Saturday, May 22, 2010

Regeneration Sermon Archive

Since I am tight on server storage space, the Regeneration sermon archive that I hosted while that ministry was active has been removed from my site. I have many fond memories of those Sunday evening services and of the messages that I received and that I prepared. I will keep all the mp3 files and can make them available for download upon request or send a CD with the mp3 files. If you are interested feel free to contact me.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Urban Legends (Part 4): Legends about Sin

I. Introduction

A. Defining sin--we all agree that there is something wrong with the world and, at times, you and I may even be to blame for this wrongness. But what should we call this “wrongness” in the world? What’s the word for it?

B. Cornelius Plantinga says: “Evil is what’s wrong with the world, and it includes trouble in nature as well as in human nature. It includes disease as well as theft, birth defects as well as character defects. We might define evil as any spoiling of shalom, any deviation from the way God wants things to be. Thinking along these lines, we can see that sin is a subset of evil; it’s any evil for which somebody is to blame . . . All sin is evil, but not all evil is sin . . . all sin is culpable evil . . . Sin grieves God, offends God, betrays God, and not just because God is touchy. God hates sin against himself, against neighbors, against the good creation, because sin breaks the peace . . . God is for shalom and therefore against sin” (Engaging God’s World, 51).

C. Sin is something that affects everyone everyday. Therefore, it is something we can’t ignore. Furthermore, the pervasiveness of sin has given rise to many myths, legends, and misconceptions about its true nature.

Some of these may not be new to you. In fact, you and I may already reject these intellectually, but I wonder, are we guilty of accepting them practically?

II. Truth or legend? “I’m not a bad person.”

A. This one is easy: it’s simply a denial of reality. As aforementioned, we all agree that there is something wrong with the world and we all agree that, at times, you and I are even to blame for this wrongness.

What we really mean, then, when we say, “I’m not a bad person,” is, “I’m not as bad as some other people.” Okay, so if this is what we mean, then we need to be honest enough to phrase it that way.

B. There is a question that naturally follows: are we responsible for ourselves, or are we responsible for other people? Clearly, we are responsible for ourselves, in which case, should we be comparing ourselves to other people when we are not responsible for them?

C. What does the Bible say? (Isaiah 64:6; 1 John 1:8)

III. Truth or legend? “All sin is the same.”

A. This is not a biblical statement, but rather a logical inference made from biblical statements. The Bible says without qualification that sin results in death (Romans 6:23). So here is the inference: “All sin results in being cut off from God; therefore, all sin is the same.”

The problem is, this inference takes into account only one point of comparison, when multiple points may be available. For example, all mammals are warm-blooded vertebrate, but it does not then follow that all mammals are the same. Why? Because there are other available points of comparison where various mammals are, in fact, different from one another.

B. So in what ways may various sins be different from one another? Our obedience or disobedience influences:

1. Giving an account of our life (Luke 12:47-48 and elsewhere)--Spiritual maturity isn’t how much we know, but how much we obey.

2. Punishment in eternity (Luke 20:45-47)--Craig Blomberg says: “Salvation is consistently said to be by grace, damnation by works (cf. esp. Rom 3:21-5:21 with 1:18-3:20 respectively). There is an important asymmetry here that preserves the sovereignty of God, giving him all the credit for redemption, alongside the accountability of men and women, giving them all the blame for being ‘lost’ (cf. esp. 9:22-24). There does seem to be Scriptural support for the doctrine of degrees of punishment in hell, according to the extent of one’s conscious transgression of God's laws (see esp. Luke 12:47-48; cf. Matt 10:15; 11:22, 24; cf. also possibly Rom 5:13)” (Degrees of Reward in the Kingdom of Heaven?, JETS Vol. 35 No. 2, 161).

3. Consequences here and now (Galatians 6:7-9)--A seed sown starts out small, but it is reaped later and greater in harvest time as a full-fledged crop. So it is with the decisions we make and the actions we take in this life. We will reap what we sow later and greater (HT: Andy Stanley, via his sermon The Disproportionate Life).

IV. Truth or legend? “I’ve already sinned. I might as well continue.”

A. This is like the first one. It is a denial, but this one is a little but trickier. It is a denial of the storyline of Scripture, which God desires to also be the storyline of our individual lives: Creation --> Fall --> Redemption --> New Creation.

So the problem with this line of thinking is that it denies the redemption that God desires in our lives. We have been justified; shall we not also be sanctified? Isn’t this the very story of being “in Christ”? What is the sense in trying to live some other story, one that is not redemptive but destructive?

B. The most miserable people in the world are not non-Christians, but Christians living in sin (see 2 Peter 2:20).

C. If this is where you find yourself, Scripture has encouragement for you (Revelation 3:19; 1 John 1:9). Embrace God’s story for you!

V. Regen Reflection Q’s

A. It is easy to accuse others of sin while excusing ourselves. Are excusing yourself of any sin in your life? If so, what are some specific action steps you could take to stop make excuses and start making progress?

B. Spiritual maturity isn’t how much we know, but how much we obey. It is possible that many of us have been educated way beyond our level of obedience. Do you see any examples of this in your own life? What steps could we take to reverse this trend?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Ten Questions for the New Year

Don Whitney has ten good questions to ask ourselves as the calendar rolls over to 2010. He says, "Even those most faithful to God occasionally need to pause and think about the direction of their lives. It's so easy to bump along from one busy week to another without ever stopping to ponder where we're going and where we should be going. The beginning of a new year is an ideal time to stop, look up, and get our bearings. To that end, here are some questions to ask prayerfully in the presence of God."

I will be thinking through these questions as well as his twenty-one additional questions, probably posted over at my blog in the first few days of January. Maybe they will be useful for your consideration as well:
  1. What's one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?
  2. What's the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?
  3. What's the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?
  4. In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?
  5. What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?
  6. What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?
  7. For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?
  8. What's the most important way you will, by God's grace, try to make this year different from last year?
  9. What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?
  10. What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in ten years? In eternity?

(HT: Justin Taylor)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

What to read in 2010?

My apologies! I've been away from the blog for a while. Hopefully I will be on here more in the new year.

I've been thinking about what books I want to try to read in 2010. This list will no doubt change as new books are released, but here are twelve that I am eyeing right now:

- Collapse (by Jared Diamond)
- Made to Stick (by Chip Heath & Dan Heath)
- The Art of the Start (by Guy Kawasaki)
- Love Is An Orientation (by Andrew Marin)
- A Community Called Atonement (by Scot McKnight)
- Dreams from My Father (by Barack Obama)
- On the Brink (by Henry M. Paulson)
- Drive (by Daniel Pink)
- Mechanistic & Non-mechanistic Science (by Richard L. Thompson)
- The Lost World of Genesis One (by John Walton)
- The Resurrection of the Son of God (by N. T. Wright)
- Surprised by Hope (by N. T. Wright)

What about you? Are there any books you are looking forward to reading in 2010?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Words from an older pastor to young adults...

In April 2008, I went on a weekend retreat with the Young Adult Community at my church in Kansas City. Pastor Tom, the senior pastor, came for part of the weekend and shared with us five regrets he had from his twenty-something years. I have found myself coming back to these ideas from time to time since that weekend, and I have been reflecting on them a lot this past week in particular.

Here are the five regrets he shared:

(1) Driven to personally succeed, rather than energized to serve others.

(2) Thought accomplishment was more important than intimacy.

(3) Viewed the local church as optional, rather than essential.

(4) Bought into the Western, Greek idea of life balance (i.e. balanced compartments), rather than the Old Testament, Hebrew idea of life cadence.

(5) Thought about the Christian life as more about getting to heaven, rather than bringing heaven to earth.

Tom's pastoral ministry today focuses on service, intimacy, the essential nature of the local church, life cadence, and bringing heaven to earth.

What do you think? Do you see any of Pastor Tom's five regrets in your own life? (I know I do.) What can we do individually and as a community to grow more like Jesus in these areas?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Reading Round-Up

RJS has an on-going piece over at Scot McKnight’s blog about “missional campus ministry.” She is a professor at a large secular university (not a Christian college) who has been involved in academia for 28 years as a graduate student, post-doc, and professor. Check out her thoughts here: Parts I, II, III, and IV. What do you think?

Here is a good op-ed piece on credit card use in America.

Check out this artwork made with an iPhone using an application called “Brushes.” Pretty neat stuff!

At just 28-years-old, Jon Favreau (President Obama’s top speechwriter) makes an annual salary of $172,200 working in the White House. Hmmm, maybe I can put my future communications degree to some good use after all... :-)

Is the Internet melting our brains? “No,” says Dennis Baron, professor of English and linguistics at the University of Illinois and author of the forthcoming book, A Better Pencil. He explains why such hysterical hand-wringing is as old as communication itself.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Jesus' Ink...Part Two.

So my last post asked whether or not Jesus will have a tattoo, when He returns. The conclusion is really no conclusion, we are just going to have to wait and see.

So what about tattoos? What if you have a tattoo? What if you want a tattoo? Are tattoos Christian? Are tattoos a sin?

Tattooing is a controversial issue in society today, without the addition of Christian ethics and morals. To start with (so you understand my perspective), I have a tattoo. Actually, I have several tattoos.

I think a better question than the ones listed above would be, is a tattoo right for me? In our culture tattoos aren’t looked at the same way as they were maybe just a few years ago. For me tattoos were and are right, I have chosen to get them to represent specific areas and times in life I want to remember. I do however caution getting tattoos, it is a permanent expression; make sure you want to express that forever. There are some other things to take into consideration such as possible side effects and even the possibility of a disease, so be wise about your decision.

A tattoo is a personal decision, one to make wisely and not hastily. As Christians we need to realize we live in freedom with Christ, but we do not have a license to sin. The bible is clear about many things that are without a doubt a sin, however tattoos are a grey area. Leviticus 19:28 says, do not cut your bodies for the dead, and do not mark you skin with tattoos. This verse was specifically needed to combat the worship of pagan Gods and ancestor worship. Furthermore we are not bound by the law to have a relationship with God because of the Sacrifice of Jesus.

What if you want to get a tattoo to glorify God and speak of your Christian testimony? Why not, the bible declares your body is a temple (2 Corinthians 6:15), so you are just putting out the sign, right? I know many people who have the salvation story tattooed on them, from the fall of man to the risen Christ and it is an amazing testament to their dedication, they can never hide their light, their ink declares their victory in Christ and I applaud their decision to live life that loudly for Christ.

I think the best way to look at this is, if you feel like tattoos are wrong, then they probably are wrong for you, but I would caution you in redirecting people who feel they are right. If you feel tattoos are right, then they may be right for you and I would caution you about trying to redirect those who believe it is wrong. The only thing we need to agree on is Jesus is our Lord and our God, everything else is gravy.