Friday, October 24, 2008

What 4WD's are Made For

A couple weeks ago Dad made a trip to the Mt. Elgon region of Kenya with Mark, a member of Central Baptist. Mark was doing research to see if the Lord would have his church do some work among the Sabaot people who live on the mountain. Three KBTC students who are Sabaot and who live on the mountain hosted them. Some awful things have happened in the Mt. Elgon region over the last several years as an indigenous guerrilla movement, the Sabaot Land Defense Force (SLDF) fought the Kenyan government over land issues. They also turned their guns and anger on to their own people, and committed numerous atrocities. It is essentially a former war zone wherein the fighting just stopped in March of this year. The Kenyan military still has a big presence there. Anyway.

Here are some pictures of the road conditions from that trip.







How Not to Help the Poor

This short six and a half minute video gives excellent insight into how some good intentions to help the less fortunate, have actually created more harm than good. A little history on how we have messed it up in the past will certainly be helpful towards getting it right in the future. Well worth your time.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Weekend Project

Thomas and I were blessed with a nice antique dining room table and set of chairs passed down from his family. The seats on the chairs were a little worse for wear in that they were like sitting on a donut. Not very comfortable. The fabric on them was nice but not exactly my taste. So I bought fabric a while back from good ole Mary Jo's in Gastonia. This weekend I finally got around to recovering them. It was a pretty easy process, I just took of the lining on the bottom, stuffed the hole in the seat with batting, stapled on some strips to keep it in and recovered the seat with the new fabric. Voila!

Chair Before

Chair After

Friday, October 17, 2008

Resources

I wanted to make you aware of a few articles and podcasts.

This past week the Council on Christian Life and Public Affairs concluded its two day seminar entitled The Politics of Jesus: Timeless Answers for Today's Questions. The podcasts from those lectures have now been uploaded to the website and are available for your listening pleasure. Simply go to Politics of Jesus 2008 and click on the link to "podcast" under the picture of the speaker or topic you would like to listen to.

Another podcast has recently been made available from Insight which features Marvin Olasky the editor of World Magazine (Leslie and I both enjoy this publication and subsequent website). During this Insight podcast, Olasky answers such questions as: Is America a Christian Nation?; The Use of the Bible in Political Speeches; The Origins of the Modern Welfare State?; Why Does Poverty exist?; Can Poverty Be Eliminated in Society? Should the Bible Shape Public Policy?; The National Economy and Its Future; The Future of Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare; Has Conservative Political Thought Changed?; What is Compassion? Is Wealth Sinful?

There are also a few articles which I would like to recommend. One is by Robert P. George a professor from Princeton who writes on the extremism of the position taken by Obama on the issue of abortion. If you are pressed for time you can read a summary of the article here or you can read the entire article here.
Another article I found interesting was written by Randy Alcorn. Alcorn is giving a critique of Donald Miller (wrote Blue Like Jazz) and his decision to endorse an abortion extremist candidate. I particularly enjoyed Alcorns introduction, his thoughts are very similar to my own but his articulation of those thoughts are far beyond my scribble. You can read the post here.

Lastly, I would also refer you to the sermon series recently concluded at the Summit Church on Why I'm Not a Christian. This whole series was excellent and if you know someone struggling with one of these difficult questions or maybe you are confused yourself, I would encourage you to give them a listen. They certainly helped Leslie and I think through some difficulties.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Neither cheap, nor costly; it is free

Today was an excellent Theology class. We are studying grace and I want to share a small part of the lecture with you but before I do so, I need to let you know where I am coming from and why this point and aspect of grace impressed me so much. To do so I will have to enlighten you on a portion of my testimony. So if you can bare through me telling part of my story to set up some of the lecture notes, great; if not skip down a few paragraphs for the really good stuff.

I was converted and baptized at a young age. I believe this conversion to be authentic for a number of reasons which I won't take the time to discuss right now, but the evidence of my conversion has not always been easy for observers to see. My middle and high school years were spent at a Christian boarding school where living a legalistic "christian" life was required or else they kicked you out. So while there my faith was never really put to the test. Once I graduated from that oppressive regime I returned to the States to attend Mercer University.

During my time in Georgia I was involved in several relationships which were far from honoring to God and my lifestyle in general did not reflect the grace which I had so freely received at the age of 8. While I occasionally attended church I was insistent on living a life that conformed to my own desires and sin habits. It was not until one lonely Sunday night, sitting in the back of FBC Woodstock listening to Johnny Hunt preach that God really got my attention. A verse from 1 Corinthians 5 really brought me to my knees:
I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality, greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler--not even to eat with such a one... Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? Purge the evil person from among you.
As I sat in the back of that church listening to Hunt preach and reading these words it hit me that I was doing almost everything on this list and yet I called myself a Christian. According to Scripture I did not even deserve to be at the dinner table with believers. Not only should practicing Christians not eat with me they should totally remove me from the church. I was washed over in a flood of guilt and shame for the way I was living my life. I repented and recommitted myself to living for the one who had redeemed me. A week or so later I applied to Columbia International University where I eventually graduated with a Bachelors in Bible and Intercultural Studies. I have sinned plenty since that night at FBC Woodstock but by God's grace I have not fallen into a pattern or habit of sin. When I do wrong God is always quick to convict me and by His grace I will continue to respond with confession and repentance.

I let you in on this portion of my life to set up what I believe to be a very powerful few paragraphs on grace. Within my own circle of family and friends I know people who are living lives similar to mine before that night in Woodstock. The Southern Baptist Convention claims 16 million members but less than half of them are in church on Sunday. This is an epidemic problem which I hope these words from Dr. Hammett help us to deal with:

Grace is neither cheap, nor costly; it is free (Rev 22:17; Ro 6:23). Inherent in the idea of being a gift that cannot be earned is the idea of free grace.

One error people often make is concluding that because merit is irrelevant to grace one can receive grace and live as he pleases. This is the heresy of cheap grace, which Paul had to combat as early as Ro 6:1-2. Another version of this heresy sees faith as the price of grace; that faith earns or purchases grace; then, again, after one receives grace, he is free to live as he pleases.

The reason why free grace does not lead to cheap grace is because authentic grace does not simply pardon one's past sins, it transforms one's present and future actions and motives. One who claims to receive God's grace but has no change in desires and attitudes is deceived. They tried to obtain cheap grace but it does not exist. The genuine grace of God teaches us to live holy lives. Titus 2:11-14.

Neither is grace costly grace. It cost Christ his life to turn away God's wrath, but for us it is free. There is nothing we must do to receive or continue in God's grace. It is a free gift.

Thus to those who ask, "how much must I do to please God?" we respond, "everything and nothing." To those who want to buy grace cheaply at the price of a purely mental faith, we respond that faith involves placing all one is in the hands of another; it involves everything. To those who fear that they must clean themselves up to receive grace, and keep clean to continue in grace, we respond that God's grace is not for sale. It may be bought neither at the cheap price of a dead, purely intellectual faith, nor at the costly price of a holy, self-denying life. It cannot be bought, but only received as a life-changing gift, that inevitably leads to gratitude and a desire to express gratitude in a life of obedience.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Persuade Rather than Impose

I thought as a study tool for myself I would type up a section of my theology notes which seem appropriate for the season we are in. This originates with Dr. John Hammett:

"For the past 20 years or more, Christians have been recovering the realization that at least in this country, they do have a voice and can make a difference in the political climate. But in our increasing involvement in the culture wars of this country, I fear we are in danger of forgetting that laws are not obeyed and respected unless people think those laws embody and uphold what is right. And it is Christ that can transform a person's view of what is right and wrong.

For example, on the issue of abortion, we can work politically to elect pro-life politicians and get a law passed against abortion, and that will affect the supply. But a far greater need is to change people's hearts and reduce the demand for abortion. Both sides are needed, but just trying to cut off the supply without reducing the demand may result in some good, but may also result in an unenforceable law that would not be respected. Changing people's hearts, loving our enemies, working to win people one by one--these traditional ideas still have a lot of merit and importance. Preaching the gospel may still be the most important social ministry we have!"

For further study read Christ and Culture Revisited by D.A. Carson