Sunday, November 11, 2007

MusicLives- Live Music on Jordan's View

Hello readers

I'm still dealing with the mysterious soreness in various muscles in my neck, shoulders, back and left arm, though the severity of the pains has lessened. Anyway these pains make it difficult to sit and type at the computer for long periods of time.

To relax and get my mind off pain, I've been watching "live music" performances on YouTube. Some of the performance gems you can find over there are truly wonderful. As a musician myself, I especially like and find interesting those music videos where the artists are really performing, as opposed to videos that are just made to accompany a song (which I rarely find add anything meaningful to the songs they accompany). I have started creating playlists of videos I have enjoyed on YouTube.

So I thought, why not add a custom player for these videos here on Jordan's View? So if you would like to watch and hear some of the great performances I've been viewing, just click the link here "MusicLives- A Live Music Video Collection" (it's also a navigation link on my "jump-link" menu).

Click this link to view all of my playlists over at YouTube.

Click this link to view my YouTube channel and subscribe to my favorites.

Again, I hope to be posting regular articles soon.



Friday, November 02, 2007

Jordan's View Shall Continue

Dear friends and readers

I realize my last post announcement may have made it sound as if I'm discontinuing this blog and launching a new one instead. That is not the case-- Jordan's View will continue. Actually my hiatus from blogging this past month has been mostly circumstantial. I was ill much of the month, with severe achy-ness. I have been doing better this past week, but I'm experiencing lingering muscle aches.

I am hoping to resume a regular posting schedule soon. I do have a number of posts in the works already.

Thanks for visiting.


Thursday, October 04, 2007

Missing But in Action

Dear friends/readers

I know it's been weeks since you've read a new post here. I have been ruminating about beginning a new blog project and indeed have already begun taking steps towards launching a new blog, one that will be titled

As I was explaining to a Reformed blogging friend, the mission of will be to promote biblical reform in the 21st century evangelical church, by pointing to reformed theological thought, and especially, by applying reformed doctrine (or, in other words, the gospel) to one's daily walk in a practical way.

It is also my goal and hope for to become a collaborative venture that is contributed to and maintained by many. It is my desire too that it would become a means of building community among Christians, Reformed and otherwise. I don't believe that being Reformed or Calvinistic in one's theology ought to produce arrogance or a self-righteous attitude. Therefore the blog/website will try to persuade people biblically, boldly and respectfully regarding Reformed theological views, but not condemn other Christians who may believe differently.

At first, I planned on making this new project another Blogger-based blog, but I have really wanted to give Wordpress a try for a long time. So I plan on creating the blog as a free blog and using my domain name as its web address.

I am also at work on several new posts, including a long-delayed next article in my series on Arminianism vs Reformed theology. I plan to have these posted in the not-too-distant future.

Monday, September 24, 2007

How Pietism Deceives Christians

Bob Dewaay at Critical Issues Commentary has produced another excellent article that, like the Horton piece I commended to you in my previous post, also casts its eye with a broad scope on the evangelical church. The article, How Pietism Deceives Christians, describes how pietism, "a practice designed to lead to an experience that purports to give one an elite or special status compared to ordinary Christians" is found in some of the largest movements within evangelicalism today, including Purpose-Driven, Latter Rain, and the Emergent Church, and has a long history of influence in the church. DeWaay's article shows that Paul strongly wrote against the use of pietistic practices as a means of spiritual maturity, and instead pointed to the grace of God that comes to us through the cross of Christ.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Does Justification Still Matter? by Michael Horton

Michael Horton has written a brilliant analysis showing why justification still matters though much of modern evangelicalism ignores the critical relationship of justification to sanctification. Highly recommended!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

T-U-L-I-P and L-I-L-I-E-S

Over at his blog, David Koyzis challenged readers to update the famous reformed acronym T-U-L-I-P, still keeping the acronym as the name of a flower (HT: Jollyblogger). I think he meant it as merely a fun exercise, but I decided to give it a serious turn.

You'll recall that the famous T-U-L-I-P is as follows:

Total depravity
Unconditional election
Limited atonement
Irresistible grace
Perseverance of the saints

Here's my update, L-I-L-I-E-S:

L-- Loved by the Father before the foundation of the world

I - Incapacitated by sin

L - Lovingly justified by the cross of Christ

I - Irresistibly drawn by the Spirit

E - Elected by grace alone

S - Sovereignly preserved and sanctified

What do you think? Are the main points of reformed theology covered in my acronym? Might it be easier to remember than TULIP?

Anyone else want to give it a try? You may post an entry in the comments section.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Discerning What is Truth, Part 2

Objective Truth Exists
In Discerning What is Truth, Pt 1 , I was essentially saying that the starting point for discerning truth is to believe, in answer to Pilate's famous question, "What is truth?", that such a thing as objective truth actually exists and can be discerned by rational, thinking human beings. We must abandon all hope of finding truth if we believe that it cannot be found because it is only in the eyes of the beholder. I think however, that no one actually lives as if there is no objective truth whatsoever-- for we accept as objectively true certain basic facts about our lives (I am alive and breathing, I live in such and such place, etc.), and we decide to accept as true other things we believe in. In this way we build a view of life that is based upon things we call true. Christian truth however, is more elusive, because it is spiritually discerned. It is rational and not irrational, but it is also supra-rational, for Christian truth is not apprehensible by reason alone, but comes by revelation.

Truth Under Attack
As I said in my post, The Age of Tolerance Calls for Bold Proclamation of Truth, we are living in a time when truth is under attack. I suppose truth has always been under attack, but I find it troubling that many in the Christian community seem to be contributing to the growing lack of discernment among Christians by promoting a message that seems to say tolerance and civility are more primary goals for Christians than defense of biblical doctrine.

Called to Preach and Defend Sound Doctrine
I don't think that the Bible separates these concerns (truth and civility). In Ephesians 4 we read that as we are being equipped by those called to lead and teach us "in the work of the ministry and building up the body of Christ", the goal is that we "all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes (Eph 4:11-16)". Now how does Paul say that we avoid being "children" in faith who are easily swayed by "every wind of doctrine"?

He says that
speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ (Eph 4:15).

As to civility, Peter, writing at a time when Christians were persecuted, wrote that Christians must "always [be] prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame (1 Peter 3:16-17).

So the manner in which we defend our beliefs before those who question us is to be gentle and respectful and is to reflect the fact that in our hearts we honor Christ as holy (1 Peter 3:15).

Elsewhere in the New Testament, Paul makes the teaching of sound doctrine one of the key requirements for an overseer (leader) in the church. The following passages are examples:

As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions (1 Timothy 1:3-7).

Teach and urge these things (the church practices he has commanded in 1 Timothy 5). If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain (1 Tim 6:2-5).

For an overseer, as God's steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth. To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work. But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine(Titus 1:5-2:1).

We see from the above passages that while the Christian is called to be gentle and respectful as opposed to arrogant and quick-tempered, he is nonetheless called to boldly defend the faith, both by adhering to sound doctrine and rebuking those who teach false or unsound doctrine.

How Politically Incorrect of You, Paul
Notice how politically incorrect Paul is, as he agrees with what the Cretan prophet said of his own, "Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons." Paul concurs with the testimony of the Cretan prophet and goes on to say that because some of these Cretan teachers "are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers", and are "upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach", that "they must be silenced". How? He counsels Titus to "rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth." I wonder if, on the basis of such language, Paul too might be labeled an uncivil "attack dog" by David Aikman.

Now, I most often agree with Dan Edelen, over at his fine blog, Cerulean Sanctum. In a recent post titled Same As It Ever Was, Same As It Ever Was…, Dan challenged Christians involved in the Arminian-Calvinist debate to cease their online bickering and attend to (apparently more worthy and urgent) tasks of service. In reading Dan's post, I do feel convicted that I could be more involved in directly ministering to needy people. So in this, I heartily concur with what seems to be the point of his article.

But the problem though, and I could see this most clearly from the comments his post generated, is that the entire Arminian-Calvinism debate is too easily dismissed as being somehow irrelevant to the real business of loving our neighbor. This would be an entirely wrong conclusion to come to, whether or not it is what Mr. Edelen's post was indeed implying.

As we have seen from the above sampling of New Testament passages, the teaching and defense of sound doctrine is required of leaders in the church. Why is it necessary? Because false teaching is both soul-endangering and destructive to the body of Christ. One of the Deceiver's great strategies is to introduce and promote subtle heresies within the doctrine of the church. Most American Christian evangelicals would readily recognize Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses and Scientology as false religions. But do these same Christians also discern the deceptions of the "health and wealth" gospel? Do we recognize false teachings within Roman Catholicism? Do we notice the liberal churches declaring that one can be a practicing homosexual and also a member in good standing of their congregations? Do we know how to biblically define true spirituality and true worship, or is our definition of these things based on our own opinions? Most of all, are we prepared to take a stand for the authority of Scripture in all of life, to present biblically rational arguments to prove our interpretations of Scripture, and to rebuke unsound doctrine?

Are we prepared to take a stand for the authority of Scripture in all of life, to present biblically rational arguments to prove our interpretations of Scripture, and to rebuke unsound doctrine?

The great apostle Paul was able to argue from Scripture in order to prove that Jesus is the Christ (Acts 17:2-3). He called Christian workers following in his footsteps to this same task: "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15)."

If one then may be approved by God and unashamed in their handling of the word of truth, then the possibility exists too that we may wrongly handle the word of truth and therefore not win God's approval. Such teaching bring shame and reproach to the cause of Christ.

Whose Information Can We Trust?
We live in the Information Age and the flow of data and information proliferates rapidly, especially on the World Wide Web via the Internet, as new sites are born each day and as the technology expands and develops. The new technology has democratized who may become a communicator-- it has become easier than ever to publish your own website or blog.

This explosion of information makes the discernment of truth, especially among Christians, all the more critical. Whose voice can be listened to and trusted? If anyone ought to be able to speak profound truth to a world that desperately needs to hear it, it is the Christian, the one who has received by grace a revelatory message that is meant to impact the world. But for our message of truth to ring out clearly and effectively, it must be authoritative. Where does our authority come from? Does it come from speaking a message that is popular, or that "works"? Does the relevance of the Christian message (the gospel of Jesus Christ) derive from its ability to meet the deepest needs of the human soul?

The Authority of the Christian Message
Truly our message is one that meets the deepest needs of the soul in a very profound way. But our authority comes not from us-- the skill with which we transmit or package the message-- nor does it come from the utilitarian aspects of the message. Yes, Christianity "works" because it is true, but we follow and preach Christ not because following His principles will help us realize our "best life now". Rather we follow Him because by divine revelation we have come to see and know that Jesus is the only One who can save us from our sins, which have separated us from God. The whole world is commanded to repent and believe the good news and the truth that Jesus Christ saves sinners.

Evangelical Christianity has often gotten this basic gospel message right. But it has also often added to the message, trying to make it more relevant and palatable, or repackaging it to meet the so-called felt needs of its target audience. Thus the gospel message becomes gradually distorted by modern day preachers/teachers. This is the strategy of the enemy-- not blatantly to lead us away from truth by obvious deception, but to subtly promote lies and error that cause us to slowly drift away from the true gospel, one blind step at a time. So, as the New Testament and Paul especially so often admonishes, we must be discerning and wise, that we may preserve the purity of the gospel message.

The Purpose of "Discernment Ministries"
Blog ministries such as Jordan's View, and many discernment ministries (or countercult apologetics), often with sites on the web, have arisen that address the need for discerning truth. These ministries provide a wealth of information to help people identify trends in society and in the church that may be diverting people from the truths of the gospel. Some of these ministries may also try to define the fundamental truths of Christian faith, so that one may identify erroneous teaching., though not a discernment ministry per say, is a site that, by emphasizing the monergistic (Reformed) view of the Christian faith, argues that the reformed, monergistic view of Christianity is historic, biblical and much needed today to protect against error and help bring about revival. Other "countercult" ministries specialize in providing detailed information about specific movements (e.g., Emerging Church, contemplative spirituality) and/or about cults.

Importance of the Arminian/Calvinist Debate- Theology affects all of life

Now, as Dan Edelen seems to be saying in his article and others too have pointed out, not everyone involved in the Arminian/Calvinism debate is necessarily driven by right motives. Personally I consider that debate to function under the category of discernment ministry, because I believe Calvinists are more biblically correct and that the errors and influence of Arminianism need correction. As I have stated in my writing about Arminianism vs Reformed theology, I think that there are very important, practical ramifications to the theology one holds, whether Arminian or Reformed. Everyone has a theology, expressed by their actions. The question is whether our theology is one we have examined and tested under the light of the truth of Scripture or one which remains unexamined. Examined or not, our theology will have a powerful impact on how we live, and that's why I think it's so important to get it right.

But in discernment ministries of all types, there may be those driven by ego and the need to win arguments, whose goal in criticizing is to be seen and heard rather than to edify. While such abuse is unfortunate, it does not negate the need and responsibility of Christians to defend sound doctrine and rebuke bad doctrine. Discernment ministries have helped address this need of the body, yet it is important too that every individual Christian be, as our Lord said, "wise as serpents and innocent as doves." We are fighting a battle with a spiritual Enemy who is incredibly cunning, and also we ought to expect persecution and hatred to come our way from this world. Among the other spiritual weapons we are called to don, we arm ourselves with the belt of truth, and with the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, as we wage war with the truth of God's word as our authority and divine power (Ephesians 6:14,17, 2 Corinthians 10:4-6). We know too that in the end we are assured of victory, for the Word of God is Truth, and our Lord Jesus is the Lord of all Truth, who will reign in truth and righteousness when He returns to earth. Then the light of truth will overcome the darkness of error.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

When Christians Sin- The Call to Integrity

As one who views blogging as ministry, I recognize that everything I do-- both "on-blog" and "off-blog"-- affects the quality of my relationship with God, and in turn, this affects how much positive fruit my life is bearing-- on the blog and off. Since I write about the truths of Christianity and exhort others to consider and live by these truths, I must make sure that I am living by these truths. There must be consistency between what I write about on this blog, and how I live my life when I'm not blogging. This is what it means to have integrity.

"For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7)."

Success in the world's eyes is usually measured by outward things, but God sees the heart and is mostly concerned with character-- how I treat others and whether my conduct reflects one who belongs to a holy God is of the utmost importance. If I want Jordan's View and my life to be something that will truly make an eternal impact, I must learn to walk with this kind of integrity: my behavior and attitudes ought to reflect Christ at all times and in all places. But is this possible?

I am quite sure I have never claimed on this blog to be anything more than a humble recipient of God's abundant grace through Jesus Christ, which alone has power to forgive sinners, reconcile them to God and transform them into saints. Yet I must also confess that in a certain area of my life I have dishonored God by "secret" sins.

These sins of course are not hidden from God, but can be hidden (to a certain degree) from others. My sins have been in the area of sex, an area of weakness before I became a Christian that has continued to be an area in which I have been prone to sin. I'm too ashamed to go into detail about the particulars of these sins (and I'm not sure it would be edifying anyway). I will say that I haven't had an extramarital affair, but that these sins nonetheless constitute unfaithfulness to the Lord and to the vows I made to my wife, and for that I am truly and deeply sorry.

I have already confessed the specific sins in this area to God, to my pastors and to certain friends. My wife too is aware of my sins and has been incredibly gracious. I know enough theology to recognize that God's love and grace through Christ are greater than all my sin, and that as I confess my sins to Him, God is faithful and just to forgive me my sins and to cleanse me from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Praise God for this.

However I know also that confession that never continues on into repentance, turning radically away from the sins it has confessed and replacing them with biblically right actions, is ultimately not true confession. In other words, the one confessing must intend also to repent, to "go and sin no more", otherwise confession is a hollow and hypocritical exercise.

"Physician, heal yourself", goes the old saying, which basically means, if you say you are capable of healing others, prove it by first healing yourself. But its meaning can also be: if you are going to go around trying to help others, first show that your remedies work in your own life. This applies to me as a Christian blogger-- if the Christian principles and truths I expound upon in this blog are not radically changing me into a more visibly Christ-like person, how can I hope to persuade others that Christianity is real and true and right? Of course, the failure of Christians like myself to fully and consistently live out their faith does not necessarily prove Christianity false-- rather, it shows that sin is a very stubborn reality in human beings, even after conversion to Christ (a truth the Bible explicitly teaches, see Romans 7, or 1 John 1:8). But on the other hand, when Christians sin-- when media headlines show prominent Christians divorcing, committing adultery, engaging in pornography, misusing or stealing church funds, and other sins-- the name of Christ and His glory are both dishonored. This may give non-believers an excuse for avoiding consideration of the truth claims of Christianity ("look at Mr. Pastor who had an affair, left his wife, kids and church behind and has now run off with his assistant to start a new church-- see, these Christians are just like everyone else-- so why should I become a Christian?").

This is a great shame to the church, because it is also unnecessary-- for the power of God through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are available to me and to all Christians, that we may live lives that bear good fruit and bring glory to His name. But with the reality being that Christians will never be absolutely sin-less, we Christians perhaps should practice being more transparent about our on-going struggles with sin. Then, if and when our sins become exposed, great scandal will not ensue, and their exposure won't make us look so hypocritical.

The problem arises when Christianity is presented as a being the miraculous deliverance from all sin into a life of on-going victory and prosperity. In this portrayal, sin, sickness, trials, suffering and other kinds of problems are not supposed to affect the believer in Christ, and the believer no longer really a sinner who struggles with sin. If such is really the Christian life, then when a Christian is found to be sinning it seems to the world like there's a huge gap between how we have presented ourselves and what our lives are truly like (in other words, it seems like hypocrisy, and perhaps often is).

But the "sin-free" portrait of the Christian life is neither accurate nor biblical. All Christians sin, and will continue to do so until we meet Christ face-to-face. Even for believers, there continues to be a "law of sin that dwells in my members"(Romans 7:23), which means, not that we must sin (1 Cor 10:13), but that the possibility and temptation to sin is always present within us (Romans 7:21). Now one of the hopes of the Christian is that God's transforming power is gradually squeezing sin out of our lives, as we learn to think with the mind of Christ, and to value the things that are eternal over the things of this world.

Through the scriptures the believer in Christ is given great confidence in the outcome. We learn that the struggle with sin as well as the trials and sufferings undergone in this life are only temporary. We are promised that "for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). We understand then that God's sovereign purpose is being worked out in our lives in all things (Ephesians 1:11)-- including even our struggles with sin (which do not take God by surprise).

And with this eternal perspective we learn to how to endure in all the circumstances of life, including the most painful trials. "So we (Christians) do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

In regard to sin, the Christian also is comforted and encouraged by the truth that He is both forgiven and justified by the cross of Christ. Depending solely upon God's empowering grace, the Christian knows that he or she is slowly progressing forward in becoming like Christ (aka, the process of sanctification). But if we understand God's grace to be a license for sin, we have fallen into the Devil's deception. For though God has poured out his abundant grace to us through Jesus Christ, grace more than enough to pay for all sins (Romans 5:20-21), this grace is not to be abused. Paul wrote, "Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means How can we who died to sin still live in it? (Romans 6:1-2). To my great shame I admit that sometimes I have sinned in the presumption that God would forgive me. This is definitely an abuse of God's grace and a testing of the Lord that just added to the sinfulness of my actions.

I want to leave behind such shameful ways. I want this moving forward in holiness and bringing glory to the name of Christ to be the witness my entire life proclaims. By holding on to certain habitual sins I have been expressing mistrust in God and his goodness, showing that my heart still grips certain idols. But today I must remember that when God calls something sin, it can never, ever be good for me, no matter how much temporary pleasure one might find in it or how I may try to rationalize why I need this sin. The things that God has provided, on the other hand, are always good, and good for me (James 1:17). May I with God's help destroy all idols in my heart.

Let's face it, change is very hard. Becoming a Christian does not normally produce instantaneous transformation in ones' thinking, lifestyle and habits. Some have testified to being instantly delivered from a cigarette, alcohol or drug addiction. They are the exceptions, however. New Testament Christianity is all about lifelong change that occurs from the inside out as we replace deeply ingrained sinful patterns of thinking and behavior with new, godly ways of thinking and behaving. So change does indeed come, but only as I act on my responsibility to renew my mind by God's word and to daily abide in Christ. The battle with sin has not been made easy for us; it is a fight on a spiritual plane and requires spiritual strategies and power to win. The Bible exhorts us over and over again to understand the true nature of this battle and to fight it with all the weapons given by God, that we may be victorious in it.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:1-2)

"So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good...

... you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation (1 Peter 2:1-2, 9-12)."

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm (Ephesians 6:10-13)

My friends, brothers and sisters in Christ. Please hold me in your prayers as I re-commit myself to fighting the good fight of faith and to believing and trusting in God's good promises, that the deceitful, unfruitful ways of sin may be rooted out completely from my life, and that my life may bear increasingly good fruit, to the glory of God alone.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Recognize This Celebrity?

Hint: She's a singer, actress, pop star, dancer and cultural icon. She looks familiar, doesn't she?... OK, so she doesn't really exist. The image you're viewing is a "morph" image that combines the faces of Madonna, Gwen Stefani, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera.

In other words, she's a Morph Thing!

Below, are her morphed "parents". In other words, the two images below, themselves pairs of combined celebrity faces, were morphed together to produce the image above. With all four faces morphed together, you get a very interesting face that actually looks quite real and attractive.

Madonna's Face Combined with Gwen Stefani:

Madonna's Face Combined with Gwen Stefani -

Britney Spears' Face Combined with Christina Aguilera:

Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera Faces Combined Together -

Here's more of the morphs I made:

Antonio Banderas' Face Combined with Denzel Washington:

Antonio Banderes and Denzel Washington Faces Combined Together -

Brad Pitt's Face Combined with Tom Cruise:

Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise Faces Combined Together -

George Bush's Face Combined with Prince Charles:

Prince Charles's Face Combined with George Bush -

Or how about this very strange morph? Elvis Presley's Face Combined with Ann Margaret:

Elvis Presley and Ann Margret Faces Combined Together -

Now, is this another example of "Web 2.0"? I'm not sure. It sure is another way of wasting time. But fun nonetheless. Check out Morph Thing, the online face morpher, and try out your own morphs. You can even upload your own images to experiment with.

Monday, September 03, 2007

The Web 2.0 Revolution

It seems that almost every day new web sites are coming out with functions much more dynamic than yesterday's static web sites. These new sites use ever-evolving technological innovations such as Ajax programming to create powerful, intuitive and even user-configurable sites. Such sites have earned the name "Web 2.0", not only because of the new technologies they utilize, but also because they are the product of ongoing collaboration between their developers and the people who use them. The Web 2.0 conception sees web communication as no longer just a unidirectional monologue (from speaker to listener) but as a multi-directional dialog. Through technology, every participant has opportunity to become a communicator, as well as receiver, of information. Thus the web becomes a giant collaboration among many.

I am finding it quite exciting and interesting to discover, explore and begin to use some of these Web 2.0 sites, despite the fact that I don't always fully understand them conceptually or technologically. But you don't have to know exactly how they work in order to take advantage of them. In fact, the best of these sites are designed to be extremely user-friendly, this being a high value in Web 2.0 thinking. Since, as mentioned earlier, new applications are continually being developed, the following list provides a very brief survey of Web 2.0 applications.

Start (Home) Pages
One of the sites I recently discovered is, a site that reminds me of the Firefox browser (itself a product of Web 2.0 innovations) in terms of its high intuitiveness and configurability. Netvibes aims to be a place where you can set up your own web "universe". I have already begun using it as a home base on the Internet, gathering together in one place my contacts, calendar, to-do list, blog feeds, news feeds, podcasts, etc. Time Magazine recently selected Netvibes as one of their top 50 websites.

Of course, this is not a new concept. Many sites, such as My Yahoo or iGoogle, have aimed to become the preferred portal to the web for their audiences. Yet while both My Yahoo and especially iGoogle (with its many, often user-designed widgets) have implemented new ideas for personalizing home pages, sites like Netvibes take the innovations to the next level. Thus Netvibes and the similar Pageflakes are probably the top Web 2.0 choices right now for creating customized start pages.

Social Networking

Responding to invitations from friends, I recently joined three social network web sites: LinkedIn, Facebook and Plaxo Pulse. LinkedIn and Plaxo Pulse both seem geared toward those wanting to link to others professionally, while Facebook seems more a networking tool for friends. All three sites seem are very "Web 2.0" in terms of purpose-- trying to connect people via Internet-- and also in regard to ease of use. Being new to these networks, I can't really give an opinion as to which of them is best-- their functions probably overlap, if using all three. Another popular site along these lines, especially for a younger crowd, is

Social Bookmarking
A phenomenon related to social networking is that of social bookmarking, in which users create online lists of Internet resources they like or have found useful and share them with others. Sites such as, Simpy, and Furl have become popular networks of this kind. More recently Diigo, Ma.gnolia, Netvouz, and StumbleUpon have also joined this growing web market. You can learn more about social bookmarking in this helpful Wikipedia article. Wikipedia itself is another great example of Web 2.0 in action-- an on-line encyclopedia collaboratively maintained and expanded by its readers.

Office "2.0"
Do you use programs such as Microsoft Word or Excel to create documents or spreadsheets? What if you could create, collaborate on, access and share such documents on the web? Innovative sites such as Google Documents and Spreadsheets,, Writeboard,, and provide free online software that makes it possible to create spreadsheets and documents compatible with Microsoft Office, even if you don't own Microsoft products. Best of all, you can upload your created documents to the web to share with others or access from any computer with Internet. Recently, Google acquired a company called Jotspot, a Wiki-type site that enables online collaborative projects. This site will soon be integrated with Google's Documents and Spreadsheets. Microsoft has responded to the challenge posed by such Web 2.0 sites with Microsoft Live, which they describe as "services [which] allow you to create a professional online presence without the expense of buying a server, setting up a complicated infrastructure, and hiring technical staff to maintain it."

There are so many more Web 2.0 sites in multiple categories. The following is a mere sampling:

More Web 2.0
City Guides & Reviews
Judy's Book

Digital Storage and Remote Access

Email and Communication

Feed Management

Photos, Digital Images and Sharing

Mobile Technology


Online Desktop

Podcast Services

Video Sharing

And of course, this blog itself is part of the wonderful world of Web 2.0.

Utilizing Web 2.0 wisely
I feel I would be remiss without admonishing (myself, as well as readers) to use the Web wisely. All the technological innovation of Web 2.0 is meant to make modern life easier and more productive, and certainly can be a tremendous asset in this regard. But, as with anything good, there is a danger of the Web becoming an idol in our lives. An idol is anything we allow, by the value and time we spend upon it, to become a kind of "god" to us, something which usurps relationship with the true God. The Web can easily become a totally absorbing and distracting place in which to live, and tracking the endless barrage of information becomes an exhausting addiction, even when the information in itself is good and helpful.

Christians recognize the reality of indwelling sin, which means that the pull of the world and sin are still present. So if you are Christian, please bear this in mind as you explore the world of Web 2.0. And if you are not a Christian, I would suggest that you consider the idea that if God is real He must have a claim on all human life. No activity in this world will ever bring us the true satisfaction and abiding joy that comes from being in relationship with our Creator. And no human activity or philosophy can solve the sin problem which separates us from Him. Visit my Gospel Presentations section for more about this.

For Discussion
What are your favorite "Web 2.0" sites? Do you ever feel that you've become addicted to the spending time on the Web?

Further reading:
50 Best Websites, selected by Time magazine

Web 2.0 by Wikipedia

Review of the Year's Best Web 2.0 explanations

What exactly does Web 2.0 mean?

Best Web 2.0 Sites July 2007 (top 10 from Real World Software Development)

2007 Web 2.0 Awards

2007: Web 2.0 Companies I Couldn’t Live Without

The Best Web 2.0 Software of 2006

Top 100 Web Apps (included are many Web 2.0-type sites)

Top 100 Web 2.0 Sites

The Best of Web 2.0

Brave New Web: 20 Top Web 2.0 sites complete web 2.0 directory

Ajax Projects (Web 2.0 sites)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Discerning What is Truth, Pt 1

Documenting the events of the last hours of His earthly life, Scripture records the conversation Jesus Christ had with Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor who would soon turn Him over to be crucified.

So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?”

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world— to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”

Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”

After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him (John 18:33-38)

What is Truth? (Jesus Claimed to be the Truth)
Pilate's now famous question, "What is truth?" was asked by a man who seemed skeptical that such a thing as truth might be knowable. Two thousand years later people are still asking the same question, and often with the same skepticism. And yet, a foundational assumption of the Christian faith is that yes, truth exists, and that by the grace of God, it can be known by mere human beings.

Jesus came to "bear witness to the truth" and in another well-known quote, proclaimed to His closest disciples, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him (John 14:6-7)."

We see from the words of Jesus to Pilate and to His disciples that Jesus spoke about truth in a way different than all other men speak of truth. Jesus did not describe truth in term of "principles" that if followed would lead His hearers into a happy, successful life. Though following the teachings of Jesus certainly does lead to real fulfillment, both in this life and in the next (John 10:10), the truth Jesus spoke about is much more than this-- for it is intimately connected with who He is. Jesus said that His words and life bore witness to the truth, and moreover, that He Himself was the living embodiment of that Truth. Thus Jesus spoke like no ordinary man. What mere human tells others that what He has to say is the Truth, with a capital "T", and proclaims Himself the living Truth? Listen again to Jesus:

“Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me (John 12:44-50)”

In this amazing statement, Jesus claimed people would be judged "on the last day" according to His spoken words; that His words were saving, eternal life to those embraced them; and that His words were said, not just on His own authority, but at the prompting of God, His Father.

As C.S. Lewis said in his book "Mere Christianity", such are the claims of either a madman, a deceiver, or the Lord Himself.

I am trying to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: "I am ready to accept Jesus as the great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God." That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic--on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg--or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice.

Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

The Worlds' Attitude towards Truth
In our day, the world's stance towards the concept of anyone who claims to speak truth remains the same as it was in the time when Jesus walked the Earth and Pilate asked Him his now-famous question. People still have what I'll call Pilate's attitude: the idea that with all the competing explanations of life presented by a multitude of religions and philosophies, and by scientists, artists and media, who can really discern what is the truth? Is not truth, if it exists, in the eye of the beholder? Suppose that all we experience in this world is really just sensory illusion, anyway? How do we then know if anything is real, or whether anything at all can be known?

In light of the unknowable nature of truth, the world tells us, isn't it better to humbly admit that one cannot know, and just try to get along with others? Because the minute one starts proclaiming that he or she knows what "the truth" is, all you get are disagreements and hate and wars. Don't all religions teach the same basic ideas anyway, things such as love each other, follow the golden rule, don't hurt your neighbor? Maybe, in the end, God is behind all of the religions and will lead everyone into heaven, no matter what their religion or beliefs are right now.

Besides, look at the horrible things done in the name of religion historically, and even now as we speak. People blow themselves up in the name of their "god", killing innocent people, and think that they are right in doing so because of their beliefs. Isn't this is the inevitable result of exclusive and dogmatic religions-- that they lead people into hate and killing each other? Maybe John Lennon was right. "Imagine" he sang, living in a world without religion. A world in which "All You Need is Love" and we would all "Give Peace a Chance" (other Lennon songs). Maybe, if enough of us just decided "War is Over", and together focused our thoughts on peace (as he and his wife Yoko urged), we could, by the power of our unified thought energies, sway this world away from its self-destructive path.

Mr. Lennon seems to well sum up the wisdom of this world. His well-meaning counsel sounds very reasonable, if one accepts the premise that the only truth we can really know and accept is our own, and that all religious truth, including Christian truth, just divides. But we come back to our discussion of truth-- how do we know whether Lennon's prescription for saving the world is itself right and true? A lot of people during the 1960s and 70s attempted to live out Lennon's "way of peace", but overall, the course of humanity has not turned towards peace since then.

The World's Critique of Christianity is Partly Right
But those who reject the Christian faith will argue that the same objection applies, and with more force, to Christianity. If the Christian religion is true then why is it that after almost 2000 years of Christian influence, the world remains still full of war and division? And today one finds so many Christians are hypocrites-- they talk of being loving like Jesus, but then in the news we learn they're doing things like stealing money from their ministries, getting divorced, committing adultery and worse. In addition, so many Christians-- especially in America-- seem to define faith as a lifestyle of wonderful blessings received from God (which includes guarantees of physical health, wealth, great relationships and special favor from God). Isn't this conveniently forgetting that Christ taught that His followers must suffer in this world, deny self, preach the gospel and make disciples, give to the poor and needy, and pursue justice? If Christianity were really true, they argue, one would see Christians doing more of these sorts of things and being less materialistic. Unfortunately, such criticism of many who call themselves Christian is altogether accurate.

False and True Christians
In answer to such critique however, we must distinguish between true and false professors of Christ. But first, we will admit that true believers (those born again, by the power of the Spirit who now indwells them) still do sin, because they have not yet been fully redeemed (changed) by God. According to the Bible there is this great gap between the sinless, perfect obedience of Christ to the Father's will, and the sin-stained expression of faith of even his most sincere followers. This gap will only be completely eradicated when Jesus returns. So the Christian true to the teaching of Scripture readily confesses that he/she still sins and thus falls short of the glory of God. He sorrows over such sin and repents of it, and finds forgiveness and restored relationship with God by the grace received through the "blood of Christ" (the sacrifice Christ made on the cross to bear the penalty for my sin). However, there will be, according to the Lord, many who merely claim the name "Christian" but indeed will be proven to be hypocrites. They present, by their false lives, teachings and actions, a gross misrepresentation of true Christian faith. They may on the surface however appear genuine in their profession of Christ. They themselves may be sincerely deceived that they are following Christ. How can we be wise enough to discern the difference between sincere Christ followers and those who only profess Christianity? And how do we avoid hypocrisy, and make certain that we are indeed His disciples? Let us turn to two passages of Scripture.

"For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men (1 Corinthians 1:18-25)"

Jesus said, "Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

"Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it (Matthew 7:21-27)"

The problem with the wisdom of the world, according to this 1 Corinthians text, is that earthly wisdom foolishly does not acknowledge the existence of God, and moreover, regards as foolishness the preaching of "Christ crucified" by Christians. Despite clear evidence that the world has been created by an Intelligent Designer, who has additionally revealed himself as Savior to those who believe in His Son Jesus Christ, the world prefers its own wisdom and rejects God (Romans 1:20-21). But for those who say they believe in Christ, Jesus' statements remind that merely claiming to be Christian is no proof of knowing Him. It is those who actually do the will of God, in accordance with the teachings of Jesus (albeit imperfectly), whose lives will pass the test of authentic discipleship, being built on a solid foundation.

Accepting the Testimony of Our Physical Senses, Thinking Rationally and Believing in Objective Truth

We return to our discussion on truth. I recognized a long while ago, in my own search for truth and meaning, that I would never have a basis for deciding whether one point of view was more true than another, unless I embraced the notion that there is objective truth. Philosophers and theologians may endlessly ponder the nature of reality and whether truth exists, but when it comes to practical daily living, I realized that humans have no choice but to embrace their rationality and trust their sensory perceptions, make up their minds about certain ideas, and get on with life. For even if we deny it, we all live as if there is such a thing as objective truth, and relate to the world using thought, reason and rationality in response to things we experience through our senses. We build a view of life by accepting or calling certain realities "true", and in this process, our minds seem designed to function rationally.

I make these very broad observations about the nature of how we perceive and understand true reality because we live, as you are probably aware, in a "postmodern" age characterized by the claim that all truth is not objective but relative. Yet in order to make that claim, one must take an absolute stance. But if there is no objective truth, then there is no way to prove the absolute claim that there is no objective truth.

The "truth-is-relative" view may try to assert that statements contradicting one another can both be true at the same time. It perhaps sounds more democratic and "loving" to allow everyone their own point of view, to say that they are all "true" in their own way. However, the point I'm making is that because our minds were designed to be logical and rational, I don't think such statements are ever satisfying to the earnest seeker after truth.

Don't Give Me Any Directions

I'll give you an example. Suppose I am driving through an unfamiliar town on my way to a particular destination and become very lost. I see someone walking along the road, stop and ask them for directions. Now suppose that after I have written down their detailed directions, I decide that I cannot (and will not) trust their information (after all I don't know them and/or what if they were just a phantom?). Therefore I toss the note of written directions out of the window and continue merrily on my own way, searching as best as I can, figuring that somehow I will arrive at my destination by guessing when I should turn left or right.

This little illustration symbolizes what I think the world often advises, with regard to finding life and purpose and truth. Most people at some point in their lives probably consider the question, "Is there is a God?" and wonder whether there is a destiny and purpose behind life. But the basic assumption of our day is that no one can possibly come to any conclusion about such matters, for no one person or group holds the "Truth". Also, as there are no "easy" answers, it is simply arrogant for anyone to presume to tell another that they have found "truth" that is universally applicable. Instead, each must plod along on their own path, trusting in themselves alone to direct their own journey. Someday we'll all get "there", whatever and wherever that is. But just don't give me any "directions".

As we have seen in the Scriptures however, Jesus came to this world to bear witness to the truth; to reveal Himself as the Truth and the Way to know God. He said that people do have a clear destiny-- eternal separation from God, or eternal union with God. He claimed to tell us exactly how to find God-- and His claims are exclusive- for if His claims are correct, we won't find our way to God except by Him. As we saw in my illustration above, any earthly destination has coordinates. We would be foolish to ignore those in the hope that by simply moving forward in a meandering, guessing way we will successfully arrive at our object. How much more foolish then, to think that we can arrive at the purpose of this life or find our heavenly destination, if we don't know what it is, where it is, or how to get there.

Excepting those in mental asylums and the mentally delusional, we live by certain "truths" that we accept-- most without daily reflection-- to be real and valid-- such as, I was born and I exist, my birthday is on such and such day, I have certain physical dimensions, I live in such and such place, have such and such job, such and such relationships. We also "believe in" many things-- perhaps one believes one ought to love others and not do them harm; that stealing is wrong; that if one works hard they will "succeed" in life; etc. Certainly beliefs vary tremendously, but constructing some sort of belief system about reality seems necessary to function as a human being.

The truths of Christianity are built upon this sort of practical and rational foundation. We believe that Jesus Christ really lived on earth, that He spoke and taught and did the things that have been written of Him. Why? Because there were human beings present as eyewitnesses of these events who wrote them down. We also believe because the evidence that Jesus Christ is really who he claimed to be is both reasonable and abundant (visit the sites listed in my Apologetics section to find some of this evidence). Now Christianity, unlike other religions, does not say that it does not matter if Jesus existed or not and that what is critical is that one just follow His teachings. No! It says that because Jesus as the Son of God really came to this world and really died to save sinners from their sins, that those who believe in Him will be supernaturally born and actually know eternal fellowship with God. It says that only if this Christ really was resurrected from the dead-- as He claimed He would be-- is there any real hope for those who call themselves Christians. So Christianity is more than metaphor or theory, it is the reality of a life lived in actual relationship with a living God. The God who is real came to earth and died for my sins, and if I believe in Him I will be forgiven all my sins and transformed from a sinner to saint, completely by His mighty, gracious power.

So today, if you do not know Christ in this personal way, please visit my "Gospel Presentations" section at the top right column of my blog. There you will find links to helpful presentations of the gospel of Jesus Christ. You also find instruction about what to do if you believe that Christ is indeed who He said He is, that He really died for sins and rose from the dead, and if you desire to receive His offer of mercy and reconciliation to God.

Discernment for Believers
In Part 2 of this article, I will (God-willing) address the issue of discernment of truth for believers in Christ. It seems today there are so many different teachers, preachers and points of view about what is true Christianity. How can we discern the true way? How do we decide which interpretations of Scripture are correct so that we may be faithful to Jesus and not go astray? Which teachers can be trusted? I think this is an extremely critical issue for the church today, for all of the many different "brands" of Christianity cannot be equally true and valid at the same time, since they are making opposing claims.

I recently added a new link list to my blog titled "Discernment Ministries", under the section "Apologetics". I invite you to peruse the many ministries listed in this section (though I do not vouch for the accuracy of everything written on these sites). These types of ministries recognize the danger of false doctrines within the church, how such teachings lead us away from God, and so they aim to make people aware of these teachings and warn them away from error. This is a deadly serious matter, for people's souls are at stake. As Christians we are called to test and examine all teaching and doctrine according to Scripture, but this can be difficult when almost every teaching or doctrine claims to have scriptural support. As fallen creatures, I don't think that anyone's interpretation of Scripture is ever going to be 100% perfect in understanding. Nevertheless, it is critical to the Christian's spiritual health and safety to grow in understanding and application of the truth of God's word. As Paul said to Timothy, "do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15)." Discernment ministries and blogs such as this one can assist, but are of course no substitute for one's own diligent study of the Word.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Christian Relief and Social Action Links

A reader of this blog from Pakistan wrote to me personally, asking for help for his fellow Pakistanis who in recent months have been hit extremely hard by devastating floods caused by a cyclone and heavy rains. Over one million have been left homeless.

He writes, "our main concern are the women and children... at the moment they are living under [the] sky without food, shelter and lack of basic necessities of life. Even the water they are getting for drinking is contaminated and [the] worst part of their sufferings is the diseases which are spreading rapidly, particularly among children of minor age.

I have created in the right column of my blog a new (preliminary) list of "Christian Relief and Social Action" links, to point anyone with an interest in helping these people to organizations involved in relief efforts. I am not familiar with all of the relief agencies, but I have heard of "Gospel for Asia" and would highly recommend them, especially in this case. Other well-known organizations are Samaritan's Purse, Save the Children, and World Vision International. I would also recommend World Emergency Relief (WER), which according to an article in Christian Today was rated very highly for its efficiency in proving services, transparency about its finances and its well-run organization.

Please pray for them, and if you can, send a gift to help with the relief efforts.

Why Don't People Leave Comments (or, Leave a Comment You Lazy Blog Surfin' Freaks or I'll Hunt Down Your IP with my Spam Gun)?

So, I was reading the other day that research studies have been done showing that 90% percent of the time people don't leave comments when visiting a blog. Really? Who knew? It can't be... not my readers here at Jordan's View. They always leave comments-- witty, relevant, funny, encouraging comments. Yeah right.

I'm just kidding with you really. But a comment once in a while, really now, would it kill you? To click my little comments button and type a few measly words? Oy veigh!

I even installed this cute little widget that makes it really easy. Just click the little symbol to register your response to the post: COOL, FUN, INSIGHTFUL, FELL ASLEEP, I'M CONFUSED, DISAGREE, THIS BLOG STINKS (OK, the last one isn't a real option).

What more do you want? Shall I go over there and click the button for you, lazy freak?

Really, I'm just kidding you. You want to be an anonymous phantom ghost surfer, it's OK with me. But remember, I can get your IP address and who knows what I will do with it (HA HA HA HA, "Dr.Evil style laugh" )!!!

Have a nice day...

Sunday, August 19, 2007

American psyche by George Saunders

[The following article was published by the UK's Guardian Unlimited newspaper. HT: Joe Carter].

A recent headline indicates a number of disturbing American trends: Father Kills Bear Charging At Son With Log.

First of all, who's giving these animals logs? There's nothing in the world a respectable bear needs with a log. If that bear has a log, he has it for one reason: to kill somebody.

It's clear to any American reader that our animals are going bad. Every day there's some story about out-of-control wildlife: Mother Kills Pit Bull Mauling Son With Spatula. Or: Lover Kills Shark Swimming Towards Daughter With Spear Gun. Or: Son Stops Mountain Lion Attacking Dad Using Judo.

What are these people thinking? Who gives a pit bull a spatula or a shark a spear gun? What kind of idiot enrolls a mountain lion in a judo class?

Oh, wait, hang on. I just went back and read the article. Turns out the father used the log, to kill the bear.

Actually, that's what's wrong with our country: sloppy journalism. That headline, properly written, would have read: Father Uses Log To Kill Bear, Bear That Was, At That Time, Sans Log Or Any Kind Of Weapon, Charging Son Of Man.

Although that makes it sound as if the bear was charging Christ. Which - I mean, the article gives no indication that this was the case. In my opinion, a bear would not last a minute versus Christ. Especially if you gave Christ a log.

Anyway: sloppy writing, that's our problem. Also failure to fact-check. Look at this one: Man Discovers Picasso Painting In Attic. Hello! Picasso's dead! If not, he's, like, 200 years old, and I doubt he can 1) climb the stairs into some dude's attic or 2) paint once he gets there.

In addition to poor fact-checking: bad journalistic ethics. Take this one: World's Tallest Man Saves Drowning Girl With Extremely Long Arm. Why do we need to know the length of the poor girl's arm? If she had a weird voice, would we say, World's Tallest Man Saves Drowning Girl Who Is Terrible Singer? What's next? Fireman Saves Baby Who Looks Exactly Like Yoda?

What bothers me about that bear story is this American tendency to step in and do everything for our kids. It would have been better if the father had just handed the kid the log, and said, "Son, throw this, hard, at that bear. Or you're dead." That way, the kid learns something. I'm sure we've all heard the biblical proverb, "If you teach me to fish, I fish for ever; if you kill my fish with your log, next time I'm hungry, I'm just going to come walking up to you with a log and a live fish."

Now I just need a title for this column. Ah, I've got it: Writer Proves Stupidity Of Americans With Guardian Column.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Humble Yet Bold Ambassadors

The question of how Christians should engage in public discourse, particularly in what manner they communicate with those who differ from them, whether other Christians, people of other faiths, agnostics, or atheists, is a very important one, because we are "ambassadors for Christ"(2 Cor 5:20). As His ambassadors, we are called to the highest standard of integrity and holiness as we verbally express ourselves.

While the manner in which Christians engage others in the marketplace is certainly not a new concern, the explosion of blogging on the Internet in these modern times has made the issue even more urgent and relevant. Virtually anyone with access to a computer and Internet may create a blog and begin sending forth their words and opinions, unregulated and unmonitored, into the permanent and public discussion. Unfortunately, this means that much may be said that is unbecoming of those who call themselves Christian. Name-calling, gossip, slander, poor argumentation, have all, unfortunately, been witnessed. Words spoken in anger and without much forethought are with one click of a button etched into the public record. Being fallible humans, our words may often be sinful, even though we do profess to follow Jesus Christ.

In light of the responsibility we have then, as "ambassadors for Christ", recent essays* by leading Christians call upon Christians to regulate themselves as they debate in the marketplace of ideas. We are reminded that we ought to be civil and gracious (both to the world and with each other) as we present the truths of Christianity, keeping in mind that the way we communicate before the world is being watched by those who are wait to see whether Christians indeed are those who have been touched by the love of God, as we claim.

In my previous post I argued that a culture in which truth is under attack demands a bold Christian response, yet one that can be humble, respectful and loving at the same time. Yet there is probably a place too, for those who have a more prophetic gift/voice, and thus may speak in stronger language when they address the sins of this generation.

But let us remember the words of our Lord Jesus who said, "I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned (Matthew 12:36-37)." Therefore, whether our words as believers are those spoken as prophet or ambassador, let us remain vigilant over them, knowing we will be judged.

For further reading:

I highly recommend this essay, which offers much practical wisdom on this subject: "How to Deal with Those Who Differ from Us", by Dr. Roger R. Nicole, Ph.D., a Visiting Professor at Reformed Theological Seminary.

*This is one of the recent essays appealing to Christians to improve their civility, (which I refer to in this post):
A Plea For A More Civil Discourse by Thom S. Rainer

*My previous post The Age of Tolerance Calls for Bold Proclamation of Truth, was prompted by David Aikman's editorial "Attack Dogs of Christendom" which appears in the August 2007 issue of Christianity Today.

Does the Bible call Christians to defend the faith/argue for the faith? also offers a whole page of resources dealing with this issue, under the category "CONFLICT"

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Age of Tolerance Calls for Bold Proclamation of Truth

The August 2007 issue of Christianity Today magazine features an editorial titled "Attack Dogs of Christendom" written by David Aikman, an esteemed journalist who has written much on the topic of religion and Christianity. The editorial examines what Aikman labels the "attack dogs of Christendom", that is, certain web-based ministries that are frequently boldly critical of other Christians. The main point of his brief essay is that, if necessary, Christians may criticize other believers, but should do so with a grace that provides a fitting witness to the transforming work of God on their own character. This certainly sounds right, but is it the whole story?

Aikman describes particular ministries as greatly missing this mark, saying that they are "so drenched in sarcasm and animosity" that they might leave inquirers to Christianity "permanently disillusioned". He bemoans the fact that at a time when "no attribute of civilized life seems more under attack than civility", such web ministries, by their uncivility towards other Christians, do not demonstrate "the witness that brings savor and grace to a crumbling generation". Instead, he writes, they "blast each another from here to eternity with characterizations that differ little from the coarse vulgarity of cable TV". Aikman concludes, "Where is the gentleness, modesty, and wisdom with which we are supposed to shame those who mock and accuse the Body of Christ from outside?" and urges Christians to set an example for the world of gracious critiquing of one another.

Aikman's plea that Christians demonstrate God's love and graciousness, even if they find it sometimes necessary to criticize each other, is a point well taken. Fallen human nature tends to exhibit self-righteousness as it looks upon the failings of others, but our Lord reminds us, when picking the speck out of someone else's eye, we must first see to it that the log in our own has been removed. If also we constantly reflect on the biblical truth that we (even as believers in Christ) continue to be fallen creatures that are only saved and transformed by the power of God through the sacrifice of His only Son on a cross, we will not help but become more humble and gracious towards other sinful, fallible people.

Getting doctrine right is no incidental, trivial aspect of our call to follow Christ, but a vital work.

Nonetheless, I believe Mr. Aikman has really missed the passion and even the great frustration that drives many "discernment" ministries. This passion is, in many cases, driven by a correct understanding of this truth: that getting doctrine right is no incidental, trivial aspect of our call to follow Christ, but a vital work. I would certainly agree with Aikman's witness to the attack on civility in our culture. But does not this dearth of civility and increase in coarseness mostly correlate with the increased godlessness in society? The United States, a nation founded upon free expression of religious beliefs, whose government and founding documents were molded by the Judeo-Christian world view, has increasingly abandoned Judeo-Christian truth as its bedrock value system. Included in this abandonment is the growing tendency in these times to resist defining truth objectively. Of course if truth cannot be decided upon objectively, then establishing right theological doctrine seems even more unobtainable. And the fight for right doctrine has come to be seen by many in different quarters as a sort of petty squabbling over matters that are not essential to working together as Christians for the greater common good.

One might say then, with all due respect to Mr. Aikman, that "no attribute of civilized life seems more under attack than truth"-- for truth is under attack not only by the liberal establishment, but even by those within Christendom who erode truth by not taking their own firm stand upon doctrines of the faith. The decrease in civility Aikman laments seems directly tied to a nation that no longer fears God as it once did, and which is increasingly marginalizing God in all aspects of its civic life. But the Church is called to be salt and light in our culture (Matthew 5:13-14), exposing the darkness by living according to truth and holiness, and preserving that which is good. Yet this edifying and preserving only is accomplished as the Church obeys its mandate to "make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you (Matthew 28:19-20)." Teaching accurately that which Jesus taught then, seems to be indispensable to making disciples, and demands that we interpret and disseminate the teachings of Christ correctly.

Despite this critical task, many evangelicals today (especially in the Emergent camp, but also in the broader evangelical community) are downplaying the importance of doctrinal correctness, some labeling it "divisive" to the Church at large. There is a kind of teaching in American Christianity today that has become most concerned with providing practical aids to living in the here and now: improve your marriage, your sex life, your finances. It is claimed that in-fighting over doctrine presents a poor witness to the world, and distracts the Church from its more primary and urgent call to do "love" through justice, serving the poor, helping the hurting, etc. The debate over doctrine is viewed as dry, intellectual, and most of all abstract, an exercise which doesn't help us bring Christ's compassion to a hurting world in practical ways.

Surely there is truth to the charge that a practice of Christianity dominated by endless debate over minor theological points, and which seeks to root out heresy, not for the sake of more fruitful, God-honoring living, but motivated primarily by pride and ego, will leave those who practice it puffed up with knowledge but lacking in the charity towards others that really counts eternally (1 Corinthians 13). Some discernment ministries may indeed be driven by these less than noble, ultimately unworthy, motivations.

The Age of Tolerance
However, we are living in the Age of Tolerance, and that spirit it seems, has invaded the evangelical church. For today many ask Christians to cease being dogmatic (after all, who are we to say that Christ is the only way?); and to talk about man's essential problem as the lack of self-esteem, rather than, as the Bible tells it, sinful rebellion against God. We ought, some would say, to make Christianity "user-friendly"-- to shape our presentation of the gospel to appeal to the "postmodern" frame of mind, or re-package it so as to appeal to the "felt needs" of unbelievers. In other words, don't preach the biblical counsel that speaks about the depth of sin and the universal need for repentance, and of the price of the cross of Christ. Preach instead that God has a wonderful plan for your life, a plan to make you happy, bless your finances and your health and lead you into a kind of heaven on earth. Preach the gospel as an option ("try Jesus"), and not as a command to believe and repent. Preach that we Christians don't have any solid, final answers and we're just on our own journey, just like everyone else. Preach that Christian "love" is really about accepting everyone just as they are, even in their sin, and not asking anyone to repent of their sins.

We are being taught that to choose Christ is ultimately our own choice, that to be born again or eternally separated from God-- the choice between heaven or hell-- is totally within our own hands. Yet the Bible teaches that those who do come to Christ come only because they have been called out and given the grace to do so by God-- for Christ declared, "No one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father (John 6:65)"

In light of all this, is there a kind of criticism of other Christians by Christians that is justifiable?

Well, when even Christians are no longer preaching the gospel as Jesus did, as a call to radical self-sacrifice and as a repudiation of the lies that this world tries to sell;

When the Church ceases to stand hard on Bible truths and to preach them boldly, uncompromisingly and without apology, though they offend and many will reject them with words such as, "This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?(John 6:60)";

When we forget that "a little leaven leavens the whole lump (Galatians 5:6)", and that the little compromises we make with truth end with wholesale rejection of truth and falling away into deception;

Are we not then neglecting our solemn duty as believers to "preach the word; [and to] be ready in season and out of season; [to] reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching (2 Timothy 4:2-4)?

Paul warned Timothy, "the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths (2 Timothy 4:3)". That time is now upon us.

And so Christians must:

Always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry (2 Timothy 4:5)

Hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, and [be] able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it (Titus 1:9).

"Teach what accords with sound doctrine (Titus 2:1)"

I think that this is exactly what the responsible discernment ministries are attempting to do, in such times as these. Should they be gentle, modest and respectful? Certainly.

But there are also times for righteous indignation, times when double-talk and compromise must be challenged, and when those who say they are representing Christ must be called upon to defend their practices biblically. Paul challenged and opposed Peter, when the latter was acting hypocritically (Galatians 2:11-21). Read the story. Paul did not challenge Peter to embarrass him. Nor did he do so that he could now be seen as the #1 leader of the church and Peter be relegated to #2. He did it for the sake of the truth, for the sake of the souls of those in the Church, the precious souls for whom he and Peter had become responsible to God as leaders in the church. He was responsible to teach them sound doctrine, and to help them to mature in the wisdom of God. How? By teaching the Galatians the right doctrine about their justification before God, and opposing any actions (even if done by a fellow believer) in contradiction to right doctrine.

If we too are called by God to be disciple-makers (aren't we all?), let us tackle the call to teach and defend right doctrine with the same commitment and passion that Paul showed here. Let us do so humbly and depending upon God for much grace and wisdom. But let us not neglect this privilege and responsibility.