Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Bible Bears Witness to Jesus

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life (John 5:39-40).

According to Jesus, the only way we can derive life from the Scriptures is to see Jesus in the Scriptures, for all the Scriptures bear witness to him (Jn. 5:30–47; cf. Lk. 24:27, 44–47). The entire Bible, Genesis to Revelation, is ultimately about Jesus. Throughout Scripture God is unfolding the grace that culminates in Christ (Jn. 5:39–40). The Bible is therefore not fundamentally about what we do for God but what God does for us.

Gospel Transformation Bible

Friday, July 25, 2014

How To Be Assured of Your Salvation

Many Christians doubt their salvation. They doubt because of some habitual sin they just can't seem to shake. They doubt because they compare their walk with Jesus to another Christian is who, in their mind, has it all together. How can Christians be assured of their salvation? J.D. Greear answers this question in a sermon he recently gave at the Austin Stone Church.

Books by J.D. Greear:

Gospel: Recovering the Power That Made Christianity Revolutionary

Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart

Thursday, July 24, 2014

More Observations from Vacation Bible School

A couple of days ago, I shared my observations from day one of VBS. We have had two days since then and I would like to share more on what I have observed from what has been taught so far.

Day two was about Jesus being more than a good man which is great topic of discussion for kids because many adults think Jesus was just a good man who died for a noble cause. The lessons pointed to the miracle of feeding the 5,000. Day three focused on the resurrection which is the big evangelism push for VBS. What I loved about the lesson is that it pointed to Jesus being resurrected as God approving Jesus' life, ministry, and death. Even though, the lesson may not have said those words exactly but that is what the Bible teaches (see Romans 4:24-25).

In my last post, I mentioned how impressed I was with the music the kids are learning this year. One of the songs the kids learned was the infamous "ABC" song which stands for Admit, Believe, and Confess. While the song was fun and proclaimed that Jesus is alive, it showed what the purpose of the ABC's were for the Christian faith. The song was a good one but it would have been better if the ABC's were left out. To borrow a phrase from Mike Leake, the ABC's "are an inadequate whole gospel presentation." However, I would affirm the writers for using the word repent in that presentation because in years past, repentance was never mentioned.

I am not sure of any decisions at this time as far as if any kid has put their faith in Jesus or has answered the call to ministry. We have two more nights and I pray our church will glorify God in presenting the gospel to all the kids that show up. Friday night is our big family night and I pray the parents will see their kids excited for Jesus and cause them to be excited as well.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

My Observations from Day One of Vacation Bible School

This week is our Vacation Bible School (VBS) which has been dubbed as the biggest evangelistic outreach for kids. There have been many great stories of kids coming to know the Lord and get involved with their church following VBS. Many VBS themes are usually based on something that will get kids' attention like roller coasters, airplanes, and even a western theme. This year we are doing Agency D3 from Lifeway. D3 stands for Discover, Decide, Defend, which is catchy for little kids.

In years past, I would be doing a junior high VBS, but this year, I felt it was important for our junior high to be servants in VBS rather than just listening to the lesson and we have our annual suicide rally run. I have not looked at the teaching material, but from hearing from our pastor and other leaders, they were very impressed with what was being taught. Last night's lesson was asking the question, "Is Jesus God's Son?" That is a deep theological question that many adults ask but the fact we were teaching kids that really encouraged me.

What also impressed me so far, has been the music. Now they do have some fun song for the theme of VBS but usually other songs are, to be honest, cheesy, especially when it comes to the infamous ABC song, if you're a Southern Baptist, you know what I am talking about. I was impressed with one of the songs the kids were learning called, "God's Son."

This song was very upbeat, so I had no idea what to expect until I read the lyrics. This video is that song with the lyrics so you can see what I am talking about:

I have not looked at the other songs or lessons, but I have a feeling this is will be a blessing not only to the kids but also to the teachers. I cannot wait to see what God does in the next couple of days during VBS. I ask all of you to pray for our church as we share Jesus through teaching, crafts, recreation, and music.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Evangelism Is Not About Your Testimony

When many Christians give their witness, they talk about themselves. This is why we speak of "giving our testimonies," that is, telling people about our conversions and how Christ has helped us. There is certainly is a place for testimonies, but they should never form the heart of our witness...Our witness must center not on our experience but on the facts of Christ's coming into this world.

Richard D. Phillips, Jesus The Evangelist

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Book Review: The People of God by Trevor Joy and Spence Shelton

Growing up in Houston, I was a part of a large church where most people can come and hide. They go to church but no one knows who they are. They are not involved in any ministry of the church nor are they friends with anyone in the church. They take the personal relationship with God too far as to say it is my private affair.

Many in the church know they were created to be in fellowship with God, but have no idea they were created for community. The church is a community of believers that strive to grow in their walk with Jesus and see others come to know Jesus. Trevor Joy and Spence Shelton explore what it means to be a community of faith in their book, The People of God. Both of these men are Spiritual Formations Pastors but not in the same church. Trevor serves in The Village Church while Spence serves at The Summit Church.

The book deals with the church having a leader that communicates the gospel effectively that it flows to the rest of the congregation. Trevor and Spence talk about the church being a community and the distinctives of a gospel community. The overall approach to the book is to show that the church's greatest and most powerful asset is not in its programs or buildings, but its people.

This book was a delight to read. I was surprised in get this in the mail being asked to review it. I love that two pastors with the same job description from two influencialchurches came together and wrote this. Pastors and church leaders need to read this book especially those who are planting new churches.

Thanks Broadman & Holman for letting me review this book.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Book Review: Yawning At Tigers by Drew Dyck

Let's be honest, how many of you ever heard a sermon on the greatness of God? Some will say "yes" others will say "no". My question for those have never heard a sermon on the greatness of God, what kind of God do you worship? The problem with a lot of modern Christianity is we make God like a genie who grants us three wishes who also gives us more wishes. Other portray God as a nice old grandfather figure who is loving and caring. Yes, God is loving is caring and loving but He is also holy and majestic.

Drew Dyck, in his book, Yawning At Tigers says, "People are starving for the awe of God." He goes on to say most do not know they are wanting that. Yet, we have a God worth worshiping but we have try to make Him a little nice papa god who will always play nice with you and the rest of the kids. Dyck goes on to say we love talking about the love of God but when it comes to the holiness of God, we shut our mouths.

This book is a call to look at God as He is proclaimed in the Bible and quit trying to tame Him. Some Christians have made God look like some push over that He will not mind if you act this way or do things your own way. Some churches are singing songs about God but they are not singing songs to God. Dyck says that evangelicals "pride themselves on taking the Bible and the God of the Bible seriously. But listen to our worship songs. Many are trite and shallow, with lyrics that could be sung to God or a girlfriend" (pg. 33). Can someone say "ouch" to that quote?

This book is a call for Christians to stop giving God a domesticated look and live our lives for the glory of God. I have to be honest, when I first heard of this book, my thought is was another Rob Bell type of book to make Christianity look cool. That is not the case. This book has stirred my affections for Jesus and there were a few times I almost yelled out loud, "preach on, brother."

If I had a category on surprised book of the year, Yawning At Tigers would top that list.

Thanks Booklook Bloggers for letting me review this book.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Music Monday: Proof by Sojourn

Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones have written a book called, Proof: Finding Freedom Through The Intoxication Joy of Irresistable Grace. This book has been well received by many Christian scholars and pastors. I have recently got a copy of the book that I am planning to read within the next couple of weeks. Sojourn Music has released a soundtrack to the book which contains songs from various albums they have already on the market.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Book Review: China's Reforming Churches edited by Bruce P. Baugus

When you hear stories of China, one may think with all the persecution and oppression from the government that nation would have less Christians than America. Nothing could be further from the truth. China has more Christians than any other country in the world right now. The church in China is the fastest growing in the world. Churches there grow faster than most churches in America.

Bruce P. Baugus has complied a book talking about what is going in China called, China's Reforming Churches, which has a number of authors talking about the history of reformed mission in China not only from the United States but Korea as well. This book deals with reformed churches in China today and the challenges they have. Knowing a few people who have gone to China, they can testify that being a Christian there is not easy because you never know what the government will do and if someone you are talking to could be a undercover police officer who could arrest you for talking about Jesus.

Christians in America need to be encouraged by what is happening in China. This book shows that the church is growing rapidly in a country that some might be considered a cause not worth getting into. This book is also a good tool to be used to pray for what is happening in China and the details should be shared in all churches.

Thanks Reformation Heritage Books for letting me review this book.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Would Isaiah Be A Successful Pastor Today?

If you have been to a missionary commission service, you probably have heard Isaiah 6:1-8 read in that service. We all love this part of Scripture where Isaiah sees a vision of heaven and hears a voice saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" (Isaiah 6:8) and he answers that call. How many of us actually read the verse after that?

Here is what the rest of Isaiah 6 says:

And he said, “Go, and say to this people:

“‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand;
keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’
Make the heart of this people dull,
and their ears heavy,
and blind their eyes;
lest they see with their eyes,
and hear with their ears,
and understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.”
Then I said, “How long, O Lord?”
And he said:
“Until cities lie waste
without inhabitant,
and houses without people,
and the land is a desolate waste,
and the LORD removes people far away,
and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land.
And though a tenth remain in it,
it will be burned again,
like a terebinth or an oak,
whose stump remains
when it is felled.”
The holy seed is its stump (Isaiah 6:9-13)

This passage is saying, you will preach but they will not hear and because of their lack of hearing and understanding, judgment will come. Who wants a ministry like that? Would a Pastor want that? It has been my experience that most of a pastor's ministry will fall under two categories. The first is successful when the numbers are up and the programs are strong. The other would be a failure because no salvations have occurred and programs are being dropped.

If you read on in the rest of the book, you know that God's Word came true and the people did not listen and judgment came. So the question is, would Isaiah be a successful pastor in the 21st century? Imagine a new pastor with a vision of preaching the Word yet he said there might not be any converts nor will we grow in our numbers. Would you stick around a church with pastor like that? He might be fired in two months if not sooner.

Churches base the success of a pastor or anyone called in ministry based on their success and not faithfulness. As a youth pastor going to a small church building a youth ministry, I knew the road would be long and hard. One youth pastor told me you will either have success and grow or not. Many ministries are like Isaiah's. They preach but no one listens. So, would Isaiah be a successful pastor today? No.

So if you find yourself in a church where you are being faithful but it seems nothing is happening, take heart and remember it is the Lord God Almighty you are serving.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Why Hobby Lobby Matters?

Earlier today, The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the arts and crafts store Hobby Lobby which is owner by Christian who objected to the Obamacare Mandate which says for-profit companies must pay for coverage of contraception for their employees. This was one of the biggest cases involving religious freedom in the United States in recent years. What was the big deal about this case? Russell Moore writes:

This is as close as a Southern Baptist gets to dancing in the streets for joy. The Supreme Court just handed down the Hobby Lobby case, and ruled that the government cannot force closely-held corporations to violate their religious beliefs in the purchasing of abortion-causing drugs.

The ruling isn’t just a win for evangelicals, like the Southern Baptist Greens. It’s a win for everyone. Here’s why. A government that can pave over the consciences of the Greens can steamroll over any dissent anywhere. Whether you agree or disagree with us about abortion, every American should want to see a government that is not powerful enough to set itself up as a god over the conscience.

As Christians, we believe in obeying the law and honoring our government authorities (Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Pet 2:13-17). But Jesus taught us to render unto Caesar what belongs to him, and to God what belongs to him. Our consciences are not held in a blind trust when we leave our church buildings on Sunday.

I hope this decision is a warning to the White House to stop such a cavalier disregard of religious liberty, seen both in this coercive mandate and, earlier, in their argument to do away with the ministerial exemption in hiring.

More than that, though, I pray for churches that can raise up a new generation to prize freedom of conscience and religious liberty for all. We won this case, and now is the time to thank God. But who could have imagined just a few years ago that we would even have to take such a thing to the United States Supreme Court? We must teach our children what it means to be free people, and what it means to follow Christ whatever the cost.

This is not just a political issue. The Apostle Paul appealed to his Roman citizenship when he was charged with disrupting the peace. All the way through the appeals process, he not only plead for his freedom, but he also preached the gospel of Jesus Christ (Acts 25-26). We should do so as well. But that means teaching the next generation that following Christ will be costly, and that they will be often viewed as strange and even subversive by a culture in which sexual liberation is the highest god in the pantheon. A discount-rate prosperity gospel will not supply such grit. The gospel of Jesus Christ will.

So let’s celebrate today. And then let’s remember that we prize religious liberty not preeminently because it keeps us out of jail. We prize religious liberty because we believe there is a court higher than the Supreme Court. No government bureaucrat will stand with us before the Judgment Seat of Christ, and thus no bureaucrat should seek to lord over the conscience.

Let’s remember the words of the Apostle Peter: “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a coverup for evil, but living as servants of God” (1 Pet. 2:16). Let’s fight for religious freedom, for everybody. And let’s preach the gospel with power. We must be about both: persuasive proclamation and the guarding of the freedom to disagree with us. That’s what Jesus taught us. So let’s hold onto freedom and let’s pray, for liberty and Jesus for all.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

An Overlooked Cause of Biblical Ignorance

Lets recap. Biblical Ignorance is "where Christians are unaware of what is contained in the Bible and think that anyone or anything that comes in the name of God is Biblical." We have looked at three cause of Biblical Ignorance which are lack of Bible reading, lack of Biblical preaching, and lack of Biblical teaching. As I was thinking about the effects of Biblical Ignorance, I began to realize that there is an overlooked effect that many do not think about. What is it? Simply: Not testing everything.

In The Apostle John's first epistle, he writes, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1). Many false teachers have infiltrated the church in the first century and many believers are being deceived in believing false teachings. John was telling his readers, do not believe every teaching but test them. Even the Apostle Paul told the Thessalonian church, "Do not despise prophecies, but test everything" (1 Thessalonians 5:20-21). In Acts 17, Paul and Silas were teaching in Berea and the people were checking out the Scriptures to see if what they said was true.

How many people in your church do that? When your pastor preaches, do you read the Bible as he preaches to see if he is preaching the Bible? One of the great downfalls of the church is that we do not test everything. Whether is it from something we read, or heard from a preacher. If the people of Joel Osteen's church would actually read their Bibles, they would see he is not preaching a true gospel and the same thing goes with any false teacher.

This problem is not just in churches where a false gospel is preached but it could be in a Baptist church. Baptists are known as people of the book but sometime some of them do not preach the word and the people of the church do not check what the preachers says. This does not apply only to preaching but in reading Christian books, listening to Christian music (Amy Grant's "Better Than A Hallelujah" is a good example), and even watching Christian television/movies.

We should also test what Hollywood says about the Bible. Years ago, NBC had a mini-series on Noah, nothing like the Russell Crowe movie. It got ridiculed by a lot of people including Pastors because of its inaccuracies. Probably the biggest one is this Noah was set during the time of Abraham. Lot was in the movie. God was going to wipe out Sodom and Gomorrah. I do not remember any rock monsters though.

You see what I am getting at. We need to test everything. If we do not, we will be deceived by any teaching that comes our way. We will believe everything we read and see.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Book Review: Titus for You by Tim Chester

I recently spent time in 1 & 2 Timothy as well as the book of Titus which are known as the Pastoral Epistles. Many commentaries have been written about these three books but very rarely will you see on just for the two letters to Timothy or Titus by themselves. I am delighted that Tim Chester has released a commentary on Titus titled, Titus For You.

I must confessed when I first saw the book, I thought it was written by Tim Keller because he has done similar commentaries on Romans 1-7, Galatians, and Judges. Titus For You is written in the same fashion as Keller's three books. This book goes through each verse of Titus as Chester tells his readers why Paul wrote this letter and what it teaches.

The book is written in a user-friendly format that even a young believer can pick up and read without feeling like it is above his/her head. There are discussion questions at the end of each chapter which can be used for personal devotional reading or group Bible study. Chester tackles church leadership as the book of Titus mentions it. He also addresses being part of Christ's body and living in godliness.

This book is great for all Christian to use in whatever form they can whether for their personal Bible reading time or one-on-one discipleship. Pastors will benefit from this book as they preach through the book of Titus.

Thanks Good Book Company for letting me review this book.