Monthly Archives: August 2013

From Mormonism to Ministry

Mormons

So, here is my story of how I left Mormonism and became a Christian and subsequently went into Christian ministry. Special thanks to my friend Harold Thornbro for inviting me onto his Podcast (http://truckersgospelmission.org/). You can follow the link here:

http://truckersgospelmission.org/?p=349

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Today’s Book Recommendation: Rick Cornish’s Series “5 Minute…”

Listen everyone is a Theologian, but are we any good? Rich Cornish is deliberate in his attempts to help us become better Christian thinkers in shorter burst of time. As a Pastor I recommend this to Men and Women (Teens too) who are on the go. I recommend this link:

834832: 5-Minute Theologian: Maximum Truth in Minimum Time 5-Minute Theologian: Maximum Truth in Minimum Time
By Rick Cornish / NAV Press

What’s your theological IQ? Too embarrassed to say? Don’t feel bad. Millions of Christians are as intimidated by theology as you are.

Divided up into one hundred easy-to-understand readings, 5 Minute Theologian will help you gain a better grasp of God, grace, Satan, sin, election, and many other essential concepts of your faith. In three months, you can become dramatically more informed than the average Sunday churchgoer.

Theology isn’t something for just pastors to study. You also need to understand God’s Word and principles to protect you and your family against a barrage of half-truths and outright lies. This book will give you a maximum amount of truth with a minimum commitment of time.

“The Unexpected Journey” Get this book here

 

 

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This is a book I really enjoy recommending, because it really helped explain how I came to Christianity away from the LDS perspective.  I had people in my life who loved Jesus and subsequently loved me. Find it here:

The Unexpected Journey: Conversations with People Who Turned from Other Beliefs to Jesus

Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus”

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“Reach out and touch faith

Your own personal Jesus Someone to hear your prayers Someone who cares Your own personal Jesus Someone to hear your prayers Someone who’s there…”

Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus” is one of those songs that have relevance for multiple reasons. Rhythmically the song is as contemporary now as it ever was, you might even say it was ahead of its time.

Lyrically the song was really pertinent at the time because it seemed in some ways to be a sort of backlash against the rise of the Tele-Evangelist in the late 1980s; at least there is a subtle reference to that in the language of the song, for example:

“Feeling unknown
And you’re all alone
Flesh and bone
By the telephone
Lift up the receiver
I’ll make you a believer”

Images of Jim & Tammy Fay Bakker or Jimmy Swaggart might especially come to mind as they were at the height of their ministry just before their subsequent falls at the time. However, the writers of the song weren’t simply addressing the TV preachers of their time, rather, they were addressing the individual needs of people to have a savior.

Think about it. The invoking of the name of Jesus calls to mind the divine and sacred—and it forces people to think of the significance of a savior LIKE Jesus, without having to really come to grips with THE SAVIOR Jesus. How did this come about? Well, according to a Rolling Stone article from years ago the biography, Elvis and Me, about Pricilla Presley’s life with her late husband Elvis had inspired the notion of Elvis as a kind of savior to Pricilla.

Searching out saviors isn’t foreign to our own personal story, some turn to drink, or drug, or sex, or to self-glorification. But then again some people turn to saviors who are either close family members or friends. Jesus even encountered this notion of making idols out of the people we love, for example in Luke 14, Jesus said:

Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.

Now harsher words may have never been spoken, but Jesus is using a method of argumentation to make a point. Jesus doesn’t mean we should hate one of the greatest gifts we have been given (that would mean breaking God’s Law), like friends and family. No, Jesus means that our love for the Person of Jesus should be so great in comparison to all other loves that it would almost seem like hatred to others by way of contrast.

Personal Jesus expresses a longing for a personal savior in fleshly form, for Pricilla Presley that may have been Elvis, for others it could be sports figures and other entertainment icons, or people in our family, or even our very children. People that we have not only looked to for inspiration but have actually placed our hopes, dreams, and aspirations upon; perhaps even putting them on a pedestal where you might even say they are worshipped.

But the Gospel tells us that the longing for a personal savior in fleshly form is found in no one else than Jesus Christ; God in the flesh, who became a person to be personally known. Depeche Mode’s Personal Jesus challenges believers to think about the idols that take human form but are mere shadows of what we find in Christ. And to unbelievers the song talks about the longing to be saved and rescued by a someone and to that we turn to another song from a different time and a different day, it goes like this:  

“We have heard the joyful sound: Jesus saves! Jesus saves! Spread the tidings all around: Jesus saves! Jesus saves! Bear the news to every land,Climb the steeps and cross the waves; Onward!—’tis our Lord’s command; Jesus saves! Jesus saves!

And not the Jesus that we create, but the Jesus who created creation and then became a person to be personally known. A.K.A. the word that became flesh (John 1:1-14).

Next time onR3Din the culture segment we will be taking on the Terminator franchise in something I am calling “John Connor and Jesus Christ: Terminator in Light of the Gospel”

 

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Learning How to Pray, Part 1: Praying for the Kingdom to Come

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I preached this sermon a couple of years ago and it made a deep impact in my life at the time and I think it had some meaning in the lives of others. Prayer is the language of dependance and humility…. where better to learn than from the Lord Himself.

Find the link here… http://ncmbc.org/Audio/Luke/022711m.mp3

 

Continue to follow R3D and look for a new post tomorrow on Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus.”

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Sermons That Have Changed My Life #1: “God is Not a Beggar?…” Dr. Russell Moore

I have listened to this one singular sermon multiple times. There is a beauty in the way that Moore preaches that makes him unique in many ways: southern charm, story arch, and most importantly the redemptive story of Christ crucified for sinners. If you take the time to listen you will be dramatically impacted as Dr. Moore takes on this most important theme of the God who reconciles people to Himself through the ministry of reconciliation He has given to us. Listen here:

http://www.russellmoore.com/2009/08/28/god-is-not-a-beggar-why-your-ministry-must-become-more-pathetic-before-it-can-be-less-pathetic-2-cor-516-613/

Continue to follow R3D as we examine life, ministry, and culture in light of the wonderful Gospel of Jesus Christ.

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This Weeks Book Recommendation: “Who Needs Theology?” by Roger Olson and Stanley Grenz

whoneeds

I love this book and have read it multiple times in Bible study groups as I have mentored other men to learn to study theology. It is one of the first books I have thinking Christians read before they tread the waters of the deep (you know what they say, ‘C’mon man I want my Berkhof and I want it now,’ with really intense stare with the TULIP in their eyes and I’m like, ‘Chill out spawn of Calvin and read Roger Olsen for some balance’) and get them thinking about theological frameworks and categories.

This book is written in plain language so that everyone can understand that EVERYONE NEEDS THEOLOGY, BECAUSE EVERYONE…at least in some sense, is a THEOLOGIAN. The question that the drives the book is this: Do you have good theology or bad theology. Find the resource here:

Who Needs Theology?: An Invitation to the Study of God

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The Duty of Christian Parents

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As I continue to give links and brief introduction to each sermon that will be featured here I am reminded of the wonderful support that I have received from Memorial Baptist Church in New Castle, Indiana. MBC has time and again supported me and given me the liberty to receive advanced theological education and the time that it takes to prepare rich, substantive, Gospel centered preaching.

Also, my darling wife (Rachel) has made enormous sacrifices for the Kingdom of God and considers them only slight and momentary in light of the surpassing greatness in service to our King, Jesus.

In this sermon I examine the responsibility of Christian parents to raise their children in accordance to the scriptural precepts. By examining Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (The Shema) we learn of God’s expectation for Parents, children, and the covenant community. Take a listen and enjoy. Find it here:

http://ncmbc.org/Audio/Deuteronomy/Deuteronomy.htm

The next link share in the R3D preaching series will be examining what the Gospel of Luke has to teach us about the necessity of prayer.

Between the Cross and the Cobra Kai: Good, Evil, and Triumph in the Karate Kid

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Get em a body bag, yeah” Jimmy, from the Karate Kid Part I (1984)

The Karate Kid was the first movie I ever saw on Beta-vision, yes, its official—I am getting old. However, the key thing about KK, at least in the original 1984 version (what in the world was the Jaden Smith movie about anyway???) is that it really took root in the children of the early 1980’s.

The KK can be accused of being sappy on some level by modern standards, but it forever remains one of my favorite movies. Why? The reasons are varied, perhaps it is because that it was a very formative time in a childhood and I was just attached to things I really enjoyed.

Or maybe it’s because I always envisioned that one day I would simply paint the house, sweep the floor, and wax on and wax off and mysteriously be transformed from 7 year old kid with a slight speech impediment to a deadly ninja over night.

Then again there may be another reason. Maybe its just that the KK dealt with the universal themes of good and evil, but only in 1980’s terminology. The Cobra Kai’s (the wealthy elitists from good side of town) have made it their priority in life to bully, intimidate, and make life miserable for the poor outsider—Daniel Larruso. Larruso is out matched at every turn and angle.

What is his way out? Daniel has to learn to meet violence with violence, but “…Not from the Y Ma, but from a good school.” So, Daniel Larruso comes under the tutelage of the Okinawan Karate Master—Mr. Miyagi. Through repetitious and monotonous and unorthodox labor, Miyagi turns Daniel into a humble and unlikely hero who eventually faces all of his foes in the local Karate tournament.

Through the best montage of the 1980’s (only rivaled by Rocky IV) , set to “You’re the Best Around,” we discover that Larruso defeats all of his enemies through sheer force, then after defeating them—they are reconciled to him in the final scene where Jonny Lawrence says, “Your all right Larruso,” and hands Daniel the All Valley Karate Trophy (seemingly passing over the fact that the Cobra Kai’s have gone to great lengths to possibly seriously injure if not cripple him for life, but hey Crane Kicks have a way with making you friends).

Now what does the Gospel have to say about this seemingly innocent—Reagan-era-Rocky style-romp? Well, the universal theme of injustice sticks out like a sore thumb. The rich oppressing the poor and taking delight in it is a very real issue in the KK. The Cobra Kais are true to their creed—they are snakes, clad in Michael Jackson zipper jackets, with skeleton paint on their faces, they represent oppression and tyranny. They are strong, handsome, wealthy, athletic, and privileged class of kids that most preppy 80’s children aspired to be (alright, not all preppy-teen were all out to kill people with their Kawasaki’s and leg sweeps).

On the other hand, Daniel Larruso represents an unwanted outsider, who appears weak, small, and different. Daniel is almost like a prophet in some ways, the outsider, who kicks against the established hierarchy by challenging the lead dog, Jonny Lawrence, where one day at the beach when Allie (with an ‘I’) gets her “Boom Box” (aka Ghetto Blaster for children of the Zeros) slammed into beach Cobra Kai style.

From there Daniel will take a series of beatings and mistreatments, ultimately rescued by his mentor, friend, and new father-figure—Mr. Miyagi. So, through Miyagi, Daniel becomes a young Jedi, err, I mean a young Karate master in training.  Daniel goes into full-blown mode, seeking revenge, triumph, and finally attaining acceptance from the community that once rejected him. But that’s where the story takes a sharp departure from the Gospel of Christ.

The KK would be closer to the Gospel if in the scene where the Cobra-Kai Halloween Scream-Team would have not only beaten Daniel, but also murder Daniel without his father-figure coming to rescue him. The KK teaches a simple message of when treated wrongly, learn Karate and kick someone in the mouth (i.e. Lex Tallionis), but the Gospel shows us something entirely different.

Jesus doesn’t over power his enemies through sheer might and physical force, but through His dying in their place. The Gospel shows us that Jesus isn’t rescued by His Father in the midst the lawless hands of wicked men and the Snake, no, instead it was the will of the Father to crush His only begotten Son (cf. Is. 53:10), so that the wrath of God against the enemies of God would Passover over them and onto Christ. Romans 5, explains that:

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.”

So, in the KK we see one who is weak, despised, rejected, and the unlikely hero and in the Gospel we see the same thing too. But their roads take two different paths to victory. One seeks justice in triumphing over his foes by overcoming with brute strength, the Other seeks justice by unjustly submitting Himself to weakness, humility, and death, even death on the cross (Phi. 2:8). In the one the Cobra Kai’s are defeated by a Crane Kick, in the other the Serpent is defeated by the Cross of Christ. 

Join me back here next week for R3D as we examine Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus”