Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Friday, February 19, 2010
Monday, February 8, 2010
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Monday, March 9, 2009
- Simplicity--This means that great preaching makes a clear point. No one should be left wondering what the preacher was talking about. NOTE this does not mean Shallow preaching. We've too much of that already. Simplicity can be coupled with . . . .
- Depth--Great preaching brings the "unsearchable riches of Christ" to the whole congregation. Too many preachers preach shallow sermons because they don't want to leave anybody out. The result is that people they have preached to for thirty years are getting the same easy little inspirational messages they were getting years earlier--no wonder they haven't grown! Closely relate to depth is. . .
- Relevance--I don't mean relevance to "where people are today." We need to call people UP from where they are to where God wants them to be! I mean relevance to the Scriptures and to the God revealed in them. Don't preach to me about me--preach to me about Christ! That is what I need! Relevance also takes in the idea that the sermon should grip my attention and matter to me as the hearer. This leads us to. . .
- Importance--great preaching is important preaching. A great preacher never neglects the great truths in a passage to preach some minor point. Never preach a trivial sermon! Never preach on lesser truths when God's word abounds with great ones! Never be content to give the congregation a little inspiration when they need a great challenge from God's word! Finally, great preaching is marked by. . .
- Intentionality--great preaching is intentional preaching. The best preachers in history--St. John Chrysostom, Martin Luther, C. H Spurgeon , S. M Lockridge, Adrian Rogers, etc.--never wasted a word in the pulpit. They planned carefully and made each word count! These men did not ramble! They did not get off the point! They did not "over tell" a story. Every word was carefully chosen and carefully used. It was intentional preaching!
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Monday, January 19, 2009
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
This year, the US is faced with once again choosing a president, something they do every four years. Many have complained about the quality of the candidates this year, some lamenting that we do not have Ronald Reagan on the ballot, or some other favorite from the past. We often wish we had someone with the potential to be a "great" president. That is commendable, as far as it goes, but I am bothered that we use the term "great" with little thought to its meaning. Usually, it means only "someone who agrees with me on the 'issues'" and little more than that. Let us remember, however, that being president is about a whole lot more than expressing opinions on "the issues." Many people who are "right" on every issue, are unqualified to be president for a host of other reasons. In that light, let's look at a list of qualities that are minimally necessary for a president to be "great."
1) An effective leadership style. In the past, presidents have failed to achieve greatness often because they could not lead. They may have had great ideas, and wanted to achieve worthwhile things (or perhaps not), yet they could do little since no one would follow them. John Quincy Adams was one such, as was Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton. All three failed to achieve much while in office because they could not lead. Ronald Reagan and Lyndon Johnson both acheieved quite a bit while in office because they knew how to get people to "buy in" to thier plans and make them reality. These were two very different men, from opposite ends of the political spectrum, and they had very different leadership styles, but they both found styles that worked for them. A great president (or a terrible one, too) must find a leadership style that gets things done, or he will be a mediocrity at best (and that is not a bad thing for the country, if the president is a bad man).
2) A political philosophy that is oriented toward justice and freedom and the rule of law.
No president can be great if his goals are unjust, or whose policies inhibit freedom too severely, or who does not respect the rule of law. The "rule of law" means that the law itself is supreme, not the people who administer it. No president, or other government officer has the right to circumvent the law in order to accomplish his goals. (This is one reason why the so called "gay marriage" thing is evil. Judges are creating a new "right" that is not expressed in any constitution and which has never been passed by any legislature. They are putting their own agenda ahead of what the law itself says). A president who seeks to rule by decree, rather than seeing his responsibility as merely to "execute the law" is a bad president. Al Gore would have made a bad president, on this score. In his 2000 race, he kept promising what HE would do, and often it was things the president canno do, without the legislature enabling it. For example he said he would put Social Security in a "lockbox" so that no one's benefits would ever be cut. HE would do this? He hasn't the power, and besides, under the law, no one's benefits can be cut, unless the legislature passes a new law and the president signs it, or if he vetoes it, the legislature overrides the veto. Gore had the idea that justice comes from the man who administers it, not from the law which guarantees it. Don't vote for anyone who has this way of thinking.
3) A solid moral foundation in his own life.
A great president must be also a good man. He must be able to keep his committments, thus having a reputation for being personally reliable. He must be oriented toward goodness--that is he must like good things and avoid bad ones. (A president who drinks, gambles, philanders, steals, lies, etc. is automatically not a "great" president.). He must naturally gravitate toward good people, and enjoy the good things of life. (His hobby may be gardening, or golf, or fishing, or whatever, but it must not be gambling, or porn movies, or cock fighting). If you want to know the quality of a president, look at his lawyer. If the guy is sleazy, the president is sleazy; if the guy is a serious professional, honest, respectful of the law, then the president will be too.
4) Executive experience Normally, governors or business leaders have more potential for effectiveness as president than Senators and Congressmen. Senators have often sought the office (and this election we will elect one, certainly), but they are rarely great presidents.
5) Good communication skills These days, especially, a president must be able and willing to communicate. Many of President Bush's problems stem from the fact that he rarely makes speeches, rarely hold news conferences, and if often less than effective when he does. Ronald Reagan, on the other hand, could make a speech, and Congressmen would be flooded with letters from their consituents that week urging them to vote for what Reagan wanted! It worked, certainly. These five are certainly not exhaustive, but they are a start. (Note that there is nothing of partisanship here. I have NOT said, "A great president affirms this policy or agrees with me on that issue." That has been deliberate. I want to be objective here.) I invite anyone to add to this list or to comment on it. Let me know, especially if there are specific things I have missed.
Friday, April 25, 2008
Thursday, April 3, 2008
Monday, March 3, 2008
- Let's face it: none of the remaining candidates are particularly appealing this year. Hillary is perhaps the worst of the lot, but the others do not fare greatly. There is not a statesman in the lot. Nor is there someone who will put principle above politics or who really deeply understands what government is for and how it ought to work. However, a nation in decline will produce poor leaders,. We should not be surprised that America, in its decline, cannot come up with a great presidential candidate. Poor leadership happens in every field—business, politics, religion, families, and everywhere else. Look at the current situation:
- Business—Ken Lay, Donald Trump, Rupert Murdoch, et al.
- Politics—Hillary, Patrick Leahy, Barbara Boxer, et al.
- Religion—Joel Osteen, T D Jakes, National Conference of Catholic Bishops, Rick Warren.
- Families—most families are fragmented due to divorce, or because there never was much of a family there at all. All of these things are bound up together in a web. If the nation were healthy in one area, it would be healthy in all of these areas. The nation is spiritually, morally, emotionally, and economically sick. It is the whole body, not just one part, that has problems. As such, we cannot fix one area without fixing others. We need to start at the root causes to do this.
Electing the right president This is part of why I don’t share the Christian Right’s faith that electing “the right president” can really fix anything. We had “the right president” in Ronald Reagan, and his party behind him, and the country continued to deteriorate—in fact the deterioration accelerated during those years, not due to Reagan, certainly, but accelerate it did.
What is needed We need to start at the family/religion level if we are ever to fix the nation. We too easily accept dysfunctional families as “OK.” We too easily accept dysfunctional religion as “what ought to be.” Someone needs to stand up to both and say “enough!” Someone needs to take action to end the cycle of abuse, neglect, and divorce in our families. Those behaviors ought not to be normal! They ought not to be commended or accepted in our churches! We need to admit, OUT LOUD, that dysfunctional families are not acceptable and take steps to ensure, at lest in our churches, that every family is healthy and fucntioning properly. The same is true with religion. We all smile and nod our heads when people in church talk about how much they “just love to hear Joel Osteen" or "T. D. Jakes.” Some smile and nod because they agree! We need to do a better job of teaching these people the truth. Others just don’t want to make waves. (When you don’t make waves, you get stagnant water!) People who know what is morally right, and what is spiritually true, all too often stand by while spiritual sickness infests the churches. We want to be nice, we want to be peacemakers, we want to acknowledge that different people see things differently. We become practical relativists, while saying we believe in absolute truth. A sick religion and dysfunctional families can do little to turn around declining morals, declining leadership, and declining civilization.
Conclusion Before we get too upset over who is being elected President, perhaps we need to look at our churches and families, and get busy fixing the problems there.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
- The World According to Tweety Bird
- Who is Tweety?
- Tweety is the little guy. Tweety does not count for much in the scheme of things. This, for Tweety, is not a problem as he is content to be the little guy, so long as he is supplied with bird seed, water, and a swing to swing on. However, Tweety is a victim of forces much larger than he is (“Dat bad ol’ puddy tat!”). Tweety is the one who is oppressed, a victim of Sylvester, who seeks to over power him utterly. At the same time, Tweety always wins. Tweety is never caught and eaten by Sylvester, and this makes Tweety self assured to the max.
- Where is Tweety?
- Tweety lives in a cage. This is not a bad place to be as his cage offers safety from the “bad ol’ puddy tat.” His cage is home, and is the place of food, safety, and rest. Whenever he chooses, or needs to, Tweety is free to leave the cage in order to torment his nemesis, Sylvester the cat. Tweety’s world is a dangerous place for those who are small, who might find themselves becoming breakfast for those who are large. Tweety must be always on the alert for Sylvester, who is diligent in his efforts to bring Tweety to harm. Tweety’s world is also one where justice prevails always, in the end, or Tweety would have been long gone ages ago.
- What is Wrong?
- Tweety actually looks like "breakfast" to Sylvester. Tweety is the victim. Tweety cannot ever get fully away from Sylvester. Tweety is the one who has no power. Tweety is small and Sylvester is large. Tweety is weak and Sylvester is strong. Tweety is innocent and pure, and Sylvester is evil.
- What is the Answer?
- The answer lies in Tweety’s own perseverance and cleverness, along with a streak of luck, which includes some impossible “cartoon” type feats of strength, and daring. Tweety is also fortunate in that while Sylvester is big and evil, he is also very foolish. Sylvester is often a victim of his own schemes to capture Tweety. When all else fails, there is “Gwanny” who comes in at opportune moments and gives Sylvester a royal “lickin” with her umbrella.
- Tweety shares much in common with other Warner Brothers Cartoon characters. In many of them the weak are oppressed by the strong and yet win out in the end. Bugs Bunny is a classic case, facing several enemies: Yosemite Sam, Elmer Fudd, and the Tasmanian Devil. The Road Runner is another, who always wins over Wile E. Coyote, even though the coyote is more powerful. These cartoons appeal to Americans because it is an American story. We love to see the underdog win. Americans have always championed the little guy in any conflict. When Tweety outsmarts Sylvester, it is the same as the Horatio Alger, rags to riches story, where the little guy fights against overpowering odds and wins. It is the story of Rocky and of The Lord of the Rings. It is the Alamo and D-Day. We love to see the underdog win. Truman over Dewey in 1948 is one example. Andrew Carnegie, who came to America as a poor immigrant child, and went to work as a telegraph boy, but grew up to be a multi-millionaire is seen as the American success story. In some ways it is America’s own story—a little band of Colonists come to Jamestown in 1604 and overcome impossible odds to survive and build Virginia and then all the colonies declaring their independence from England, all these farmer-militiamen, winning out over well trained and equipped British troops. We were the Tweety Birds and the Redcoats were Sylvester. The Warner Brothers cartoons may be seen in light of the Bible as well. Tweety wins, but unlike in the Bible, it is not by faith, but by cleverness and cartoonish jokes. The “savior” in the Sylvester and Tweety cartoons is always “Gwanny” who is good at fighting evil and injustice, but who offers no permanent solution. In the Bible it is different. The little guy wins in the Bible, only because of faith in God. Scripture tells us that “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty” (1 Corinthians 1:27). This runs all through scripture. The little guy wins over and over, not by cleverness but by faith. The Bible tells us the story of God choosing Isaac over Ishmael, and Jacob over Esau. Even more so, it is Moses, God’s Tweety, standing up to the ungodly Pharaoh (Sylvester), and winning, not because Moses’ “Gwanny” gives Pharoah a whack, but because God has chosen to bless his people at that time. It is the story of David and Goliath, of David and Saul, especially. Saul must have felt like Sylvester sometimes, always after David and always failing to get him. Let’s remember, however, that God is not always on the side of the underdog. God is on the side of the underdog who has faith in God, and who lives according to God’s purposes. Tweety always wins, and for that matter so does Bugs Bunny and the Road Runner. They win because they are clever. God’s people win because they give themselves in faith to Jesus Christ and have their lives in line with the purposes of God. Let Tweety be an encouragement to all of us—sometimes the little guy wins. But even more than that, let Tweety remind us that the clever are guaranteed a win, only in the stories. The real winners in the end are those who belong, in faith, to Jesus Christ.
Monday, September 17, 2007
- 1) We must insist on equal and fair treatment with other minorities in such matters as jobs, right to live free of harassment, free speech etc.
- 2) We must insist that we be treated fairly and accurately by the news media, and entertainment venues. Christians have kept quiet for too long while we are satirized, or described in woefully inaccurate ways to the majority by the media.
- 3) We must insist that schools and textbooks treat Christianity accurately and fairly, that we not be mischaracterized. Today Christians are treated much as blacks, Jews and others were treated a century ago.
- 4) We must insist on our right to proclaim our message and to have it heard alongside other messages in the public square.
- While insisting on these things, we must also
- 1) Model and live out a way of life that is completely biblical.
- a) This means living out values that are very different from our neighbors—noticeably different.
- b) This means showing the world a habit of giving, service, and self sacrifice that they don’t see elsewhere.
- c) This means going to bed earlier than most people, getting up earlier (to read the Word), and spending our “leisure hours” in ways that most Americans don’t (visiting those who are lonely or in need of help, interacting with our children and neighbors, engaging in SERIOUS Bible Study and prayer).
- d) This means changing the way we handle money and possessions, seeing them as a trust from God, to be used in ways that affirm life and community—in other words, I will buy things, not just to make me happy, but in order to have quality time with family, to make more time for neighbors and the needy, to enhance opportunities to be a vital part of the community.
- e) We must begin to practice, and teach our children, a completely different understanding of priorities in life:
- i. We must honor the elderly and teach our children to do so—-we must confront the “culture of youth” in America with a better alternative and show why it is better! And lead our children and grandchildren to do the same!
- ii. We must live out and teach a lifestyle that values the past, that values tradition, that values continuity—Americans always look for something “new and improved.” We must stand against this with a better alternative, and again we must teach our children the same.
- iii. We must learn to honor the creation—as God intended it to be. This includes not only ecological responsibility, but also recognizing God’s sovereignty in the world and looking for it. Let us teach our children to see God’s hand in all things—and live like we believe it too!
- 2) Advocate a biblical view of the world in all areas of public life. The Gay and Lesbian lobby has won the day over the past 20 years, and they are a smaller minority than we are. But they have been willing to confront the larger culture and make a difference. We have just sat by and groused about it. There are more of us than there are of them! We should be able to make a bigger impact! We need to discover what the Bible says about many things, and then get organized to advocate it across the board.
- I know this is a tall order, and challenges many things that we as Christians assume is true about the way things are. But until we face realities, we cannot change them. I know this reads as something of a manifesto, but I intend for it to.
- Many Christians wonder if it is right or wrong to even attend movies. Different decisions are made by different Christians based on such factors as their knowledge of the Bible, level of committment to Jesus Christ, personal background/upbringing, etc. Here, I describe the range of choices under six headings. Most Christians fall into one or another of these headings. (For the record I tend to favor numbers 4 and 5, but other Christians may differ.)
- 1) Don’t go to movies at all. This approach is followed by many who want to be serious about never exposing themselves to anything that is morally impure. Also, they believe that by going to see even a “clean,” movie, they are supporting a morally decadent enterprise, and the money they spend on this movie may be used to make a bad movie later on. (Other Christians disagree on this last point and believe that if enough people will go to see “clean” movies, Hollywood will be motivated to make more of them, since it is money that drives the system.) This plan has the virtue of being simple, and it really does prevent one from being corrupted by an indecent movie. Besides, there is no biblical command to go to movies. However, such people need to be careful of spiritual pride.
- 2) Use the movie ratings system as a guide to which movies to see. These Christians believe that the rating system offers a way to determine which movies are “proper” and which ones are not. Such people will set a standard expressed in terms like “I will only go see G or PG movies.” Or, “I won’t go see any R-rated movies!” Many Christians follow this method, and it is probably the most popular. This plan is simple and easy, but can be inflexible. What if a movie you really want to see is rated above (or below?) your standard? Do you go and feel guilty? Also such standards are arbitrary, and may not be biblical.
- 3) Set a specific standard that you will not violate. These Christians believe that the movie rating system is at best only a rough guide. They add an additional standard, such as, “I will not go to any movie with a nude scene in it.” Or, “Killings are OK, but if they are too graphic, I won’t stay.” Or, “Such things are OK if they are integral to the story itself, but if they are not, I won’t go see the movie.” All of these require that one read movie reviews and depend on the testimony of friends, so it is a little more work than the first two approaches. This is a more thoughtful approach, which is a good thing. However, it is rather subjective. One danger is that you may wind up setting yourself up as the standard: “I will not go see what offends me” becomes, “What does or doesn’t offend me personally, is actually God’s standard for movies.” Remember, the Bible is the authority, not us.
- 4) Base the decision on the theme of the movie, its worldview and moral vision. These Christians also spend a lot of time looking at movie reviews and pondering the overall meaning of a movie. Under this approach, a nude scene, or violent action is not seen as a hindrance to going to the movie itself, as long as the overall theme of the movie is morally or philosophically biblical. This requires a bit of work, researching reviews and such. It has the strength of being thoughtful and mature. However, one must be sure one’s motive is pure: “Am I going to this movie because of the nude scene, and just making an excuse with all this talk of themes and worldviews, or am I really putting my priorities straight. Remember, “The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked.”
- 5) Judge the movie on artistic merit alone, while taking into account the theme and worldview. This approach requires much time examining movie reviews (the internet really helps here). This approach is similar to four, but Christians who take this approach will go see a movie that presents a false picture of reality, if the movie is well made. They are able to look at the movie’s understanding of reality with a critical eye, and do not believe that it will affect them unduly. Like those who follow number four, such matters as “body count,” four letter words, or nude scenes are not so important in themselves as the overall quality of the movie. This is the most thoughtful approach, but one must be careful about motive, just as in four above. Also one must be careful to avoid spiritual pride, as in number one above. There is nothing wrong with appreciating well done moviemaking, but one should not be proud that one can do so. As those who choose number one must avoid a “holier than thou” attitude, similarly those who choose number five must avoid a “more worldly wise and aware than thou” attitude.
- 6) Don’t worry about it, just go to any movie that is showing, if it appeals to you at all, even superficially. These Christians believe that entertainment has no connection to the rest of life (they are wrong: it does), and they go to movies without giving the whole matter any real thought. If a title appeals to them, or they like the actors, or the trailer looks exciting (but don’t all trailers look exciting?), they will go see the movie. This is the least biblical approach. The Bible teaches us that all of life is interconnected. We are affected by what we do, see, and hear. Entertainment is serious business. Also, we should not be led around by advertising and promotion. Biblical wisdom requires that we make careful decisions about everything we do.
- You should prayerfully consider these options. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Which of these have I followed in the past?
- Which of these seems to appeal to me most? Why?
- Should I continue to do what I have done before or should I make a change?
- Is my motive right?
- Is there any spiritual pride in me about how I make this decision?