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How Buying a MacBook Pro Is Like Becoming a Christian

A friend showed me his brand new MacBook Pro yesterday. He bought it because it is (of course) the mostly insanely perfect & powerful piece of greatness that a human can possess. However, he is a brand new Apple user, so I was giving him a quick tour of some of the features of the computer. Since his mind had been corruptedtrained on (gag) Microsoft, he himself could not yet demonstrate to me how insanely great this machine was until his mind had been retrained to think like an Apple user & act like an Apple user.

Hmmmm…. that reminds me of something….

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:2 NKJV)

Think about this: with the new birth & the Spirit living within us we really do have the most insanely perfect & powerful piece of greatness that a human can possess (yes, even better than a MacBook Pro!).

But…. how many of us truly live transformed lives, lives that are radically different as a result of the new birth, lives that “prove” (or demonstrate, show to the world) that God’s will is perfect?

What does the Apostle Paul say must happen before you can do this, to be transformed to the point that your life can prove that God’s will is insanely great? Your mind has to be renewed. Your mind has to be remolded to understand what it means to love God & walk with Him.

I admit it, I’m an “Apple evangelist”— a term commonly used for people who are so sold on how insanely great Apple products are that they tell everyone around them & try to convince them to buy Apple too.

But it’s not enough to be an evangelist, is it? It’s not enough to get someone to buy a MacBook Pro, or to receive the new birth, is it? It won’t really, radically change your life until you learn to use it.

So, that’s my focus for today: to renew my mind, to change my paradigms, my faulty thinking, so that I can truly be a “power user” of the new birth & live a truly transformed life.

What Will Your Grandchildren Say They Learned From You?

I read today a list of five things a grandson states he has learned from his 90 year old grandfather.  He penned this short list with obvious admiration and sincerity.  Here is what he wrote:

1) Humility: He (his grandfather) has always been keenly aware that God is God, and he is not. He has always been conscious of his smallness and God’s bigness, his imperfection and God’s perfection.

2) A love for the Gospel: He has always had a deep sense of his own sin, which has led him to a deep love for his Savior. He has always exemplified the sweet reality that you can never know Christ as a Great Savior until you first know yourself to be a great sinner. God’s amazing grace still amazes him — and that amazes me!

3) Faithfulness: Although he has had the opportunity to do many things, he has never wavered concerning God’s call on his life to be an evangelist. He knows he’s not a scholar or a theologian; he’s never tried to be. He has always remained true to God’s calling.

4) Never show favoritism: I have been with him in numerous places with numerous people, and I have never, ever seen him show favoritism. He treats all people the same, whether they are rich or poor, weak or powerful, socially significant or socially insignificant.

5) Be real: He is normal! He gets mad; he gets sad; he’s fun to be around. His favorite restaurant is Morrison’s Cafeteria. His favorite movie is “Crocodile Dundee.” His favorite drink is orange juice, and he loves catfish. He’s just another man with all of the limitations and idiosyncrasies that the rest of us have — and I love him for it!

When I read over this list, I thought, “When I am 90 years old, what will my grandchildren say they learned from my life?  What is my life teaching those closest to me?”

Think about it: what five things do you want your grandchildren to say they learned from you and your life?   What do you think those closest to you would say they are learning from your life today? Why not make a list of five things you want to pass on, and then make a list of five things that need to change in your life so that you can have that heritage for your grandchildren and all those in your life.

By the way, that list was written by a guy named Tullian Tchividjian (I found it here).

You might know his grandfather, who turns 90 this week—  Billy Graham.

Satan Loves Excited Christians

revival 

No, that’s not a typo in the title.  Yes, I know that needs explaining. 

This is actually the first article in a whole series that I am writing as I slowly work my way through A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections, a book by Jonathan Edwards, the 18th century philospher, writer, theologian, pastor, and president of Princeton University.  A whole group of Christian bloggers are going through this book together, led by Mr. Uber-Blogger himself Tim Challies.  I plan not to summarize everything that Edwards is saying in this very challenging and complex book, but each week to take out one important idea that is worth reflecting on and applying to our own lives. 

Edwards wrote Religious Affections in the 18th century during what became known as The First Great Awakening.  What was The Great Awakening?  It was a complex phenomenon, but basically the experience of what it meant to live a Christian life changed radically for many people during that time.  People became more emotional, more passionate, and more excited about following God.  As a result, many practices both within the church and in individual lives dramatically shifted, and there was much talk as to whether they shifted for good or ill.  Edwards wrote Religious Affections to meticulously examine the role of emotion and passion in religion from both a theological, philosophical, and practical perspective.  His insight and perspectives on this subject have influenced theologians down to the present day.

What Edwards wrote was no “ivory tower” academic posturing.  He was regarded as one of the leaders of the Great Awakening, and took heavy criticsm from both “old school” and “new school” pastors.  Many said his appeals to emotion and life change were dangerous and inappropriate.  But he also was very concerned about objective truth and maintaining Bible-based doctrine, and garnered himself enemies when he spoke out against pastors and practices that he saw had went too far in their reforms and new ways of doing things.

The book attempts to answer the question “What is the nature of true religion, and what practices actually please God?”  He looks at the subject from both a negative perspective (things that may appear to please God but don’t) and from a positive perspective (things that we can assure ourselves truly do please God).

In the book’s preface he explains why he wrote the book.  He correctly sees that when people become involved and excited about something new and became emotionally invested in it, the “rose-colored glasses” effect comes into play.  People become less concerned about whether what they believe in and practice is Biblical, because it is exciting and seems to work.  As a result, wrong and false beliefs and practices creep in unawares, which lead people off track and end up making a mess of everything. 

This is a much more serious problem than most people, then or now, give it credit.  Edward states:

It is by the mixture of counterfeit religion with true, not discerned and distinguished, that the devil has had his greatest advantage against the cause and kingdom of Christ.

That (like everything else in the 300+ pages in this book) is a mouthful.  It’s much easier to say, “Satan loves excited Christians.”  Not that excitement is bad, but that it can cloud our vision.  Edwards goes on to give a list of all the results of this clouded vision and mixing in of off-track ideas and practices in with the true.  Here is my 21st-century re-do of his list: 

  • Satan loves when people are excited about doing things that they think please God, when in actuality they are displeasing God.
  • Satan loves when people think that their souls are in good shape with God, when in fact they are far away from His blessing.
  • Satan loves when people forget about what God truly values as pure religion (which the apostle James defined as helping the poor and being holy) because they’re so excited in their religious worship experiences and other “exciting” stuff.
  • Satan loves when people get excited and do openly foolish things (like claiming they can heal any disease or raise people from the dead) that give non-Christians plenty of ammo to attack and ridicule what they now see as Christianity.
  • Satan loves it when people excitedly think they’re helping God when they’re actually openly working against God, like giving financial support to someone who teaches doctrine that is actually against the Bible.
  • Satan loves it as people excitedly promote false ideas and religion and think they’re advancing the Kingdom of God, when they’re actually tearing it down.
  • Finally, Satan loves how false doctrine splits churches and denominations and friends, and causes people to spend time arguing with each other.  As a result, Satan can influence people to go to one extreme or another, and grow farther apart and farther out of the path of true religion.

That’s a pretty stark list.  Read it over again.  Think it over.  The question we all have to ask ourselves is, “Where have I been guilty of that in the past? Where am I guilty of that now?”

Edwards summarizes his “terrible consequences” of the mixture of truth and untruth in religion by saying:

God’s people in general have their minds unsettled in religion, and know not where to set their foot, or what to think, and many are brought into doubts, whether there be any thing at all in religion; and heresy, infidelity, and atheism greatly prevail.

If we’re serious about loving and pleasing God and advancing the Kingdom, then we need to be serious about getting excited in a good way about it, and guarding our souls from the twin evils of apathy and lack of discernment.  As the weeks go by I’ll explore these topics in greater depth.

Christian vs. Christ-Follower

As a die-hard Apple fanatic and former program developer and salesman from all the way back to the Apple II days I love the PC vs. Mac ads.  So here are a series of parodies that are pretty funny and make you think (the comments on all of them at youtube are pretty comical, unfortunately, as well):

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

My only question is, did the guys at www.sharperiron.org link to them because they thought they were funny, or insightful, or disgusting, or because they starred as “PC” in them? (does that stand for Perfect Christian?)

Taco Bell Christianity

taco bellWe live in a culture of cheap knock-offs, counterfeits, pale imitations and shadows of “real” things.  We are so immersed in imitations that we often forget what the “real” is.  We have millions of people who think Taco Bell serves “real” mexican food. We think that grocery store tomatoes are fine, because we have never tasted one that has been just picked off a vine.  We even think the hard block you buy in a cardboard carton at Wal-Mart is ”real” ice cream.  We consume the imitations by the truckful, often sadly oblivious to what we are really missing.

But it’s more than just food— it pervades all the facets of our lives.  We have millions of people floating aimlessly through superficial relationships and “hooking up” on weekends. Why?  Because they’ve never been around a ”real” marriage, one that has grown over decades into a sweet supernatural bond that transforms both the lives of the spouses and their children and their friends.  There are millions who have given up on Christianity because all they have seen is empty rote religion with no power to truly transform the lives of the people who follow it.  They have given up on church because all they hear is dry dusty theology or pop self-help they can get from Dr. Phil on TV.

John Piper said it well commenting on the sad state of the typical American pulpit:

(There is a reason why) Today so many people say so many minimizing and foolish things about preaching.  They have never heard it.  They don’t know what it is.  They have no basis for judgement as they belittle it and call for alternatives that are more “effective.”

Most people in America have never heard REAL preaching, preaching that is annointed by the Spirit and “soaked with the blood of Jesus and singed by the fire of hell.”  So they either mindlessly settle for the drivel they are given, not knowing any better, or just walk away lost and disillusioned.

Please, let’s not settle for Taco Bell preaching or Taco Bell small groups or Taco Bell Christianity.  There are millions floundering and dying because they don’t have “the real thing” in their lives. Let us strive in our churches for the real thing, for lives and community and teaching miraculously transformed by the Spirit, focused on the life and death of the Son, and glorifying the majesty and love of the Father. 

And when people finally taste the real thing, they won’t be going back to Taco Bell anymore.

Changed by God

For the next several Thursdays I will recap selected lessons from a “practical soteriology” series I did years ago which I entitled “Changed by God.”  I have found that many Christians understand they are saved from hell, and some understand that they “have been born again” or have the Holy Spirit living in them, but relatively few have a “big picture” view of all that God worked in their lives as a result of their salvation. 

In typical evangelical style, I used a mnemonic, with a little creative coercion getting the seven letters of C.H.A.N.G.E.D. to stand for seven principal facets of God’s saving work in the lives of His children.

Here is the outline for the entire series:

 Changed by God

Next Thursday I will cover the “C”— Chosen.

Conversion

 Conversion:  n 1: an event that results in a transformation 2: Something that is changed from one use, function, or purpose to another.

Conversion—this was the word often used by Christians of previous centuries to describe the change from death to life when someone truly becomes a child of God.  While we often use words as “believer” “saved” “born again” or “accepted Christ”, often “converted” was their term of choice.  The emphasis is not on words said or aisles walked or prayers prayed or church membership affiliation or any sort of belief, but on a transformed life. A changed heart was the measure of whether a soul was bound for heaven or hell— conversion.

How different this way of thinking about salvation was from the today’s typical American view was brought into sharp relief as I have been reading through The Reformed Pastor by Richard Baxter.  In it he describes in detail the line of questions he would ask of every member of his parish as he would visit them in their homes.  Instead of four spiritual laws or even “If you knew you would die today, why should God let you into heaven?”, Baxter used the following explanation and questions (slightly modernized by me with words emphasized by me): 

The Holy Spirit, using the Bible, enlightens a man’s mind, and softens and opens his heart, and turns him from the power of Satan to God, through faith in Christ. He that is truly converted, has had a light shining into his soul from God, which has showed him the greatness of his sin and misery, and made it a heavy load upon his soul; and showed him who Christ is, and what he has done for sinners, and made him admire the riches of God’s grace in Christ. He has now such a sight of heaven, that he despises all this world as garbage. This is the case of all who are truly converted and who shall be saved.

Have you ever found this great change upon your own heart? Did you ever find the Spirit of God, by the Word, come in upon your understanding, with a new and heavenly life, which has made you a new creation? Have you experienced such a change as this upon your soul?

I find Baxter’s model for evangelism both fascinating and disturbing.  Fascinating, in how acknowledgment of belief or correct theology or even an experience per se is not the point at all for him.  The point is solely on whether a person’s heart has been changed in a specific way, in that the person sees that he has been changed and has become a new creation and that his heart is different (admiring the riches of Christ, despising the world). 

I find Baxter’s model disturbing when I think how many people in our churches who have “prayed the sinner’s prayer” “walked the aisle” and can tell you the day and date they were “saved” would be unable to look within their heart and see the change that Baxter speaks of.  Can you?

A Life Walked with God

How can you tell whether a man has walked with God?

I was reminded of that last year when I attended the funeral of my uncle Harold Baisden. In his 80 years he had fought in combat in WWII, married, raised a family, worked, and wiggled his ears a lot (a talent that he was quite proud of). He regularly attended church and was a man of integrity.

But how do I know he walked with God?

His pastor in his eulogy remarked that he knew that Harold loved him because Harold told him so whenever they met.

Another friend said that he had called a week before Harold died, and that his wife said to Harold, “Rex is on the phone, do you want to say anything to him?” and Harold replied, “Tell him that I love him.”

My father was with him a day before he lost consciousness for the last time, and his wife, knowing that Harold couldn’t focus his eyes, told him, “Honey, Cecil is here.” And my uncle, his body wrecked with cancer and his mind clouded by dementia, replied “Cecil–I love Cecil.”

“By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35

What are We to Do with Sin?

Here’s this week’s edition of the “Friday Funnies”:

 

The minister was wanting to wax eloquent, and so in a mighty booming voice he rhetorically asked his congregation, “What are we to do with sin?  Tell me, what are we to do with sin?”

A somewhat mischevious teen stood up in the back, and giving his best Barney Fife voice, said, “You just got to nip it in the bud!  Nip it in the bud!”

 

 

Got a great story or joke?  Send it along at the email link below, and have a great weekend!

The Importance of “Together”

not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:25 ESV)

This verse has for years often been thought of as applying to church services, probably because of many translations using a churchy word like “assembling” to translate the Greek and because it’s a convenient proof text for Christians to cram down the throats of “backsliders” who, usually due to complex issues within their soul, have stopped coming to church.

In reality, this verse is saying something much more important, much more beautiful, and much more neglected than showing up in a pew on sunday morning: We are meant to spend time together.

I once heard a anthropologist say that native tribes in New England spent about 20 hours a week in what we would consider “work”—hunting, gathering. What did they do with the rest of the time? Not watching TV or spectator sports or ipods plugged in their ears or commuting to work or even internet surfing on fabulous spiritual growth websites.

They lived together, they spent time together, they talked, they laughed, they told stories, they shared—they encouraged one another. And they did this in merely their own humanness, unaided by the supernatural oneness Christians share through the Holy Spirit.

What is it going to take for us to spend time together? Enough time to really make a difference in each others lives?

I talk to my Dad on the phone nearly every day. A few days ago I went over and spent two hours at his place, with no agenda, just to spend time. Even though we have an excellent relationship and converse by phone daily, we covered more ground and deeper ground in those two dedicated hours one-on-one than we did in dozens of hours on the phone. The phone, letters, internet can supplement real time spent together, but they can never replace real time spent together.

My best friend is the result of concentrated weekly time we pledged to each other years ago. Where we were once strangers, after over a hundred hours of time one-on-one over months, having breakfast, studying and memorizing the Bible together, watching movies, shooting guns—well, we have a bond now that has meant more to each of us than we ever dreamed of, that God has used in a powerful way, but one that could never have happened without large amounts of dedicated time.

When was the last time you devoted 100 hours to a friendship? 10 hours to a friendship? 10 hours to your spouse? Is there a problem here, in this culture, in this mindset of endless tasks and projects, accomplishing much with wilted, immature souls starving to death for real transforming spiritual community? God intends for us to live in community as He does within the trinity, he urges us to do so. Will we listen, and will we change?