July 31, 2010
A customer at work yesterday brought this fruit by for me to try. HJ and I had fun last night trying to figure out how you’re supposed to eat it. Based on the fruit’s sticker-lable, we surmised that it is called a Kiwano, and is not a tropical sea urchin from some coral reef, or an alien life form (although that what it definitely looks like), but comes from New Zealand, and is even sold in the local Food Lion.
It tasted sort of like a kiwi, but had the texture of bubble-milk.
July 30, 2010
July 27, 2010
Martin Luther (pictured above) was not a huge fan of the Epistle of James. In his eyes, it seemed to place too great an emphasis on works and not enough on justification by faith. Erasmus of Rotterdam, however, did not share the same opinion, which I think is quite evident in his paraphrase of the book:
But what is faith without love? Love moreover is a living thing; it does not go on holiday; it is not idle; it expresses itself in kind acts wherever it is present. If these acts are lacking, my brothers, I ask you, will the empty word ‘faith’ save a person? Faith which does not work through love is unproductive; no, it is faith in name only. An example here will make clear what I mean. If someone says blandly to a brother or a sister who lacks clothing or daily food, ‘Depart in peace, keep warm, and remember to eat well,’ and after saying this, gives him or her none of the things the body needs, will his fine talk be of any use to the ones in need? They will be no less cold and hungry for all his fine talk, which is of no help to their need. He gives him only verbal support, but does nothing in actual fact. A profession of faith will certainly be equally useless if it consists only of words and does nothing except remain inactive as though dead. It should no more be called faith than a human corpse merits the name of human being. Love is to faith what the soul is to the body. Take away love and the word faith is like something dead and inert. It will do you no more good before God to confess in words an idle faith than fine speech benefits a neighbour in need when he must be helped with action. People think they are being mocked when you say to them, ‘Keep warm and well fed,’ and give them neither food nor clothing. Just so the person who offers no tangible proofs of his faith but repeats every day, ‘I believe in God, I believe in God,’ seems to be mocking God. A person who gives lip service to love possesses a fruitless charity. In the same way a person whose belief is only a matter of words possesses a faith that serves no purpose.
July 26, 2010
I couldn’t help but chuckle at work Saturday when I heard someone say,
My wife, she’s real sick. She’s been having all sorts of stomach trouble. The doctor has put her on a special medicine. She’s so sick, he told her she can’t even eat at Bojangles anymore.
You know you’ve got it bad when Bojangles is on your “forbidden foods” list. Talk about a bleak picture, what else is there when there’s no more Bojangles?
July 26, 2010
Ken Jones writes Time to Take America Back as a wake-up call to the church. Jones argues that America was a nation founded not only on Christian principles, but by primarily Christian men. This founding led to America’s success and prosperity as a nation. After attempting to prove America’s Christian heritage, Jones then points at specific areas indicating the current “Christian culture” is quickly crumbling. These include, among other things, homosexuality, materialism, education, abortion, the ACLU, and the NEA. Lest America come under God’s judgment, Jones challenges Christians to take a stand by hitting the polls, praying, fasting, and electing godly officials.
This thought-provoking book provides the reader with plenty of information to consider. The heart-wrenching chapter on abortion moves the reader to righteous indignation. The dangers of homosexuality are convincingly chronicled. I find myself agreeing with many issues raised by Jones. Yet, despite the book’s conservative outlook, some of its points raised questions in my mind.
First of all, I noticed there were numerous typos and errors. For example, on page 44, on finds “.).” On page 52, Jones properly begins a quote with quotation marks, but fails to include end-quotes. On page 56, Jones writes, “Public fast were observed.” On page 62 and 79 there is no period at the end of the sentence. A sentence on page 268 is bolded mid-word. Not only were there typos, but the author also cited sources improperly. Both websites and books were catalogued incorrectly, as well as all of his citations in the text. This leaves the reader wondering why the author did not bother to pay attention or take the time to format his sources. After all, proper citations and bibliographies add credibility and weight to one’s argument. Sloppiness in this area, however, severely detracts from one’s credibility. Furthermore, Jones’s main sources were websites. A basic ruler of writing is that websites should be one’s last resort. Websites tend to hold less weight as sources than books and articles, and many websites are not only unofficial, but contain false information. Virtually anyone can publish a website. All of these factors combined to detract from the credibility of Jones’s book. Jones would have done well to proof read his text a few more times, to follow a writing standard (such as MLA or Turabian), and to cite more books.
I was a little disturbed by Jones’s definition of salvation (p. 22). He said salvation happens “by accepting Him [Jesus] as Lord and living by the precepts of His word (the Bible), they will make heaven their home.” It seems Jones is saying that Christians make heaven their home when they live by the Bible. This is a problem since it seems to be teaching a works salvation. In other words, Jones is saying that faith + works = salvation. The Bible teaches that salvation is by grace through faith (Eph 2:8-9), not by works. Now, I believe with all my heart that a person who has faith will work and will live by the Bible. This, however, is not what makes a person saved, but is the natural outworking of salvation.
Some of Jones’s statements about homosexuality surprised me. For example, in denouncing the evil of the sin, he quoted 1 Corinthians 6:9-10,
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, no effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.
Jones used this verse as a springboard into his discussion of homosexuality and its prevalence in the American culture. While I agree that homosexuality is a sin, I wonder that Jones isolated this sin alone from the Bible verse. Why does Jones not raise a fuss over adultery, idolatry, covetousness, thieving—all of which are listed as sins in the verse? I think the danger in Jones’s approach is to view sins as those “naughty” things that seem worse than my sins, things which are easy to point fingers at. But according to Scripture, my sins are just as real and just as perverse as the “closet sins.”
Beyond this, I found myself severely at odds with the core of Jones’s argument. He argues, first, that America was grounded as a Christian nation. This is proved first, claims Jones, by the Christian men and women involved in our country’s early years. Columbus, who asked for God’s help before voyaging to America, is Jones’ first example. Columbus seems like a surprising figure to point considering his controversial career and his reportedly harsh reputation. Jones then referenced the pilgrims. While the pilgrims did desire to found a “city on a hill,” they failed to truly provide liberty to all. The same pilgrims who fled persecution in England came to America and persecuted those denominations that disagreed with them. It turns out that when the pilgrims spoke of religious freedom, what they really wanted was freedom for their religion and theirs alone. The same was true elsewhere. Thus, one who reads early American history discovers that the Anglicans in Virginia persecuted other denominations, and the Puritans in the northern states terribly persecuted any who disagreed. Sadly, many of the early Christians in this “Christian nation” did not act very Christian. Such religious feuding did not stop until men like Thomas Jefferson stepped in and made separation of church and state a national policy.
Jefferson did this, not out of religious conviction, but for the sake of political principle. He and others had seen the terrors that accompany the fusion of church and state. And Jefferson was by no means Christian. He made his own version of the Bible, literally taking scissors and cutting out the miracles, and only keeping the words of Christ which taught peace and love for one’s enemies. Ben Franklin held similar beliefs. George Washington was a deist known for his general lack of interest in religion. Deists do no acknowledge God and can sound very Christian when they pray, but do not believe the tenets of Christianity.
The “Christianity” of this nation’s early leaders is indeed questionable. Jones, however, adamantly asserts his position. He refers to George Washington’s prayer addressed to the “Almighty being who rules the universe” (p. 31). That is no Christian prayer! Congress, he claims, was Christian because it encouraged morality and religious liberty (p. 32). I’m sorry, but encouraging people to read their Bible or live by the Ten Commandments is not Christianity either. Jones goes so far as to remind the reader that twenty seven signers of the Declaration of Independence had seminary degrees, and then claims this is evidence of their Christianity. Going through seminary, however, does not make you a Christian—not even in the 1700’s. In light of the historical record, I’m baffled that Jones declares, “Those of the antichristian mindset want us to believe that the founding fathers were all either agnostic, atheist, or deist” (p. 43). This book would have done well to avoid such uninformed statements.
The patriotism of America’s early pastors points to a Christian foundation, claims Jones. He states, “To be patriotic was to be Christian” (p. 33). Jones continues, saying that in those days “politics were preached in pulpits and men were led to action by faithful pastors” (p. 33). Jones also urges current pastors to be politicians, saying,
Clergy in the OT became politically active. They included men like Samuel, Jeremiah, Ezekiel…. Other clergymen became statesmen to speak out against the…injustices of the day. We often refer to them as prophets, but just look at their messages. Today they would readily be defined as political activists…. Others not only influenced public office, but also actually occupied those offices and helped change the laws of the land (p. 34).
Of course the OT prophets were politically active! They were living in the time of Theocratic Israel. America, however, is not Israel, and unlike Israel, our founding is not inscribed on the pages of Scripture! To compare America with Israel is almost as warped and unfounded as comparing the president with Jesus. Jones, however, seems not to realize this.
Jones, then, views America as a Christian nation whose pastors were like prophets and even fought at the battle fronts (p. 29). But he clams that our Christian heritage ultimately stems from our country’s form of government (p. 37). I wonder how Jones arrives at this conclusion. After all, nowhere does scripture speak of a democratic government. If Jones really wants a biblically based model of government, a monarchy would be most accurate.
Not only do I disagree with Jones about our country’s founding, I also disagree with his proposed solution. He argues that Christians must take America back, a task which is accomplished by impeaching those in power, reclaiming the judicial sector, getting godly men elected, tackling the welfare system, confronting Islam and homosexuality, and sealing our borders from immigration. While all of these issues do need to be addressed, I disagree whole heartedly with this approach. Nowhere does Scripture teach that politics is the answer. Rather, we find that God works through the lives of ordinary Christians, as they live for the gospel and influence those around them for Christ. The church understood that the gospel would flourish even if the state were in shambles. Their strategy was not to convert their country by taking over the Roman government.
Furthermore, the church knew their purpose was to win the lost to Christ. Jones bemoans the fact that Muslims are coming into this country by the millions (ch. 9). I think the reaction of the early church would have been quite the opposite. Rather than viewing these unbelievers as enemies, the church would have viewed their entrance as a God-given opportunity to share the gospel in their own backyards. Winning the nations to Christ was their purpose, not reclaiming some bygone political ideals. So why do Christians in America feel differently? Why do we feel that for the gospel to flourish here, it must happen politically?
No, the church knew that God was bigger than the politics of Rome, and their perspective was much broader than just their own nation. Jones, however, seems to think that God’s plans are limited to America. The gospel is not an American thing. No, Christianity is global, crossing international borders, and reaching into the hearts of people from every race. There are millions of Christians who live under tyrannical governments, yet are seeing the gospel thrive. Why should American Christians feel entitled to be the only Christians in the world to have a Christian government and live in a Christian nation?
Americans who believe like Jones need a wake-up call. Change is not needed on the political or national level. Jesus demonstrated this definitively by his own perfect example. As his ministry became increasingly successful, the crowds expected him to overthrow Rome and set up a righteous empire. But, setting a precedent for his followers of all time, he declared, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, then my servants would be fighting” (John 18:36 NASB). Jesus’ way is the Roman cross, not the Roman senate. He transforms, not the “powers that be,” but the hearts of fishermen and prostitutes and tax collectors. His revival is not legislated nationally, but is spread globally by Spirit indwelt simpletons. Christ eschewed the political trappings of his day as bankrupt tools of a fallen world. Had he come to America he would have done the same and still chosen the way of the cross—not voting ballots, polls, impeachments, elections, politicians, constitutions, or Christian governments. I think this is what Paul had in mind when he wrote that the weapons of our warfare are not of this world.
Jones desperately wants to preserve and reform the American way of life. Yet, if America as we know it ever collapses and Christians face persecution, the gospel goes on. After all, this is what Christians all over the world already face. In conclusion, I’m reminded of some words of the persecuted church in China. One of their leaders said, “When you pray on our behalf, do not ask that things would get easier for us or that God might spare us from our suffering—lest we become like those fat, lazy, American Christians.” Perhaps a hostile government and daily persecution is exactly what the church in America needs. In the end, for Christians so prone to slothfulness and assimilation, a Christian republic could be the church’s worst enemy in existence.
July 23, 2010
“Every true Christian has the spirit of a martyr.”
-Edwards, Charity and its Fruits, 380.
July 22, 2010
I hope to be more regular in my blogging now. We had to buy a new lap top, the hard drive crashed on our old one and was unrepairable. So, it has been impossible for me to do any writing. To make matters worse, we could not get the internet working and eventually hunted down a new modem. But everything is running great now, and the blog will be more regular.
July 14, 2010
According to Jonathan Edwards:
A true convert, the moment he is converted, is possessed not of one or two, but of all holy principles, and all gracious dispositions. They may be feeble indeed, like the faculties and powers of an infant child, but they are all truly there, and will be seen flowing out progressively in every kind of holy feeling and behavior toward both God and man.
In every real convert, there are as many graces as there were Jesus Christ, which is what the evangelist Johns means when he says, ‘…And of his fullness we have all received, and grace for grace,’…. But that is no true image or picture of another, which has some parts or features wanting. An exact image has a part answerable to each part of that which it is an image….
Grace in the soul, is a reflection of Christ’s glory, as appears by 2 Cor. iii. 18. It is a reflection of his glory, as the image of a man is reflected from a glass that exhibits part for part.
Edwards, Charity and its Fruits, 401-402.
July 14, 2010
HJ and I went to the OBGYN doctor yesterday for her 4 1/2 month check up–the appointment where we get to find out if we are having a boy or a girl. We’re having a girl!!!
The baby was very active during the ultrasound, waving her hands and feet, constant movement (maybe she liked that bottle of juice HJ drank right before the appointment, or maybe she knew she was on camera). The doctor said everything looks perfect and healthy, and even gave us some free 3D shots! At the moment she weighs 9 ounces and HJ is beginning to feel some kicks.
We were a little surprised that it’s a girl. We had a hunch that we might be having a boy, but we are completely thrilled. The doctor gave us a whole CD of pictures from the ultrasound, so in a few days I’ll put some of those on the blog.
Oh, her name is Melody Grace Bowden.
July 12, 2010
I was greatly encouraged by something that happened at work this week. For several months, a customer and I have been talking. Seeing that he was open to discussion and friendship, I invited him to church. Week after week he said he would come and bring his family also. But he never came. Then, he told me that he was finally ready. God somehow blessed him with a new house, and as part of a deal he made with God, that meant he would definitely start coming to church. But again, he did not come. I decided not to mention the issue, but simply to befriend him and model the love of Christ to him.
He came by work this week. I determined not to bring up spiritual issues, but to let him bring things up if he wanted to. And sure enough, he came right out and mentioned his unfulfilled deal with God. Then–and this is the exciting part–he mentioned how God has been working on him. He told me that as soon as he moved into his new house, an acquaintance knocked on his door and immediately asked, “Are you happy now?” This really shook up my friend. Then, on another occasion, a complete stranger asked my friend, “Are you on the right road?” Again, this proved to be a source of conviction.
My friend tells me these things and how he knows God is seeking him. I simply told him, “Well, you would be better off to surrender to God sooner rather than later. You see, God has a way of dealing gently with us at first, but if we try to ignore him, he gets more and more firm. You don’t want to go down that road!”
Why do I share all of this with you? Simply to remind and encourage you that God is still at work with the lost. He uses a simple word to get someone’s attention. When you do not know he is at work, when you don’t feel him striving with the lost, then suddenly you find he is! So share Christ with confidence. Be quick to speak even a simple word to the lost. Believe me, God uses even the most foolish witness to work on the lost.