Friday, November 27, 2015

A Woman's Guide To Christmas Gift Shopping For Men

LADIES: HERE IS MY GUIDE TO CHRISTMAS (or birthday) GIFT GIVING FOR YOUR MEN
Shopping for men is easy. Really. Because men are simple, uncomplicated creatures.
Here are suggested gift ideas that are certain to please the man in your life.
1. AMMUNITION
A gun without ammo is just a club or a very expensive mantle decoration.
2. AMMUNITION CANS
Even if he doesn’t have any ammunition, these things are really cool and they have multiple uses. Think of them as a man’s equivalent to your Tupperware.
3. BELTS
Real men wear their pants up around their waists and their belts wear out quickly. But just get plain black or brown leather belts with simple buckles (no fancy fluff, jewels, or colors).
4. CHOCOLATE CANDY
Yes, believe it or not, men like candy too. NOT those fancy expensive, designer candies; just plain simple cheap stuff in large bags like M&Ms, Reese’s Pieces, or Hershey Bars. We're more interested in scarfing down large quantities rather than savoring fine quality confections.
5. SOCKS, T-SHIRTS, AND UNDERWEAR
If you really, really REALLY think you need to buy clothing, you can’t go wrong with these. We always need them and you won’t risk buying something that we won’t wear. White T-shirts with pockets are the best because they are multi-functional; they are appropriate for work, play, loungewear, social events and even church attire. Memo: as cute as you think it might be, men do not want socks to match their ties unless they're both black. Most men won’t like anything that women think is “cute.”
6. CAMO OR TACTICAL STUFF 
Anything with camouflage print. Whether or not it is useful, it is cool.
7. TOOLS 
A man can never have too many tools (why do you have more than one knife in your cutlery drawer?).
8. GUNS 
(see tools)
9. WALLETS
Men always need new wallets. They get cruddy, worn out, and uncomfortable and too full of stuff.  Real, soft leather, and simple thin construction without an over-abundance of photo sleeves (we only carry a minimal number of obligatory photos, but we do need space for our NRA membership cards).
10. POCKET KNIVES
The small, three-inch kinds with two blades are always handy, useful tools for a myriad of tasks including fingernail cleaning and tooth picking.
11. GIFT CERTIFICATES
Our preferences are Lowe's, Home Depot, or Bass Pro Shops.
12. A RECLINER CHAIR
Preferably with a drink holder and a pocket for the remote control.
NOTE - If your man doesn’t like any of this stuff, THEN JUST GET HER A NICE PAIR OF EARRINGS OR SOME SKINNY JEANS.

Monday, November 23, 2015

No Winners And Losers (the Glorification of Self-Esteem)

There are probably many indicators, in Christian Schools, of a gradual slide toward secularization and possibly, eventual ruin.  Political Correctness and the glorification of self-esteem might be warning signs. 
I was once asked to help judge a speech competition in a Christian school.  At first, I was excited for the opportunity until we received the judging instructions. We were told that no child should receive low scores; that all the children were winners just because they showed up. In the end, everyone took home winning ribbons. Sorry, but that is NOT a competition. In a competition, someone wins and everyone else doesn't. Second place is just the first loser.
That overly-sensitive mindset has permeated our society to the point that “competition” has become a dirty word.  Schools have prohibited games like Red Rover and Dodge Ball. In one school, the game of Tag is no longer allowed because someone’s self-esteem might suffer if he has to be “It.”
When my daughter was a new teacher at a local elementary school, she told me that her students played with the tetherballs on the playground, every day but they had never actually played tetherball; they had no idea that Tetherball was a game of competition with rules and that there would be a winner.  She had to teach them the game.

Just a few years ago, the national little league association decided to prohibit the keeping of scores in league games with the youngest players. With all their politically correct psycho-drivel, they reasoned that baseball should be played only for the fun, exercise, physical development, and encouragement but not for the competition.  So there would be no winners because that would mean there would be losers and the losers might feel bad. But what they didn't anticipate and couldn’t stop was the kid’s keeping their own scores. The kids know who are the real winners and the losers.
Theodore Roosevelt said, “It is far better to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory or defeat.”
Remember that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize. So run in such a way that you will win. I Cor. 9:24
...Don't think you are better than you really are.  Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.  Romans 12:3





3/08  17

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time (An open letter to Church change agents)

Okay, I get it.  
You wanted to do good. 
You wanted to increase your church’s attendance.
You wanted to help build the kingdom of God.
You wanted to win souls to Christ.
You looked around and saw other churches that seemed to be growing, but yours was stagnant. Regardless of your sincere intentions, your church’s membership rolls were not increasing. 
  
You asked yourself, what were you doing wrong?  What was it about the church down the street that attracted so many more people?

Soon you became aware of new buzz words and phrases in the evangelical community that you had never heard before; phrases like seeker friendly, seeker-sensitive, church marketing, felt needs, relational ministries, friendship evangelism, and purpose driven.

And you began to hear of strange and exciting new business models for church growth from marketing gurus like Rick Warren and Bill Hybels that seemed to be producing remarkable results. You studied their books, you examined their promotional materials, and you listened to the seminar presentations.  And then you decided that you were doing everything wrong.  This is a new world.  Your old model was no longer relevant.  It was stuffy.  The music was not stimulating.  The preaching was too confrontational or too convicting.  People were bored and not engaged.
 
That’s when you called your other trusted church leaders together to discuss, in confidence, a new paradigm to reach out into the community and attract the unchurched.  It would be great, you thought.  It would expand your ministry opportunities as unbelievers were drawn in and exposed to the gospel.  One of your men even suggested a radical change from the old ways; the formalism and liturgical practices that made unbelievers feel uncomfortable.  “We need to tear down all the (figurative) walls and fences and throw open the doors so that we can be attractive to the whole community,” he said.

So your “leadership team” (your newly adopted, unbiblical term for elders or pastors) made the business decisions without the approval or knowledge of your congregation and began its work to “lead” them into a radical new way of doing church.  It was subtle at first; a little insignificant change here and a cleverly crafted, upbeat success seminar speech masquerading as a sermon, there.  Before long the signs were everywhere but most of the people were still not sure what was happening.

Oh, there were a few resisters who began to question your practices.  But you were prepared, Rick Warren had already warned you about the “troublemakers,” and you were prepared to either intimidate them into submitting to your authority or let them go.  Some would just go away quietly, but there were others who saw your intentions and directly confronted you.  You knew that you would have to force them out for the sake of “unity.”

It all seemed like such a good idea at the time but “a deep and abiding passion to see our churches grow is a very dangerous thing." Andrew Heard.

It wasn’t long before your Constitution was nullified. No, you didn't overtly change it; you just stashed it out of sight, along with your doctrinal statement, deep in the back bottom drawer of an old file cabinet in a storeroom.  Formal membership requirements were minimized or waived.  Church discipline became an obscure, archaic concept buried deep in the archives of church history.  The doors were thrown open wide; everyone was welcomed to join in the profane worship and became active participants and, in some cases, leaders in your ministries.
 
Along the way, you began to notice cracks in your foundation; and there were rumblings of trouble on the horizon.  About a decade ago some of the major national leaders in the church growth, purpose driven movement, began to admit that they were wrong and that their methods were not working.  Why didn’t you stop to re-evaluate then?  Were you too far invested to give up?  Were you too proud to admit you were wrong?  Or were you just arrogant enough to believe that, although the experts failed, you knew better?

So here we are today, at least two decades into this alternative church growth plan (which is contrary to God’s plan).  It has been said, “What you win them with is what you win them to.”  So, Pastor, how is all that working out for you?  If you have been paying attention, you probably already know that the newest "movement" is trending back to more traditional models.  And by now you are discovering that your “target market” has changed.  They are moving on.  They have grown weary of the same old worship bands singing that mindless noise that was so relevant and contemporary just five years ago. Some are moving down the street to the next “newest gimmick.”  And if you are going to remain in your church, by now you know that you will probably need to make some serious strategic changes or perhaps it would be easier to lick your wounds and just move on to another place.

On the other hand, if you have resisted the temptations; if the Word of God is boldly proclaimed from your pulpit; if your primary focus is on preaching the whole counsel of God; if your congregation is fed a regular, healthy, steady diet of expository preaching; if you boldly and unabashedly tell the truth about sin and constantly warn your people of its consequences; if you are obsessed with the glory of God, then you have a real "relevant" church.  You don't need no stinkin' gimmicks. 



Sunday, November 1, 2015

Do All Babies Go To Heaven When They Die?

I am amazed at how so many Christians invent, believe, and teach so many doctrines that simply have no scriptural authority.  And this is one of them.  Since the Bible is silent (or at least unclear), we like to imagine that a kind, loving god would certainly act the way we think he should act.  But that is not the God of the bible.  

Nowhere in scripture can you find the concept of sinlessness before an "age of accountability" or any other free pass to heaven for any class of people including unborn babies who are aborted.

This question is divisive and explosive and lots of people get really angry about it.  But the Bible is clear about the nature of all children; even babies are conceived in iniquity and born in sin. 

On this subject, I think R. C. Sproul Jr. has articulated the most intelligent, Biblically sound, and God-honoring answer I have ever read.

You can link to it or read it here in its entirety:

Do All Those Who Die In the Womb Go To Heaven?

I don’t know.  The Bible doesn’t say.  It is certainly possible that they do.  It is also possible that they don’t.  It is, in turn, possible that some go to heaven when they die and some do not.  Christians have, over the years dealt with this heart-wrenching question a number of different ways.

Some suggest that such children have no need to be saved from the wrath of God because they do not stand guilty before Him.  While most of these would agree that even the youngest are tainted by sin (see Psalm 51:5), a few go so far as to suggest that the very young are without sin.  Both positions suggest that the Bible leaves room for what they call the “age of accountability,” an unknown time (some suggest age 13 on the basis of the practice of bar mitzvah, when a Jewish boy becomes a man) when children do become responsible before God for their sin.  The closest supportive text here is II Samuel 12:21-23.

Some suggest that the children of believers are welcomed to heaven, and leave open the question of the end of the children of unbelievers.  The best text in defense of this position is I Corinthians 7:14, where the children of at least one believing parent are said to be “holy.”

Still others take the position that the elect among those dying in the womb go to heaven, and leave open the question of whether or not all or only some such children are elect.  Finally, some take a mildly agnostic position, suggesting that “the God of heaven and earth will do rightly.”

I, though I agree that all and only the elect will enter into heaven, and that the judge of all the earth will do rightly, embrace none of these positions.  In the end, I believe that the texts cited do not warrant the conclusions drawn from them.  Thus my bold response- I don’t know.  What I am persuaded of is this.  All humans, from conception, are sinners and stand guilty before a holy God.  Their only hope is the work of Christ applied to them.  That work is applied always and only through faith, and that only the faith of the one saved.  Babies in heaven are there not by virtue of their age, nor their election, nor their parents. They are there by virtue of Christ, applied to them by their Spirit-given faith.

But can unborn babies believe?  Not by themselves, just like you and me.  It takes a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit to make that happen.  Do we have reason to believe that He sometimes makes that happen?  II Samuel 12:21-23 suggests He might.  I Corinthians 7:14 suggests He might.  Add to that John leaping in the womb at the presence of Christ (Luke 1:41) and we have reason to hope.

This could, of course, include all children dying in the womb.  It could include none of them.  Either way the Judge of all the earth would have done rightly. This is, clearly enough, an emotional issue.  It is not, in my own life, merely abstract.  My wife and I lost seven children to miscarriage, and have one precious 14-year-old with the capacities of a one-year-old.  Our emotions, however, should not lead us to add to the Bible, nor to muddy the precious saving waters of the work of Christ given to us by faith.  Our hope for them is the same as our hope for anyone.  We are all sinners, and all without hope save for the work of Christ.  But praise be to His name, He came into this world to save sinners.



R. C. Sproul Jr.


So, let God be God.  You're not.  Just believe Him when He speaks and trust Him when He is silent.


H.T. to The Contemporary Calvinist

Orig. post Nov. 19, 2011
141