple interpretations of much of scripture are acceptable, this runs the danger of damaging the gospel message. How is this the case? If those within the church teach that varying interpretations are acceptable, pretty soon folks within the church will come up with varying interpretations of scripture that deals directly with the atonement. After a while, some may say that Jesus was only a good teacher, and that we must earn salvation by obeying Him. Then they will misinterpret the Sermon on the Mount.

We must avoid the slippery slope that is caused by placing such an emphasis on unity that other doctrinal matters are ignored. Let us both strive for unity and teach true biblical doctrine. We cannot afford to ignore some passages of scripture just to place an over emphasis on unity.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

A Dad's Great Privilege

This morning our family enjoyed another bible study. I am not referring to a church-related time of study, but rather our own family's time to examine the scriptures together.

What a great privilege it is to lead my family in the study of God's Word! As a father, I can think of no higher honor than to teach my own children from the holy scriptures. A while ago, we decided as a family that we would choose particular books and study through them. This morning, we completed Nehemiah. It is exciting and encouraging to see our children make insightful comments and ask questions that stretch our knowledge and understanding. We can see their faith growing as we move through the different books of the bible. They see from the different stories how men and women of God lived. For the last few weeks, our kids have been learning from the faithful lives of both Ezra and Nehemiah.

We often hear churches exhorting families to teach their children about God. However, I think many fathers believe that this would be a chore, and thus never try it. Yes, it is our responsibility as dads to teach our children. However, let's not think of this as some sort of work that we have to get out of the way; rather, let's dwell on the privilege we have of instructing our children in the very word of God.

Since we homeschool our children, we have some freedom in when we can have our bible study. We try to do this right after breakfast because it seems to set a good tone for the rest of the day. However, if a family does not homeschool and needs to have bible study at a different time of day, there is certainly no harm in this. The key is just that families be studying through the bible together.

I also do not believe that this needs to be a legalistic issue. If for some reason a family cannot study the bible some days, the world will not come crashing down. For example, since we have been in and out of the hospital lately, our time of bible study has been somewhat erratic. Let us enjoy our time together and try to study the bible faithfully, on a daily basis if possible, but also understanding that there are circumstances that may get in the way once in a while.

I strongly believe that one of the greatest gifts we as parents can leave our children is a deep knowledge of the bible. This is something they will carry with them the remainder of their lives. We should not rely on Sunday School teachers, youth workers, or pastor/elders to do this.

We as fathers need to be the primary source of our children's study of the bible. The church should be the secondary source.

Let's enjoy our great privilege!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Extreme Makeover? (Part II)

My wife, Alice, recently posted about the ridiculous nature of all of those "makeovers" that we see on TV or in magazines. Her article is called "Extreme Makeover?" You need to take a look at it; even I laughed at her pictures.

In looking at her photos, one thing that struck me was all of the work that women in our culture (and in most cultures for that matter) have to go through just to make themselves look socially acceptable. At the same time, men have to do very little. For that I am happy. You can see in my pictures below that I barely had to do anything to go from "before" to "after." Alice was both amused and disgusted with my whole transformation process.

If nothing else, I suppose we can all be happy that the Lord does not care about outward appearances. I Samuel 16:6-7 tells us the following: When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord's anointed is before him.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (ESV)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Systems analysis/Scripture must reign supreme

I realize the title of this post is a bit boring. However, the "system" I am referring to is Calvinism (sometimes referred to as "The Doctrines of Grace" or "TULIP").

Within the Southern Baptist Convention, the big current debate is whether or not Calvinism hurts churches and harms evangelism and missions. Leaders within the convention do not agree on Calvinism. Some have made very public, disparaging comments about Calvinism.

One of the biggest criticisms is that Calvinism should be rejected because it is a "system." Because it is a system, so the thinking goes, it cannot be fair to scripture.

My question, however, is this: Don't we all hold to some system of beliefs? Some people will say, "I just believe the Bible." That sounds good, but what does it mean? There are, after all, many interpretations of scripture. We have cults, cults, and more cults that prove that to be true.

So why is Calvinism rejected just because it may be a system of beliefs? Let's take a quick look at the 5 points of Calvinism (TULIP):

Total Depravity - You probably believe that the bible teaches that man is sinful. How sinful do you consider man to be?

Unconditional Election - You know that the bible says that God "elects" those who are saved. How do you interpret this? Do you think God chooses man, or does man choose God?

Limited Atonement - You probably believe that Christ's death at least paid for the sins of all who are saved. Do you think Jesus' death covers only those who are His followers, or does it cover the sins of all people?

Irresistible Grace - You believe God is gracious. Do you believe His saving grace can be resisted or not?

Perseverance of the Saints - You certainly believe that some people are saved. Once they are saved, do you believe they can reject this salvation?

You see, we all hold beliefs related to at least some of these issues. We also believe something about Jesus, heaven, baptism, the Holy Spirit, the church, the Lord's Supper, the rapture, the Trinity, the bible, and many others.

All of your beliefs come together to form a sort of system. Should your beliefs be automatically rejected by others because of this? What if someone said that the Trinity was a system? Would you then reject the Trinity?

I think we can all agree that our source of truth is the bible. That is the key. Whatever we believe should come straight from the scriptures. If anything does not line up with what the bible says, then that belief should be rejected.

Let me challenge you to compare Calvinism with what the bible teaches. Are the above 5 points true or not? Do they line up with scripture or not? Is God sovereign over salvation, or is He not?

Please do not believe something simply because you have heard it here or there, sometime in your past. Please honestly compare what you believe (regarding Calvinism or other issues) with what the bible simply says. As best you can, try to avoid coming up with complicated explanations for what a particular bible verse might mean. I've found that the simplest, most straight-forward meaning of the biblical text is usually what it means.

Every time I read the bible, I have to remind myself that I do not yet "have it all figured out." I doubt I ever will, at least on this side of heaven. So when I next open the bible, what if a belief I hold comes in conflict with the bible? If that is the case, I will have a belief to change.

Compare your system of beliefs with the bible. If there is conflict, the bible must win.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Merely excellent

I just completed C. S. Lewis' "Mere Christianity." It's excellent. If you haven't done so, read it. It will be worth your time. I'll say no more since so many of you have already enjoyed this classic.

Tybee Island, Georgia

A few days ago, Caroline, Mary and I drove 20 minutes east of Savannah to Tybee Island. We have always enjoyed going to the ocean at Tybee because of the relatively uncrowded beaches. We had not been to Tybee in quite a while, and wanted to do something fun. Alice and Bobby were stuck in the hospital, so we had to go without them. We had a blast walking on sand bars, looking for shells, and getting wetter than we meant to. We walked out to the end of the Tybee pier to see if the fishermen were having any success; I don't think they were. As an added bonus, some folks were flying kites that evening, so we strolled farther down the beach to look at them. Enjoy the photos!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day!

I know 4 women who, in particular, fit what you see below. They are my mother (Charlotte), my wife (Alice), my mother-in-law (Ruth), and my sister (Esther). I love you all very much!

From Proverbs 31, the text is originally a 22 verse Hebrew acrostic, each verse beginning with a different Hebrew letter. This abridged version is punctuated with "jewels" of Hebrew letter forms. The center heading is "Eishet Chayil," a woman of valor. --Michael Noyes

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Does your presidential favorite believe in evolution?

Take a look at this article to see where your candidate stands on the issue of evolution. Would you vote for someone who believes in evolution? Does it matter?

O.K., you may have not yet decided who you will vote for because the election is so far away. Also, you may be voting for a Democrat and this article only focuses on Republicans. Regardless, it is important to know where the candidates stand on more issues than just Iraq.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Catholicism & Hinduism: 10 Similarities

I know everyone will not be happy with this post. That's fine - healthy discussion is usually a very good thing.

After having lived in the USA and India, I have been exposed first hand to both Catholicism and Hinduism. This pertains to both belief and practice. Let me say first of all that not all Catholics believe the same things or practice in the same ways. This is also true for Hindus. Therefore, the following 10 similarities are generalizations based upon what I have experienced both here in America and in South Asia.

I'd also like to point out that we have friends who are Catholics, and friends who are Hindus. This post is not intended to be an assault on either religion, but rather a comment on similarities that I have observed.

That said, here we go:

Ten Similarities:

1) Repeated sacrifice
- At every Catholic Mass, Jesus is again "sacrificed." This is why the elements of the Mass are literally thought to be Christ's body and blood. When Hindus go to temple, they have to perform some sort of sacrifice, usually presenting some sort of offering to the gods.

2) Rituals - The Mass itself is a type of ritual. Also, the Rosary is one of the most well-known rituals of the Catholic faith. At a Hindu temple, various rituals are performed such as ringing a bell to wake the gods, bowing before the gods, and chanting different mantras.

3) Prayer to multiple saints/gods - Many Catholics (not all) pray to various saints within the Catholic church. Most Hindus (not all) pray to various gods within the Hindu pantheon. Some of the most popular are Shiva, Vishnu, Lakshmi, and Ganesh.

4) Priests - both Catholics and Hindus must go through a priest to get to god. There is no direct access to any god.

5) Cathedral/Temple
- In both religions, all important practices occur at some type of building. There is little encouragement for meeting in homes because priests cannot be at multiple homes at the same time.

6) Images & Icons - In Catholic churches, pictures and statues of saints are common-place. These typically receive veneration. At any Hindu temple, there will be multiple statues of the various gods. These will include Shiva, Vishnu, Ganesh, Hanuman, Lakshmi, Durga, and others.

7) Works-based salvation - In both Catholicism and Hinduism, salvation is based, at least in part, upon the works of the individual. This is far different from the cry of the Protestant Reformation: "Justification by faith alone."

8) Lack of knowledge of sacred writings - Within both religions, the typical follower of the faith has limited knowledge of the sacred writings of his religion. The same is true within Protestantism, but to a much lesser degree. Within Catholicism and Hinduism, the priest is heavily relied upon for scriptural knowledge and understanding.

9) Centered on Rome/Ganges River - Both religions are very centralized. Rome is the epicenter of Catholicism, is the home of the Pope, and is a destination for thousands of Catholics each year. For Hindus, the Ganges River is the site of pilgrimage. Many Hindus travel hundreds of miles to take a dip in the "holy river," in the hope that it will wash away their sins.

10) Death: purgatory/reincarnation - Both faiths teach that upon death, people do not go directly to heaven or hell. For Catholics, purgatory awaits. For Hindus, death leads to another cycle of reincarnation.

I will let you draw your own conclusions about the significance of these similarities. If you have any comments about why you think these exist, please let me know.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Making progress

It recently struck me that there were two books that I really needed to read. Somehow I had made it A) to age 36, B) growing up in a Christian home, and C) through seminary, without having read either John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, or C. S. Lewis' Mere Christianity.

How had I gotten to this point? I have no idea. I do have vague memories of having to read Mere Christianity while in high school, but I think I faked my way through it. Anyway, I am determined to rectify this problem.

Two weeks ago I ordered both books. Over the past few days I read "Pilgrim's Progress in Today's English." Some may say this is cheating because I did not battle my way through Bunyan's 17th century English. However, my point was to read and know the story, not to suffer through unfamiliar vocabulary. I suppose this would be like reading the "New Living Translation" of the bible. It might not be exactly accurate, but it is close. For me, that is not good enough for scripture, but for Pilgrim's Progress, I'll take it.

Frankly, it is kind of a relief to finally know who Christian is, where Beulah is, and what the Celestial City is. I had heard these terms all my life, and now I finally know what they refer to.

This book is a sweet allegory about the Christian walk. I'll leave the summary there because probably anyone who reads this blog has already read Pilgrim's Progress. I can see why this has been the most influential book in the English language after the Bible.

Tomorrow I will start making progress on Mere Christianity.

Are there any significant books you haven't read? Id like to know because maybe I need to add them to my "Books to be read" list. Thanks.

Monday, May 7, 2007

When I see a Methodist, what do I see?

I am a Baptist. I believe that the 1689 London Baptist Confession and the 1858 Abstract of Principles are faithful summations of Biblical teaching.

However, I am also arrogant about being a Baptist. For this, I apologize.

When I see a Methodist (or a Presbyterian, a Lutheran, a Pentecostal, etc.), what do I see? Instead of seeing a brother or sister in Christ, I tend to first see a person whose doctrinal beliefs are not as Biblical as what I consider mine to be. I focus on what makes us different instead of on what should bring us together: our faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I know as well as you do that some people who claim to be Methodists are not saved. However, the same is true for Baptists. In fact, the misapplied belief in "once saved, always saved" may even lead more Baptists than Methodists to falsely believe they are going to heaven even if their lives are bearing no fruit.

I know many people who are godly saints who also attend Methodist churches. So why do I first look to what separates instead of what unites? My only conclusion is that it makes me feel good to be right, and have others be wrong. This certainly does not please Christ.

So if I focus on unity, in what areas (practically speaking) can I be united with folks of other denominations (assuming they believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior)? The answer is simple: in almost every area. I can unite with them in missions and evangelism. I can unite with them in ministry work in the community. I can unite with them in prayer for revival in our community, state, and country. I can unite with them on taking a stand for Biblical authority on social issues. I can unite with them on apologetics-related issues. I can unite with them while participating in in-home Bible studies.

The one place I cannot unite with Methodists, Lutherans, etc. is in membership in a local church. This is mostly because of the key issue of believer's baptism. A church simply cannot have different definitions of what this ordinance means within one body.

However, division should not be my first thought when I see a person from another denomination. My first thought should be, "Hey, there is another follower of Jesus Christ. I'm going to go see how they are doing, and how I can serve them in the Lord."

Sunday, May 6, 2007

I saw something beautiful today

On March 1st, when we returned to the USA from serving in South Asia, at least we did not have to worry about where we would stay. Rothwell Baptist Church had already offered their mission house for us to live in rent free. What a massive stress-reducer that was! This house is a perfect fit for our family and is located in a good spot for us to get to the hospital and to visit with family.

Today I decided to attend the morning worship service at Rothwell. Due to Bobby's treatments we have not been able to spend much time with churches while here. While at Rothwell today, I saw something beautiful.

Rothwell was celebrating the Lord's Supper this morning. However, before the supper, the pastor announced to the church body that a 17-year-old unwed girl within the church is pregnant. He informed everyone that she had repented of her sin and was going to face the consequences. As the pastor made this announcement, this young lady and her family stood before the church.

The pastor exhorted everyone to be forgiving and loving toward her and her family. He reminded the body of the forgiveness that Christ has shown us. Finally, the pastor asked everyone to come forward and talk with her. The body responded in a way that I believe would have pleased Jesus.

The entire church (which was probably about 100-150 people) went forward and stood in a line to greet the family. They hugged and talked with each member of the family. If I hadn't known better, I might have thought it was a receiving line at a wedding.

What I saw was beautiful. The church was rallying around the young lady for the purpose of restoration. They realize she has a tough road ahead. Instead of making it tougher on her by shunning her, they did the Christ-like thing and showed her love and support.

It is refreshing to see the body of Christ acting like Christ.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Our trip to Fort Pulaski

As most of you know, my son Bobby has Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma and is undergoing chemotherapy. Because of this, he has not had a very pleasant life for the last 2 1/2 months. He will be returning to the hospital next week for another round of chemo.

We wanted to do something fun for Bobby before the next treatment. Yesterday, Bobby and I visited Fort Pulaski, which is a pre-civil war fort near Savannah, GA that has been turned into a national monument. We had a great time looking at canons, magazine (gunpowder) barrels, underground passages, and the moat. The gator was a thrill. We learned a lot about the battle for this fort that took place in 1862.

I have attached photos from our trip. One photo is of a plaque that details the story of the 1862 battle. Another picture is of a sign that tells of John Wesley's visit to Georgia in the 1730's.