Chick-Fil-A Wednesday

I read this on Mike Huckabee’s Facebook page and think he has assessed the situation correctly. Regardless of your position on marriage, if you are an American that believes that our right to free speech is a gift that others have bought with their life’s blood, then you should be eating at Chick-fil-a tomorrow.

Huckabee writes:

A little over a week ago, I simply urged people to go and eat at Chick Fil-A on Wednesday, August 1.  I mentioned it on my TV show and have been discussing it on my daily radio show.  The media has called it a “protest.”  It is most certainly not.  No one is protesting anything.  This is not a stand against a person, a group of people, or even someone else’s belief.  This is a simple act of having a meal at a place that sells chicken, not politics.  It’s to affirm to a Christian brother, Dan Cathy, that he has not been disenfranchised from his citizenship nor his right of free speech as a taxpaying American.  It is about taking a stand for businesses to be free of economic bullying and hate speech.  It is an opportunity to have a decent meal at a decent place that was founded and continues to be run by decent people who believe in treating their customers and employees with kindness and to say “thank you” to them.  The only protest that I know of… is coming from the chickens, who will give their lives in large numbers to accommodate what hopefully will be a big day at Chick Fil-A. Chick Fil-A neither proposed this nor has promoted it.  It was a simple idea I had and shared with a few friends, posted  the online and asked them to share with their friends.  I don’t have that many friends, but my friends seem to.  Since then, over 21 million have viewed my Facebook event page.  We are north of half a million people who have said they will eat at Chick Fil-A on Wednesday and still adding more.  Millions more are aware of it and might show up in one of the 1600 Chick Fil-A stores. The attacks on Christians are disturbing, especially by “wanna be tyrants, like the mayors of Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington, D. C. who have vowed to either keep Chick Fil-A out of their communities or have openly said this business is not welcome because they (the mayors) don’t agree with the personal views of the Chick Fil- A CEO.  Not only is such a position by the mayors illegal and unconstitutional, but it’s disturbing to think that anyone elected to public office would publicly exhibit their bigotry toward Christians, their hypocrisy in singling out only Christians, but not others including Muslims who have even stronger beliefs about same sex marriage, and their contempt of the law regarding censorship and free speech.  On Wednesday, the lines might be long, but your presence and your purchase is a statement.  America doesn’t need more protesters-we’ll leave that to the Occupy crowd.  America needs more protectors of freedom, family, and faith.  And in this case, chicken nuggets!

Knowing God

Knowing God is more than knowing about Him; it is a matter of dealing with Him as He opens up to you, and being dealt with by Him as He takes knowledge of you. Knowing about Him is a necessary precondition of trusting in Him, but the width of our knowledge about Him is no gauge of our knowledge of Him…What were we made for? To know God. What aim should we have in life? To know God. What is the eternal life that Jesus gives? To know God. What is the best thing in life? To know God. What in humans gives God most pleasure? Knowledge of himself. – J.I. Packer

Losing My Religion

As I go about my day, I often ask people what they believe it takes for someone to get to heaven. Over the years I have received a multiplicity of answers—be a good person, help the poor, don’t break God’s rules, or just go to church. All these answers rely on human works to obtain right standing before God. The truth is none of these will ever move us one inch closer to heaven.

Sometimes human works and the gospel look an awful lot alike; however, the difference between the two are worlds apart. In a recent post J.D. Greear clearly explains what the gospel can do that human works (religion) cannot.

Greear writes:

Chapter 9 of Hebrews is all about dealing with guilt. The author explains that the entire Old Testament system was set up to deal with guilt, though it was powerless to do the only thing we needed it to do: purify our consciences. Religious rituals only cover sin, they cannot change the heart. Christ, to whom all the Old Testament points, is able to transform us in 3 ways that the old Temple, and, in fact, no religion, can:

1. From guilt to purity.

Hebrews 9:14 says that the blood of Christ “purifies our conscience.” The tabernacle sacrifices only ever served to cover guilt, but they could never remove it. The blood of Christ takes the penalty of guilt away forever, because through his death Jesus absorbed the penalty of sin—death—into himself. As Charles Spurgeon has said, God would be unjust to punish us for our sins, because then He would be requiring two payments for the same sin.

The forgiveness now available to us because of Christ’s death is more than a mere waiving of penalty, however. Our guilt has not only been removed, but has been replaced with purity, with love, with acceptance from the very God of the universe. In response to our sin, forgiveness says, “You may go.” The gospel tells us, “You are cherished; you may come.”

2. From dead works to loving service.

Again, in Hebrews 9:14, the author tells us that the blood of Christ purifies us “from dead works to serve the living God.” Religion is filled with all kinds of works, various attempts to get God to approve of us. These works are dead, because they are not love for God, but love for self. We perform for God not because we love Him but because we want something from him. If I were to take my friend out to dinner because I know he has a beach house, it’s not done out of love. I am making an investment: sixty bucks for a nice meal and I can score a week at the Outer Banks!

When you strive to do good works to gain acceptance, your works are dead. This is the difference between religion and the gospel. In religion you do good works to be accepted by God; in the gospel you do good works because you are accepted by God.

As John Newton, the author of Amazing Grace, wrote in another of his hymns:

Our pleasure and our duty, though opposite before, Since we have seen His beauty, are joined apart no more. To see the Law by Christ fulfilled, to hear His pardoning voice, Transforms a Slave into a Child, and Duty into Choice.

Religious ritual cannot take away sin. The Jewish people made a tragic mistake. They took the symbols of sacrifice and started to treat them like they were the real thing, like adherence to religious ritual could actually take away sin. People do that today when they think that certain religious rituals (like taking communion, regular church attendance, tithing, or saying a ‘Hail Mary’) can take away their sin. At their very best they can merely covering sin, like spraying yourself with perfume instead of taking a bath. That may work a few times, but soon enough the stench permeates the perfume. The blood of Jesus does not cover our sin with some kind of religious cologne, it removes our sin and transforms our hearts. Apart from faith in Christ, religious rituals are dead works. Alive with faith, religious activity becomes loving service.

3. From dread of God to longing for Him.

As we see in Hebrews 9:28, the gospel replaces the sense of dread we used to have before God with a deep sense of longing. When we fear judgment, the thought of being in God’s presence is dreadful. The sacrifice of Jesus, however, assures us that judgment is gone, and in its place are God’s love and acceptance. When we realize this, God’s presence becomes something we desperately crave.

I see this with my kids. When I come home from a trip, my four children will rush out to meet me at my car. My four-year-old daughter will immediately start to give me the details of everything that happened while I was away. It doesn’t make much sense, since she’s four, but she knows I’ll listen eagerly. They know that I long to be near them, so they long to be near me. When they think I am angry, however, or in a bad mood, they stay away. Many people are like that with God. They dread being around Him because they fear displeasure or judgment.

The gospel gives us the confidence of a beloved child before God. Rather than fearing His judgment, we sense only approval and tenderness. We cry “Abba, Father,” and we begin to long for Him.

Symptoms of a Healthy Small Group

I have posted several articles on the need for small groups in the church. It doesn’t matter if the small group meets in a church, a home, a restaurant, or in a park—they just need to meet. During these meetings people learn to trust, depend on, and care for one another; thus ensuring that close lasting relationships are formed.

Ed Stetzer elaborates on this topic in his post “Five Characteristics of Transformative Small Groups.” These characteristics would be good to take back to your small group to help evaluate your effectiveness.

Stetzer writes:

As culture drifts more and more toward individualism, transformational churches are taking on the responsibility of moving people into authentic relationships with each other, many through the instigation and encouragement of small groups. Though a hermeneutically responsible scriptural case cannot be made specifically for the institute of small groups, the Bible does offer examples of the need for and benefits of small units of community.

In Exodus 18, Jethro approaches Moses and says, “What you’re doing is not good . . . You will certainly wear out both yourself and these people” (Ex. 18:17-18). The principle here is applicable for pastors, church leaders, and members: when people do not have small units of connection and relationship, it wears everyone out – the pastors and leaders because they are constantly working to fulfill that need for connection; the members because they are unable to be in the nurturing relationships that they need but cannot necessarily have with pastors or leaders. Similarly, small units of community allow people to “carry one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2) in a way that simply is impossible in large group settings. Therefore, Scripture favors small settings for accomplishing genuine community.

In addition to scriptural favor toward small units, the institution of small groups addresses significant cultural needs. In Bowling Alone, sociologist Robert Putnam explains the shift in our culture away from community and toward “cocooning.” Think about it. People used to bowl in leagues. They’d wear funny shirts, go in groups, and bowl together. Now, leagues are a fraction of what they used to be, and people bowl alone. Similarly, while we used to have front porches, now we have back decks. We have home theaters and home gyms. As a result of this societal shift, the nuclear family is nuclearized into small units, disconnected from others along the way. However, I believe a shift back toward interpersonal relationships is taking place.

Why is this shift happening in the church? Because small groups are meeting the needs of people to grow in faith by learning in a community with some purpose. We want and need to be connected– it is not good to be alone– so that we can grow and help one another.

Most of these needs can be best met in small groups, where people are able to mature in their faith as they respect, appreciate, listen to, and hear those in community alongside them.

Though Christians experience the need for authentic community, they often need nudging to acknowledge and live in the reality of that need – not unlike many of us who understand our need for exercise, but require encouragement to participate and, thus, enjoy the benefits! In the church setting, small groups provide an opportunity to encourage people into life-changing community. However, the significance of small groups goes beyond the benefits of personal life change and becomes crucial for the transformational church. Five important facets of small groups demonstrate their transformative nature:

1. Connectible: Small groups connect people in relationships. According to William Hendricks in Exit Interviews, one common reason given by people who leave churches is a failure to connect in relationship. Small groups provide a comfortable environment for newcomers to connect.

2. Reproducible: In human growth, multiplication allows the cell to become multiple cells, which allows change and growth to occur. Similarly, for growth to occur in the church, people groups must continuously grow and multiply. Small groups are more easily multiplied than large groups.

3. Assimilative: Just as small groups connect newcomers to the church through relationships, small groups assimilate members to ministry through service. As people in small groups grow in relationship together, they will readily serve alongside others and integrate into ministry opportunities.

4. Transformative: Small groups allow individuals to experience faster and deeper personal transformation through authentic community. For non-Christian seekers, small groups provide a safe setting to ask questions in a community of people who also wrestle and struggle. Thus, when they do come to faith in Christ, they are more likely to experience authentic life-change having been in and remaining in community.

5. Transferable: Small groups can be excellent ways to start churches. As an essential element of the transformational church, church planting generally necessitates a core group of people who are sent out to reach a new area.

Small groups provide the transformational church with an opportunity to connect members in genuine relationships. Through interpersonal relationships, small group members will experience life-change as they fulfill their need for community in an individualistic society. Ultimately, as small groups grow and multiply, so will the church.

Worship Him!

In the year of  King Uzziah’s death  I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. 2 Seraphim stood above Him,  each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called out to another and said,

“ Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.”

4 And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. 5 Then I said,

“Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.”

6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the  altar with tongs. 7 He  touched my mouth with it and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips; and  your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.” (Isaiah 6.1-6 NASB)

How Many Hours Can I Work?

Tim Challies puts a different spin on our responsibility to balance the time we spend between work and our families.

Challies writes:

A few weeks ago I linked to an article from Nathan Bingham titled Fathers, Stop Stealing From Your Children. Nathan was writing to fathers who are raising families in this busy and distracting world and telling them to give their children the time they need and deserve. He said that many fathers are guilty of stealing from their children: “You’re guilty when you skip breakfast with the family to prepare for that early morning meeting, when you’re distant at the dinner table because you’re resolving an issue at work in a long email conversation on your smartphone, and when you forfeit a healthy family night-time ritual because you’ve got something important to do—like write a blog post.”

This article generated some interesting and thoughtful responses and, because I had linked to it, some of them were sent my way. Some expressed frustration that Christian pastors or leaders were constantly telling them they were negligent fathers if they were not home every day on time to enjoy dinner with the family or, even better, breakfast and dinner. Another commented on the long hours many employers demand and asked, “Is that just a love of success and money? And is that feasible for a Christian to be working long hours, let’s say 50 hours week, without compromising on their faith?”

These are good questions and helpful comments. Let me sketch out just a few of my thoughts on the matter.

This Is Not a New Issue

When we look at the issue of long working hours, we can take too narrow a view of it, assuming that it is uniquely twenty-first century and first-world. However, if you look back through history you will find that it has always been the case that fathers have had to work long hours outside of the home. A man who farmed would have to give just about every waking hour, every daylight hour, to his crops and his animals. The shepherds and farmers and fishermen of Jesus’ day were not working 9-to-5 jobs. Most of them would have been working extremely long hours just to scratch out an existence. Few of these people would have had to concern themselves with an hour-long or two hour-long commute from the suburbs into the downtown core, bookending their actual work day with two or three hours of travel time.

This means that the biblical writers could have addressed this issue head-on. Paul could have written to one of the churches and said, “Fathers, you need to prioritize being home for dinner every night.” He did not. He could have mandated a forty hour work week. Again, he did not. There are commands that pertain to fathers, but none that get anywhere near this explicit. This tells us that the instructions we find in Scripture are sufficient to guide us even here and it also tells us that we have freedom in these matters—freedom to determine what is right and best in our context.

Work, Work, Work, Die

One consequence of Adam’s sin was a curse on his vocation to earn a living by tending and keeping the ground.

And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife   and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you,   ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you;   in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;   and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face   you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground,   for out of it you were taken; for you are dust,   and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:17-19)

In other words, because of your sin, the land will now be opposed to you, it will fight against you. You will spend your whole life toiling to beat back thorns and thistles from off the soil and then at the end of it all, you’ll return to the soil. There is a kind of inevitability to it, and a kind of hopelessness. A man’s lot is to work in this world, knowing that he can never beat the system. He will eventually work himself to death.

That curse has extended far beyond farming and reaches to every vocation. The farmer faces the weeds, the pastor faces tired eyes and dead hearts, the lawyer faces long commutes and traffic jams (and that before he even gets to the office). None of us will have a life free from backbreaking (or mindbreaking or heartbreaking) labor. Work is long and hard because work is meant to be long and hard on this side of the curse. There are very few who escape it.

 

You Are a Father Before a [Insert Vocation Here]

I’ve always found it instructional in my own line of work that a man is qualified to be a pastor on the basis of his family life; he is not qualified to be a husband or father because of his successful ministry. It is true in any field that being a father takes priority over being a doctor or pastor or author or athlete or truck driver. Every man will need to remind himself often that his higher priority is his marriage and his family; he will need to ask himself if he is prioritizing well. He may well need to ask his wife and children and trusted friends if his priorities reflect biblical priorities.

A father needs to be willing to make difficult decisions regarding his vocation if he finds that it is interfering with his higher priorities. He may need to abandon a career or accept a lower-paying position if his current vocation is keeping him away from his wife and children too often.

You Are An Idolater

We are, as John Calvin told us, idol factories, constantly giving our ultimate loyalty to things other than God. We typically make idols out of good things—good things that rise to the status of ultimate things. Work is just the kind of good thing that constantly threatens to become an idol. Just as a man needs to ask himself where his priorities are, he also needs to ask himself where his loyalties lie.

I have known men who have worked extra jobs and extra shifts in order to allow their children to attend Christian schools, something these men determined was important enough merit time away from family. I have known men who have worked extra jobs and extra shifts in order to maintain an otherwise unsustainable lifestyle that was more than their families wanted or needed or because they wanted to rise up through the ranks, achieving status and power. Long hours may reflect good motives or bad ones, God-ward loyalties or self-centered ones. We may make an idol out of family and we may make an idol out of being away from family. The human heart is so tricky, so sneaky, so idolatrous.

Your Context Is Unique

Every family, every job, every relationship, every life stage is unique. It is up to the individual to determine how many hours he can work while still dedicating an appropriate amount of time to his wife and children (not to mention his church, his evangelistic efforts in his neighborhood, and so on). These can be difficult decisions. Thankfully the Lord has given us the Holy Spirit to guide us through the Bible, and he has given us Christian community where we can learn from and depend upon the wisdom of others. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5).

One thing to keep in mind: There are many jobs and many vocations, but the Lord gives you only one family, one opportunity to love your wife as Christ loved the church and one opportunity to raise your children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Sherlock Holmes and Mysterious Bible Passages

Eric McKiddie gives some sound advice on how to handle difficult Bible passages in his post “10 Tips on Solving Mysterious Bible Passages from Sherlock Holmes.”

McKiddie writes:

What can a fictional detective teach you about how to study the Bible?

A lot.

Last summer, I read The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Time and time again, Holmes commented to Watson about how to solve mysterious cases in ways that apply directly to studying the Bible.

You probably expect Holmes to take the most sophisticated approach to solving mysteries. But what struck me was that these comments illustrate the most basic Bible study principles.

Here are 10 quotes from Holmes that will equip you to solve mysterious passages of the Bible.

1. The number one mistake to avoid.

Holmes: “I have no data yet. It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.”

Far too often students of the Bible twist verses to suit interpretations instead of formulating interpretations to suit what the verses say.

Don’t approach your passage assuming you know what it means. Rather, use the data in the passage – the words that are used and how they fit together – to point you toward the correct interpretation.

2. The kind of looking that solves mysteries.

Holmes: “You have frequently seen the steps which lead up from the hall to this room.”

Watson: “Hundreds of times.”

Holmes: “Then how many are there?”

Watson: “How many? I don’t know!”

Holmes: “Quite so! You have not observed. And yet you have seen. That is just my point. Now, I know that there are seventeen steps, because I have both seen and observed.”

There is a difference between reading a Bible verse and observing it. Observation is a way of collecting details contained in a passage. As you read and reread the verses, pull the words into your brain where you can think about them and figure them out.

This habit will shed light on how you understand the text, even if the passage is as familiar as the stairs in your house.

3. Know what to look for.

Watson: “You appeared to [see] what was quite invisible to me.”

Holmes: “Not invisible but unnoticed, Watson. You did not know where to look, and so you missed all that was important.”

Know where to look for clues that will illuminate your passage. Look for repeated words and phrases, bookends (where the beginning and end of the passage contain similarities), and clues in the context around your passage.

Don’t know what to look for? Living by the Book by Howard Hendricks and How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart are great resources to start learning how to study the Bible.

4. Mundane details are important!

Watson: “I had expected to see Sherlock Holmes impatient under this rambling and inconsequential narrative, but, on the contrary, he had listened with the greatest concentration of attention.”

Don’t ignore parts of the passage that seem insignificant to its meaning. Treat every word as if it contains clues to the interpretation of the passage.

5. Use solutions to little mysteries to solve bigger ones.

Holmes: “The ideal reasoner would, when he had once been shown a single fact in all its bearings, deduce from it not only all the chain of events which led up to it but also all the results which would follow from it.”

Once you understand the passage that baffled you, your work is not done!

Now it’s time to locate that passage in the grand narrative of the Bible. How do previous books and stories lead up to your passage? How does your passage anticipate the consummation of all things that results at Jesus’ second coming?

6. The harder the mystery, the more evidence you need.

“This is a very deep business,” Holmes said at last. “There are a thousand details which I should desire to know before I decide upon our course of action.”

In grad school, one professor gave us an assignment requiring us students to make 75 observations on Acts 1:8. The verse does not even contain that many words!

The professor’s goal was to train us in compiling evidence. Harder Bible passages demand that we collect as much information as possible.

7. Break big mysteries down into little ones.

Watson: “Holmes walked slowly round and examined each and all of [the pieces of evidence] with the keenest interest.”

Difficult passages can be overwhelming. Break chapters down into paragraphs, paragraphs into verses, and verses into clauses. Devote careful attention to each chunk of the passage individually. Then try to piece together the meaning they have when added up as a whole.

8. Don’t be so committed to a solution that you ignore new evidence.

“I had,” said Holmes, “come to an entirely erroneous conclusion which shows, my dear Watson, how dangerous it always is to reason from insufficient data…I can only claim the merit that I instantly reconsidered my position.”

After you’ve put the hard work into grasping a mysterious passage, the case isn’t necessarily closed. Often you’ll run across other passages that shed new light on your passage. Or you’ll hear someone preach those verses in a different way than how you interpreted it.

Always be willing to consider new insights. This will at least help you nuance your understanding of the passage, if not take a different stance.

9. Simple solutions often provide answers to manifold mysteries.

Holmes: “The case has been an interesting one…because it serves to show very clearly how simple the explanation may be of an affair which at first sight seems to be almost inexplicable.”

Many passages that seem mysterious at first end up not being so bad. Their bark is worse than their bite. For example, several passages in Revelation, intimidating to so many, have simple explanations. (Not all, but some!)

10. On the other hand, so-called simple passages may be more complicated than initially meets the eye.

Holmes: “This matter really strikes very much deeper than either you or the police were at first inclined to think. It appeared to you to be a simple case; to me it seems exceedingly complex.”

This is often true of coffee mug and bumper sticker verses. We think they are simple to understand because we see them all the time. But once you dig into them, you realize they are more mysterious than meets the eye.

The Joy of Knowing God Through His Word

Gaining insight into hard passages of the Bible is often an exciting adventure.

But don’t forget that the Bible is less about a mystery to solve and more about an Author to know. As you tackle some of the tougher texts, don’t glory in your knowledge. Glory in God, who graciously reveals Himself through His Word.

Taken from Trevin Wax’s post for The Gospel Coalition