Wednesday, July 30, 2008

right God | right worship [part 2]

Garbage in, garbage out. Not surprisingly, we learn about God from what we read. Therefore, it is important to fill our minds with the kind of instruction that doesn't domesticate God [making Him in our image], but presents God is the fullness of His transcendent majesty. I suggest the following books:

The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer
Knowing God by J.I. Packer
Desiring God by John Piper
The Joy of Fearing God by Jerry Bridges
One Holy Passion by R.C. Sproul

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

right God | right worship

Last Sunday, I preached from 2 Samuel 6--a humbling passage regarding worship and our heart toward God. What I learned is that David, a "man after God's own heart," was worshipping the right God, the wrong way. That's a curious statement. It's like saying "That's a wrong way to be generous to the needy." But, truth is, God demands to be worshipped in a certain way and worship must be on His terms, not mine.

I mentioned to our congregation that right worship requires a right heart [motives] and right expressions [singing, giving, confessing and reconciling]. The most significant thing for me in studying this passage is that right worship also requires a right mind. What I think about God drives my worship. Theology motivates doxology.

With that in mind, I urge you to watch the linked video on the prosperity gospel--false teaching that is being promoted today. The clip is an edited message from Pastor John Piper and his passion is sobering. I never want to think the wrong things about God again.

Monday, July 14, 2008

out of office

This week, I'm at Pine Cove Camp near Tyler leading 38 families into the Word of God. I love the opportunity to extend ministry beyond my church and into the lives of others. Please pray for me that I will speak clearly and that God's Spirit will guide compellingly.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

nashville star

Perhaps you have noticed NBCs "Nashville Star" on Monday evenings. It's the country music version of "American Idol." PBC's own Melissa Lawson has made it through the rounds and has proven herself to be a front runner in the competition [see YouTube video here]. Be sure to watch the show next week and vote for Melissa. Text and phone calls on ATT are free [see the rules online], so vote often!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

sign of the times

8 years. That's how long it took Pantego Bible Church to get a sign up to let people know where we're located. Don't ask me about the obstacles. But, for 8 years, we've been "the best kept secret in Fort Worth." Now, we enjoy a beautiful new monument sign on I30 to point the way.

I recently had a conversation with a fellow who asked why God doesn't reveal Himself. God would attract more customers if He erected a monument marque with flashing lights and five foot letters that alerted the world driving by Him everyday. Perhaps God needs a marketing department to make Himself known.

Truth is, signs of God are all around us. The Bible points out several proofs of His presence and His person. First, the created order signifies the reality of an intelligent Creator [see "must see movie" post below]. God's Divine fingerprints are all over the beauty and majesty of the sun setting over the Rocky Mountains as well as the intricate mechanics of the human body [Darwin admitted that the sophistication of the eye was one of the obstacles to his own evolutionary hypothesis. See "Problems With My Theory" chapter in Origin of Species]. Psalm 91 affirms, "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands." In Romans 1:20, Paul writes that we know God by observing what God has made. Creation is a signpost to God.

Second, human morality points to God's existence. In Romans 2:14-15, the Apostle Paul notes that when non-religious folks do "good things" that they "ought" to do, they prove that there is a law scribed on their heart--a law not taught to them through Sunday school classes or Bible teaching, but an internal, universal law common to all people. Some will argue that this sense of "oughtness" is culture-bound, the product of each unique civilization. However, there exists a fundamental moral code which transcends all cultures at all times. Such laws include not stealing, not murdering, not being selfish and so on. Such morality cannot be the product of mere biology. It reflects a greater code, beyond our cultures and beyond individual selves. It must come from a God who reflects perfect morality, truth and life.

Third, basic science proves the reality of God. The problem with the Big Bang theory is that, while it attempts to answer problems relating to the generation of single-cell life and beyond, it doesn't deal with the first strike of the match. In other words, many scientists are content to assume that the "stuff" necessary to make a bang simply existed. No idea where that stuff came from. It just was. This proposition, of course, violates an important principle of science which states that every effect must have an equal and sufficient cause. In other words, everything that happens must have something that made it happen. So, a Big Bang must have a Big Bang maker. Without addressing the first cause, science is left hanging. The Bible begins with the words "In the beginning, God..." [Genesis 1:1]. This introduction takes us before the beginning. It points us to a "first cause." What you believe happened after God isn't nearly as important as your realization that nothing "banged" without a big God who "made the world and everything in it" [Acts 17:24]. The world itself is sign of the existence of God who has the power to call everything into being.

A fourth sign of God is God's people. You can learn alot about my family by watching my kids. Similarly, the world watches God's children and gets a glimpse of who God must be. My neighbors see my grace, forgiveness, joy, peace, hope, generosity and compassion and wonder about what's inside me. That's how I came to meet God personally--I noticed spiritual qualities in a friend which highlighted the undeniable reality of God. Our lives are proofs that God is and who God is.

Pantego Bible Church is no longer a secret, tucked back in the woods of east Fort Worth. The whole world can drive by a see where we are. And, if the world doesn't suppress God's signposts [cf. Romans 1:18-19], made plain since the beginning of time, they will see Him too.

Friday, July 4, 2008

photo pro

OK...gotta brag on my kid. Grant has really been excelling in his photography. Check out his site and see what you think: Grant Daniels Photography

I'm very proud!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

snack "Shack"

My kids head to camp in a couple of weeks. While there, they'll have opportunity to purchase goodies at the Snack Shack each day. I've learned that "snack" is the Greek word for "junk food." The candy bars and sodas they purchase are delicious, but hardly nutritious.

I'm afraid that's my critique of The Shack, a very popular book on the Amazon bestsellers list. The book, by William Young, enjoys a list of endorsements from people like musician Michael W. Smith and author Eugene Peterson [The Message] who touts it as another Pilgrim's Progress. Let me tell you why I disagree.

The book is an allegory and, while allegories are afforded creative license, I believe they must correspond to what is true. This is especially important when it comes to biblical truth. In other words, a Christian author cannot set some truths aside in order to communicate other truths. A partially true work is false.

The Shack contains several points that I believe are dangerous, if not heretical. First, I am concerned about the author's view on the authority of the Bible. On pages 65-66, the main character contemplates a "note" he has received from God. Young writes,

“In seminary [Mack] had been taught that God had completely stopped any overt communication with moderns, preferring to have them only listen to and follow sacred Scripture, properly interpreted, of course. God’s voice has been reduced to paper, and even that paper had to be moderated and deciphered by the proper authorities and intellects. It seemed that direct communication with God was something exclusively for the ancients and uncivilized, while the educated Westerners’ access to God was mediated and controlled by the intelligentsia. Nobody wanted God in a box, just a book.”

This viewpoint sets the stage for the rest of the book. Young dismisses propositional truth-- revealed by God and recorded in Scripture--and exchanges it for an experiential encounter with God. This popular position is held by many in a postmodern culture who criticize those who start with the Bible as their guide for life. Such absolutism, they claim, puts God "in a box."

The logical outcome for Young is that God can be whatever he [or anyone else] wants Him to be. While I appreciate the author's contention that God is not "white grandfather figure with flowing beard, like Gandalf," I do believe that God has revealed Himself in time in particular ways. When we take liberty with God's revelation, we run dangerously into the woods of heresy. With that in mind, I would argue:

1. The mysterious doctrine of the Trinity holds one God in three persons...not three Gods. Young sounds very tri-theistic throughout his work.

2. God the Father cannot be reduced to human form--not as an African American woman named "Papa" or anything else. The 2nd commandment very strictly forbids creating [or allegorizing] the Almighty with human characteristics. The principle is important: You cannot use the stuff below [on earth] to fashion the God above. I think it was Voltaire who said, "God created man in His image and man has since more than reciprocated." We often create God in our image rather than the other way around.

3. God has communicated Himself using masculine pronouns. I know this isn't popular and there are many who have theological arguments for neutering the godhead. My position has less to do with gender and all to do with a respect for Divine revelation.

The outcome of this reduction of God is that God isn't honored as He ought to be. A perfect example is when Mack comes into the presence of God. His response looks nothing like the awestruck, humble, repentant position of people in the Bible. Rather, when Mack first meets "Papa," he's angry [his face flushed red and his hands knotted into fists; p. 92] at God for the tragedy God allowed years earlier [I'll let you read about it]. Strangely, Papa's response is, "Mack, I am so sorry..."

Wait a minute! The Creator of the universe apologizing to Mack or me for what He has sovereignly orchestrated?! If God is always in control and is forever accomplishing His divine purposes, He need not apologize for anything! And, He certainly doesn't apologize to us! If there's any doubt, reread the story of Job and notice God's response to a man who lost even more than Mack.

A similar reductionism is expressed regarding salvation. An important dialogue takes place between Mack and Jesus:

“Those who love me come from every system that exists. They were Buddhists or Mormons, Baptists or Muslims, Democrats, Republicans… Some are bankers and bookies, Americans and Iraqis, Jews and Palestinians. I have no desire to make them Christian, but I do want to join them in their transformation into sons and daughters of my Papa, into brothers and sisters, into my Beloved.”

“Does that mean,” asked Mack, “that all roads will lead to you?”

“Not at all,” smiled Jesus as he reached for the door handle to the shop. “Most roads don’t lead anywhere. What it does mean is that I will travel any road to find you”

Where do I start? What does the author mean when Jesus says "I have no desire to make them [other faiths] Christian"? Does he suggest that Christianity is too exclusive and our "only way" of salvation is an "imposition" on other faiths? Young seems to lean in this direction by having Jesus add that He wants to "join in their transformation" as if people of other faiths can be transformed in and through their faiths. Whatever happened to John 14:6?

Young attempts to take himself off the hook when he has Jesus answer Mack that "all roads don't lead to Him," but it is in what he does not say that is troublesome. He never clarifies. And so, he leaves the issue of universalism up for grabs. The good news for him [and his publisher] is that the topic is left so obscure that an uncritical reader on either side will be left happy.

To be fair, there are redemptive messages in The Shack. The reader does get a beautiful picture of God's grace. He or she is challenged to understand forgiveness. And, Young does a great job tapping into the love of God, helping the Christian to understand and embrace their identity in Christ. However, the worst of all liars in history have uttered lines of truth. Their truth, however, didn't change the reality of their errors.

I would not necessarily encourage people not to read The Shack but would strongly urge caution. I suggest that the book is a snack--a taste, but not terribly nutritious. The danger is that, like children, we may prefer the sweetness on our tongue and not realize the sugary decay that comes from careless eating.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

growing up

During my 10 years with college students, I enjoyed the incomparable privilege of mentoring groups of young men. Typically, I identified five to seven sophomore leaders and expected to disciple them for the next three years until they graduated. At the beginning of our second year together, I developed a tradition where we opened our Bibles to 1 Corinthians 13:11 and read, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.” After the sobering words had a moment to sink in, I would ask the living room circle of students, “Are you children or are you men?” When they were children, their parents dressed them, found friends for them, fed them, taught them and gave them money for an allowance. But, as children grow up, they begin to make their own choices, cultivate their own friendships, feed and teach themselves, and earn money to meet their own needs. In becoming an adult, they assume responsibility. This is what it means to “grow up.”

Over and again, the Bible emphasizes the importance of us taking intiative in regards to our spiritual development. In Romans 12:2 Paul urges readers to “not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Likewise, in 1 Peter 1:14-16, the writer encourages Christians, “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’” And, again, Peter writes, “make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love… be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure.” (2 Peter 1:5-7). God produces life change, but He invites us to participate with Him.