Pros and cons of short term mission trips

The Washington Post had an interesting piece titled Teen missions being retooled.  Here are some snippets. 

WASHINGTON — Not long ago, the families of Fairfax (Va.) Presbyterian Church spent thousands of dollars to fly their teens to Mexico for eight days of doing good. They helped build homes and refurbish churches as part of an army of more than 1 million mostly Christians who annually go on short-term international mission trips to work and evangelize in poverty-stricken lands.

Yet even as those trips have increased in popularity, they have come under increased scrutiny. A growing body of research questions the value of the trips abroad, which are supposed to bring hope and Christianity to the needy of the world, while offering American participants an opportunity to work in disadvantaged communities, develop relationships and charge up their faith.

Critics scornfully call such trips “religious tourism” undertaken by “vacationaries.” Some blunders include a wall built on the children’s soccer field at an orphanage in Brazil that had to be torn down after the visitors left. In Mexico, a church was painted six times during one summer by six different groups. In Ecuador, a church was built but never used because the community said it was not needed.

I don’t see how people serving on mission trips on their vacations is a bad thing.  Of course, non-value added activities like re-painting the same thing or building inadequate or unnecessary structures is ridiculous.  But those things can be prevented with good planning.

I heard of parts of Mexico referred to as the “Methodist ruins” because many churches started projects and didn’t follow through.  Just because you are doing a good deed doesn’t mean you don’t need wisdom, discernment, superior planning and organization.

The church is sending out smaller teams of experts to work on projects with partner churches. For example, it is sending information technology professionals who are fluent in Spanish to a church in the Dominican Republic to train members in computer skills so they can get better jobs, MacDonald said.

Despite the concerns with trips abroad, their popularity is soaring. Some groups go as far away as China, Thailand and Russia. From a few hundred in the 1960s, the trips have proliferated in recent years. A Princeton University study found that 1.6 million people took short-term mission trips — an average of eight days — in 2005. Estimates of the money spent on these trips is upward of $2.4 billion a year. Vacation destinations are especially popular: Recent research has found that the Bahamas receives one short-term missionary for every 15 residents.

At the same time, the number of long-term American missionaries, who go abroad from several years to a lifetime, has fallen, according to a Wheaton College study done last year.

The short-term mission trip is a “huge phenomenon that seems to be gaining in momentum rather than waning,” said David Livermore, executive director of the Global Learning Center at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, who studies the trend.

Participants care for orphans, hold Bible classes, evangelize, paint homes and churches and help AIDS patients, among other tasks.

But research has found that the trips tend to have few long-term effects on the local people or on the mission travelers. Some projects take away work from local people, are unnecessary and sometimes dangerous.

I wonder what groups they researched.  That has not been my experience.   Then again, we typically send teams to the same places over and over so that relationships are built and we can be sure we are making a difference.

“I really don’t think that most people are trying to be ugly Americans,” said Glenn Schwartz, executive director of World Mission Associates and author of When Charity Destroys Dignity. “But they’re misinformed and don’t realize how their good intentions can go awry.”

Mission groups also often bring their own experts and ignore local authorities on the ground.

In Monrovia, Liberia, three years ago, tragedy occurred when visitors built a school to their standards instead of Liberian standards. During the monsoon season, the building collapsed, killing two children, Livermore said.

Understanding the local customs and needs is crucial.  We always defer to local building practices. 

Critics also question the expense involved in sending people long distances. Short-term missionaries pay $1,000 each, or far more, in plane fare and other expenses to get to remote destinations.

A 2006 study in Honduras found that short-term mission groups spent an average of $30,000 on their trips to build one home that a local group could construct for $2,000.

“To spend $30,000 to paint a church or build a house that costs $2,000 doesn’t make a whole lot of sense,” said Kurt Ver Beek, a professor of sociology at Calvin College who conducted the research.

I think that misses the point.  Mission trips aren’t just about the physical property being built or repaired.  They are about relationships with the people, helping them in ways that are meaningful and lasting, sharing the Gospel and transforming the lives of those who go.  It changes how you view the world. 

And practically speaking, I’ve found that people who go on short term mission trips write more and bigger checks to help these areas, and they encourage others to do the same.  Who better to tell people of the needs than those who have been there?

All of the objections brought up in the article could be dealt with by applying more wisdom and planning.

1 Corinthians 14

1c141.jpgGreetings!  The topic of speaking in tongues (that is, a special language that most others cannot understand) is often controversial.  Some think this spiritual gift ceased after the early church died out, but I don’t see any Biblical justification for that.  But I definitely don’t see it as a requirement for being a “true” Christian, as some believe.  This is an excellent piece on why speaking in tongues is not required for salvation. 

In my experience the churches who emphasize speaking in tongues do not follow the Biblical pattern.  It really isn’t that complicated.  This chapter has the most discussion on this gift, though it is also mentioned elsewhere in 1 Corinthians, five times in the book of Acts (though at least one of those was a completely different type of speaking in tongues, where people spoke their normal language but others could understand them), and one time in chapter 16 of the book of Mark, though that passage is highly disputed.

Paul is actually quite clear here: Speaking in tongues is permitted but not required, and when it is done it should follow certain guidelines so as not to confuse people.

Note: When Paul speaks of “brothers” it is a broad term that includes both sexes.

Gifts of Prophecy and Tongues

14     Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy. 2 For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit. 3 But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort. 4 He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. 5 I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. He who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may be edified.

6 Now, brothers, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction? 7 Even in the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as the flute or harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes? 8 Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle? 9 So it is with you. Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air. 10 Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. 11 If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and he is a foreigner to me. 12 So it is with you. Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church.

13 For this reason anyone who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret what he says. 14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. 15 So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind. 16 If you are praising God with your spirit, how can one who finds himself among those who do not understand say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying? 17 You may be giving thanks well enough, but the other man is not edified.

18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19 But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.

20 Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults. 21 In the Law it is written: “Through men of strange tongues and through the lips of foreigners I will speak to this people, but even then they will not listen to me,” says the Lord.

22 Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is for believers, not for unbelievers. 23 So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and some who do not understand or some unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? 24 But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, 25 and the secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!”

Orderly Worship

26 What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. 27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. 28 If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God.

29 Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. 30 And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. 31 For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. 32 The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. 33 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.

As in all the congregations of the saints, 34 women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. 35 If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.

That is a controversial passage with various interpretations, but as best I can tell the “women” in question are married women who were disrupting the church services. 

36 Did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? 37 If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command. 38 If he ignores this, he himself will be ignored.

39 Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

God doesn’t give overly detailed requirements for worship in the Christian Church, especially compared to the Israelite guidelines in the Old Testament.  But He does require order and not chaos.

How many translations did your Bible go through?

bible5.gifOne. 

Really. Just one time from the original language to the language and version of your Bible.  The original writings were copied many times, but the Bible you hold was only translated once.

Many people – including some Christians – are quick to say that the Bible has been translated and changed so many times over the centuries that we don’t know what the original writings said.  For example, I just saw a video clip where Deepak Chopra (alleged religious expert) claims that the King James was the 13th iteration of the Bible.

But contrary to that myth, the books of the Bible have only been translated once and the copying process was very robust, dependable and verifiable.   

For example, Paul wrote in Greek, and we have Greek manuscripts to make translations from.  That is one translation. 

Conventional wisdom: Tranlations from one language to another to another . . .

Greek original ==> Latin translation ==> other translations ==> King James version ==> New International Version, etc. 

What actually happened

Greek original ==> copies of Greek original ==> Latin version

Greek original ==> copies of Greek original ==> King James version

Greek original ==> copies of Greek original ==> New International Version

Etc.

So the real issue is how accurate and reliable the copying process was.  The science of textual criticism shows that the copies of the New Testament are 99.5% accurate and that the differences are minor and have no impact on Christian theology. 

Regarding the Old Testament, here are some notes from the Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry:

The OT does not have as many supporting manuscripts as the NT but it is, nevertheless, remarkably reliable.

  1. The Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Hebrew OT done around 250 B.C., attests to the reliability and consistency of the OT when it is compared to existing Hebrew manuscripts.
  2. The Dead Sea Scrolls discovered in 1947 also verify the reliability of the OT manuscripts.
  3. The Dead Sea Scrolls were ancient documents that were hidden in a cave in Israel about 2000 years ago. The scrolls contained many OT books, one of them being Isaiah.
    1. Before the Dead Sea scrolls, the earliest existing manuscript of the OT was dated around 900 A.D. called the Masoretic Text. The Scrolls contained OT documents 1000 years earlier. A comparison between the manuscripts revealed an incredible accuracy of transmission through copying, so much so that critics were silenced.

In summary, the Bible you hold has only been translated once, and the copying process was very robust, dependable and verifiable. 

Also see Is The New Testament Reliable? and Has the Bible been rewritten so many times that we can’t trust it anymore?

Privatize Social Security

Lotteries are illegal unless the government runs them, and so are pyramid schemes like Social security.

For most people, the government extracts over 15% of their pay for FICA.  Technically, half comes from the employee and half from the employer, but of course the employer could give it to the employee since it is already part of their total payroll costs.

So if Social Security were privatized you could invest a full 10% of your pay in a personal account and the government would still have over 5% of your pay for general welfare.  But that isn’t enough for them!  Most people pay more in FICA than they do in Federal Taxes (again, when including the employer portion).

If business leaders published financial statements the way the government does with respect to FICA receipts they would be put in jail.  Enron pales by comparison.

Remember, Social Security programs may be good public policy if administered properly, but they don’t qualify as individual compassion.  That is a foundational mistake of liberalism: Taking other people’s money at the barrel of a gun and considering it compassion on your part. 

And I’m not being dramatic.  What do you think happens if people don’t pay taxes?  Does the government just try to reason with them?  No, they take away your property and/or your freedom, and they will point a gun at you and take you “hostage” if they have to.  I always wonder how pacifists ignore this when they are demanding government taxation and controls. 

Real compassion is donating money out your wallet. 

Am I saying that we should let old people die in the streets?  Of course not.  But there is a much better way than continuing the lies and the pyramid scheme that is destined to fail.

Why is it that liberal politicians are pro-choice when the “choice” is to crush and dismember an innocent human being, but anti-choice when it is (allegedly) your retirement money, the school your kids attend, etc.?

1 Corinthians 13

1c13.jpgGreetings!  If you’ve been to a wedding, you’ve probably heard this passage.  It isn’t just about marital love, though.  This is about agape love, the highest form of love – the kind that puts the interests of others before our own.

13     If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

 

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

Some people thing that spiritual truths are unknowable, but that isn’t the Christian worldview at all.  We don’t know everything, but we can know what we need to know.  And we’ll learn much more later.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

One exercise I’ve heard to do with this next section is to read it three times:

  • Once as written
  • Once with “God” or “Jesus” instead of “love” (i.e., “God is patient, God is kind, . . . “).  This will help you understand God’s attributes
  • Once with your name instead of “love.”  This will keep you humble and challenge you to be more loving!  When I use my name there I am tempted to have question marks instead of commas (“Neil is patient?  Neil is kind?  Really?!).

Try it!

Update

I updated the Are you sure you want to bring Jesus into this? post based on an encounter with a philosophy professor who doesn’t handle losing very well (Richard Brown, a PhD candidate in the Cognitive Science and Philosophy program at The Graduate Center, CUNY and an Instructor (tenure-track) at LaGuardia College, CUNY).  I did exactly what I recommended in the post and it worked well.  Too well, in fact. 

I didn’t use any religious arguments, but he kept bringing them up.  So I asked him to support them.  He refused to acknowledge his ignorance of the Bible and wouldn’t back up any of his “religious bigotry” comments.  He gave the predictable challenge that I should just live out what the Bible says and everything would be better, and I asked them to please explain what that was and why.  I also offered my summary of the Bible (you know, the sinners in need of a Savior thing) and I think that is what really set him off.

So he deleted a comment.  No big deal, but then he started saying false things about me and then completely changed one of my comments to say something I never said (something rather crude, in fact).  I’ve never seen anyone do that before.  Then he “responded” to the fake comment.

But when I pointed out that I had made a copy of the comment thread he panicked.  He deleted everything he could find on his page: All of my comments, all of his comments answering mine and a whole new post dedicated to saying false things about me.   Then he hid the original post from his main page, though you can still access it directly from the link above (at least until he figures out how to delete it).

Wow, talk about taking the fun out of blogging!  I was going to give the guy a pass and gave him multiple chances to avoid all this.  But then he came up with another post with an “anonymous” comment of mine and wouldn’t provide a link to all the comments.  He can criticize me all he likes, but to hide any links to the discussion in question is cowardly.  He is trying to pretend that a comment part way through the thread was just so darn offensive and religiously based that he has to do all this. Sure. The comment wasn’t even religious in nature.  And if it is so bad, why I am glad to have it displayed in the link above?  Why can’t he link to the whole thread?  Why change my comments? 

So I decided to respond. 

This is a glimpse of what many college professors are like: Hostile to Christianity but woefully ignorant of it and with no desire to learn about it.  Sadly, the students have to listen to the authority figures and don’t know how to respond to them. 

Read the whole comment thread at the bottom of the post if you have time.  It covers quite a bit of ground on the civil union topic, as well as how to address many logical fallacies.

And pray for this guy.  I forgive him, but felt that I needed to flag this as a public service.

Men wrote the Bible, so it must have mistakes?

bible.jpgA common objection to the assertion that God inspired the writings of the Bible is that men wrote it, so it must have mistakes.  Sadly, I have often heard this from committed Christians.

The argument usually goes like this:

Premise 1: Men wrote the Bible.

Premise 2: Men make mistakes.

Conclusion: God didn’t write the Bible.

But note that premise 1 is just another way of stating the conclusion.  If you are trying to determine who ultimately authored the Bible, your first premise can’t be that men were the sole authors.  So this “argument” doesn’t prove that God didn’t write the Bible, it assumes it. 

Here is another syllogism you may have heard:

Premise 1: Men wrote the Bible.

Premise 2: Men make mistakes.

Conclusion: The Bible has mistakes.

This one has a major problem as well.  It assumes that just because people can make mistakes that they will always make mistakes.  But lots of things get done without mistakes – perfect scores on tests, 300 games in bowling, diseases cured, etc.  If God was the author then an error-free Bible would be expected. 

Of course, this doesn’t prove that God did inspire the Biblical writings, just that these are bad arguments to use against the inspiration of the Bible.  We have separate, robust reasoning for why we can trust that it is God’s Word.  More on that another day, or just peruse the Apologetics links to the right.

P.S. Keep in mind that claims of inerrancy relate to the original writings, not to copies or translations.  If making a copy error invalidated the inerrancy claim, then any atheist could make a deliberate “mistake” and claim that it disproved the Bible. 

Hat tip: Stand to Reason

1 Corinthians 12

1c12.jpgGreetings!  We are given talents at birth and spiritual gifts when we become believers.  I did a lay sermon on spiritual gifts last year.  The notes and audio are here

We should always be humble about things God has given us, but we shouldn’t have false humility and deny that the gifts we have.  Here are a few ways to determine your spiritual gifts:

  • What do others say your gifts are?
  • Take surveys to determine what they may be
  • What do you like to do?  Those areas may be where your gifts lie.
  • Try things!  If it isn’t your gift, move on.  But you never know what you may like.

Spiritual Gifts

12     Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant. 2 You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. 3 Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.

7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.

One Body, Many Parts

12 The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

14 Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28 And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But eagerly desire the greater gifts.

No one has all the gifts, but all have some gifts.  Rejoice in the gifts that others have and don’t be jealous!  Be glad that they have gifts for things that you don’t like to do. 

Love

And now I will show you the most excellent way.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Really, can you blame him?

warning.gifFew things are as frustrating as lawn equipment that won’t work.  Kevin found this gem (emphasis added):

A 57-year-old south side man, who might have been struggling with a hangover, is charged today with shooting his lawn mower with a sawed-off shotgun.

“I’ll tell you the truth,” a criminal complaint quotes an apparently inebriated Keith Walendowski. “I got [angry] because my lawn mower wouldn’t start, so I got my shotgun and shot it.

“I can do that. It’s my lawn mower and my yard, so I can shoot it if I want,” Walendowski told police.

I can relate. I had a weed eater go bad once. I got so tired of re-stringing it, among other problems. It finally gave out one too many times and I realized I had to get a new one. I was hot and irritated.

As I walked back towards the house I picked it up over my head and body slammed it to the ground. Twice, I think (details are sketchy). Luckily I didn’t swear – out loud, at least – because it turns out that my youngest daughter (~12) was watching from an upstairs window.

She really helped the situation by deadpanning, “It’s a good thing the riding mower didn’t break.”

What if Christianity started this way?

An Alternative Christian History is a provocative way to look at the religion of peace:

Christ receives messages from God and travels to Jerusalem to preach his revelations. He is rejected by the religious establishment and forced to leave the city. He takes up his new residence in Bethlehem and through his preaching succeeds in creating a large loyal following.

He sustains this new movement by raiding passing caravans and — after receiving special divine dispensation — beheading the defenders. He then marries several wives, including — after receiving special divine dispensation — a nine year old girl. Next, he raises an army and attacks Jerusalem where, after putting all of his enemies to the sword, he succeeds in capturing the city.

His new found religion flourishes and after many bloody wars spreads over the entire geographical area. He dies. There ensues a violent dispute over the succession between Saint Peter and Saint Paul. Saint Paul is assassinated and his followers go into exile. Saint Peter is proclaimed to be Jesus’ legitimate successor.

Several generations pass and eventually the Pauline exiles find a new leader in Saint Jerome. Under his inspired leadership they rise up and attack Jerusalem. They lose the battle and Saint Jerome is beheaded. The Jeromists become a persecuted minority within Christianity and spend the next fourteen centuries plotting their revenge. Their symbol is the severed head of Saint Jerome.

This religion is known the world over as The Religion of Peace.

Al Gore = fraud & hypocrite

money.jpgGood piece from Mark about how Al Gore is at it again.  Someone please take the microphone away from him!

The people who interview Gore, including those in Congress, are either clueless or gutless.  The conversation should go like this:

Reporter/Congressman: Is it true that you own all those houses and vehicles and use many times more power than the average American?

Gore: Yes, but I buy carbon offset credits.

R/C: [Extended laughter] No, really, is it true about the houses and vehicles?

Gore: Yes, but I buy carbon offset credits.

R/C: [Laughter turns to indignation] You are a fraud and a hypocrite.  Get out of here and stop wasting our time.  Even if your carbon offset credits meant something and even if you didn’t personally profit from them, you would still change your living habits dramatically if you cared a fraction as much about the environment as you claim to.

Have we really been listening to this guy?  Did we really let schools show his movie?  Did he really win a Nobel Prize?  Is our collective discernment this low?  This should be a very short conversation, yet here we are as a nation, taking this guy seriously.

Weekly roundup

cross1.jpgNow here’s a good evangelism idea – give out CD’s with your favorite sermon(s) containing the Gospel.  CDs are cheap – what are they, like 10 cents each these days?  Burn a bunch and put ’em in your trunk.  Also check out the Pocket Testament League where you can get free Gospel of John tracts to pass out.

This seemed like a good idea at the time.  After hearing a show on Apologetics.com about Saint Augustine I figured I should read City of God.  It is a mega-classic Christian book by the most influential Christian outside of the Bible.  Just one little problemo: It is 1,091 pages.  D’oh!

Exxon ain’t so bad – at least they aren’t politically correct.  I used to work for a Fortune 50 company and they bowed down to the GLBTQ lobby.

Intellectuals lie, the powerless die – non-violence is a great route for individuals to take in most situations.  It rarely stops evil regimes.  Lots of liberal ink has been spilled without success in solving pre-war Iraq’s violence and that of Zimbabwe, Darfur, Tibet and the recently released hostages.

Know of any good “end times” blogs or websites?  Leave a comment.  Total Transformation was looking for them.  I know of some bad ones.  Seriously, I haven’t written much on that or researched it much lately.  I did do one piece on The Book of Revelation in 5 easy minutes.

If the Book of Mormon contains the “fulness of the everlasting gospel,” why doesn’t it say anything about so many important teachings such as eternal progression, celestial marriage, the Word of Wisdom, the plurality of Gods, the pre-existence of man, our mother in heaven, baptism for the dead, etc?

Click here for the answer.

Cry Out To Jesus by Third Day – I love this song.  I enjoy playing it on iTunes and strumming along with my guitar.  It makes me think of those who believe Satan’s lies and think they can’t be saved.

1 Corinthians 11

1c11.jpgGreetings!

1 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

Of course we should follow Jesus, but we can also follow the example of godly people on earth.  They are more tangible and visible to us.  Paul wasn’t sinless and didn’t pretend to be, and neither are the rest of us.  We need to use discernment and ask for wisdom regarding those we follow. 

Propriety in Worship

11     I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the teachings, just as I passed them on to you.

3 Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.

“Headship” involves authority and structure, not worth.  Jesus has the same worth as God the Father, of course, but they have different roles.  It is not an insult to say that man is the head of woman.  As the saying goes, an animal with two heads is a freak and an animal with no heads is dead.  Men need to lead their families but in the servant-leader role epitomized by Jesus.

The following guidance contains some things specific to the Corinthian culture, such as head coverings, but the principles are timeless.  There are proper attitudes for worship and we should be careful to follow them.  I get distracted easily and often have the wrong attitude in worship.  I need to remember that it is all for God.

4 Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. 5 And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is just as though her head were shaved. 6 If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off; and if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved off, she should cover her head. 7 A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. 8 For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; 9 neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10 For this reason, and because of the angels, the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head.

11 In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. 12 For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God. 13 Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, 15 but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. 16 If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God.

The Lord’s Supper

17 In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. 18 In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. 19 No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval. 20 When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, 21 for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk. 22 Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you for this? Certainly not!

Apparently the wealthier people ate plenty and the poorer folks didn’t have enough.  It is interesting that the very early church was broad in its membership.  This is an important facet of Christianity: Jesus came for anyone who would believe, regardless of age, sex, culture, wealth, etc.

23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

27 Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. 31 But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. 32 When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world.

I don’t like to think about the many times I have taken communion in an unworthy manner.  My attitude is so often in the wrong place. 

Some churches are too exclusive with communion and won’t share it with authentic believers in Christ because they go to the “wrong” church.  Yet other churches, like the one where we are members, are too loose and invite anyone to come up.  This is a serious judgment Paul is speaking of.  Do you “examine” yourself before communion?

33 So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for each other. 34 If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment.

And when I come I will give further directions.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Dalmatian Theology

dalmatian-puppy.jpgThey don’t refer to it as such, but many Christians teach a message of Dalmatian Theology, whereby the Bible is only inspired in spots and they are inspired to spot the spots.   (Hat tip to the Baptist pastor who coined this phrase. )

Saying the Bible isn’t fully inspired by God may seem like a humble premise, but it actually makes several strong and unfounded claims. 

It implies that God couldn’t or wouldn’t deliver His word to us in a reliable way, and that despite God’s alleged failings flawed humans are able to discern which parts were inspired and which parts were not.  Are we to believe that humans are to correct for God’s alleged errors?   

Why is this a serious problem?  It is hard enough to follow the teachings of the Bible without having “Christians” pick and choose what they want to believe in.  Worse yet, they ignore some parts of scripture so they can teach that the opposite is not only acceptable but desirable.  Some may do it accidentally but others are just blatant false teachers.  They have made up their own God and their own religion.

If someone claims the Bible is only partially inspired, ask a few questions:

  • How did they come to this conclusion?
  • Do they think their favorite verses are inspired?  If so,  how do they know?  How about John 3:16?  How about “love your neighbor?”  Whenever “Judge not, lest ye be judged” is quoted, I never hear the liberal theologians insist that Jesus didn’t really say that.
  • If the Bible is only partly inspired, how can they be sure that their preferred verses aren’t the ones that are uninspired and the ones they don’t like are the “real” verses?
  • Why is it that God couldn’t inspire the original writings of forty writers, but He can inspire billions of people to properly determine which parts are right and which aren’t? 
  • If He couldn’t get Paul, Luke, Matthew, John, etc.  to record his word accurately, how can He get you to do it?
  • Why should I trust your “inspiration” over those who penned the Bible, or over my “inspiration?”

Here’s one I made up: Advanced Dalmatian Theology.  It is just like Dalmatian theology, except God is also changing spots and adding/removing spots, and, oddly enough, He is only telling theological liberals and progressives.   They use phrases such as “God is still speaking,” but they don’t mean He still speaks through his Word (that would be a true statement).  They think He is still revealing new truths to the church and changing doctrines taught in the Bible.  They may also say things like, “The Holy Spirit is moving in a new direction.”  Indeed. 

Here’s an example: A Methodist pastor named Laurie Hays Coffman did a pro-gay theology piece that made the argument that she wants to “unfurl our corporate sails to catch today’s winds as the Spirit blows afresh.”  She said she was challenged by the vision God gave to Peter in Acts 10-11 where God makes it clear that the Gospel is for the Gentiles, too, and that the Israelites’ ceremonial dietary laws are no longer in force.  Her reasoning is that in the same way that God overturned those laws that He is now overturning the prohibitions against homosexual behavior.  The problem is her poor Biblical analysis.  There are at least nine things wrong with this view:

  1. The person with the revelation was Peter, one of Jesus’ inner circle and a key leader in the early church.  It wasn’t made to you, me or someone like Ms. Coffman.  That doesn’t mean God couldn’t reveal something important like this to us, just that it is highly unlikely.
  2. The visions were clear and emphatic.  Peter was given the vision three times. 
  3. Peter was inclined to reject the meaning of the vision, whereas these Advanced Dalmatian Theologians have views on human sexuality that are virtually indistinguishable from the prevailing culture and they are glad to accept this “new revelation.”
  4. There was external validation for Peter from the Roman centurion.
  5. This lesson showed up in the Bible, not outside it.  I’m not saying miracles don’t happen outside the Bible.  It is just that things appear in the Bible for a reason.  God communicating that the ceremonial laws had been fulfilled was one of those “big deals.”
  6. This vision overturned a ceremonial law, not a moral law.  There are zero examples in the Bible of God reversing his moral laws.  In fact, the more Jesus talked the stricter the laws seemed to get, because He emphasized the spirit of the law and not just the letter (i.e., lust was akin to committing adultery, anger was akin to murder, etc.).  The dietary laws never applied to Gentiles. 
  7. The “God has changed his mind view” is primarily being “revealed” to theologically liberal Christians in the U.S. . . . the very ones who often deny the authority of his Word to begin with!  So we can’t trust the accurate transmission of the original writings but we can trust their new revelations?  I’m skeptical. 
  8. If God is revealing a change, why is it necessarily more liberal?  Why couldn’t God make his laws more stringent?  
  9. The Bible gives strong warnings not to add or take away from its teachings.

But the orthodox can fall prey to this in a more subtle way by claiming full inspiration but conveniently ignoring passages we don’t like.  Consider this passage on church leadership, where some exaggerate “not given to drunkenness” to mean no alcohol whatsoever but ignore the “must manage his own family well . . .” part.

1 Timothy 3:2-4 Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect.

Another example is correctly teaching about the sin of homosexual behavior while neglecting to give proper emphasis to Biblical admonitions against divorce, adultery and fornication.  We need to teach all of scripture with balance.  Grandstanding on sins that aren’t temptations to us and soft-pedaling those that are is not an attractive or Christian thing to do.   

There are plenty of reasons and resources to defend the accuracy and integrity of all of the original scriptures.  We don’t need to get sloppy and just follow the parts we like. 

I’ll close with some friendly advice: Don’t mess with God’s Word.

Deuteronomy 4:2 Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you.

Proverbs 30:5-6 Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.

Revelation 22:18-19 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

Also see Men wrote the Bible so it must have mistakes and How many translations did your Bible go through?

Evangelism experiences 3

As noted in the overview, this is part of a series of evangelism experiences I want to share. Please feel free to add your own.

This is about “drive-by evangelism” – unavoidably brief but significant encounters where you share what you can.  I don’t recommend this as a normal practice.

I was in the Denver airport with my family once.  We were temporarily in different spots (gathering luggage and such) when I was approached by a Hare Krishna member.  I literally had 45 seconds to talk. 

Without thinking I gave the shortest Gospel presentation I ever have.  It was very clear and direct.  I basically told the guy (in a nice, calm voice) that he was in a false belief system, who Satan was, who Jesus was, why he needed Jesus and that I would be praying for his soul. 

I wish I could describe the look in his eyes.  He was desparate and seemed to realize he was trapped in a cult.  He sincerely said, “Yes, please pray for me.”  I walked with him over to his companion and repeated myself, and again he asked me to pray for him.

I prayed for him many times during that vacation and whenever I think of him (like now).  I prayed in general and also specifically that God would send others with a more robust explanation of the Gospel – along the lines of Matthew 9:38: “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”  When I get to Heaven I’ll learn how God worked it all out.

Sometimes you get a chance to rehearse what you want to say and sometimes you don’t.  But I encourage you to always be open to opportunities. 

— 

Speaking of Hare Krishnas, I had a less dramatic encounter once coming back from a business trip in the Far East.  I was going through LAX and was exhausted.  I must have looked like a great target, because a Hare Krishna lady made a beeline for me.  She was most eager for me to read some books she was carrying.

As tired as I was, an idea hit me.  I reached down and pulled out my Bible (it was a full-sized one), smiled and told her she should read my book first.  She laughed and noted that my book was much bigger than hers.  She realized I wasn’t likely to convert and begged off.

Moral of the story: Always travel with a Bible.  Best case scenario, you convert the cultists.  Worst case, you chase them off.  It’s win-win.