Monday, July 30, 2007

"...MUST worship him in spirit and in truth."

In John 4:24 we now come to a third instance of the word "must". The entire verse reads,

God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
As in John 3:7 and 3:30, it is the same Greek word meaning, "It is necessary."

There are many opinions today regarding the proper means and modes of worshiping God. The greater context of this passage, however, teaches us one thing clearly: Our worship must be in the manner which God has ordained. No man can dictate what our worship must be, apart from what God Himself has demanded. We must always remember: Worship is not about us; worship is about God.

Furthermore, God has given us guidelines for proper worship. This verse provides two of them: Worship must be "in spirit." The word "spirit" occurs twice in the verse, and is the same Greek word both times. The first instance clearly makes reference to God's existence as the third member of the Trinity. Then, we are told that true worship takes place "in spirit," almost certainly a reference to that same Holy Spirit. Only Christians can truly worship God, for only Christians have the Holy Spirit dwelling within them. Furthermore, true worship must conform to the character of God the Holy Spirit. And this is related to....

Worship must be "in truth." The Greek word for "truth" is used over a hundred times in the N.T. and has a consistent meaning very much like the English word. In combination with the facts that worship must be "in Spirit," and that true worshipers must be Christians, we are told here that our worship must be in keeping with God's true character and God's true Word. Any worship-so-called which does not conform to God's character, or does not accurately reflect His Word, is not worship in God's eyes.

Since it is necessary for us to worship in spirit and in truth, let us examine ourselves, to see that we are!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Thinking Like a Christian, Week 5: Ethics

What is right?

Logic demands no other conclusion than this: If we are to have a moral order and real values, there must be absolutes. To deny absolutes is, essentially, to deny moral values; or it merely makes values equivalent to individual opinion.

What is the basis of Christian ethics? In short, it is God and His Word. God's moral nature is absolute and unchanging. He always hates evil and loves good; He never makes up new values according to some providential whim. Christian ethics is grounded in the character of the triune God. Some things conform to God's character; others do not. It is our responsibility to determine what does and what does not conform! Consequently, the Christian moral order is eternal and permanent, because it reflects God's unchanging character, and flows from the nature of the Creator to the nature of His creation.

God's Word is His revelation to us. The Bible teaches us what is good and what is evil. Sin is always a violation of God's moral order. General revelation (creation) points out that a moral order exists; special revelation (the Bible) reveals its specifics. This moral order exists outside of man. It is not a creation of his mind, nor could it be.

God and His Word fully explain the Christian moral order.

What are secular ethics? It is interesting to observe that mankind has a "common moral heritage." Some sins, like murder, child abuse, and torture, are almost universally condemned, while some abstract values, like love, justice, or courage, are nearly always admired. Why? Naturalism certainly can't explain this. Could it be that God has made us capable of learning to discern right from wrong?

Secular ethical systems have two major, insurmountable problems. First, in secular ethical systems, all morals are relative. There are no absolute standards to judge right from wrong; one's own impulses and opinions become the basis for ethics. "Broad is the way that leadeth to destruction" (Matt. 7:13) is the verse that comes to mind. The second major problem is that secular ethical systems are always based on man's thinking. Whether based on naturalistic, economic, or some other philosophy, human ideas are inadequate to form an ethical or moral code. Determining right from wrong becomes nothing more than a baseless exercise of debate.

How should the Christian respond? First, we must recognize that the mind of man cannot create, invent, or discover any "new morals" or "new moral order." It simply can't be done. Christians also need to avoid thinking that there are any less-than-absolute moral values. There is no such thing. Furthermore, Christians need to recognize "new moralities" for what they are: Man's way of attempting to justify doing what he wants to do. This is a fallacy, and deviates from God's code. Morality is to be a lifestyle for glorifying God. Use your life to demonstrate what is right!

What do Christian ethics contain? Obviously, then contain moral absolutes. The Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount are classic examples; reading them provides a wealth of information about right and wrong. Much of the Old Testament, in fact, describes God's moral order, and how He expects His creation to operate. Jesus Christ, of course, is the living example of moral, ethical living. He was and is the perfect role model. The call to follow Christ is perhaps the simplest way to sum up Christian ethics. As He said to Peter at both the beginning (Mark 1:17) and end (John 21:22) of His earthly ministry, "Follow me."

The Christian also has responsibilities. Matthew 22:35-40 gives us what Christ called the two greatest commandments: To love God, and to love one's neighbor as one's self. This kind of love is not merely a form of compassion, but also requires us to be servantlike, meeting both the social and physical needs of others. Our love of God demands that we serve God (John 14:15), working to achieve His will for this world.

We must also realize and remember the implications of sin. To sin is to come short of God's moral order. All have sinned, and sin demands judgment (Romans 3:23, 6:23). Those of us who have accepted Christ as Savior have had our judgment paid, and should serve God lovingly and humbly for the rest of our days. Sin also brings guilt, because God has made us to realize that we "fall short" of the perfection that His holiness demands. Indeed, we are taught that the law was given, to convince us that we fail to keep it (see the book of Galatians)!

Once a person becomes a Christian, the proper response is to have a zealous desire to keep God's moral code—to do what is morally right. It is not for us only to espouse it; we must live it!
"The human mind has no more power of inventing a new value than of imagining a new primary colour or, indeed, of creating a new sun and a new sky for it to move in." C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man, pp. 86-87.

"The Christian ethical system is both like and unlike any other system ever postulated. Every ethical system contains some grain of the truth found in the Christian code, but no other system can claim to be the whole truth, handed down as an absolute from God to man." David Noebel, Thinking Like a Christian, p. 88.

Reminder: This series of "Thinking Like a Christian" entries mirrors what I am teaching in my Sunday School class this summer at Faith Baptist Church in Mattawan, Michigan. The book Thinking Like a Christian is written by David Noebel and makes an excellent resource for the study of worldviews and how Christians ought to live in this present day.

Friday, July 27, 2007

How Many Problems Can You Spot in This News Story?

If you would like to read the original story from, click here; but I have copied the text to the blog. There are several problems with the people involved—how many can you spot? And do we continue to wonder why medical costs skyrocket these days?

OLYMPIA, Wash. — An oral surgeon who temporarily implanted fake boar tusks in his assistant's mouth as a practical joke and got sued for it has gotten the state's high court to back up his gag.

Dr. Robert Woo of Auburn had put in the phony tusks while the woman was under anesthesia for a different procedure. He took them out before she awoke, but he first shot photos that eventually made it around the office.

The employee, Tina Alberts, felt so humiliated when she saw the pictures that she quit and sued her boss.

Woo's insurance company, Fireman's Fund, refused to cover the claim, saying the practical joke was intentional and not a normal business activity his insurance policy covered, so Woo settled out of court. He agreed to pay Alberts $250,000, then he sued his insurers.

A King County Superior Court jury sided with Woo, ordering Fireman's Fund to pay him $750,000, plus the out-of-court settlement. The insurance company won the next round, with the state Court of Appeals saying the prank had nothing to do with Woo's practice of dentistry. On Thursday, the state Supreme Court restored Woo's award.

In a sprightly 5-4 decision, Supreme Court Justice Mary Fairhurst wrote that Woo's practical joke was an integral, if odd, part of the assistant's dental surgery and "conceivably" should trigger the professional liability coverage of his policy.

Dissenting Justice James Johnson said the prank wasn't a dental procedure at all and only "rewards Dr. Woo's obnoxious behavior and allows him to profit handsomely."

The back story, the court wrote, is that Alberts' family raises potbellied pigs and that she frequently talked about them at the office where she worked for five years.

Woo said his jests about the pigs were part of "a friendly working environment" that he tried to foster.

The oral surgery on Alberts was intended to replace two of her teeth with implants, which Woo did. First, though, he installed temporary bridges that he had shaped to look like boar tusks, and while Alberts was still under anesthesia, he took photos, some with her eyes propped open. Before she woke up, he removed the "tusks" and put in the proper replacement teeth.

Woo says he didn't personally show her the pictures but staffers gave her copies at a birthday party.

Woo's lawyer, Richard Kilpatrick, described the surgeon as a kindhearted, fun-loving man who was chagrined that an office prank turned out so badly. He was delighted with the high court's decision, Kilpatrick said.

Attorneys for the insurance company did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

"He Must Increase"....and a small math lesson

Continuing in John 3, in verse 30 we see the words "He must increase, but I must decrease." Once again, the word "must" is the same Greek word meaning "It is necessary." John the Baptist was saying that it was necessary for Jesus Christ to increase, and for himself to decrease.

Today's society and philosophies recoil at such an idea, for they teach that I am to increase and get whatever I want or strive for. This is contrary to biblical truth.

In mathematics, we have a concept commonly called inverse variation: The idea that as one variable quantity increases, another variable quantity decreases. The most common example deals with travel: As the rate of speed increases (or decreases), the travel time decreases (or increases) proportionally.

The Christian life works this way. As I exalt Christ and lift Him up, I humble myself. As I bring glory to God, I deflect glory away from myself. The opposite is also true: If I fill myself with pride, and exalt and glorify myself, I steal Christ's glory, and He is reduced in the eyes of men.

Who am I exalting and glorifying today? Who is increasing?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

"Ye Must Be Born Again"

After taking a class in Greek at Pillsbury Baptist Bible College in 2003-04, one of my goals was to read the entire N.T. in the original language. One of the books I have remaining, and which I am reading now, is the gospel of John; today, I read the first 21 verses of Chapter 3. This is where Nicodemus comes to Jesus "by night" and is told in verse 7, "Ye must be born again."

Two particular words in this passage, in the Greek, were very interesting. The first is the word "must" in verse 7. It is a word whose common meaning is "It is necessary." Becoming born again is not to be thought of in the sense of "You must try this restaurant," or "You must meet my friend Bob"—these are only non-literal meanings of the word. Instead, it should be thought of as a "necessary" thing—something we have an obligation to do. It is necessary for each of us to be born again.

The second word I found very interesting, was in that most famous of verses, 3:16. In the phrase, "that whosoever believeth in him..." the word "whosoever" is actually the common word for "all" (e.g., the "every one" in vs. 20 is this exact same Greek word). When we think of salvation, we should remember that it is offered to all—every man, woman, and child of every people, country, or language. It is not offered only to some, nor are there other conditions which must be met; all who believe will have eternal life in heaven.

Conclusion: It is necessary for all to be born again. Are you?

Monday, July 23, 2007

Good News From Our Home

Yesterday, July 22, our third daughter, Rebecca, was baptized. She is now 6 years old and had been asking to get baptized for a few months. It was a joyous occasion, and a number of relatives (and most of our church) were on hand for it.

The reason Rebecca wanted to get baptized was simple: She had accepted Christ as her Savior about two years ago, and she wanted people to know that she was saved and loved her Lord. She is a beautiful demonstration of child-like faith in God.

We who are Baptists believe that baptism is by immersion, that it does not change your eternal destination, and that its purpose is to show to others that you are a saved person—a child of God. In many cultures it is perceived as a more significant event; many Christians through time have been rejected by their families, not because they claimed to be saved, but because they took the public step of believers' baptism. Regardless of consequences (and in Rebecca's case, they were uniformly positive), Christians are commanded to show their faith in God publicly by being baptized.

Are you a child of God? Have you been willing to publicly demonstrate and share your faith?

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Book Review: "The Puzzle of Ancient Man" by Dr. Donald Chittick

Last April, when I went to the still-under-construction Creation Museum in Kentucky, I met one Wayne Canfield, who was reading and raving about this book. He had good reason. The topic of this book is a summary of the evidence that Ancient Man, both antediluvian and postdiluvian (pre-flood and post-flood), was in fact technologically advanced in ways we cannot fathom and have not yet fully discovered.

This is a fascinating book. It includes evidence and examples of the technological prowess of a variety of ancient cultures, from the familiar pyramids of Egypt to less-known feats of building, engineering, and intellectual accomplishment from various parts of the world. His thesis is that ancient man was, in fact, anything but primitive; ancient man was perhaps in many ways more capable than even we are today.

There is also a great deal of Bible teaching in the book, which summarizes a variety of Genesis passages and others which deal with man's creation, the Fall, the Flood, etc. Furthermore, Appendix A contains most of the most concise and clear summaries of bias, science, and religion, and how these interact today.

I would gladly recommend this book for your reading pleasure and edification.

An Outrage in Congress

Today I received my daily update from Saul Anuzis, chairman of the Michigan Republican Party. I would encourage those of you reading this who live in Michigan to sign up for his daily e-mail, or if you prefer, go to regularly to read his blog entries. Today's e-mail contained this outrageous example of Congressional waste [Note: I have edited a couple typos from the original]:

Charlie Rangel…an example of the arrogance of power and Bart Stupak voted with him…taxpayers, are you paying attention?

OpinionJournal reports: New York's Charlie Rangel provoked smirks this week when news emerged that the Harlem Congressman was humbly seeking a $2 million earmark to create a "Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service" at the City College of New York.

Titters turned to dropped jaws yesterday when a 20-page glossy brochure popped up, describing the yet-to-be-created center. That flyer, which asks for donations, explains that organizers need a mere $4.7 million to restore a "magnificent Harlem limestone townhouse" that will house the center, plus another $2.3 million endowment for its operating costs.

What, overtaxed taxpayers might ask, would all this money buy? One dollop would go to provide "a well-furnished office for Congressman Rangel" and another dollop would fund "the Rangel Library," which will be "designed to hold the product of 50 years of public service by the major African-American statesman of the 20th and early 21st centuries."

According to the brochure, the library not only would tell "the story of one great man....The Rangel archivist/librarian will organize, index, and preserve for posterity all documents, photographs, and memorabilia relating to Congressman Rangel's career."

Oh yes, and the center would also offer students a master's program in public service.

Most Americans might find this taxpayer-funded monument to one member's ego a poor use of public money, but not many of Mr. Rangel's logrolling House colleagues do. Yesterday, Republican Study Committee Member John Campbell brought an amendment to the House floor that would have stripped Mr. Rangel's homage to himself. He was defeated 316-108. Only one Democrat voted to kill the earmark.

On another pork barrel project…in a classic demonstration of members protecting each other when it comes to local pork, Mr. Flake's amendment to strike the possibly non-existent center's grant failed. He won support from only 98 members, while 326 members whooped the expenditure through.

At this rate, Mr. Flake has a good case that the entire earmark process is a bipartisan hive of corruption. The difference between his efforts against earmarks last year and this year, sadly, is that now with Democrats in charge, his anti-pork crusade has a much harder time getting media attention.


Thursday, July 19, 2007

Thinking Like a Christian, Week 4: Psychology

What is the basic nature of man?

Is psychology a proper area of study for a Christian? Does it have an appropriate place in a Christian worldview? Psychology is the study of the soul and the mind. Although a massive topic (you can get a college major in it), it is appropriate for a Christian to study; indeed, only Christianity is suitable to study it! No other worldview can answer questions related to the soul and mind as well as Christianity can.

Biblical Christianity contains a psychology, and it is worthy of our study. Since man was created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27), our worldview must recognize the significance of both the spiritual and the physical dimensions of man.

Psychology does have an appropriate place as a scientific discipline, where scientific observation is employed to study and learn about the mind. Much good work has come from such study. Unfortunately, much of "modern psychology" is filled with the biases of secular worldviews, and is consequently filled with error. This does not mean that Christians should entirely abandon psychology; instead, they should bring God's truth to its study.

Our minds are not merely physical objects; we have a "non-physical" part to our being. Our bodies may change and decay, but our minds remain continuous. Furthermore, man has a free will, which is an important element to consider in psychology.

Six areas of psychology are of importance in this lesson:

What is human nature? Man has a sin nature, which is a result of the fall (Genesis 3). This nature is inherently evil. When sin entered the world, man's relationship to God and his fellow man changed from what God intended it to be. Man has a natural tendency to rebel against God and His laws. Man's sinful nature is the cause of all psychological problems.

The doctrine of sin reminds us that each of us is responsible for his own behavior and choices. Mankind, because of sin, needs a Savior to give him a new nature.

What is guilt? Because man has rebelled against God, he has real guilt feelings about his rebellion; his conscience tells him that he has done wrong. Secular psychologists must devise ways to "explain away" guilt and its source. Christians recognize that guilt exists, and that it is a real consequence of sin, not a mental problem foisted upon us by our society or our environment.

What is mental illness? I will allow Jay Adams to speak on this subject:
"Organic malfunctions affecting the brain that are caused by brain damage, tumors, gene inheritance, glandular or chemical disorders, validly may be termed mental illnesses. But at the same time a vast number of other human problems have been classified as mental illnesses for which there is no evidence that they have been engendered by disease or illness at all....The fundamental bent of fallen human nature is away from God....Apart from organically generated difficulties, the 'mentally ill' are really people with unsolved personal problems." (Jay Adams, Competent to Counsel, pp. 28-29)
How should a Christian approach sin and guilt? Counseling must first recognize that man has a conscience, man is rebellious, and man therefore experiences real guilt. People must be pointed toward Christ's sacrificial death and resurrection, and they must realize their need to ask forgiveness for sin (both to God and men). Counseling must also stress personal moral responsibility for sin. Failure to recognize one's own responsibility allows a person to deny his own real guilt and avoid the main problem—alienation from a holy God.

Confession, forgiveness of sin through Christ (1 John 1:9), reconciliation with God (2 Cor. 5:17-21), and sanctification are requirements for a "healthy" walk in Christ.

How should a Christian view suffering? Secular psychology cannot alleviate all suffering in a person's life; indeed; it tries to avoid suffering at nearly any cost. Christian psychology believes that suffering can be used of God to bring about positive change in a person's life, whether it is disciplinary, to teach us valuable lessons, or even to teach us to "joyously endure" it. Suffering is inevitable due to sin, but it is not always negative.

The Christian and Society: Marxists and humanists believe that society is the source/cause of all "evil" in this world, but Christians believe that individuals are responsible for the evil in society. Consequently, no man can blame his sin on society, his environment, or anyone else.
"The choice between Christian psychology and all other psychological schools is clear-cut. As Kilpatrick says, 'Our really the same choice offered to Adam and Eve: either we trust God or we take the serpent's word that we can make ourselves into gods.'" (From Thinking Like a Christian, p. 77; the quote is from William Kilpatrick's book Psychological Seduction, p. 233)

You might be from Michigan if...

Several weeks ago, I posted an old e-mail titled "You might be from Central Pennsylvania if..." Today, this one arrived! Here are some of the better excerpts:

If you consider it a sport to gather your food by drilling through 18 inches of ice and sitting there all day hoping that the food will swim by, you might live in Michigan.
If you're proud that your region makes the national news 96 nights each year because Pellston is the coldest spot in the nation, you might live in Michigan.
If you instinctively walk like a penguin for five months out of the year, you might live in Michigan.
If you have worn shorts and a coat at the same time, you might live in Michigan.

You know you're a true MICHIGANDER when...
1. "Vacation" means going up north on I-75.

3. You know several people who have hit a deer more than once.

4. You often switch from "heat" to "A/C" in the same day.

5. You can drive 65 mph through 2 feet of snow during a raging blizzard, without flinching.

8. You carry jumper cables in your car and your girlfriend knows how to use them.

9. You design your kid's Halloween costume to fit over a snowsuit.

10. Driving is better in the winter because the potholes are filled with snow.

11. You know all 4 seasons: almost winter, winter, still winter and road construction.

12. You can identify a southern or eastern accent.

15. Down South to you means Ohio.

17. Your neighbor throws a party to celebrate his new pole barn.

19. Your 4th of July picnic was moved indoors due to frost.

20. You have more miles on your snow machine than your car.

21. You find 0 degrees "a little chilly."

22. You drink pop and bake with soda.

23. Your doctor tells you to drink Vernors and you know it's not medicine.

24. You know what a Yooper is.

25. You think owning a Honda is Un-American.

26. You know that UP is a place, not a direction.

27. You know it's possible to live in a thumb.

28. You understand that when visiting Detroit , the best thing to wear is a Kevlar vest.

29. You call your trash pick-up can a "herbie-curbie."


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Music in Worship

Vast quantities of words, some wise and others foolish, have been written on the topic of music's appropriate place in worship, especially in the context of church services. In order to add to the growing body of writing, I offer three thoughts on church music I had recently.

Music should be a form of service, and not performance. The honor and the glory should be directed to God and God alone. The musician must take great care, while doing his very best to play/sing to the best of his ability, to avoid drawing attention, honor, or glory to himself. Humility is to be the mindset. The godly musician will not be puffed up with pride when complimented on a job well done, but will instead praise God for being able to do it well.

Too many church musicians today "perform" in the exact same sense that a secular musician performs: To draw attention to oneself and one's talent. The performance of some church music differs little from the performance at a secular concert. Sad to say, sometimes the church music sounds like music from the secular world.

The purpose of church music is worship, not entertainment. There is entertaining music out there in the world, and some of it is good, enjoyable, and profitable. Feel free to enjoy it. But when we come to church, our focus must be on God. God is great; He is worthy to be praised; He alone is the object of our worship. If we are so carnal as to go to church to be entertained, we do not understand worship, and we certainly aren't participating in it.

Certainly, when a musician does a good job, the music should please us. We will enjoy it, and even want to here more later. This is good. But true worship isn't about's about God, and what He wants. There are a number of Bible passages which speak to this issue, and they are worthy of our study.

Worshipful music must come from a sincere heart. There are, alas, plenty of "performers" of music who sing/play with talent, but whose hearts are not spiritual. It does not glorify God as it should when "praise" comes from unclean lips. True worshippers worship "in spirit and in truth" (John 4:23-24).

May our hearts ever be worshipful and Spirit-filled, regardless of our musical skills.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Cows, the Constitution, and the Ten Commandments

Yesterday I received (from two different Republican acquaintances) the following:

- Democrats in Congress are at their lowest approval levels ever. So, why should you be thinking about these 3 things?

1. Cows

2. The Constitution

3. The Ten Commandments

COWS: Is it just me, or does anyone else find it amazing that our government can track a single cow born in Canada almost three years ago, right to the stall where she sleeps in the state of Washington? And, they tracked her calves right to their stalls. But they are unable to locate 11 million illegal aliens wandering around our country. Maybe we should give each of them a cow.

THE CONSTITUTION: They keep talking about drafting a Constitution for Iraq. Why don't we just give them ours? It was written by a lot of really smart guys, it has worked for over 200 years, and we're not using it anymore.

THE TEN COMMANDMENTS: The real reason that we can't have the Ten Commandments posted in a courthouse is this:

You cannot post...

"Thou Shalt Not Steal”,

"Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery"

"Thou Shall Not Lie"

…in a building full of lawyers, judges and politicians. It creates a hostile work environment.

Whatever happened to John McCain?

Last week a number of media reports surfaced indicating that Senator John McCain, Republican candidate for president in 2008, has been having difficulty raising/keeping money and has dismissed ("parted ways"?) a number of campaign staff. This had led the piranha-minded media to speculate that his candidacy is on the verge of death, although the McCain campaign strongly denies this. So this begs the question: What happened to the McCain campaign, that it finds itself in this position? I offer a few observations....

It has nothing to do with his age. Much Americans have no idea how old he is.

First of all, he has already long ago alienated the right-wing of the Republican party. They remember that in 2000 he ran as a moderate, slamming George Bush a bit too viciously...and now they're aghast that he is trying to portray himself as the second coming of Ronald Reagan...which he isn't.

And, he alienated the left-wing of the Republican party with his strong support of the president's stand on the Iraq war. Personally, I think he should be commended for this. The lesson remains, though: They who take strong stands on controversial issues will displease some people. Those who don't take strong stands should not be president.

Then, of course, he alienated nearly every intelligent member of the Republican party (not currently in Congress) by being a big supporter of the ludicrous immigration bill which—hallelujah!—died a proper death in the Senate a few weeks ago. I don't claim to know why he supported it; I would certainly think that a senator from a state overrun with illegal immigrants would have instead supported far more reasonable legislation.

Could it be, that in attempting to read the political winds, he miscalculated? Could it be, that by hiring scads of political consultants months ago, he spent too much time "positioning" himself and too little time taking the stands that republicans want their president to take? Or that he lost touch with the electorate? There are lessons here; and the good news for other republican presidential candidates is that there is still plenty of time to learn them.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Christian Education: The Students

Once again, here is my operative one-sentence philosophy of Christian Education:

Christian Education exists to provide a quality Bible-based education that is Christ-centered, academically excellent, and well-rounded, enabling the student to daily serve Christ and become more like Him.
The student is a creation of God, created for God's specific purpose. The student has a will and a personality. How, then, can he be best taught?

The students must be obedient children of God. This means that, first and foremost, the students need to be saved. Certainly, if a Christian classroom has unsaved students, efforts should be made to bring the Gospel message to those children. The unsaved, "natural" man (1 Cor. 2:14) cannot understand spiritual things—and that is the most essential part of Christian education. Not only does the student need to be regenerate, he must also be willing to learn. The student, ultimately, is responsible for having "a pure heart and a willing mind" to learn [See Christian Education: Its Mandate and Mission, p. 5]. Only an obedient child of God can do that.

All students, because each human being has a sin nature, are naturally disobedient and rebellious, making it difficult to teach them biblical truth, because Satan has somehow convinced them that their own decisions and perspectives are superior to God's. This is not limited to Bible class; it could just as easily apply to math, history, or literature. Students who refuse to be submissive, obedient, and honoring to their authority figures not only harm themselves academically, but also forfeit the blessings God has promised to those who submit, obey, and honor. Could those blessings extend to a fuller understanding of the subject matter? As a teacher, I believe that is so. I also know that a student can learn and understand academic information without salvation or without a submissive spirit...but that is not an ideal outcome. The student needs to learn academic information within a biblical worldview, and must also grow spiritually, which requires salvation.

Parents, the primary educators of their children, must therefore seek not only to lead their children to the Saviour, but also to train them to be submissive, obedient, and respectful of authority figures. To the extent that they can help them with phonics or algebra, that is helpful; but Christian teachers teaching saved, submissive students can bring about not only academic understanding, but also cultivate great spiritual growth and maturity.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Book Review: "Andrew Jackson" by Sean Wilentz

Sean Wilentz does an excellent job writing this biography of President Andrew Jackson. He gives a fair assessment of the man, his times, and the context in which he made some of the most momentous antebellum political decisions. President Jackson was, and still is, a highly controversial figure. He was adored by many and despised by many others. Regardless of one's view, he is unquestionably an important president, and set a number of significant precedents in the office of the presidency. Yes, President Jackson is the man on the $20 bill.

This biography is one volume in The American Presidents Series, published by Times Books (Henry Holt & Co.). This is now the 16th book I have read in the series. Most, but not all, of the presidential biographies have already been written, each by an author who is well acquainted with the subject. Perhaps 1/4 remain to be published. The overall series of books is great. Each biography averages about 150 pages of scholarly, yet readable, writing. Each assumes that the reader knows a little of the background of the period of history during which the president served. I have been collecting them for four years and now have eighteen of the books (I have not yet read the volumes on Washington and Adams).

Most portray the subject in a positive light, yet do not overlook the foibles and mistakes the executive may have made. Even relatively obscure presidents like Van Buren, Arthur, or Harding get their due. If you enjoy biographies and you enjoy American history, I can heartily recommend that you find the volume on a favorite president (or even one you know little about) and enjoy yourself.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Chapel Sayings to Live By

Having gone to Bob Jones University for both of my degrees, I became well acquainted with many of the wise and pithy sayings of the university's founder. Each classroom has a saying above the chalkboard (or whiteboard) at the front of the room. A few of the ones I find most meaningful are copied below.

It is a sin to do less than your best. (Alumni Building, Room 202)

It is never right to do wrong in order to get a chance to do right.

It is no disgrace to fail; it is a disgrace to do less than your best to keep you from failing.

Your character is what God knows you to be; your reputation is what men think you are.

What you love and what you hate reveal what you are.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A Good, Clean Family Fun Idea!

Do you want to have a good time with your kids (especially if they're of elementary age)? Here's an idea: Take them blueberry picking. And really play it up before you go, too. Last Saturday I took my three girls to the local blueberry U-Pick place. I was a little perturbed at the sharp rise in price from last year, but the four of us picked about 23 pounds of blueberries together. Aside from the heat, they had a great time. I had taken the older two girls each of the past two summers, and each time, they start talking about next year's trip...on the way home in the car!

If you don't live in an area where blueberries are indigenous, try something else—strawberries, apples, oranges (for you Floridians), or even vegetables—especially if it's something your children like to eat! This is just one way to have an enjoyable time with your kids and do something productive and healthy.

Saturday, July 7, 2007


Congratulations are in order for my good friend Chad Groover, who has at long last not only found the woman whom he wishes to spend the rest of his life with, but has also convinced her of the same! The engagement commenced two days ago. May God bless both Chad and Gwen and give them many, many blessed years together.

Thinking Like a Christian, Week 3: Biology

What is the origin of life?

For much of the 20th century, belief in the literal creation account of Genesis was uncommon among believers. Other explanations of origins had gained ground at the expense of truth. Thankfully, in recent decades, belief in literal creation has regained some of that ground.

What does the Bible teach? The Bible unmistakably teaches that God created everything, as described in Genesis 1:1-2:23. This is further emphasized in a variety of Bible passages; some of them include Mark 10:6-8, Ephesians 3:9, Colossians 1:16-17, Revelation 4:11, and Isaiah 40:26, 42:5, 43:1, 45:12, 45:18. Christians should recognize that the Bible gives us information about God and His universe. Science can only give us information about God's universe.

What are the competing ideas? Over the years, three have become prominent.
  • Theistic Evolution: This view teaches that God created the first "spark" of life, and then chose to use evolution as His vehicle to "direct" that creation over millions of years. This view has significant issues for the Christian. It undermines our understanding of God and our place in His universe. Evolution is a rather "inefficient" means of creating something; why would an omnipotent God use such an inefficient process? Why would God "meddle" with His creation, while subjecting it to running according to fixed laws? Perhaps most importantly, why would God use such a cruel technique, employing many mutations and generations of death and suffering, to create something (especially if Genesis said it was all "good" when He created it)? If theistic evolution is true, Genesis is little more than an allegory—if that. If Adam and his fall are not historical, is the rest of the Bible? If Jesus Christ is presented in the N.T. as analogous to Adam (see 1 Cor. 15), and Adam and the Fall are not historical, then the doctrines of sin and Christ's atonement for it collapse! And one last significant objection: If this theory is true, then death came into the world before Adam's sin—an impossibility, if one believes the Bible. I find it interesting that neither Bible-believing creationists nor secular evolutionists want to hold to this theory....
  • Darwinistic Evolution: As outlined in Charles Darwin's 1859 book, The Origin of Species, life evolved through a lengthy series of small, graduated, and fortuitous changes, over millions of years, to what we observe today. This was the first widespread book that postulated our existence as occurring without the supernatural, which probably continues to explain its adherence today.
  • Punctuated Equilibrium: This theory says that evolution occurs in rapid "spurts" between longer periods of stasis. By the way, we must currently be in a period of stasis, since we don't observe evolution occurring today. This theory attempts to rescue Darwin's widely-disreputed ideas by putting them into a theory which is completely devoid of observational evidence.
What does the scientific evidence suggest? First of all, scientists today can find no evidence of intermediate varieties of living things today—no "missing links." Furthermore, the fossil record shows absolutely no record of transitional forms—a fossil record that is far more complete than it was in Darwin's day. Creation is the more reasonable explanation. It is more in agreement with the observations!

Here are some more arguments in favor of Biblical creation:
  • The teleological argument of the watch and the watchmaker: The presence of design implies the presence of a Designer. And the more we learn about our universe, the more we observe design.
  • Probability dictates that the quantity of "chance" needed to evolve everything is remote beyond comprehension. (Even to us math majors)
  • Even the simplest living thing, a bacteria cell which weighs about a trillionth of a gram and contains 100,000,000,000 atoms, is exceptionally complex.
  • DNA, which contains the genetic information of a cell, cannot be explained by evolution. DNA is produced with the help of at least twenty proteins found in the cell, and those proteins can only be produced at the direction of the DNA. It would seem that both DNA and cellular proteins must have been produced simultaneously! Despite its enormous complexity, it is found in even the very simplest of cells.
  • There has never been a demonstration of the development of life from non-life—not in nature, nor in the laboratory.
  • The presence of oxygen (and its relative, ozone) in the atmosphere is problematic for evolution; if it were present way back when, it likely would have oxidized with the chemicals "required for life," and if it weren't, those first little living things would have been destroyed by radiation.
  • The Second Law of Thermodynamics says the amount of energy available to do useful work in our universe is always getting smaller. Are we to believe that the moment when the greatest possible amount of available useful energy was available...was in the aftermath of the greatest explosion the universe has ever known (the "Big Bang")?!?
  • The gene pool of every species (animal, plant, etc.) has limits, beyond which they cannot stray, even with cross-breeding and selection. The Bible teaches that everything is to beget "after his kind."
  • Evolution requires that mutations be beneficial, but most "half-developed" forms would probably have no advantage and more likely be useless, not useful. If a limb evolved into a wing, an intermediate form would most likely be a bad limb—not a good wing.
We are all here as the result of the direct, creative action of God, and we must live accordingly! Furthermore, we can remember that although belief in creation requires faith, belief in evolution requires more faith—evolution runs counter to reason, science, and history.
"The geological record is extremely imperfect and this fact will to a large extent explain why we do not find intermediate varieties, connecting together all the extinct and existing forms of life by the finest graduated steps. he who rejects these views on the nature of the geological record, will rightly reject my whole theory." Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species

Thursday, July 5, 2007

The Blessings of Summer Camp

This year my two oldest children went to Camp Co-Be-Ac in the northern half of Michigan's Lower Peninsula. As expected, they had a wonderful time with the other girls from their church and some of the kids from the church my in-laws attend.

Of course, my wife and I are very pleased that our children had a good time (and sustained no injuries beyond bug bites!). But more importantly, we are thrilled that both of them made significant spiritual decisions, specifically, to be willing to be missionaries if that is what God wants them to do.

Camp should not be merely for fun...and fun, indeed, is a great part of the camp experience. Like my parents before me, I believe that every Christian kid who is old enough ought to go away to a Christian camp at least once a year. (I did for nine straight summers growing up, and enjoyed every single week.) Christian camps give young people an opportunity to go away from the electronics-saturated, entertainment-and-sloth-driven, peer-pressure-filled summer "vacations" that many of them are accustomed to, and place them in an environment where they are more prone to hear the Holy Spirit's still, small voice. The numbers of young people who have made significant life decisions at Christian summer camps, including myself and two of my children, is very, very long—testament to the powerful influence these great institutions have.

May God bless godly camp ministries, and may we pray for their success in the mission God has called them to.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Today is Independence Day!

I hope that all of us Americans remember that we live in the greatest nation on earth. It is great for many reasons, but first and foremost, because in the providence of God, He has made it so. America was founded on the principles of the Bible, apart from any single religious denomination; so long as it adheres to those principles, I believe God will preserve it and keep it the great nation which it is. May God continue to bless America.

Happy Independence Day!

Monday, July 2, 2007

Book Review: "Never Again" by John Ashcroft

John Ashcroft served as Attorney General during President George W. Bush's first term. This book is an overview of the time period from his heartbreaking loss in the 2000 Missouri Senate race until the completion of his time as AG in 2005.

The book is essentially a defense of his time in office, a time during which he received vast amounts of negative publicity, nearly all of it undeserved. It also includes his views on the ongoing War on Terror and a variety of other relevant subjects.

Ashcroft did a great job as our nation's Attorney General. This book shows the world from his point of view, a perspective rarely appreciated in the media portrayal of his time in office. If you want to learn anything about his tenure or the significant legal events of President Bush's first term, you should read this book. It is not a difficult read, nor is it particularly scholarly—it gets right to the point.

Interesting bit of trivia: Dr. John Ashcroft received an honorary doctorate degree from Bob Jones University in 1999, on the same day I received my M.S. degree, for his leadership and stand in Congress during the period of President Clinton's impeachment.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Christian Education: Teachers and Curriculum

Again, here is my one-sentence philosophy of Christian Education:

Christian Education exists to provide a quality Bible-based education that is Christ-centered, academically excellent, and well-rounded, enabling the student to daily serve Christ and become more like Him.
The teachers must be examples to the students of what a Christian life should "look" like. Just today a man in my Sunday School class reminded me that our actions speak louder than our words, and that completely applies here. Teachers must diligently avoid any demonstrations of carnality in their lives. The students will nearly always be sufficiently observant of this; if they see teachers indulging in carnal things, they, too, will be very tempted to imitate the teacher.

The teacher must also have a thorough knowledge of the subject matter. One of the problems in Christian schools, especially in the early years, was the tendency, for whatever reasons, of being willing to hiring "anyone" (meaning: anyone doctrinally agreeable and willing to work for the salary) to teach academic subjects in the school. This had several bad effects, the two most obvious of which were students learning less than their potential, and a general diminishing of respect for the teachers and the learning. After all, if the "expert" in the room doesn't know the subject that well...why should I? Teachers who know the subject best are able to teach it best.

Curriculum, ideally, promotes a Christian worldview and perspective on the subject matter. The word "curriculum" is among the most abused words in the field of education; here I intend it to refer to the overall academic program of the school, or of particular courses, like math or reading. It includes textbooks as well as ancillary materials, teacher-directed activities, and other things included in the overall academic program. Christian textbooks and materials, espousing and promoting a Christian worldview, should be preferred. But where Christian textbooks are unavailable or inadequate, the curriculum must at least be in harmony with the truth of the Bible. Materials which promote other, non-biblical ideas should be avoided.

If you homeschool, remember that these things apply to you, the parent/teacher, just as they would to those who teach professionally. Of course, your students will have a much deeper opportunity to observe your life, so determine to set a good example for them.