Thursday, October 25, 2012

Discipleship Essentials: A review of The Radical Question and A Radical Idea by David Platt

David Platt's books Radical and Radical Together are excellent.  I highly recommend both of them.  But for people who are too busy to read good books, here's a book with essential excerpts from both.  Nice hardback binding, big print, quick read, high impact.

In the first half of the book (the part based on Radical) Platt lays out the cost of following Jesus (everything we have) and the rewards of following Jesus (everything He has).  It's a stark challenge to the American pursuit of success and comfort.

The second half challenges us to not only be followers of Jesus ourselves, but to disciple others to follow Jesus too.  We multiply through discipleship, not programs, buildings, or talent.  He uses true stories to show that the teachings of Christ and the apostles are still uncomfortably possible for us today. 

Short, stirring, simple.  May this little book hit its mark and free many Christians from wasted lives.

I got my copy for free through WaterBrook Multnomah's "Blogging for Books" program.  I was not required to give a favorable review.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Voting Romney = Voting Wrongly?

I have something of a history of voting for neither major presidential candidate.  As I recall, I did not vote for Bob Dole or Bill Clinton in 1996 (and 2012 feels a lot like 1996, only worse).  In 2008, I voted for Chuck Baldwin rather than Barack Obama or John McCain.  I also have a habit of picking (very conservative) losers in the presidential primaries.

This trend of protest voting seems to be gaining momentum.  More and more people are buying the logic that it's better to vote for no one than to vote for the lesser of two evils.  Doug Phillips promotes this philosophy with great intelligence and passion.  Here's an example from his ministry's Facebook page:
1. The Scriptures are still the only rule of action for Christians.

2. The duty of believers at the ballot box is the same today as it has always been. We may only select leaders who meet the Scriptural requirements for civil magistrate. Leaders need not be pe
rfect, but they must be qualified.

3. The obedient response of the elect of God to the Lord Jesus Christ and His law-word, not partisan politics or the results of presidential elections, is the key to national blessing.

4. The results of the presidential election, regardless of who wins, will work together for the good of the elect of God.

5. God is still on the throne.

Bonus Observation: The great and beautiful hope of tomorrow is the obedience of the Church in the face of opposition and challenging political scenarios. There is more hope for God's blessing on America if the people of God do what is right before the Lord, then if if they check their consciences at the ballot box to gain a perceived short-term victory. Perhaps God will save the city "if there be but ten..."
Here's an even more explicit warning blast from Phillips about Romney:
Report on the {First}Presidential Debate from Doug Phillips: It was a tragic day for America as our nation sat and watched two committed socialists, representing the Democratic and Republican parties respectively, argue between each other over which was the most committed to government interference in the private sector, wealth redistribution, and statist intervention in the economy. Tonight we learned that both candidates believe that social security is a success, that the government is responsible for education, and that the market will only work with heavy government regulation. Historically, presidential debates are shallow in terms of constitutional analysis of issues, but tonight's debate may have set the standard as the most constitutionally illiterate presentation by opposing primary party candidates for president in a national debate in the history of our nation. Tonight, (in case anyone needed reminding) Mitt Romney proved that he could be every bit the neo-Marxist that president Obama has become. What he may have lost in the first part of the debate through his petulant nit-picking, Governor Romney made up in the second part of the debate by unnerving President Obama, who clearly appeared to lose his edge as the evening closed. But the event was more of a clash of personalities then a debate over policy. Both peas were from the same pod, and the difference between the candidates on the issues raised tonight were little more than micro-degrees, with times that honest observers must admit that Obama appeared every so slightly to the right of Romney, and other times, vice versa. In sum: No Bible believing, Constitution-loving American should be proud of what happened tonight. Prediction: Liberals will like Romney much more after tonight's debate. But so will a large body of Christians to whom what Romney has said, done and advocated is irrelevant. The Evangelical political lobotomy is almost complete. His name is not Obama, and any facts pertaining to his radical socialism, statist agenda, pro-abortionism and pro-homosexual advocacy that get in the way of that truth must be ignored or stamped out.
I agree with much Phillips says.  Because of Republican loyalty to party rather than principle, conservativism fared better under Bill Clinton than under George W. Bush.  The GOP may again become the "Dem lite" party if they regain the White House.  More importantly, no matter which man is elected, we will still have a man who embodies the average American man.  A man who claims to be a Christian, but isn't; a man to whom the Bible is errant and fallible; a nice fellow who ultimately cares more about what is expedient than what is right in God's eyes; a man who does not argue "if" but "how much".  The only hope for positive political change in the US is for professing Christians to repent and get right with God. 

But Phillips is not the only one thinking deeply about these topics.  Here is a Roman Catholic apologist, John Martignoni, explaining why he thinks voting for Romney is not wrong:
President Obama agrees 100% with the Democrat Platform when it comes to the “right” of a woman to abort her child. He has on a few occasions spoken to Planned Parenthood conventions and made it very clear that there isn’t an abortion that he wouldn’t support. He even pledged to Planned Parenthood that he would make passage of the “Freedom of Choice” Act – which essentially removes any and all state restrictions on abortion (parental consent laws, 48–hour waiting periods, laws requiring women see a sonogram of their baby before the abortion, and so on) – as one of the highest priorities of his administration. Thankfully that hasn’t happened…yet.

His administration has gone so far as to sue at least one state to force them to reinstate funding for Planned Parenthood – the largest abortion provider in the country. Also, he is 100% in favor of the Health and Human Services regulations, which are a part of Obamacare, that would require all Catholic hospitals, Catholic businesses, and most Catholic organizations to pay for abortion, contraception, and sterilization in the health care plans they provide to their employees – trampling all over the religious freedom rights of Catholics.

While a state senator in Illinois, Barack Obama was the lone vote against a bill that would require doctors to give proper medical care to infants that were born alive after a failed abortion. It was, essentially, a vote to allow infanticide when a baby survived an abortion.

Now, Mitt Romney does not have a stellar record on abortion. It seems he has gone back and forth a bit. He has however, made a pledge during this campaign with the following provisions:

1) I am pro–life and believe that abortion should be limited to only instances of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother.

2) I support the reversal of Roe v. Wade, because it is bad law and bad medicine. Roe was a misguided ruling that was a result of a small group of activist federal judges legislating from the bench.

3) I support the Hyde Amendment, which broadly bars the use of federal funds for abortions. And as president, I will support efforts to prohibit federal funding for any organization like Planned Parenthood, which primarily performs abortions or offers abortion–related services.

4) I will reinstate the Mexico City Policy to ensure that non–governmental organizations that receive funding from America refrain from performing or promoting abortion services, as a method of family planning, in other countries. This includes ending American funding for any United Nations or other foreign assistance program that promotes or performs abortions on women around the world.

5) I will advocate for and support a Pain–Capable Unborn Child Protection Act to protect unborn children who are capable of feeling pain from abortion.

6) And perhaps most importantly, I will only appoint judges who adhere to the Constitution and the laws as they are written, not as they want them to be written.

7) If I have the opportunity to serve as our nation's next president, I commit to doing everything in my power to cultivate, promote, and support a culture of life in America.

Now, the first point above is not really a “pro–life” position. But, if we can limit the number of abortions to only those associated with rape or incest, we will have eliminated around 99% of the abortions in this country. We can then start working on legislation and education campaigns to eliminate the remaining 1%. So, while this position is not a pro–life position, it is much less of a pro–abortion position than President Obama’s. It is the lesser of two evils.

The other six provisions, however, are indeed pro–life provisions. So, you have one candidate who is a pro–abortion extremist, and one who is pro–abortion, but much less so, in certain respects, but pro–life in other respects. You clearly have a situation where, on the issue of abortion, one candidate is the lesser of two evils. And, we are allowed, when there is no other viable alternative, to vote for the lesser of two evils.

Now, the prudential question becomes, can I trust Mitt Romney’s pledge to do these things? After all, he is a politician and he has seemed to flip flop before on this issue. I don’t know if you can trust him or not. However, I know that with President Obama, we are absolutely assured that a pro–abortion mentality will dominate his administration – that has already been demonstrated over the last 3 and a half years. With a Mitt Romney administration, there is at least a chance, that some babies lives – either in this country and/or in other countries – will be saved by his policies. I’m not a big fan of Mitt Romney (he was my 5th favorite out of the 6 main candidates on the Republican side), but I personally have to vote for the potential of pro–life policies being implemented vs. the absolute no hope of pro–life policies being implemented.

Also, this is where I factor in such things as Romney’s running mate – Paul Ryan – having been a pro–life Catholic for many years. This is where I factor in the Republican vs. Democrat Platforms. The Republican Platform does not have a plank advocating abortion “rights,” while the Democrat Platform does. So, even if Mitt Romney is not very pro–life in his heart of hearts, he is a politician. And, he knows that the pro–lifers are very important to his election and, if he is elected, to his re–election. If he is elected, and he reneges on the above–mentioned pledges – he is up the creek without a paddle and I believe he knows that. Which, will give him incentive to work on fulfilling the pledges he has made.
I find Martignoni's reasoning ultimately more compelling than Phillips this year.  As someone else has said, "Whenever humans are running for office, you are voting for the lesser of two evils." I will vote for Romney.  I will not rejoice no matter which man wins.  But I will pray that God will help me to see and repent of my own sins.  And I will pray for the return of the King.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Book Review: The Truth About the Lordship of Christ

John MacArthur is perhaps best known for his stand on what has become known as “Lordship salvation”.  His book The Gospel According to Jesus was a seminal challenge to the antinomian leanings of Charles Ryrie, Zane Hodges and Dallas Theological Seminary in the 1980s. 

So what’s he doing publishing a new book about Lordship after all these years?

To be honest, I’m not quite sure.  The Truth About The Lordship of Christ has no introduction so we have to guess.  But my guess is that Dr. MacArthur wanted to produce a book at “street level” to reach people with the most important truths of Christ’s Lordship, without having to introduce them to an exhaustive treatment of the debate. 

At times in the book I lost track of his train of thought; I agreed with his teaching but didn’t know how it fit in with the overall theme.

There are six chapters in all; the last three were easier for me to fit together.  They cover three major battlegrounds in the Lordship debate.

Chapter 4 is about sanctification:

Note this crucial distinction: At justification we surrender the principle of sin and self-rule. In sanctification we relinquish the practice of specific sins as we mature in Christ. Total surrender to Christ’s lordship does not mean that we make all of life’s decisions as a prerequisite to conversion. It does not demand that we give up all our sins before we can be justified. It means that when we trust Christ for salvation we settle the issue of who is in charge. At salvation we surrender to Christ in principle, but as Christians we will surrender in practice again and again. This practical outworking of His lordship is the process of sanctification.

(Kindle Locations 675-680).

Chapter 5 covers confession and repentance:

Like faith, repentance has intellectual, emotional, and volitional ramifications. Louis Berkhof describes the intellectual element of repentance as “a change of view, a recognition of sin as involving personal guilt, defilement, and helplessness.” The emotional element is “a change of feeling, manifesting itself in sorrow for sin committed against a holy God.” The volitional element is “a change of purpose, an inward turning away from sin, and a disposition to seek pardon and cleansing.” Each of those three elements is deficient apart from the others. Repentance is a response of the total person; therefore some speak of it as total surrender.

 (Kindle Locations 1058-1063).

Chapter 6 is perhaps the most balanced and understandable explanation of assurance of salvation that I have ever read. 

The Bible suggests that a well-grounded assurance has both objective and subjective support. The objective ground is the finished work of Christ on our behalf, including the promises of Scripture, which have their yea and amen in Him (2 Corinthians 1:20). The subjective ground is the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, including His convicting and sanctifying ministries. Romans 15:4 mentions both aspects of assurance: “Whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance [subjective] and the encouragement of the Scriptures [objective] we might have hope” (NASB, emphasis added).

 (Kindle Locations 1176-1181)

The book will not convince a predetermined non-Lordship advocate, but will help those who do want to pursue holiness in its proper relationship with faith.

(Disclaimer: I got a Kindle copy of the book free in exchange for reviewing it for  I was not required to give a positive review.)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

My Take on the 2012 Arizona Ballot Propositions

Some years it's very tough for me to decide which way to vote on the propositions. This year, thankfully, they are relatively straightforward.  Here's how I will mark my ballot:

114 - Yes.  A no-brainer, with no opposing arguments in the publicity pamphlet. 

115 - Yes. Studying who is for and against this proposition is very telling.

116 - Yes.  Another no brainer, with no opposition.

117 - No.  If we're going to have property taxes, I would rather they be based as closely as possible on actual values.  Artificially capping the amount the valuations can be increased will wind up making owners of less valuable properties shoulder more of the tax burden.

118 - Yes.  Another unopposed proposition.

119 - Yes.  Ditto.

120 - Yes.  Basically this is the state's way of telling Congress we don't like the way they're managing the federal lands in Arizona.  Passing the proposition won't actually change control of anything unless Congress allows it.  It's about as powerful as a prisoner complaining about the food.  Worth a try, but unlikely to change anything.

121 - No, no, and no!!!  This is the scariest proposition on the ballot this year.  If you think this one is a good idea, you need to read the opposing arguments and maybe go take a high school civics course again.  Then again, maybe high school civics courses are responsible for this kind of proposition.  My, my, whatever do they teach in schools these days?

204 - No.  Our taxes are high enough without making the temporary 1% sales tax increase permanent.

And in case you're wondering how I vote on the judges: I always vote 'no' on all of them.  They are always re-elected by overwhelming margins anyhow, and I figure the smaller I can make their margin of victory, the better they will behave for the next couple years.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Why Country Magazine is More Dangerous Than Playboy

But He said to him, “A man was giving a big dinner, and he invited many; and at the dinner hour he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.’  But they all alike began to make excuses. The first one said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of land and I need to go out and look at it; please consider me excused.’  Another one said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please consider me excused.’ Another one said, ‘I have married a wife, and for that reason I cannot come.’ And the slave came back and reported this to his master. (Luke 14:16-21 NASB)
Country Magazine is more dangerous to your spiritual fruitfulness than Playboy.  Playboy is evil and Country is innocent, but its very innocence makes it dangerous.  Most people will avoid the obvious danger of Playboy, but you can spend your entire life on innocent pleasures, and never do anything valuable or helpful for God or your fellow man.  Playboy will put you in jail (spiritually), but Country will put you to sleep.  I am not saying that reading Playboy is no worse than reading Country.  Playboy is far worse, but its obvious badness means fewer are captured by it. 
The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for Heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world. It is not the X-rated video, but the prime-time dribble of triviality we drink in every night. For all the ill that Satan can do, when God describes what keeps us from the banquet table of his love, it is a piece of land, a yoke of oxen, and a wife. The greatest adversary of love to God is not his enemies but his gifts. And the most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil, but for the simple pleasures of earth. For when these replace an appetite for God himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable, and almost incurable…“The pleasures of this life” … are not evil in themselves. These are not vices. These are gifts of God. They are your basic meat and potatoes and coffee and gardening and reading and decorating and traveling and investing and TV-watching and Internet-surfing and shopping and exercising and collecting and talking. And all of them can become deadly substitutes for God.’ (John Piper, Hunger forGod, 14-15)
Some more examples (so that I don't just pick on Country).
  • Golf is more dangerous to Christians than gambling.
  • Cake is more dangerous than beer.
  • Having pets is more likely to harm your spiritual health than having tattoos.
  • For married people, pleasing your spouse can be a bigger danger than adultery.
  • For single people, triviality is more likely to waste your life than immorality.
Please don't misunderstand: I am not saying that reading Country is a sin.  I am saying that Christianity is not simply avoiding sin.  Following Jesus is more than coloring within the lines.
No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. (2 Tim 2:4 NASB)

Monday, October 1, 2012

Beware Calls from the "Windows Technical Department"

Hi ____,
Just wanted to tell you that I got a phone call just like you had a few weeks ago, a guy with an East Indian accent from the “Windows Technical Department” calling to tell me that their server had detected that my computer was infected with malicious software. I confronted him very boldly with his lie and told him he needed to repent and trust in Jesus. He hung up on me.
I searched online and found that MANY people are reporting these kinds of phone calls. Some people have been called repeatedly.
Microsoft is also aware of the phone fraud but unfortunately it seems there isn’t much they can do. I guess it’s a bit hard to track down and arrest guys in India who commit crimes in the US!