Archive | February, 2012
Growing in the Word podcast: 2-26-12

Growing in the Word podcast: 2-26-12

Morning service from Immanuel Baptist Church in Shawnee, OK from February 26th, 2012.  “Cross Training in Stewardship,”  I Timothy 6:6-10.

Would You Refuse to Rescue a Dying Person?

Would You Refuse to Rescue a Dying Person?

The famous missionary to China, Hudson Taylor, once recounted a heartbreaking story that happened to him while travelling by boat from one Chinese city to another.  Hudson tells the story in his own words:

“In the same boat was a Chinaman as passenger, who had been in England; and who, when there, went by the name of Peter.  He had heard the gospel, but had not experienced its saving power.  I had been speaking to him on the preceding evening about his soul’s salvation, and he had been moved to tears.  I was pleased, therefore, when he asked to be allowed to accompany me, and to hear me preach.  Our boat drew nearer the walls of the city, and I went into the cabin to prepare for going ashore, expecting in a few minutes to enter Sung-kiang Fu with my Chinese friend.  I was suddenly startled by a splash and a cry.  I sprang out of the cabin and looked around- every one was at his post but poor Peter.  I instantly leapt overboard, trying to find him.  Unsuccessful, I looked around in agonizing suspense, and saw, close to me, a fishing-boat with a peculiar drag-net furnished with hooks, which I knew would bring him up.

“Come!” I cried, as hope sprang up in my heart, “Come, and drag over this spot directly, for a man is drowning here.”

“Veh bin” – it’s not convenient – was the cold and unfeeling reply.

“Don’t talk of convenience,” I cried in an agony, “a man is drowning!”

“We are busy fishing and cannot come,” was the reply.

“Never mind your fishing,” I cried, “I will give you more money than many a day’s fishing will bring you, if you will come at once.”

“How much money will you give us?”

“I’ll give you five dollars.”

“We won’t come for that; we’ll drag for twenty dollars.”

“I have not got so much; do come quickly, and I’ll give you all the money I have.”

“How much is that?”

“About fourteen dollars.”

At last they came, and in less than one minute brought up the body of poor Peter.  They were most indignant and clamorous because the payment of their exorbitant demand was delayed while attempts were being made at resuscitation.  But all was in vain– Peter was dead.

Hudson goes on to apply the story to his fellow Englishmen: “My reader, would you not say that these men were verily guilty of this poor Chinaman’s death, in that they had the means of saving him at hand, but would not use them?  Surely they were!  And yet, pause ere you give your judgment against them, lest a greater than Nathan say, ‘Thou art the man.’”  Is it so hard hearted, so wicked a thing to neglect to save the body? Of how much sorer punishment is he worthy who leaves the soul to perish?  The Lord Jesus commands, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every person.’”

I told this story last Sunday in a message on the spiritual discipline of sharing our faith.  After our Saturday night worship service, a young man approached me with a very grave look on his face and said, “You know that story you told about Hudson Taylor?”  I replied in the affirmative.  He continued, “I have a friend who is a missionary in a coastal African country who witnessed a commercial plane crash several hundred yards off the coast.  The plane broke apart and there were many survivors crying out for help.  My missionary friend pleaded with the local fishermen who were watching as well to get in their boats and rescue the survivors.  One of the fishermen looked at her and said, ‘No, the bodies will bring in the sharks and that will make for good fishing tomorrow.’”

It’s hard to believe someone could be that cold and callous to human life.  How can we be that selfish at the expense of another’s life?  And yet, as Taylor admonished his countrymen, how can we who are in possession of the gospel and refuse to share with others say we are really any different.  It is tragic to not save the physical bodies of people.  It is even more tragic to not offer to those who are drowning spiritually the one thing that can save them- the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Do you actively share your faith?  Are you willing to invest in people and have repeated conversations about the Lord with them?  Remember, Jesus told us to make disciples, not just quickly tell people once about the gospel.  Are you willing to give of yourself, be patient and loving to people, and take the time to share what Christ has done for you and can do for them?  If you stood on the deck of a ship with a life preserver in hand while watching a man drowning, why would you not throw the lifeline to him?  Sharing the gospel is a matter of life and death. Who around you- that you work with, go to school with, live near, or are friends with on Facebook- is drowning and in need of the Lord’s rescue?  Go and share!

Mark 16:15- “And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.’”

Growing in the Word podcast: 2-19-12

Growing in the Word podcast: 2-19-12

Morning service from Immanuel Baptist Church in Shawnee, OK from February 19th, 2012.  “Cross Training in Sharing and Defending the Faith.”  II Tim 4: 1-5.

How to Get Started Running

How to Get Started Running

I have been excited to see so many people from our church begin running and training for a race.  Myself and others have recently run a marathon and it seems like the running “fever” is catching.  So, I thought in this blog post I would talk about how to get started running and why run in the first place?

I must admit most of my life I thought running was dumb.  I am a goal-oriented person and doing something that really had no beginning or ending seemed crazy.  I definitely subscribed to the notion that if you saw me running it would only be due to the fact I was being chased or trying to catch food.  However, about five years ago I had a routine medical check-up that revealed my triglyceride levels were too high and good cholesterol was too low.  My doctor told me the best way to fix a high triglyceride problem was to start exercising (and lay off a cheese enchilada or two).

At the time I was 37 and hadn’t really been active in exercise since I was in college.  So, I started to run.  I was amazed at how much I enjoyed running.  I discovered three things that I would share with you are good reasons to start running if you are considering it.

One, running made me feel physically better.  It’s hard to describe, but for me (and it seems this is true for most people as well) exercising regularly just makes you “feel” better.  I started losing weight, had more energy during the day, and started sleeping better.

Two, running was a mental boost for me.  There’s just something about setting a goal for yourself and then being able to accomplish it that does something positive for you.  I started tracking my runs through the Nike+ app on my phone/computer and set mileage and time goals to achieve with my runs.  It always felt good to accomplish those goals, particularly finishing the marathon.

Three, I was surprised to discover what a tremendous stress reliever running was for me.  As the pastor of a large church, things are often hectic and stressful for me.  My mind is always going 100 mph!  When I run, I put in the headphones and am able to turn my mind “off.”  I also wonder if there is some catharsis in pounding the pavement when you run.  My wife has noticed a significant change in my mood and perspective since I started running.  I think accomplishing goals that I just mentioned above has something to do with this as well.

Four, running takes discipline and I discovered that the discipline of physical exercise carried over into spiritual disciplines for me.  There will be plenty of days when you simply don’t feel like running, or your schedule will hinder it, or the weather will be bad.  You have to get out there and make yourself do it!  The same is true with spiritual disciplines like studying the Bible, praying, serving, etc.  Training myself physically to run helped me train myself spiritually in my walk with Christ.

So, that’s why I run and why I would encourage you to start running if you are so inclined.  Here are some pointers I would give to those who want to start running for the first time:

Make sure you are physically OK to run.  Most of what I have read says that if you are over 40 and/or 20 pounds overweight or more, you need to talk to your doctor before you start running.  Make sure past injuries or health problems will not be problematic for you if you start running.

Get a good pair of shoes at a running store.  Don’t settle for buying a pair of name brand running shoes at a department store and think you’ll be squared away.  You need to find a running store that can analyze your running stride (usually with video).  Everyone runs differently and most people have some form of pronation (where your foot turns).  Also, you need to know if you are a heel striker or mid-foot striker.  Experts at the store will fit you with certain types of shoes/brands that complement your particular running stride.  This makes a HUGE difference in reducing pain and enhancing performance when you run.  Shoes at stores like this are usually more expensive than a department store, but you are paying for their expertise and it’s very worth it.  Remember that running shoes, in general, need to be replaced approximately every 350 miles.

Find a good training plan and stick to it.  There are many different plans you can follow depending on what you are hoping to accomplish- anything from a 5k to a marathon.  You can find these on the Internet and on the app store.  These plans tell you what days of the week to run as well as how far and fast to run.  Modify the schedule to fit your schedule (as in what days you run and rest), but stick to it.  You’ll have to figure out what the best time of the day is for you to run- and many times the weather will dictate this for you.  Hal Higdon, Jeff Galloway, Couch Potato to 5K (smart phone app), and the runner magazines have good plans.

A good 8 week plan to start running can be found here: Runner’s World

Here is a helpful website called http://www.startrunningforbeginners.com/

Know about warm up/cool down and technique.  I have read opposing opinions on whether you should stretch before a run, but most agree you should stretch after running.  Remember, that warming up and cooling down with a walk are important aspects to running.  Also, you will read quite a bit about running technique.  Your stride, how you land your feet, how you move your arms, etc. are things you probably want to work on once you get going with running.

Find a good route and pace. To start running, I got in my car, reset the odometer, and drove out a one-mile lap in our neighborhood that was fairly flat.  If you have a smartphone, you can run with your phone in an armband using a GPS app (I use the Nike+ app) to tell you exactly how far and fast you are running while allowing you to listen to music.  If you get serious about running, you can look into purchasing a GPS watch.  If you have none of these, figure out the distance of your lap and use a watch to time yourself and figure out your pace.  For beginners, start out at a slow pace.  For most people, a slow steady jog is anywhere from a 12 to 15 minute a mile pace.  If you want to train for a race, the baseline you are shooting for is to be able to run 30 minutes without stopping. Depending on your pace, this will be running 2 to 3 miles.  Once you have this established, you start building up from there.  Please note: running that first mile or two is the hardest thing you’ll do.  Don’t give up! Be patient! You add distance and speed to your runs in small, gradual increments. You will be amazed at how far you will be able to run in a relatively short amount of time.

“Listen to your body.” An axiom I hear from many runners is, “Listen to your body.”  If you start running and experience pain then you need to stop and check it out.  Yes, training for a race will mean you must push yourself and keep going even though you want to stop, but be careful not to overdo it.  Typically pain in your feet, knees, and hips is most common. I have been surprised at how easy you can become injured while running.  I have torn a calf muscle, hurt my back, strained a hamstring, and aggravated an old ankle injury in the course of my running the past 5 years.  If you get hurt, make sure you know what is going on and then rest so that you can heal up.

Read and talk to other runners.  One of the best things you can do to start running is get online and start studying.  There is a ton of good stuff out there about running.  Also, talk to other runners.  You will learn valuable tips on everything from technique to equipment.

Well, these are just some of my initial thoughts about getting started on running.  I hope if you are a runner you will share your insights and tips for beginners in the comment section of this post. I know I have forgotten some things!

Growing in the Word podcast: 2-12-12

Growing in the Word podcast: 2-12-12

Morning service from Immanuel Baptist Church in Shawnee, OK from February 12th, 2012.  Cross Training in Worship.  I Timothy 1:15-17.

An Amazing Quote About an Amazing Man: Worth Pondering for Your Life

An Amazing Quote About an Amazing Man: Worth Pondering for Your Life

I am reading Kevin Belmonte’s biography on William Wilberforce, a Member of Parliament who almost single handedly with tireless courage brought an end to slavery in the British Empire in the 19th century.  Upon Wilberforce’s death in 1833, the Officers of the Convention for the Improvement of the Free People of Color in the United States held a meeting in New York City to decide how they could best commemorate Wilberforce’s life and accomplishments.  A committee within the group appointed Mr. Benjamin F. Hughes, Principal of the Free School, to “deliver an Eulogy on the Life and Character of the distinguished Philanthropist whose death we so much lament.”  Did Hughes ever deliver! His speech, Eulogium for William Wilberforce, is considered today a classic work of African-American literature.

Below is one quote from Hughes’ eulogy that moved me immensely.  After reading it, I just sat and pondered for some time, its power and my prayer that something similar could be said of me one day.  Here is the quote:

“I present you no bloodstained hero; he has led no slaughtering armies, he has desolated no kingdoms; for him no triumphal arch is reared; his laurels have been in another and nobler sphere.  He was no aspirant to popular applause, no time serving politician; he was the friend of the ‘robbed and peeled;’ [and] emphatically one of the greatest men of modern times… the Hercules of Abolition.”

Ponder this quote well.  May our lives be lived with the same humility, bravery and focused on matters of eternity.  May we win our laurels in another and nobler sphere.

Were Adam and Eve Real People? How the Gospel Depends On It

Were Adam and Eve Real People? How the Gospel Depends On It

The debate about our origins has taken a new twist.  A growing number of Christians, many of them considered conservative and evangelical, have yielded to the pressure of “the fact” of evolution and have attempted to meld the tenets of evolution with those of Christianity.  This view is commonly called “theistic evolution” and poses a dangerous threat to the gospel.

Last year, NPR reporter Barbara Bradley Hagerty, wrote an interesting piece where she interviewed Christian scholars regarding one of the major threats of theistic evolution- were Adam and Eve real, literal people?  You can read Hagerty’s article here:  Hagerty NPR article

Obviously, if one believes in the theory of evolution one is forced to not believe in the literal existence of Adam and Eve.  The sudden introduction of hominids on the earth about 6,000 years ago does not fit the evolutionary paradigm.  Additionally, proponents of evolution argue that genetically it is impossible for today’s gene rich human race to have descended from just two people a relatively short time ago.  This theory is commonly known as “Mitochondrial Eve” and can easily be argued against- click here:  Mitochondrial Eve

My point in this post is not to argue the finer points of the debate from a scientific perspective.  There are many websites that do that much more eloquently than I could. I wish to demonstrate the danger to the gospel posed by theistic evolution and the belief there could be no literal Adam and Eve.  How are such beliefs a threat?

To begin, if Adam and Eve are not literal people, how does the Fall of Man ever occur?  If humans evolved from primates and then pre-hominids, how do we know who the first “humans” were and consequently when sin was introduced into the world?  The story of God, man, the Fall, redemption, and restoration is the metanarrative that runs through all of Scripture.  This biblical metanarrative explains our separation from God through sin and the reason for Christ’s incarnation, death, and resurrection.  Yet, how can we believe this story if we cannot trust what it says to us regarding its beginning?

John Scneider, a former professor at Calvin College in Michigan, was quoted in Hagerty’s article stating, “Evolution makes it pretty clear that in nature, and in the moral experience of human beings, there never was any such paradise to be lost.  So Christians, I think, have a challenge, have a job on their hands to reformulate some of their tradition about human beginnings.”  You can easily see how that statement opposes the gospel and the biblical metanarrative.  Al Mohler (see his blog post on the subject here: Mohler blog post) responds saying, “At this point, we are looking at a repudiation of the Bible’s account of beginnings.  We are not talking about an argument over the interpretation of a few verses or even chapters of the Bible.  We are now dealing with the straightforward rejection, not only of the existence of Adam and Eve, but of both Eden and the Fall.  Look carefully at Professor Schneider’s words- ‘there never was any such paradise to be lost.’”  If Adam and Eve are reduced to figurative components of a larger figurative narrative, key concepts of the gospel become untenable propositions.

Another key problem with denying the literal existence of Adam and Eve is what such a rejection does to the veracity of the Bible itself.  It is clear that when the Bible talks about Adam and Eve and the origins of life it is not only referencing them as literal people, but also making truth claims.  There is nothing in the text that would point to the need of using a figurative hermeneutic (e.g. texts that include hyperbole, such gouging out your eye and cutting off your hand).  The children and descendants of Adam and Eve are presented as literal people describing actual events that occur in their lives.  This is further evident in the genealogies of the OT (1 Chron. 1:1) and the NT (Matt. 1:1-16 and Luke 3:23-38).  If the authors of biblical texts did not see their descendants (including Adam and Eve) as literal people, why include them in a genealogy?  There is little doubt that Jesus thought Adam and Eve were literal, physical people in His teaching on marriage and divorce in Matt. 19:3-6- “He made the male and female… and the two shall become one flesh.”  If they were merely figurative representations for humanity, it is inconceivable that Jesus would use the term “flesh” in association with Adam and Eve.

The Apostle Paul also affirmed the literal existence of Adam and Eve and clearly demonstrated the theological importance of such.  To begin, in 1 Tim. 2:13 Paul says that “Adam was first created [or formed], and then Eve.”  These are hardly the vocabulary choices Paul would have made if he thought Adam and Eve were figurative beings.  In Rom. 5:12-14, Paul states that sin and death entered into the world through one man- Adam. Again, such a statement does not fit an evolutionary construct.  If evolution is true, exactly how and when was sin and death introduced into human history?  In 1 Cor. 15:45-49, Paul links Jesus to Adam saying that the first Adam was “the first man… a living soul” and the last Adam, Jesus, is the One who restores mankind to life.  These two texts from Paul reveal that Adam and Jesus are linked together.  The first Adam brought death to humanity, the last Adam brought life through salvation.  Notice that none of this works if the first Adam is not a literal, physical person.  If Adam and Eve are not the parents of all humanity, we really don’t have a clear understanding of sin which means we don’t have a clear understanding of the need for salvation and the person and work of Christ.  The gospel simply does not work if Adam and Eve are not real people.

Finally, Christians who espouse theistic evolution have a problem as to the mechanics of understanding when the figurative aspect of the biblical metanarrative stops and the literal takes over.  I have had discussions with Christians who say Adam and Eve were not literal, nor is the account of a universal flood, and particularly not the story of Jonah and the whale.  However, they believe the incarnation, death, and resurrection of Jesus are literal events.  When I ask the question, “If the people and events in Genesis and other OT texts are figurative, what is the reasoning for believing the people and events in the NT are not figurative as well?” I have yet to hear a satisfying answer to that question.  My point is that in the biblical metanarrative, once you open the gate to a figurative understanding of the text (of course, not withstanding those texts intentionally meant to be so), how and when does that gate close?  If Adam is figurative, what keeps us from thinking Jesus is figurative as well?

Failing to view the literal existence of Adam and Eve is a theologically impossible and fatal thing to do.  It is especially egregious when one understands that such an approach is taken in order to capitulate to a secular philosophy such as evolution.  The Scripture is clear on how the metanarrative begins. If we muddle that clarity, we muddle the rest of the story and have thus attempted to change the very foundation and framework of Christianity itself.

 

Growing in the Word podcast: 2-5-12

Growing in the Word podcast: 2-5-12

Morning service from Immanuel Baptist Church in Shawnee, OK from February 5th, 2012.  Dr. Todd introduces the discipline of service to the Cross Training series.  I Timothy 4:12-16.