A Son Dishonors His Father

It is tragic when a son eschews the path that his father has prepared for him.  At least when that path is one of godliness and of following Christ.  The relationship between father and son is a sacred kinship.  My father taught me about Jesus and has lived as a Christian since I was a child.  One of my regrets is that my actions a few years ago brought pain to my father.  I also have two sons.  Both of them make me proud to be their dad.  They have been wise enough to learn from both my folly and my wisdom.  It would be painful for me if they made the same mistakes or if they rejected Jesus.

That is what has happened to one of the sharper Christian minds of the 20th century.  Francis Schaeffer was a giant among Christian thinkers when he was alive.  His writings helped shape a generation of people into thinking about a Christian Worldview.  His son, Frank, began by working with his father.  In recent years, he not only has left that work, he has become an outspoken critic of what his father taught.

Frank Schaeffer now is a book author and writer for The Huffington Post.  His last book was titled, Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of it Back. The title pretty well sums up the change in his life and thought.

Now I would agree that in the Christian Right, some people and some actions are just crazy.  Every group has a “crazy uncle” that has to be handled.  In many things, I would not identify with the Christian Right.  On other things, I do.  The problem with Frank Schaeffer is that he has a pretty broad definition of the Christian Right.  That is, if you believe that the Bible is true, then you are one of the crazies.

So even though I can relate to the song that goes, “Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right” I guess to Schaeffer I will be one of the crazies.  That doesn’t mean that I buy all that everybody on the right proclaims, but I do believe that the Bible is true.  If one rejects this, with what are they left?  Here is what Schaeffer proposes:

Put fundamentalist religion in its place — in other words in the dustbin of history — and replace it with humanism, tolerant spirituality and science and we will have gone a long way to solving many other problems.

Being a religious fundamentalist of any kind should automatically disqualify a person from political office

In Schaeffer’s most recent article, he repeatedly makes disparaging comments about the Religious Right.  Here is a sample:

  • Doesn’t care what is true–or even fact-based
  • live life informed by self-reinforcing beliefs which are proudly non fact-based
  • rooted in deep-seated resentment that can’t be cured because what is resented never actually happened.
  • resist facts in particular and have a loathing of education in general
  • sexual, political and social dysfunction
  • hate and exclusion
  • paranoid nightmare
  • Religious Loony Tunes
  • La La Land
  • dumb religion that is the root cause of the rape of the earth and the subjugation of women
  • fundamentalists share one thing in common — intolerance of others
  • sanction barbarity and are fundamentally anti-democratic as well as anti-truth policies
  • demand an allegiance to a “jealous God”
  • fundamentalists owe allegiance (to God) over and above their country’s constitutions or the rule of law or even common decency
  • no longer believes in the legitimacy of our government
  • threatens violence
  • American version of Iran
  • Those values aren’t democratic. They aren’t patriotic. They are revolutionary and seek to impose a theocracy.

I could deal with much of this and this article would be far too long.  I will simply ask, “Who sounds like they have a tolerance problem?”

Defending a Lack of Freedom in Afghanistan

The United States has sacrificed some of our brave soldiers in the battlefields of Afghanistan.  Americans like to think of our military defending freedom.  As Americans one of our chief freedoms is the freedom to worship.  So how do we respond when the nation in which our men are fighting and dying tramples on this cherished freedom of worship?

The government of Afghanistan has suspended two foreign aid groups from operating in the country.  Why?  Because of charges of proselytizing.  Church World Service and Norwegian Church Aid are forbidden from providing humanitarian services while they are being investigated based on reports of trying to convert Muslims.  It is illegal in Afghanistan and many other Islamic countries to try to convert somebody.

Not only is it illegal to try to convert somebody, it is illegal to convert.  If a Muslim citizen of Afghanistan decides to become a Christian, they are in violation of the law.  What is the penalty for breaking this law?  DEATH.  That’s right — death.

The current issue centers on a video of men being baptized and reciting Christian prayers.  A deputy in the Afghan government has called for the execution of these men.

Those Afghans that appeared in this video film should be executed in public, the house should order the attorney general and the NDS (intelligence agency) to arrest these Afghans and execute them.

–Abdul Sattar Khawasi

Another lawmaker has invited vigilante justice against these men by stating that killing a converted Muslim is not a crime.

Even the president of the country, Hamid Karzai, has taken a serious interest in this issue.  He has instructed leaders of his government to investigate and “strongly instructed them to take immediate and serious action to prevent this phenomenon.”

This “phenomenon” is an amazing moment.  As a Christian I rejoice that these men have found new life in Christ.  It is amazing that they have chosen to identify with Christ even at risk to their life.  May God give them strength.

I think that our government should apply strong pressure to the Afghan government with regard to this.  Surely it is a Human Rights violation to execute somebody for becoming a Christian.  What do you think?

Book Review: Jesus Manifesto by Leonard Sweet & Frank Viola

If you get the correct answer to the wrong question, you will still be off — just as if you had received an incorrect answer. So argues Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola in Jesus Manifesto: Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ. Often the church is asking questions about the kingdom, about justice, about causes, about evangelism, about accountability, about gifts and about leadership. These questions are important, but not the main questions.

The main questions are the two questions Jesus asked of Peter:

  1. Who do you say that I am?
  2. Do you love me?

Sweet and Viola have provided a great service to the church and to Christians with this book. Too often we focus our attentions on things instead of focusing on Jesus. Most of us want to do better and improve, but we go about it the wrong way. We talk about being saved by grace and then try to live in our strength and with our ingenuity. Yet, it is Jesus living in us that makes all the difference in the world. The authors put it this way with regard to individual Christians and the church:

Genuine Christianity is learning to live by an indwelling Christ (p. 165).

Genuine church life is born when groups of people are intoxicated with a glorious unveiling of their Lord (p. 143).

Sweet and Viola do spend time dealing with aspects of Christianity that are substitutes for this focus on Christ. They tackle the social gospel, fundamentalism and a host of other focus points.

The only weakness in the book is that at times they draw absolute applications when the application may be more of a general principle. For example, on page 152 they assert that “God will not do for us what we can do for ourselves.” They base this on Jesus’ instruction to people around him to unbind the grave clothes from Lazarus after Jesus called Lazarus back to life. This method shows up in other places in the book.

However, this is a minor weakness compared to such a clear display of Jesus in the book. This is evidenced by what is my favorite quote from the book,

What is lacking is a groundbreaking revelation of Christ that boggles the mind and enraptures the heart (p. 17).

Boggles the mind and enraptures the heart — these are the results of really seeing and experiencing Jesus Christ. If you read this book, you will read a clear presentation of Jesus. This is true from the Introduction to the Afterword. You do not want to miss the Afterword.

Disclaimer: This book was provided for review by Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Red Bank Baptist Church

On Sunday, May 30th, Suzie and I became members of Red Bank Baptist Church (RBBC) in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  We have been attending for a few weeks as we prayed about a new church home in our new city.  RBBC is located on the northeastern side of the city in the Red Bank area.  Adam Dooley is the pastor, and I am very excited about sitting under his preaching and leadership.

RBBC is a traditional Southern Baptist church.  The members have been extremely warm and friendly.  My heart has been warmed by the love demonstrated by the members, by singing great hymns and songs and by hearing passionate, biblical preaching.

It has been interesting to see how many of the people have connections with Louisville, Kentucky.  We are not the only ones who have moved from The Ville to Nooga.  On our first visit, we discovered that Jonathan Propes (Minister of Education and Family Ministries) and I had a connection from 13 years prior.  I had preached one Sunday in 1997 at Ninth & O Baptist Church in Louisville.  Jonathan was on staff at that time at that church.

Adam Dooley

What can I say about the pastor, Adam Dooley?  It is not always easy to find a pastor who preaches expository sermons with great passion.  Suzie and I have been blessed to now add Adam to Jimmy Scroggins (First Baptist Church, West Palm Beach) and Daniel Montgomery (Sojourn Community Church, Louisville) as the 3 pastors we have had during our marriage.  Adam was away this Sunday preaching at First Baptist Church in Dallas, TX.  He is a gifted young preacher.  I pray that he will continue to focus on feeding his sheep like he now does.  I pray that he will be pure, holy and godly in his personal life.

I have to comment on the first time I met Adam.  After a Wednesday service, I approached him and he said, “Hi, Frank.”  I asked him how he knew my name.  He told me that it was from reading my blog.  I was impressed.  Not by his excellent choice in reading material, but that he could remember my name and face from doing so.

We do have some mutual friends from our days at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  We did not attend at the same time (I don’t think), but a couple of men I respect did recommend that I check out RBBC because they knew him.  He received both his Masters and PhD from Southern.

Pray with us as we find our places of ministry and mission amongst the people of RBBC.  I have not been this hopeful of what God might do with us and through us in a long, long time.

Book Review: Life, In Spite of Me by Kristen Jane Anderson

At the age of 17 Kristen Anderson was bearing the scars of teenage angst, the death of a family member and being raped.  Without any hope, she laid down in front of an on-coming train.  Instead of ending her life, her legs were severed from her body.  The months and days ahead were spent in hospitals and psych wards.

This is the beginning of the story for Kristen Anderson as told in her new book, Life, In Spite of Me: Extraordinary Hope After a Fatal Choice

One question lingered in her mind.  Would she have gone to heaven had she died when the train ran over her?  This question led to another question.  What was life supposed to be all about?

These issues and these questions caused her to try and escape into a fantasy world.

I began to live in a fantasy world, hoping and expecting everything would turn out all right in the end (p. 52).

But this fantasy world could not deliver.  Not only did it not deliver, it was wearisome.

My arms had grown tired from trying to hold my fantasy world together (p. 3).

Kristen’s story turned when she heard and understood the gospel.  She discovered a life that was filled with purpose and meaning.  That purpose has included sharing her story of hope.  Many have heard her story and found the same kind of meaning and purpose.

One of the things I so appreciated about Kristen’s story, is that she communicates her setbacks as well as her victories.  She did not simply meet Jesus, and life was suddenly void of any problems.  Often Christian testimony accounts do not honestly mention the failures and struggles in the life of a Christian.  This book does deal with these struggles.

Anderson’s account presents some other issues important for Christians to consider.  For example, how should Christians deal with psychological drugs and medications.  Anderson struggles with this issue and causes her readers to think about it.

The role of intercessory prayer is pictured in powerful fashion.  Anderson discovered some important connections from that night by the railroad tracks and later in her church life.  These connections were important because of how people prayed for her that had never met her before.  The reader will be encouraged to pray for those whom they encounter along life’s way.

If you want to read a story of hope and encouragement, then get a copy of this book.  First, take a glance at Kristen as she talks about her life and book.

Disclaimer: This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

Let Us Stir Up

This is the 6th article in a series taken from the book of Hebrews examining some of the statements that begin with”let us…”  Each of these statements are intended to shake lethargic believers into spiritual action.  They are for each of us individually, but specifically apply to a joint venture by fellow Christians.  The previous 5 articles are:

  1. Let Us Fear
  2. Let Us Strive
  3. Let Us Hold Fast
  4. Let Us Draw Near
  5. Let Us Mature

To aid our memory I refer to each of these as a head of lettuce in a garden.  Get it: lettuce – let us?  This 6th head of lettuce is Let Us Stir Up.

Have you ever considered whether it is really important to attend and be part of a church?  Sure you have.  Recent studies indicate what we all really know.  Americans are more interested in spirituality, but less interested in the church.  We kind of pick and choose what parts of spirituality we want and leave the rest.  If we are honest, we would say that we pick the parts that we think make us more in tune with God, and somehow the church doesn’t seem to factor into this.  We have all seen the hypocrisy and error in church (sadly, I’ve contributed to that).  But the writer of Hebrews is reminding us that we have much to gain by joining together with fellow believers.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

–Hebrews 10:24-25

Notice the following:

1.  We are to give careful thought (consider how) we might stir up one another to love and good works.  The KJV translated this with how we might “provoke” one another.  Some have taken the wrong use of that word to heart.  We are to provoke or stir up others to love and good works.  Not just provoke them.  Do you anticipate Sundays and how you might stir up somebody else to love and good works?

2.  This is a mutual admonition.  That is, when we attend we also will be stirred up to love and good works.  Hearing the word of God proclaimed in the company of other Christians will do this.  Singing together the great truths of who God is and what he has done will do this.  Praying together will do this.  Sharing at the Lord’s table will do this.

3.  We must not neglect this.  To neglect is to not pay proper attention to something.  Joining with other believers should be something which has our attention.  We are focused on it.  It is not that we might intentionally decide not to attend, it’s just not on our radar.

4.  It can easily become a habit.  I know this too well.  I grew up in church.  I served for years in the church.  Seldom did I miss a scheduled church service.  After leaving the ministry I became reluctant to get too involved in church life.  I am the one that missed out.  I so enjoy standing and sitting next to my wife while we join in with others in the worship of our great God.  As not attending can become a habit, so can attending.  Attend a time or two and it’s becomes more of a pattern for life.

5.  The results of our stirring up each other are love, good works and encouragement.  All are worthwhile benefits.

6.  The later we are in history, the more we should do this.  The day of the Lord is much closer to us than when Hebrews was written.  We are to prepare ourselves for the time when we stand before the Lord.

So let us stir up each other.

Mark Souder: Almost a Good Confession

Mark Souder

Mark Souder has been the Republican representative of the 3rd District of Indiana in the U.S. House of Representatives.  He also attends Emmanuel Community Church in Fort Wayne, IN.  He has now admitted to being an adulterer with a part time member of his staff.  He will be resigning from Congress on Friday, May 21st.  In preparation of his resignation, he has released a statement through his office.

Since this site is in part about leaders who commit adultery and the consequences of adultery, I feel it is important that I comment on his actions and statements.

His actions:

He joins the ranks of hypocrites by being an advocate of abstinence only sexual ethics.  In fact, the mainstream media has already reported that he and his co-adulterer recorded a video promoting abstinence with regard to sexual ethics.  Adultery is always wrong.  Hypocrisy about adultery is the height of arrogance.  I know.  I recall when facing church discipline over my actions, that I was charged with this kind of hypocrisy.  It was true.

Souder’s Statement:

(You may read the full statement at Souder’s website).

So much of what Souder proclaims in his statement are parts of a solid confession.  I commend him for owning his sin, acknowledging the harm he has caused, and setting on a path of rebuilding his life.

However, I am troubled by a few aspects.  First, just a bit of nitpicking.  He claims that,

It has been a privilege to be a part of the battle for freedom and the values we share.

Unfortunately, he does share these values with too many.  I am sure he meant that he shares strong moral values.  However, his actions (more so than his words) reveal what his values have been.

Here is the part about which I am most concerned:

In the poisonous environment of Washington D.C., any personal failing is seized upon, often twisted, for political gain.

By stepping aside, my mistake cannot be used as a political football in a partisan attempt to undermine the cause for which I have labored all my adult life.

Not many people doubt that the environment of Washington is poisonous and that things often are twisted for political gain.  But this environment has nothing to do with his sinful actions.  I am left wondering if he would have continued in leadership if Washington was a kinder and gentler city.  If so, then I’m glad it is not.  He should be resigning because he has violated the trust of his constituents.  He has publicly proclaimed one thing and privately done another.

It is not partisan attempts that will undermine what he has proclaimed.  It is his own actions that serve to undermine what he says he values.  He continues by giving another reason for resigning,

I am resigning rather than to put my family through that painful, drawn-out process.

On one hand this is good.  On the other, he and his actions have already assured that his family will experience a painful process.  A good indicator of a person “getting” the seriousness of his sin is when he is less concerned about himself and now hurts for those whom he has hurt.

If Souder had omitted just a few sentences, I think it would be a great statement of confession.  Let’s pray that he lives it out now that he has said it.

Another iPhone App to Help You Spiritually

In March I posted an article about 7 iPhone Apps to Help You Spiritually.  Another free app has arrived that you should get if you have an iPhone.  It is from Ligonier Ministries which is the teaching ministry of R.C. Sproul.

A quick look around and I noticed that you can watch or listen to R.C. Sproul’s series on The Holiness of God. This has become a modern classic.  This one feature alone makes it a valuable tool.  But there is much, much more.

Better to Sleep with a Sober Cannibal

Recently I watched the old (1956) movie Moby Dick.  Gregory Peck played Captain Ahab.  It reminded me of my first adventure of reading through this early American classic novel.  One of the lines in the movie made me think.  Early in the movie the narrator of the work, a novice to whale-hunting, discovers that he is to share a room and a bed with a heathen cannibal.  This is the night before they are to prepare to launch out to sea aboard the Pequod to hunt for Moby Dick.

As he was in bed in the dark, his roommate enters the room with a tattoo covered face and carrying a shrunken head.  He is frightened and complains to the innkeeper about being roomed with a cannibal.  To which, the innkeeper responds,

Better to sleep with a sober cannibal than with a drunken Christian.

The next day the two became friends as they headed out to sea.  But the quote got me to thinking.

1.  It really isn’t very joyful being linked with one known as a Christian who doesn’t act like a Christian.

2.  Christian hypocrisy is less desirable than an honest n0n-Christian.

3.  Christians can have good relations with those who do not believe as they do.

4.  It is even better when you find a sober Christian.

The final option allows the Christian to relate with others with an unequalled depth.  My advice is to avoid using easy characterizations when developing relationships.  Some would avoid any who are not Christian.  This is not good.  But if Jesus is at the center of your life, you will find the deepest relations with others like this.  Using the quote above, her is the ranking of who might make a better bedfellow.

Best: A genuine Christian

Better: An honest non-Christian

Worse: A hypocritical Christian

Worst: An untrustworthy non-Christian

Book Review: How to Reach Your Full Potential for God by Charles Stanley

I wanted to like this book.  I really did.  Early in my Christian pilgrimage, Charles Stanley’s teaching helped me tremendously.  Not only was I looking forward to reading from Stanley, but I also have a keen interest in this topic.  After reading it, I came away disappointed.

In the first chapter of How to Reach Your Full Potential for God: Never Settle for Less Than His Best, Stanley provides the background for the book.  He was sleeping and awakened in the middle of the night with a burning question, Do you want to reach your full potential? He subsequently jotted down what he believed God was speaking to him about this topic,

If you truly want to reach your full potential, you must have a clean heart, a clear mind, a balanced schedule.

If I had stopped at the end of the first short chapter, I would have been fine.  Indeed, a clean heart, a clear mind and a balanced schedule are important and it was great to be reminded of these.  To reach our full potential for God, Stanley breaks the book down into 7 essential elements:

Essential 1: Having a clean heart
Essential 2: Having a clear mind
Essential 3: Using your gifts
Essential 4: Having a healthy body
Essential 5: Having right relationships
Essential 6: Having a balanced schedule
Essential 7: Taking God-approved risks

In and of itself, this is a good list.  However, the development of these essentials creates some problems for me.  Here are some of the problems I have with the book.

Stanley writes about having the mind of Christ.  This is good.  But his discussion of this raised more questions than provided answers.  He warns against the wisdom of the world.  In the early part of the book, he places the mind of Christ in stark contrast to the wisdom of the world.  Again, this is good.  However, much of the remainder of the book is simply a rehashed Dr. Phil type of self-help.

It was worth noting that Stanley refers to a book (p. 224) that he read annually because of the wisdom in the book.  Perhaps you will be as surprised as I at which book that is.  Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.  Not exactly the book that coincides with the distinction to have the mind of Christ instead of the wisdom of the world.

In fact, Stanley goes further in promoting self-help books in general:

I do not at all criticize the category of books that people call self-help.  We all need help…These books can provide practical advice and inspiration for pursuing one’s God-given potential (p. 225).

He spends more time relating these principles to the teachings of Jesus.  However, when Stanley gives his practical steps to reaching your full potential for God, he provides only cursory notes of key aspects while spending a great deal of time on less than biblical concepts.

For example, we should avoid touching our face with our hands.  We should wash our hands often and long enough (sing Happy Birthday through twice to make sure your hands are clean.

Stanley also rehashes some of the culturally conservative litany of don’ts without providing any biblical support.

Some of his advice simply isn’t practical unless you are the pastor of a megachurch like he is.  In my work and in my home, I don’t have the option of delegating some of the things that need to be done.  So, when he writes of his decision to be driven around Atlanta instead of having to deal with city traffic, it just doesn’t compute.

In the end, this book doesn’t deliver on the title.  I wish that it had.  I still like Stanley, but wish for consistency with regard to what really is biblical teaching.

Disclaimer: This book was provided for review by Thomas Nelson.