Archive for November 2007

Being a .500 Writer

November 28, 2007

In baseball, a .500 average makes you an unbelievable superstar. When blogging, getting it half right doesn’t qualify as well. Nothing is less satisfying to me (okay, almost nothing) than reading an article or blog entry that seems to be great, then takes a sharp turn and ruins everything. Today that happened on the Reformation 21 blog.

Carl Trueman, who is a professor at Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia, not the sacred California campus) blogged about the movie Golden Compass, and the uproar against it by many in the Christian community. He singled out a critic who has stirred up a boycott against the film. Trueman’s point was a good one. We are foolish to stir up publicity for anti-Chjristian stories, movies, plays, etc. All we do is fall into the trap the enemy sets for us to give what he is doing more publicity. (Those are my words, not Trueman’s.)

We are suckers for this type of thing, much as the Clinton campaign has accused Obama of being over a column written by a Republican leaning columnist. Bad things happen all around us. It is a fallen world. We don’t have to soak up all the dirt written about dirt. Dirt plus dirt is still dirt.

Unfortunately, Trueman makes a sharp turn in his next comment. He says its “just a movie … its a fantasy that can be understood just as a fantasy.” Oh really? Whatever happened to worldview? Do we let kids go and see a movie where the author sows the idea that God is a bad idea? Don’t we take precautions by ensuring that people who go and see it also discuss it so that it is not understood as “just a fantasy?” That’s why we have parents and teachers. We never provide anyone with reading material that will mislead them without being responsible enough to talk about it with them. I am sure that in Trueman’s classes, the students read liberal theologians. I am also sure that he doesn’t assign the readings without discussion. I doubt if he ever says, “It is just a book about the Bible.”

It is one thing to refrain from giving the boogie man extra publicity. It is another to say that he is just the boogie man. Careful what you blog, for a .500 blogger is not a superstar. That is exactly the point I made today in The Jib Sheet.


Shedding a little “Light” on Hanukkah

November 23, 2007

Sunday morning during our mini teaching time before church, we will look at the Hanukkah.  Another name for Hanukkah is, feast of lights.  It is also referred to as the feast of dedication, and is referenced in John 10, with Jesus observing it.

To understand Advent, we have to understand the importance of Hanukkah to the Jews.  So, Sunday Morning we will look at what is definitely not the Jewish Christmas celebration.  It is a celebration of the cleansing of the temple which occurred about 200 years before Jesus began teaching.  So, come ready to learn.  You don’t need to bring a hammer, but we will talk about the Jewish Hammer–more on this Sunday!

Pilgrims before John Wayne

November 17, 2007

Tomorrow, before church, we will look at the Pilgrims and Squanto, the providentially placed Indian who showed up to teach them farming in the new land. I am surprised how many of us confuse the Pilgrims with their Northern neighbors, the Puritans. We even dress the Pilgrims in Puritan attire; the Pilgrims wore bright colors and “normal” clothes.

My favorite “confusion” story concerns George Bush Sr., who in the 1992 Thanksgiving Proclamation made the Governor of the Mass. Bay Colony (Boston) a resident of Plymouth, and announced that it was “more than a hundred years ago” that he ruled. Oops! (Okay, it was more than a hundred years-about 270 more!)
We will look at their theology, their worldview and their contribution to our heritage. It should be fun.







Advent? What Is It?

November 13, 2007

If you asked a group of Christians, all from different denominational backgrounds, about advent, I think you would get lots of different responses.  Some would consider it a Roman Catholic thing.  Others might never have heard of it.  My guess is that most would remember celebrating it somewhere, but wouldn’t know exactly why.  So, Wednesday night we will look at Advent—the reasons behind it and its history.

Advent, as a word, means coming.  We might say, “Travel took off with the advent of the motor car.”  In Christianity, the word refers to the coming of Christ; it can be used to refer to his first or second coming.  The Seventh Day Adventists, for example, take their name from two important doctrines in their end times teaching—The Sabbath and Christ’s second coming.

 Today Advent as a church season is celebrated by Protestants, Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox, although differently be all three.  For Protestants, it is a time to look forward to Christmas and the celebration of the birth of the Savior.  A looking forward to the second coming is also included.  It is celebrated for four weeks before Christmas, and rehearses the doctrines of Christ coming as the long expected Messiah.  That is what we will do this year at Connections Church.

 Advent is an “old” celebration in the church, almost as old as the celebration of Christmas.  Over the years it has been celebrated for different lengths of time, and with different emphases.  We will talk about some of them tomorrow night.  (We will also discuss the Advent Wreath—where it came from, what it symbolizes and why we incorporate it into our celebration.)

 So, whether you love the idea of Advent, or already hate it as some satanic ritual, come tomorrow night and let’s discuss it.

The Pernicious Doctrine of Rewards in Heaven

November 2, 2007

I don’t use the word pernicious when I am talking. It came to me as I got set to blog. I must have read it lately, or it wouldn’t have popped into my head. But, it is the word that describes the teaching that as justified believers, we can now get busy and work our way to a better deal in heaven. (Pernicious, by the way, means evil and destructive.)

I will be teaching on this Sunday morning before church, so I won’t make this an exhaustive post. I just want to mention a couple of reasons why the idea that we get to heaven by grace, but are treated differently depending on our good works is wrong pernicious. I am on a high horse because when I searched the web, I found this teaching everywhere.

Briefly, my pastoral concerns are centered in three areas, legalism, motivation, and most importantly, the denial of the imputation to us of Christ’s righteousness. As to legalism, guilt trips and pride immediately enter the picture.”God loves me more because I worked harder and I’m getting a better deal in heaven.” Or, “I feel awful that I didn’t volunteer to teach Sunday School. Now God will probably take away one of the jewels in my crown.” The reward system is taught by many as kind of a celestial Federal Reserve System. Each night rewards or losses are tallied up and moved to or from your account. Can you see what this does to your relationship with God? It becomes a relationship much like those we have here on earth—conditioned by how we behave. Lost is the unconditional love of God that comes strictly because we are in Jesus.

Related to legalism is motivation. Remember the parable of the vineyard workers? Everyone worked a different amount of time, but all got the same “reward.” Contrast that with this example of rewards teaching from the web:

God motivates us to continue on the right path with the promises of rewards in heaven, the one thief on the cross who believed in Jesus in his final moments was promised that he would be with Jesus in paradise, he may have received eternal salvation, but he likely had few rewards awaiting him. To provide a crude example; Billy Graham may shine like a 100-watt light bulb for eternity in heaven but this thief while also in heaven after death may only look like 1 watt. We only have this lifetime to make our decisions. Use it wisely!

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Maybe we should all be given cards which say, “Rewards member since 19XX.” Then we will know who is and isn’t a high roller in heaven.

. Paul insists that our basis for good works should be appreciation. (You theologues should borrow my copy of Prof. John Murray’s Principles of Conduct for a better understanding of this idea.) How far from that is the idea of doing good works to get rewards? It makes a labor of love into something akin to earning rewards points on the heavenly credit card I suggested above. The Westminster Confession of faith, Chapter XVI has a great exposition of good works, and helps in understanding this, too.) Look at this ad for Sunday School materials to teach very young children. What do you see as a motivation for good works in this?

Sunday school Lesson 4 Serve Cheerfully! The concepts taught in this lesson include: God gives us special abilities so that we can be really good at doing some jobs. God gives us everything you need to do our jobs well. When we use our abilities to help others, and share with others, God will give us rewards in heaven. This lesson encourages children by emphasizing that God didn’t leave anybody out…he gave us each special abilities. And it gives them ways they can begin using their abilities even at their young age. It also helps children begin to focus on what’s to come – rewards in heaven! The Circle Talk Time uses an object lesson to show children what that means. There is a warm-up activity, two pretend play activities and a rhyme with actions to go with this lesson. There is a sticker craft using the Bible reference of Ephesians 6:8 that tells us that the Lord will reward us for the good things we do. Also, children make a booklet with stickers about their abilities God gave them. The other verse used in this lesson is Romans 12:6-8.

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The biggie for me is how this teaching destroys the value of our receiving Christ’s righteousness when we become Christians. The Bible teaches us that when we believe, our sins are forgiven on the basis of Jesus’s death. He died for our sins. It also teaches us that we receive in the place of our sins credit for his righteous life. (See, Paul’s explanation in Romans 3 and 4.) We are credited with his righteousness. So, his record of works is our record of works. How could we even think we could improve on that? (While I won’t get into it here, those who carry the rewards thinking out logically, decide that we really didn’t get Jesus’s righteousness.)


I will deal with crowns and rewards from the Scripture on Sunday. Simply put, when we look at those passages in context, they are generally speaking about the difference between saved and unsaved, not distinctions in levels of rewards for the saved. After all, our “rewards” are called an inheritance. You don’t get an inheritance from working—you get it from being a child!

See you Sunday!