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Archive for June, 2010

Faith = Risk = Verb

“Without faith, it is impossible to please God….” Hebrews 11:6

If you’re a follower of Jesus, your heart longs to please Him.  It is impossible to please Him without faith.  Faith will require you to remember who God is, what He has said, then launch out based on those realities.

I’m reading the NT Book of Hebrews (it’s awesome!) and have noticed a key idea in Chapters 10 – 11:  Faith is a Verb and is synonymous with Risk.

Reading Chapter 11 (the Hall of Faith), the verbs are key to understanding the faith of these heroes:

  • Noah built (a big boat in a landlocked area!) Risky!
  • Abraham left (his security for an unknown destination)
  • Abraham offered (Isaac, his only real son, whom He loved immeasurably)
  • Moses’ parents hid (baby Moses, despite probable death if they were caught)
  • Moses refused (the benefits/treasures of Egypt, which would insult them)
  • People of Israel passed through (the Red Sea … imagine walking through a long tunnel of water)
  • People of Israel marched (around Jericho’s walls, 7x, leaving them vulnerable to attack)

Get it?  These acts of Faith were risky actions.  Verbs.  Not just ideas.   There is a difference between intellectual assent to propositions and actual Faith in God.  Faith will leave you teetering on the edge of a precipice, without an apparent net below to catch you.  (But God is watching … and pleased).

Though none of Chapter 11’s heroes saw the final joyous victory (it’s still ahead), each of them risked it all to follow God. That is faith.  That pleases God.  I long to please Him, as I suspect you do, too.  So, what if we got together and decided to risk something for Him, something so great that it is doomed to failure unless He rescues us?

What do you say?  What should we do?

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Ok, if you love soccer, don’t get your shin guards in a twist.  I enjoy soccer, I really do.  All 3 of my kids have played organized soccer, my 2 oldest all the way through High School.  I loved each match and have learned to love the game (though I was reared on Baseball and Basketball, myself).

But as I’ve watched the World Cup, I find soccer flawed in 2 respects, both of which are correctable.

1.  The current game promotes LYING.  Seriously, Dan?  Yep.  Here’s what I mean.

When a player gets tapped, brushed, nicked, or grazed, he immediately falls to the ground in writhing pain, as though his femur just snapped in 12 places.  He is lying.  Just keep watching.  When the ball is back in play, he’ll be sprinting after it with no sign of injury.

This kind of behavior exists to convince the referee that he was indeed fouled.  What I long to see is a referee who will call the player’s bluff, and hand him a yellow card for “acting.”  This would promote (over time) a truthfulness to the game that is lacking. Soccer lacks integrity because of this nonsense.  Some call this gamesmanship, but I call it  lack of sportsmanship.  The sooner this is corrected, the better.  (By the way, I make the same argument when NBA refs give preferential calls to star players … but it takes a game like PGA Golf to show true honor, where players are so honest that they call penalty strokes on themselves, even when no one else sees the infraction!)

2.  Instant Replay: Watching the World Cup yesterday, I saw a goal by England that clearly crossed the goal line …  except the referee missed it (don’t know how, but he did).  It was unjust to not allow that goal, as it affected the tenor of the game (and the eventual outcome).  England is justifiably upset.  Justice was not done … because they refuse instant-replay.  It’s time for the purists to admit that a little bit of technology can assist greatly in bringing about a just outcome.

So, that’s my argument with soccer.  If the sport wants to capture me (like Golf has), it had better pay attention to these two, easily correctable grievances.

Oh, and it wouldn’t hurt if they made the goal about 10 yards wider 🙂

PS  Although England can cry for “Justice!” I’m so glad that, in the bigger game of life, I haven’t received Justice, … but Mercy, instead.  If I’d gotten Justice, I would be cooked.  Justice was poured out on Jesus instead of on me.  And that is part of what makes Christianity not just a dogma, but a life-changer.

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My Top 25

I’m reading Chip Ingram’s book, Good to Great in God’s Eyes. Chapter 2 asserts that a Christian is shaped by the books he/she reads.  The Bible is my #1 (I actually read it, not just carry it to church on Sundays). But, besides the Bible, what are the books God has used to shape me? I’ve read 100’s, so I won’t cover them all, though all have marked me.  But if I’m honest, these 25 have shaped me more than the next 250 combined:

Biographies:  (This is the #1 genre of literature that God has used in my life, the inspiring stories of men and women who lived the Christian life knowing God was present in their circumstances).  I have countless favorites, but here’s the cream off the top:

Shadow of the Almighty, by Jim Elliot  (the 2nd Christian book I ever read, and I discovered that if a Christian man could be this passionate to know Christ, I wanted in on it).

The Life of D.L. Moody, by A. P. Fitt (Moody’s life — and death experience — have marked me more than any other).

God’s Smuggler, by Brother Andrew  (1st Christian book given to me, before I came to Christ my Freshmen year.  Read it so many times it’s now held together with duck tape).

The Heavenly Man, by Brother Yun  (God shows up over and over, miraculously, in his life).

J. Hudson Taylor: Man in Christ, by Roger Steer  (Hudson Taylor’s early experiments to see God move through prayer alone have marked my life).

Spurgeon, Heir of the Puritans, by Ernest Bacon  (I love Spurgeon.  He’s rhetorically brilliant, and like a friend to me).

Christian Living: Top Tier

Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis  (Read it 3x one year, and I never recovered from it’s sheer beauty).

The 10 Transferable Concepts, by Bill Bright  (earliest Christian reading I did, and it’s intense practicality marked me).

Fireseeds of Spiritual Awakening, by Dan Hayes  (gave me the dream that God will move the world through prayer).

More Than a Carpenter, by Josh McDowell  (used in Speech class in college, to simply persuade classmates of Christianity’s reasonableness.  Gold).

The Bible Jesus Read, by Philip Yancey  (Yancey may be my favorite author, for he’s unafraid to investigate the harder side of Christianity).

Lectures to My Students, by C. H. Spurgeon (Oh, wow.  The first 5 chapters are good enough to make the Apocrypha).

Spiritual Leadership, by J. Oswald Sanders (In college it showed me the character qualities of a godly man).

Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ, by John Piper (Perhaps the only impulse buy I’ve ever made in a Barnes and Noble.  It hooked me like a fish).

Second Tier:

The Secret, by Bill Bright  (The Holy Spirit, practically unpacked).

Finishing Strong, by Steve Farrar  (He’s a great story teller).

Changes That Heal, by Henry Cloud  (I sat under Henry’s teaching, for ~30 of us for 3 days in a row, and am convinced about his thinking re: how people actually grow to adulthood).

Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, by Jim Cymbala  (A gutsy pastor who’s willing to put Prayer first in his congregation).

Masterplan of Evangelism, by Robert Coleman (I once drove Dr. Coleman for 2 hours from Dulles Airport… I learned 17 things from him in that conversation.  So rich).

A Spiritual Clinic, by J. Oswald Sanders  (Hope for an Intuitive Feeler in Ministry, like me).

When I Relax I Feel Guilty, by Tim Hansel  (I’ve read it so many times, and it allows me to not feel guilty, for a time, when I try to take time off).

unChristian, by Kinnaman and Lyons  (seminal study in how we’re perceived by young, decayed American culture).

The Hole in Our Gospel, by Richard Stearns  (awakened my heart to reach the poor and marginalized.  Just because I can’t do everything doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do something).

Praying Hyde, by Francis McGaw  (the man was so committed to prayer it almost killed him).

Hinds Feet on High Places, by Hannah Hurnard  (an allegory of Christian life.  I like allegories).

Ok, there you go.  Whenever I go to someone’s home, I enjoy seeing the books on their shelves (like years ago when I was in John Piper’s home, I saw volume after volume of Jonathan Edwards’ books).  Their books give me a glimpse re: what’s influenced their life.

Now, you have a mini-glimpse of what’s shaped me.  Aside from these great books, don’t miss the obvious: THE BIBLE, hands down, has been the most overpowering, overwhelming, and influential Book I’ve ever read (and continue to read).  Or maybe I should say, “The best book that has ever read me.

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3 Gold Nuggets

3 gold nuggets from this morning’s time with The Lord, in His Word  (John 19 and Psalm 34):

1.  “But when they came  to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.” John 19:33.  Jesus died before the soldiers had a chance to break his legs.  They broke the legs of the other 2 thieves, to quicken death by asphyxiation (unable to push up to catch their breath, they suffocate).  Amazingly, “no broken bones” was commanded re: the Passover Lamb (see Exodus 12:46, Numbers 9:12) and predicted re: the Messiah (Psalm 34:20 “he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken”).  Utterly impressive.

2.  John 20 ends with these great words:

  • “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not recorded in this book.  But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

In other words, the events of Jesus’ life — and the Bible as a whole — are NOT EXHAUSTIVE in telling us everything that happened, but they are SUFFICIENT for all God intends for us to know … and to move us to believe in Jesus.  Sufficient, but not exhaustive. Awesome.

3.  Finally, these comforting words for me this morning, reminding me that God is Able, God Can, in any difficulty or trouble I face (which are not theoretical at the moment, but quite tangible to me):

“The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.   The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all…” Psalm 34:17-19

What a Savior 🙂   What a Friend.  I need him.

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It is hypocrisy to say that you believe in Jesus (and are a true follower of Him), yet disregard what He says is true… while inventing your own truth. But young American Christians are doing exactly that.

In the Pew Research Center’s 2010 report on Religion in America, I discovered this startling statistic:

  • Among 16-29 year-olds who identify themselves as Evangelical Christians, 52% believe that there is more than one way to heaven. (52%!)

Jesus disagrees.

In John 14:6, He says, “I am the way and the truth and the life.   No one comes to the Father except through me.” Are His words so unclear that 52% of young American Christians disregard them, while inventing their own take on reality?

In John 17:3, He says, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” Jesus adamantly believes there is only one true God, something the majority of his young American followers do not.

52% don’t believe that Jesus is the only way to the one true God.  Apparently they believe that if a Buddhist is sincere enough, he can come to know his “god” and be ok.  The same would go, I presume, for the Muslim, the Hindu, the New-Ager, and the guy who sincerely worships the duck who lands on his roof every spring.

My guess is that the 52%, if they thought about Jesus’ words, would be embarrassed by him.  They have one of 3 problems:

1.  They are uninformed. They simply don’t read the Bible enough to know what He says.  Alternately, they’re more influenced by American culture and its twin gods: Tolerance (all ideas are equally valid) and Acceptance (all ideas are beyond critique).

2.  They are afraid. Perhaps they know about Jesus’ exclusive truth claims, but they’re too afraid to go public with His words.  To spout such truth claims today is considered the greatest cultural sin.  They are not courageous.

3.  They are not His children at all.  Many claim to be a follower, when life is comfortable and affluent (which is America today, despite what you think).  In this environment, I can call myself a follower of Jesus, while simultaneously ignoring what He thinks.  I can affirm that He is omniscient, while agreeing to disagree with Him on any issue where His position rubs me the wrong way.  Like, the idea that those who don’t bow their knee to Him are condemned.

Let’s work to reduce the 52% figure.

Let’s inform them (encourage them to read Jesus’ words in their Bible).

Let’s challenge them to face their fears and be courageous.

Let’s call them to follow the Real Jesus, not the one of their imagination.  “There is a Jesus we want, and a Jesus who is, and they are not the same Jesus.”

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That title may seem rather “duh,” but it is still significant.

Without getting into all the merits or demerits of macro vs. micro-evolution, old-earth theories, new-earth theories, appearance-of-age theories, big bang, oscillating universe, etc, ad nauseum ….  let me make a simple observation, based on a simple premise.

The premise: the Bible accurately records the words of Jesus.  If not, my conclusion falls like a house of cards (and, I’m honest enough to tell you that in advance …. Q: which other debaters of our time will tell you their assumptions in advance?). Here goes.

Jesus makes 2 clear statements that He believes the world was created.

1.  “But at the beginning of creation, God ‘made them male and female.'” Mark 10:6.  (Jesus quotes ‘made them male and female’ from Genesis 1:27, the end of the Genesis Creation account).

2.  “Now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” John 17:5 (The context is while Jesus is praying to His Father, the day before his crucifixion).

“… the beginning of creation… before the world began…”   Jesus, the Creationist; Jesus the Creator (Colossians 1:15 says “for by [Jesus] all things were created.”)  By the way, if a person becomes convinced of the deity of Jesus (perhaps by studying the historical evidence for the resurrection), he or she will soon realize that the smartest thing to do is adopt Jesus’ view of reality (since, being God, He knows best).

Since I believe Jesus is God, I’ve adopted his view of Creation: it happened by a loving God, not an impersonal force.  All the other details (age of earth, etc.) are window dressing for now.  A God who can create such a universe isn’t limited by anything.

Once you decide Jesus is God, these kind of  dominoes start to fall.  Coming to believe in a loving Creator is one of them.

PS  I found one more quotation from Jesus that He believes in Creation — John 17:24: “...because you (Father) loved me before the creation of the world.

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I’ll work hard to keep this brief, for I could write a book on this.  (By the way, you may think I’m crazy after reading this… that’s ok, I am a little).

Q:  What is wrong with our current American culture? I could list 100 ideas, but I’ll focus on just 1 today.   My A:  The inability to truly, simply, and transparently repent of sin.

Several months ago, VP Joe Biden encountered the danger of a “hot mic.”  While exchanging places with President Obama at the podium, he whispered to the President (regarding the possibility of passing Universal Health Care), “This is a f***ing big deal!”

It is an unbreakable truism that “what is most on the heart is most on the lips.” Our words reflect the inner workings of our heart.  But my angst with VP Biden isn’t with his inability to find a more gentlemanly word, but rather with the subsequent absence of a simple apology, a simple admission that he lacked civility, decorum, and etiquette.  An apology to every Mom and Dad in this country trying to help their children learn to communicate with greater self-control and deference.

What deeply disappoints me is that, 3 months later, I haven’t heard a public apology.

“Dan, are you seriously that big a prude?  Or just a crazy idealist?  Come on, join the real world.”

No, I’m not a prude or an idealist, and I’d like to invite you to a better world.  I’m a man who expects my leaders to be courageous in their apologies.  I believe our leaders must call our citizens to a higher way, and must model sincere apology when they don’t live up to that way.  When there is public profanity, I expect public apology.  If you think I’m asking too much, I suggest you are asking too little.

I don’t care if the VP is a Democrat or a Republican.  I would say the exact same thing to former VP Dick Cheney.

So, here is an imaginary apology that VP Biden could still give to our country, that would create great good by modeling transparency and humility:

“My dear fellow Americans.  You may remember that 3 months ago, I was caught in a situation where I said something to our President that I intended to be private, but which my microphone picked up.  It was a very poor choice of words, showing a shallowness on my part that doesn’t befit me or my office.  I would like to ask for your forgiveness.  You might think that my request is silly… who needs to be forgiven for such an error?  Or you may be offended that I’d ask for your forgiveness, as though I am putting your own use of language under a moral microscope.  All I can say is that I expect more of myself if I am to help lead our great nation to a better place of civility, honesty, decorum, and care for our fellow man.  I think our country expects more of me.  I think God expects more of me.

To all the parents, guardians, teachers and coaches of our most treasured American asset — our young people — I’d like to offer my sincerest apology for my choice of words.  You have my permission to use me as an example — a negative example — of the foolishness associated with a lack of restraint in words and thoughts.

To my fellow leaders across the aisle, who do not agree with the outcome of our national debate on Universal Health Care, I apologize for my lack of civility in my communication, and aim to set a higher standard.  And, I call upon you to follow my example (and to hold me accountable).  Together, perhaps we can bring about a day in our country when our youngest citizens will again look up to elected office as a high calling to serve, rather than merely a powerful office to hold.

Thank you for your understanding, and I hope, forgiveness.  Though I cannot promise that I’ll not let you down again in the future, I do promise to “own my misdeeds” and come clean with you, as necessary.  Thank you, again.”

Can you imagine if an elected leader of high office would say something like that, publicly?  Wouldn’t that start a new conversation in the public square, in the classroom, and in the homes of America?  That would be true leadership.  It would turn a Politician’s Lemon into a Civil-Servant’s Lemonade.  It would serve as an important reminder: initial failure need never be final, and can actually become the backdoor to success.

And, counterintuitively, I think VP Biden’s approval ratings would soar —  but that’s besides the point.

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