Archive | January, 2011
Learning How to Walk

Learning How to Walk

The last two years I have been travelling to Africa and hiking in the mountains to remote villages to help people attain clean water sources and to share the gospel. As a result, I have learned a great deal about hiking: What to wear, what to bring, what to do/not do, how to sterilize water, etc. I have come to really enjoy hiking, not so much because of the beautiful scenery that I do enjoy, but because of the fellowship. I have had the privilege of going on these hiking trips with some very godly men. For days, we would walk together and talk about everything: our relationship with the Lord, doctrine, sports, entertainment, you name it. What a rewarding experience to walk alongside men who sharpened me as a Christian, husband, father, pastor, teacher, and friend.

Little wonder that the Bible often uses the metaphor of walking to represent our relationship to God. When we walk with God, we find the fellowship with Him transformative. Every day, I need to willingly and consistently spend time with God through Bible study and prayer and then actively and passionately obey what He tells me. So, how do we walk with God? Enoch walked with God so closely that he never died (Gen. 5:21-24). God just took him up to heaven. Imagine being so close to the Lord that He decided to transfer you to be with Him. For Enoch, the inference is that the transfer wasn’t even an interruption. Yes, he had a drastic change of scenery, but his focus, priorities, and passion didn’t change. How can we walk so close with God that if we were to be taken to heaven the way we live wouldn’t change?

Amos 3:3 states, “Do two walk together unless they have agreed to meet?” Kent Hughes, writing on the life of Enoch, shares an outline of three points about the things in which we must agree with God in order to walk with Him. I want to share those and elaborate on each.

We have to agree on the place. Husbands and wives find it difficult to shop together when one wants to go to Macy’s and the other to Bass Pro! If the destination is not agreed upon, you will be walking alone. We must learn what God’s destination is for us and walk to that place. When deciding where to go (shop, eat, etc.) we usually decide based upon what’s most important to us. If you ask me where I want to eat, I will usually respond Mexican food because that’s what is most important to me when it comes to food! If we were to ask God, “What is most important to You?” I think He would respond with a twofold answer: His glory and His kingdom. Jesus indicated this in the first part of the model prayer (Matt. 6: 9-10). God is jealous for His glory and He desires that we employ our lives, not building a kingdom for ourselves, but for Him. Each of us needs to ask, “Is God being glorified in what I do, say, and watch? Is there evidence of God’s kingdom (His rule in my life) when others in my family, work, or school observe me?” The place God wants to take you is to glorify Himself and to encourage others to follow Him. Is that true of your life?

We have to agree on the path. Remember those old Family Circus cartoons where one of the children would go from point A to point B through some long, convoluted path marked by a dashed line? It’s not the path the parents intended! Many of us would love to glorify God in our lives, but we often want to follow our own path, not God’s path. How can I make sure the path I am walking is God’s path? I encourage you to read Ephesians chapters 4-6. Paul speaks a great deal about how we should walk on a path of truth, love, and light among others. If the characteristics of God characterize our life, then we are on the right path. Micah 6:8- “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

We have to agree on the pace. Sometimes we lag behind God in our lives. We have been a Christian long enough to be off of the milk of the Word and on to the meat (Heb. 5:12-14). At other times, we can get ahead of God. Some can get into burdensome debt because they got ahead of God’s will in their finances. Some can be in bad relationships because they got ahead of God’s plan. We need to be sure that we are being still before God, listening to what He says to us and where he leads us.

The amazing thing about Enoch is that he lived to be 365 years old. He walked with God for 300 years in a time of the world that was so depraved God was about to destroy it with a flood. Enoch is a great encouragement for us. He never grew tired of walking with God. He never got discouraged by a sinful world to the point that he gave up on God. I hope the same will always be true for you and me as well. How’s your walk with God? Give it your very best and you will find it a truly rewarding experience.

Growing in the Word podcast: 1-30-11

Growing in the Word podcast: 1-30-11

Morning service from Immanuel Baptist Church.  Todd preaches from Hebrews 11 about the life of Enoch and what it means to walk with the Lord.

Having Your Cake and Eating It Too: The Incompatibility of Jesus and Darwin

Having Your Cake and Eating It Too: The Incompatibility of Jesus and Darwin

There has been quite a bit of attention lately about the issue of theistic evolution. Books like Saving Darwin by Karl Giberson propose that Christians can hold to their religious convictions and believe in evolution at the same time. Notable people such as Francis Collins have stated that Christians must hold to the theory of evolution or lose its credibility with the world to share the gospel. Of course, theistic evolutionists would disagree with atheistic, naturalistic evolutionists in that our origins lie with God’s creation. But beyond that, theistic evolutionists concur with most of the scientific community that the earth is billions of years old and that the evidence for evolution and transitional forms is irrefutable. The epistemology (how we know things) of science is the scientific method which means the burden to “prove” the fact of evolution is incumbent upon scientists. In fact, as Phillip Johnson so poignantly notes in his book Darwin on Trial, the scientific community rarely refers to the theory of evolution, but rather the fact of evolution.

The problem is that any objective study of the evidence of of the fossil record, the field of chemistry, etc. reveals that evolution is far from a fact. It cannot be “proved” by any stretch of the imagination. Perhaps this is why, if you have ever heard Richard Dawkins speak at an event such as his appearance at Oklahoma University a few years ago, he doesn’t speak about scientific evidence for evolution. Instead, he gives ad hominem arguments against the Christian community and insults them for their ignorance and backwardness. One can only wonder if he does this because he doesn’t have the evidence on his side? The scientific community merely approaches the question of our beginnings from the presupposition that faith in the supernatural is not a rational position to hold.

The dangerous issue the Christian community faces today is the growing number of Christians who have bought into the “fact” of evolution. To do so, and adhere to theistic evolution, presents doctrinal challenges that eviscerates the gospel of Jesus Christ. One of the major issues of holding to theistic evolution is that it eliminates the possibility (and necessity) of Adam and Eve being historical, literal people (in fact, theistic evolution really cannot adhere to the historicity of the first eleven chapters of Genesis). If Adam and Eve are figurative characters, then it becomes impossible to reconcile the biblical account of the Fall of man and the introduction of sin into the world. This obviously has huge implications for the gospel and the work of Christ on the cross and resurrection.

The theistic evolution debate is another sign of the Christian community trying to have its cake and eat it, too. Why do we need to accept what the world says in order to be “credible?” We are reminded in Scripture that the cross will often be an offense and stumbling block for many. Theistic evolution has bought the lie that if you do not believe in evolution you are an anti-intellectual (a fallacy indeed!). Yet the doctrinal price is too high to pay to hold to theistic evolution. Christians need to affirm that Jesus and Darwin are competing worldviews- it is impossible to reconcile them.

For further study, read the Baptist Press articles (links below) recently released which track the debate about theistic evolution between Albert Mohler and the BioLogos Foundation.

The New Shape of the Debate
Theistic Evolutionists, too, Face “Suspicion” and “Condescension”
Mohler at Center of Debate Over Evolution and Bible

Also, one of the best books available that refutes evolution and its accompanying presuppositions and fallacies is Darwin on Trial by Phillip Johnson.

The Two Greatest Blights in Our Nation’s History: A Failure to Value Human Life

The Two Greatest Blights in Our Nation’s History: A Failure to Value Human Life

Two of the greatest blights on our nation’s history are slavery and abortion. I have had cause to ponder both of these issues in the recent past. January always marks the Sanctity of Human Life Sunday observed in many evangelical churches. That day corresponds to the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. News outlets last week reported the grisly findings of Philadelphia police in the abortion clinic of Dr. Kermit Gosnell. Gosnell is being charged for murder for killing babies born alive during late term abortions. The babies were killed when Gosnell, or one of his associates, would insert scissors into the back of the baby’s neck severing the spinal
cord. One instance reported that a baby wiggled around on a counter top for twenty minutes before someone came in and performed the murderous procedure. You can read the full story about Gosnell and the despicable condition and practices of his clinic here:

“House of Horrors” Abortion Clinic

I used Gosnell last Sunday in my sermon to illustrate what happens to us whenever we think we have figured something out better than God. In essence, this is what Cain did with his offering in Gen. 4. Either he didn’t offer the right kind of offering or he didn’t give his best. Either way, he decided he had come up with an improved way of worshiping the Lord and thus God rejected his offering. We do this today with the origin of the universe, marriage, sexual morality, and the sanctity of human life. Gosnell obviously bought in to the secularist notion that life in the womb isn’t yet a “human.” When we functionally say to God we have things better figured out than Him, the consequences can often spin out of control. This is what happened to Cain- he eventually murdered his brother. And so it did with Gosnell.

My first thought in talking about Gosnell in church was to sanitize the gruesome details. Though I did tone it down somewhat, I’m convinced the reason we have Kermit Gosnells in this country is because we have swept under the carpet and sanitized too much the horrific, despicable practice of abortion. I am always dismayed and saddened when our leaders affirm abortion. President Obama made recent comments in honor of the Roe v. Wade decision supporting the decision. You can read his statement as well as view a powerful video from John Piper responding to similar comments from the President a few years ago here:

President Obama and Abortion/Piper Response

God have mercy on us for enabling and approving the practice of abortion. What an amazingly crass and defiant disregard for God, His Word, and the precious life created in his image.

The second blight I mentioned was slavery. Fortunately, this is a thing of the past- or so we think. I was amazed to hear my wife tell me of a conversation she recently had with someone about the issue of human trafficking. I was amazed to hear that Oklahoma ranks fifth in the nation in human trafficking (I do not know the source for that statistic). Also, human traffickers target large events, such as the upcoming Super Bowl, to do their unimaginable business. Watch an eye-opening video about human trafficking at the Super Bowl and learn awareness from this site:

The Home Foundation

Human trafficking is something we need to be aware of and strongly oppose. It, too, is a blatant slap in the face to the dignity and sanctity of human life. Consider this excerpt from the website www.traffick911.com about a young girl enslaved in human trafficking:

“One little girl finally told her captor just to kill her, she couldn’t do it anymore. The pimp refused, telling her he makes too much money off her. If she wouldn’t do what he told her to, he would kidnap her 8 year-old sister and pour battery acid over her face while she watched. The little girl complied, living in a dog cage when she wasn’t being sold to man after man.”

How can such atrocities exist in this world and in our own country? Pray that we can stem the tide of the disregard for the sanctity of human life.

Growing in the Word podcast: 1-23-11

Growing in the Word podcast: 1-23-11

Immanuel Baptist Church Service from January 23rd, 2011.  Pastor Todd continues his series in Hebrews 11.

Never Missed a Super Bowl- But Was It Worth the Price You Paid?

Never Missed a Super Bowl- But Was It Worth the Price You Paid?

The next Super Bowl is coming up at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX on Feb. 8. Visa is running an ad campaign giving away the opportunity to go to every Super Bowl for the rest of your life.  Their commercials tell the story of four men who have attended every Super Bowl since the first one in 1967.  One commercial features Larry Jacobson who states, “I’ve missed weddings, I’ve missed babies being born, but I have no intention of missing a Super Bowl… ever.”  See the Visa commercial about him here:

Some of my first thoughts when I heard about the “Never Missed a Super Bowl Club” were: How fun it would be to attend every Super Bowl and how lucky these guys are that the NFL gives them access to tickets at face value.  Not only has Jacobson been to every Super Bowl, he’s also been to the last 46 Rose Bowls and the last 11 Summer Olympics dating back to the 1968 games in Mexico City.

But the overriding thought that occurs to me is that these guys have paid a terrible price to feed their fanaticism for sports.  I couldn’t discover for sure, but apparently these men have missed the births of their own children or grandchildren to attend the big game.  They have stated that their quest to attend sporting events has caused some friction in their families.  I’m sure that’s an understatement!  Jacobson notes that his friends call him “Mr. Excitement” because he is so fixated on the game that he doesn’t speak to anyone.  In the commercial he states, tongue in cheek, that he can telepathically help a kick go through the uprights because he is so focused on the ball.

One can only wonder- what if he was as focused on his family?  Or the Lord?  What do the wives and kids think about dad/granddad missing weddings, births, and birthdays for a game.  One member of the club said, “My wife doesn’t play fair” referring to his attending every Super Bowl.  Can we blame her?  I don’t mean to be negative toward these men, but their story illustrates the rampant problem so many families face today- an absentee or very distracted father.  Dads, outside of your relationship with Christ, what could possibly be more important that your relationship with your wife and kids?  What message are we sending to them when work, sports, hunting/fishing, etc. clearly earns more of our time and passion than they do?  Of course, I’m not saying we have to give any of these up.  But I am saying that we need to evaluate our priorities and make sure the most important people in our lives get the best part of who we are.

Each of the men in the Never Missed a Super Bowl Club have the programs and ticket stubs from every game.  One day these things will fade away and they certainly won’t bring them along when they die.  Great memories?  Yes.  But last for eternity and live beyond themselves? No.  We fathers need to make sure we are investing in the lives of our family- that’s certainly something infinitely more important and will outlive us one day.  Dad, you only get one chance at raising your kids.  Give them your best.  Give your wife your best.  Though they’ll never make an ad campaign and commercials around your devotion to family, it’s something of far greater value on which to brag.

"You Gotta Have Faith!"

"You Gotta Have Faith!"

Spending my teen years in the 80’s meant I got to hear a lot of interesting music.  One of the most popular singers from that time was George Michael who had a hit song called “Faith.”  In it, Michael sings an expression from pop culture- “You gotta have faith!”  Even as a teenager, I remember wanting to reply to that song, “Faith in what?”

I have learned that faith must have an object.  Heb. 11:1 states, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  The word “assurance” literally means “that which stands under.”  It often is translated as “foundation,” or “substance.”  The object of Christian faith is Jesus.  Faith in and of itself has no intrinsic value.  It makes no sense to have faith in faith itself.  Jesus has the power, resources, and trustworthiness to trust our lives to Him.  When John G. Paton was translating the Bible in the Outer Hebrides, he searched for the exact word to use for faith.  He finally found it in a word that meant, “to lean your whole weight upon.”

That’s what faith is- to lean all of our weight, our lives, our expectations, our understanding of who we are, life now, eternal life- we lean all of it on Christ.  That is faith.  So faith having an object means it is more than a charm, or sentimental feeling.  When the object of our faith is Jesus, it means we must all commit to living and personally engaging daily in this faith.  Faith acts on what it believes.

Vincent Donovan tells the story of talking to a Masai elder about how to translate the word “faith” into the Masai language.  The elder argued that the word the missionaries had chosen meant “to agree to.”  He said the problem with that word is that it’s like a white hunter shooting an animal with his gun from a distance.  Only his eyes and his fingers take part in the act.  But for a man to really believe and have faith needs merits a different word like a lion going after its prey.  His nose, eyes, and ears prick up at the prey.  His legs give him speed to catch the prey.  All the power of his body is involved in the terrible death leap and single blow to the neck.  As the animal goes down he encompasses it in his front paws, pulls it to himself and makes it part of himself.  That is how a lion kills and that is how we should have faith.

The Masai elder was right.  Too often, how we engage our faith and live it out involves only a small part of us.  There is no passion and no life change.  Our faith in Christ must envelop every part of who we are- our actions, thoughts, words, habits, treatment of others, spending of time and resources, etc.  Do you have faith?  If so, faith in what?  Or better yet- faith in what person?  Is Christ transforming your life?  I pray He is- it’s a great way to live!

Growing in the Word podcast: 1-16-11

Growing in the Word podcast: 1-16-11

Immanuel Baptist Church service from January 16th, 2011.  Pastor Todd discusses being well equipped for the disciples journey and begins study in Hebrews 11.

Earning Our Way to Heaven?

Earning Our Way to Heaven?

News outlets have been reporting that the Roman Catholic Church is planning on beatifying former Pope John Paul II as soon as May 1.  To be beatified, one must conduct a miracle.  Catholic authorities are claiming that a French nun with Parkinson’s Disease has been healed after praying to the former Pope.  John Paul II will need a second miracle to be become a saint.  Such news is a reminder of how misguided we can become in regard to matters of faith.  When we interject our own spurious interpretations of Scripture, it leads us away from a God-exalting, truth-honoring worldview.  There is much I could say in opposition about the beatification of the former Pope.  Suffice it to say Jesus never taught us to pray to people, only to God.  The notion of venerating a person runs counter to the biblical principle that God alone is to be glorified.

However, this news story points to a larger issue that plagues so much of the world’s religious understanding: that being good and doing good will make you right with God.  Pope John Paul II enjoyed a long tenure and did much to advance the perception of the papacy.  He wrote books and tirelessly toured the world to advance the beliefs and causes of which he believed.  As such, the public is pushing for the former Pope to reach sainthood.  In 2005, at the funeral mass for John Paul II, the crowds shouted, “Santo Subito!” or “Sainthood immediately!”  Because he did so much good, many believe, the Pope should become a saint.

On any given day, I could go to a public place (even here in the Bible Belt) and take a poll on how a person gets to heaven.  Without fail, the majority of responses to the question, “How can you get to heaven?” would be based on good works.  Many people believe that as long as their good deeds outweigh their bad deeds, then they will be right with God.  The Scripture teaches something much different- “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).  Salvation is not the result of balancing deeds, it is the result of Christ cancelling out our sin-tainted deeds at the cross.  I am saved not because of what I do, but because of what Christ did.  No amount of good works a person could do would ever satisfy the perfect, righteous standard of God.  We must trust in the perfect work of Jesus at the cross and in the Resurrection to atone for our sin and put us in right standing with God.

Don’t misunderstand: good works are very important.  Yet, we must remember that Good deeds are the result of salvation, never the basis for it.  I do good, not as an effort to be right with God, but because I have already been made right with Him on the basis of His work and my faith in Him.  Take a moment today to thank God that your salvation is not dependent on you.  If it were, we’d all be in trouble!  “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).

Wanna Get Away?

Wanna Get Away?

You probably remember the Southwest Airlines commercials showing someone doing something embarrassing followed by the tagline- “Wanna get away?”  As Christians, it needs to be our desire to “wanna get away,” not because of embarrassment, but because we need to be spending quality time with God everyday.  Within our daily schedule, we should develop the discipline to spend time with God in His Word and in prayer.  Such a time is often referred to as a “quiet time” and is an essential part of our journey in growing deeper in our relationship with Christ.  A “quiet time” is a time when you get alone with God for the purpose of studying His Word, reflect on what the Lord has spoken to your heart, pray, and worship.

You may ask, “Why do I need to have a quiet time?”  Jesus calls each of us to relationship with Himself- not religion.  Religion is an empty, outward, “going through the motions” type of religious sentiment that does little impact your daily life.  Relationship is experiencing the living God in such a way that He transforms who you are.  Religion is often man-made attempts to improve ourselves or alleviate our consciences in order to appease God in some way.  However, the Scripture calls us not to become better versions of ourselves, but instead to die to ourselves and become new in Christ- “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.  All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:17-18).

A quiet time with God is an essential part of a transforming relationship with Christ.  Think about it: not one relationship you have with another person can grow apart from the investment of quality time.  The same is true with our relationship to Jesus.  Having a daily quiet time keeps us “in tune” with the will of God in our lives.  When we fail to regularly study the Word and pray, we begin to get more susceptible to temptation and the things that draw us away from obediently following the Lord.

We should note that some of the greatest “heroes” in the Bible had the discipline of a quiet time- Moses, David, Daniel, Nehemiah just to name a few.  Most significant however, is the fact that Jesus Himself had regular quiet times with God.  On numerous occasions in the Gospels we read that Jesus got alone by Himself to spend time in prayer with the Father.  The obvious conclusion is that if Jesus and these others from the Bible had quiet times we should as well!

Practical Suggestions for Having a Quiet Time

In Matt. 14:23 we read about one of Jesus’ quiet times- “And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone.”  Consider these practical helps that we can learn from Jesus’ quiet time:

1. Make prayer a priority

And after He sent the multitudes away…”  Jesus was an incredibly busy person with many demands on Him.  Sounds like most of us today, huh?  Yet, he made time to have time with God.  We will have to say “no” to some things, or get up a little earlier in the morning, or turn off the TV in order to have our quiet time.  It takes discipline!

2. Discover the secret place

…He went up to the mountain by Himself to pray…”  Notice how Jesus got alone for His quiet time.  He minimized distractions by getting up early or staying up late and being by Himself.  A helpful suggestion is to find a certain place- in your home, office, etc. where you know you can be alone and uninterrupted to pray and study the Bible.

3. Realize the value of silence

…and when it was evening, He was there alone.”  Being alone after the busyness of the day was over meant it was quiet for Jesus.  Sadly, many of us think we have had our quiet time while driving to work, saying a fast prayer with the TV on in the background, or quickly scanning a one-minute devotional.  It’s fine to pray in the car (with your eyes open!) or the hallway of your school, but these alone cannot deepen and build our relationship with the Lord.  I know it never goes well for me when I try to listen to my wife and see the score of the game at the same time!  We must get alone where it is quiet with no distractions and listen to what the Lord says to us through His Word and His Spirit.

I pray you will “wanna get away” and grow in your relationship with Christ.