Monthly Archives: March 2010

The Rage Against God; A Non-Theist Returns to Christianity

I have become somewhat familiar with Christopher Hitchens who is considered one of the most prominent and recognizable atheist in the world today. I did not however know that he had a brother who once was an ardent atheist himself, but has now returned to Christianity. He is set to release a book on June 1, 2010 called The Rage Against God; How Atheism Led Me to Faith. You can watch the trailer above to get a taste of the content of the book, but in short it appears that Peter Hitchens tells about his return to “faith” while also interacting with the “New Atheism” that his brother so zealously believes in and advocates.

You can also read an article called, How I Found God and Peace with My Atheist Brother; Peter Hitchens Traces His Journey Back to Christianity, which gives more detail concerning the expanded content that will be in the book.

I have previously written twice about “New Atheism” for the “Insight Blog” and have considered that I might be giving its proponents too much thought and credit, but I still maintain that Christopher Hitchens and his fellow atheists must be taken seriously. This seems especially obvious to me when I reflect on the reported aggressiveness and growth of atheism and agnosticism in the United States. As an ardent believer in Jesus Christ, I am glad that someone so close to atheism, like Peter Hitchens in our day and C.S. Lewis in days past, can comment about this challenge to faith in an age of skepticism.

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The Best Attested Event in the Ancient World; Jesus’ Resurrection

Lee Strobel says that the “resurrection of Jesus Christ is the best attested event of the ancient world.”

That is very strong language considering Strobel’s credentials. Strobel was educated at Yale Law School, worked as a legal editor for the Chicago Tribune and was an atheist until 1981. Strobel is not a guy who can easily be accused of drinking the Christian Kool-Aid, he has credibility as one who doubted and opposed the story of Jesus.

It is also a staggering statement in light of all the history we have from the ancient world. Consider for a moment the events to which Strobel is comparing the resurrection. For example, Hannibal’s Carthaginian Wars with the Romans, The Ides of March and Julius Caesar, Spartacus and The Servile Wars; to name a few. Most wouldn’t hesitate to affirm the veracity of these events, though some doubt whether we ever put a man on the moon or whether Jesus was even a real person. Coherent people assume they are true and Strobel apologetically says that the resurrection of Christ is best attested event in ancient history. That is an incredible statement.

But Strobel isn’t the first person to investigate and defend the resurrection apologetically. Paul also asserts the historicity of the resurrection and says that it is irrefutable fact.

Nearly 2000 years earlier in 1 Corinthians 15 Paul devotes 58 verses to the resurrection and says that if a person doesn’t believe in the resurrection then they are not a Christian. That’s how important the resurrection was and is. (15:1-2) In 15:3-11 Paul defends the resurrection of Christ saying that Christ died for our sins according the scriptures, and that He was buried. After all, that is what happens to people who are dead, they get buried. He goes on to write that He was raised on the third day according to the scriptures.

How do we know he died, was buried and rose? Because verse five tells us that Cephas (Peter) saw Jesus after His death and burial. But not only Peter but also the twelve, and not only the twelve but also 500 people at one time. Not only did Jesus appear to them but Paul is essentially saying, “If you don’t believe me then ask them yourself because they are still alive, though some have died.” If that were all it would be impressive, but Jesus also appeared to James and then to the apostles and lastly He appeared to Paul himself, the once ardent persecutor of all things Jesus.

If we were having a trial to determine the validity of the resurrection of Jesus that would be a lot of witnesses to call to the stand who saw Jesus at one time or another and Paul says they would back up his story. It’s near impossible that at least 515 people would be able to hold a lie in tact and then ultimately die with the lie, and many for the lie as martyrs.  Mass Hallucination doesn’t explain it away either and really only validates the story, because a person who hallucinates will do so uniquely not in unified detail with hundreds of other people. If the resurrection of Jesus Christ were a hoax someone would be glad to take the credit for exposing it, but that historically has not happened.

The resurrection of Jesus was so real and true to Paul that it changed his life from one who violently opposed Jesus to one who died violently for Jesus. Thousands of years later the certainty of the man who beat death with His Life is still making believers ought of doubters and staunch atheist. Just ask Lee Strobel.

For other convincing evidence of the resurrection go to YouTube and search Gary Habermas and Anthony Flew, a leading philosophical atheist who is now considering God.

John Piper and Core Groups

If you go to Eagle Heights, please watch this video that we watched at the Missional Ministry Conference in Norman. Piper takes two minutes to explain the place of Core Groups (Small Groups) in the life of the church. Piper says that Core Groups should act as “little assemblies” where people care intimately for others and seek to give accountability to the application of the Bible and the preaching of the Word. Piper rightly points out as a pastor that pastors can’t go to every person in the church to deal with every specific need.

Sometimes it is better to have a guest speaker say what needs to be said. Sometimes when someone says something so well, there really isn’t a need to try to say it better. Prayerfully and humbly watch this so that you might understand more fully the place of Core Groups at Eagle Heights or wherever you meet with the body of Christ.

An Experiment, The Results and The Application

On February 6, 2010 I began a social networking experiment (read and view blog by clicking) to see how influential I could be by using social media (Facebook and Twitter) to increase traffic and views to a video of Ryan Smith talking about the Missional Ministry Conference. (MMC)

The Background

Ryan did a promo video for the MMC and when I first viewed the video, it had about 31 recorded views. There was a similar promo video with JD Grear and Alvin Reid that had around 80 views. So the score was Ryan 30ish and Grear and Reid, 80ish. It was a blowout. Ryan was taking a beating.

The Results

I began a crusade to catapult Ryan to the top of the MMC promo video views. I began linking his video in tweets and on facebook. I wrote a blog. I posted his video on the Baptist Messenger Insight Blog. As I did, Ryan’s video was viewed more and more. As it stands today, Ryan’s video has 229 views and Grear and Reid have 129 views.

I just wanted to see and show that a consistent social networking presence pays off in some way. Intentional and consistent behavior is hard to ignore and will eventually produce results. This is true of all of life. What are you being intentional and consistent about? What are you disciplining yourself to do for God’s glory? We will be consistent in something because we are creatures of habit – some good and some bad. We must be intentional about consistently influencing others for Jesus in word and action.

Application

What if everyday you read your Bible at the place you buy your coffee before you go to work? What if everyday you posted something on Facebook about how God is transforming you through His word? What if everyday you asked the people you worked with how they were doing, but really wanted to know. What if everyday you prayed to share the gospel with someone? What if everyday you made a habit of setting aside a time to read the Bible with your family?

Wouldn’t everyday activities say something about what you value? Wouldn’t everyday efforts provide inevitable opportunities to have conversations that turned toward Jesus and the hope you have?

Do your own experiment and start one thing that you normally don’t do, and do it intentionally and consistently.

Don’t Waste Your Snow Day

I have been thinking about a snow storm most of the day today (Saturday, March 20th) and watching the radar and contacting elders and other important people  to try to make a decision about having our worship gathering on Sunday.

I don’t ever like missing a Sunday morning together. We get 52 weeks a year to be together to corporately worship God through Jesus by praying, singing, encouraging, edifying and listening as the unified people of God. Sunday morning is an important time because it is then that we come together as individuals to be the body; every leg, arm, finger, eye, ear, etc.

I especially don’t like to cancel church because I know that many people will be out and about on Sunday in the snow, going to the movies, Wal-Mart, to eat or wherever it is people go. People will do what they want to do, or at least try, but sometimes you just have to do what you think is best and do it considering all the factors including what can’t be know – like is it going to snow 4 inches tonight or not? And by the way, if we knew the storm was over, we would be having church tomorrow, but we don’t and so we won’t.

So if you should read this sooner rather than after Sunday, here are some suggestions about making the most of a church snow day.

Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Psalm 51:7 (NASB)

  • Spend time being thankful for the blood of Jesus that washes us whiter than snow. Every time it snows, we would do well to reflect on this truth. Whiter than snow. Jesus washes us whiter than snow. That is pretty pure for such dirty people. Dwell deep on that fact. Relish and cherish Jesus by thinking on the snow that he providentially made.
  • Spend time with God through Jesus. Spend some alone time with God, but also if you have family, make the most of the time by having a family worship gathering. This is a great opportunity to teach your children that church has little to do with a building and everything to do with loving Jesus with others wherever you are.
  • Be thankful for the local body you normally gather with. So we didn’t meet this week because of weather, but what if we never met at all? What if we never sang together, studied and applied the Bible together, prayed together, listened to the preaching of the word together. Let this be an opportunity to be thankful that God gifts and equips and brings us together for edification and the praise of God’s glory every week.
  • Be glad that God has given the church leaders to make decisions, like canceling worship gatherings. I don’t mean this sarcastically one bit. I have wrestled with this all day and tried to do what is best for every person. Not everyone has a four-wheel drive pick-up truck. Not everyone lives in the city. Not everyone can walk on snow and ice very well. It may turn out that we could have gotten to the church quite easily, but the point is that God has given to the Church leader’s to make decisions that are best for the whole body, not just a part of the body.
  • Be thankful for the whole body; the diverse body. As strange as it sounds, a snow storm can show that the church is diverse in many ways. Thankfully Eagle Heights is a multi-generational church with senior adults. These are the very people who will come to church in all conditions and the very ones who probably need to stay home in their warm houses. Be mindful of the many different people that Christ has bought with His blood that have many different challenges.

If you must go to church or just have an itch, go to one of the churches that didn’t cancel and be thankful that Christ is Lord of that body too. Listen to the preaching and take in the diversity of different local churches. Be thankful for what God is doing through that body and be thankful that you have a church where you are known by name. Whatever you do, don’t waste your snow day. I promise you that as long as I am pastor we won’t have many because I miss being away from God’s people, the people of Eagle Heights.

Essential Library; Books For Every Christian

Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Charles Spurgeon had around 12,000 books in his library and that was in the 1800s, which makes the amount even more impressive. Spurgeon, however, read a book a day and had a near photographic memory. There are a few other men or women who have this kind of mental capability and I am not one of them. There is no need for me to have thousands of books because I would never read all of them and the money spent on them would be poor stewardship. My limited time and reading capacity only amplifies my need to be very strategic about what books I choose to read and have in my library. There is a lot of junk out there and there is also a lot of good stuff that may not be the best stuff to read. In a world that offers many “good” things, we as Christians must be adept at giving our attention to God-centered things, which are the best things for the already and the not yet. With so many “good” and “Christian” books available, we must be selective with the books we trust our hearts and minds to. I would also suggest that we should try to have a library that develops a comprehensively biblical worldview, and the way we do that is by reading books that engage a lot of different disciplines or theological genres.

What I have tried to do then is to think about the books that I have read, and compile a short list that would make up  an essential Christian library.

Bibles

  • ESV Study Bible – This study Bible is a condensed seminary education in one book and the contributors are trustworthy. This is simply the best study Bible there is.
  • The NET Bible – NET stands for New English Translation. You can access this Bible or download it for free on www.bible.org “The NET Bible is a completely new translation of the Bible with 60,932 translators’ notes! It was completed by more than 25 scholars – experts in the original biblical languages – who worked directly from the best currently available Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts.” It has some technical aspects that may be confusing for a lay person, but it is very helpful.
  • NASB Bible Translation – This is my translation of preference because it is translated word for word – as much as possible coming from the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek manuscripts. I use the previous two translations as reference points for the NASB and sometimes I check it with the NIV, which is more of a thought for thought translation.

With the study notes from the first two Bibles above and the wooden translation of the NASB, you have a great foundation for understanding the context of the passage you are reading.

Bible Reference Tools

  • Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance – If you are going to read the NASB translation then you need the NASB concordance. Nothing is more frustrating than looking for words in a concordance when translations use different English words to try to get at the meaning of the original language.
  • A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd Edition by Walter Bauer and Frederick William Danker. My Greek and NT professor at seminary used to say that this is one of the three most important books a student of the Bible can have in his or her library. This lexicon in conjunction with a concordance and Bible will help the Bible student avoid many fallacies of interpretation. To use this book does require some instruction and knowledge of Greek, but with a little guidance it will is nearly indispensable.

Theology

Church Ministry – Discipleship and Evangelism

  • The Trellis and the Vine; The Ministry Mind-Shift That Changes Everything Mark Dever who has written books on church ministry says about this book: “This is the best book I have read on the nature of church ministry. What I am I giving my life to? Church ministry. What is the best book I have read on church ministry? This one. I don’t know of a better book to encourage you to look at than this one. The Trellis and the Vine.” I think that about says it all.
  • What Is a Healthy Church?  “What is an ideal church, and how can you tell? How does it look different from other churches? More importantly, how does it act differently, especially in society? Many of us aren’t sure how to answer those questions, even though we probably have some preconceived idea. But with this book, you don’t have to wonder any more.”
  • One to One Bible Reading; A Simple Guide for Every Christian God’s Spirit uses God’s word to build up God’s people for God’s mission. This easy-to-read book helps us know why God’s word is so important and how we can use reading the Bible for discipleship with any person, even unbelievers. This is a new personal favorite.
  • Evangelism; How the Whole Church Speaks of Jesus This book nicely complements and aligns with One to One Bible Reading. If you want to cultivate a culture of evangelism that raises the expectation that the whole church will speak of Jesus, this is the book. Evangelism is more than an occasional event or visitation program, it is an ongoing way of life in which we are constantly investing in others so that we might speak of the saving power of the good news of Jesus.

Apologetics

  • The Reason for God; Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Timothy Keller – Keller is a pastor in Manhattan and this book is an easy and engaging read and was written in 2008. The date is important because it engages so many of the arguments that are advancing against the Christian Worldview. It also engages “New Atheism” and its proponents who have recently written a host of books intended to proselytize Christians to become atheists or skeptics or free-thinkers.
  • A Shot of Faith (to the head): Be a Confident Believer in an Age of Cranky Atheists by Dr. Mitch Stokes. I try to be conversant with as many worldviews as I can because the Internet makes everybody an expert about some of the most obscure things. I pay particular attention to a worldview espoused by a group of so-called New Atheists. They are zealous to evangelize anyone who will listen, arguing that all religions are dangerous and even evil and that science is the only reasonable and rational object of our faith. And they sound convincing until someone like Mitch Stokes comes a long and systematically points out why their arguments are not as solid as they would have us believe by showing the fatal flaws and subjectivity of their thinking. I highly recommend this book for people who struggle with doubts and intellectual objections to the Historical Christian Faith.

Marriage and Family

Missions

  • Let the Nations be Glad; The Supremacy of God in Missions by John Piper – Piper gets a bad wrap for being a Calvinist but this book dismisses the generalization that if a person is a Calvinist they don’t proclaim the gospel and lack a zeal for the Great Commission. Piper pleads with us to advance the gospel to the ends of the earth because the Supreme God of the universe will not fail in bringing about His purpose of being worshiped by every tribe, tongue and nation. Missions is the practical application of a proper God-centered theology.
  • Revolution in World Missions by Dr. KP Yohannan – This is a book about missions, but it edified me in many other ways. It reads somewhat like and autobiography. Yohannan is originally from India but now lives in the U.S. and travels to raise awareness and support for funding the indigenous missions movement in Asia as a part of Gospel for Asia. Among other things, this book will help you to think about missions and Asia in a way that maybe as foreign as foreign missions seems to most.

Biography

There are too many to recommend so here are two that have inspired me.

  • Spurgeon; A New Biography by Arnold Dallimore – I was inspired to name my son after this man after reading this book. I suppose that about says it all.
  • John Newton; From Disgrace to Amazing Grace by Daniel Aitken – I was both sad and inspired when I finished this book about the man who wrote the hymn “Amazing Grace”. Newton shows not only that God saves great sinners through Christ the great savior, but also how God might multiply faithful ministry, even in difficulty.

A Personal Preference

  • Desiring God; Meditations of a Christian Hedonist by John Piper – Simply put, this book changed my life as a university student. It did take me three tries to read the whole thing, but what I gleaned from it helped me have a proper perspective of who God is and that God is most glorified in me (us) when I am (we are) most satisfied (joy) in Him.

Authors

Again, this is an essential library so I can’t recommend too much or that we be defeating the purpose. However, I do want to suggest some authors that I feel comfortable recommending to any person.

  • CS Lewis
  • John Piper
  • AW Tozer
  • JI Packer
  • Albert Mohler
  • Lee Strobel (Apologetics)
  • Don Whitney
  • Charles Haddon Spurgeon
  • Timothy Keller
  • Douglas Wilson
  • Sam Storms
  • Mark Dever
  • Jared Wilson
  • Anything from 9Marks Ministry – resources for local churches

Some summary thoughts are in order. I’m sure I have missed some books and authors that I would recommend. The Bible is our authority and everything else is commentary that must be examined thoroughly by the authority of the Bible. This truth however does not mean we should not read books anymore than it means we should not listen to preachers.  Just because I recommended a book or an author doesn’t mean I agree with everything that book or person means, but we would all do well to carefully learn from, and be mentored by faithful and biblical men and women.

Go Deeper Not Beyond

I saw this blog post as a result of a tweet from Matt Chandler a few days back. The blog is by JR Vassar and is called, “A Word to Preachers and Those Who Listen to Them.” It is worth the read because of what he says to those of us who preach and to those of us who listen to preaching. Both preaching and listening are acts of worship that require being intentional and thoughtful.

But what I liked most about the blog was the emphasis he put on exalting Christ as a defining criterion for deciding whether a sermon was a “win” or not. He writes:

Was Jesus the hero of the sermon? Did I preach in such a way as to move people’s minds and hearts toward him? Was he shown to be the One we need? Was he exalted as more than just an example or a model, but as a Savior? This is key. If we only present Jesus as a model for how we live, we condemn people. Jesus died the death he died because we cannot live the life he lived. So our preaching must put Jesus forth as Savior. That is what I mean when I say Gospel-Centered. Was the Gospel presented not merely as the starting point for the Christian life, but the very track on which the Christian life is ran? As Dr. Tim Keller puts it, the Gospel is not the ABC’s of the Christian faith, but the A-Z of the Christian faith. We do not grow by getting beyond the Gospel, but by going deeper into it. Show in your sermon how the Gospel is the answer. If you are teaching on generosity, show your people how the Gospel liberates us from greed by revealing a trustworthy, generous God who sacrifices greatly to meet our needs. In fact, if your sermon is just as true had Christ not died and risen from the dead, you did not preach the Gospel, you gave advice.

The gospel is not just what saves us, but it is the answer to every issue we address. This has so many implications and applications for how we see the Bible and live life. We don’t get the gospel or get saved by Jesus and move on to something better or deeper. We never move beyond the gospel, for it is the gospel that changes us and keeps changing us through the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the hero and never stops being the hero and that is why Vassar is right to say that whatever we are preaching about or listening to, it all comes back to Jesus and it is by going deeper with Jesus that we grow and are conformed to the image of Jesus.

8 Ways to Wage War Against Lust/Adultery

90% of all people in the U.S. think that physical adultery is wrong and yet 33% of men and 25% of women admit committing adultery. Jesus said that lust is adultery and that adultery is wrong. This then begs several questions; is there any person who is not an adulterer when it comes to the purity of the heart? Is there any person, male or female, who hasn’t longed for another person that is not their wife or husband? Is there a person alive who is immune to adultery and lust, and doesn’t need to fight for the purity of their heart?

Whatever your responses to those questions may be, there is one answer we can be certain about; if you are alive you have to answer NO to the last question. Every single breathing person has to continually wage war against lust and will continue to fight it until death. Here are some suggestions for remaining sexually pure:

  1. Develop a superior taste for the joy of obedience in Jesus. Sin has its momentary reward of satisfaction and pleasure. People don’t sin because they hate it, they sin because it satisfies a need or desire. It is easier to say no to something or someone when there is a greater,  more desirable and satisfying yes. The writer of Hebrews sees this truth in the life of Jesus when he writes about Jesus, “Let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross.” Jesus’ greatest temptation was to abandon God’s will – the cross. But the writer of Hebrews says that for us to endure and overcome sin and snares we should fix our eyes on Jesus. Why? Because Jesus shows us how to overcome fixing our eyes on people and things that cause us to sin. We overcome sin by pursing the joy of obedience. My experience has been that when I have prolonged seasons of obedience to God, sin becomes disgusting and bitter and obedience brings a satisfying joy. Learn to love and cherish the joy of obedience.
  2. Deal with lust/sin urgently and severely. In Matthew 5:29-30, Jesus said that if our best eye (right) causes us to sin, we should “tear it out” and “throw it from you.” He then says in v. 30 that if our favored hand (right) causes us to stumble, we are to “cut it off” and “throw it from you.” All four of those solutions to our lust are commands and notice that they are violent commands. They are urgent and severe. Jesus is verbally or rhetorically going out of His way to paint a picture that sin is to be dealt with by taking drastic measures. He does not mean that we are to literally destroy the body that He created, but whatever thing there is that would cause us to stumble and sin, we are to deal with it forcefully. For instance, men and women who are married should go out of their way to avoid spending extended one-on-one time with anyone of the opposite gender who is not their spouse. Why even risk the opportunity for the seed of emotional and physical attachment to germinate. Avoid it! Get rid of it! Cut it off and throw it from you!
  3. Consider the consequences of lust. To begin with, hell looms for the adulterer. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:10 that “adulterers will not inherit the kingdom of God.” What I think Paul has in mind is the person who habitually and continually commits adultery with no regard for obedience to the moral standard of God. If a person is unrepentant then there ought to be deep concern for their soul. Jesus in both Matthew 5:29-30 says that it is better to act urgently and severely with our favored eye and hand than to be thrown into hell. Twice he says that hell is a possibility for the adulterer. In v. 29 Jesus says that we are either to throw away the thing that causes us to lust or we will be thrown into hell. Throw or be thrown is the idea. Not only will adultery/lust be the cause of eternal judgment but it also will cause massive damage to the ones we love in broken relationships and the assassination of trust. Consequences should not be ruled out as motivation for obedience.
  4. Avoid visual and relational fixation. In Matthew 5:28 Jesus says that “everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” The problem of sight lust seems to originate with a prolonged looking and not a mere glance. The word “look” in verse 28 communicates a continuous and visual fixation; a staring. Avoid the glance if you can, but don’t let your eyes stay on a person or thing that is tempting to you. When you encounter a visual danger, bounce your eyes and condition yourself to look away. Don’t develop relational and visual habits that lead to visual and relational lust.
  5. Meditate on the reason(s) for the cross. Why did Jesus have to die? John Piper says there as many as 50 reasons, and ultimately He died to bring glory to the Father through Jesus the Son. But it also means that Jesus bought our pardon in bearing our sins in His body on the tree. (1 Peter 2:24) He did this so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. My sin and your sin, my lust and your lust, held Him there. Think on that when you are tempted to stare and lust.
  6. Meditate on the cross. Whenever you realize that you are in danger of wanting something that is not yours to have, especially another person, think on the naked, bloody, battered and nail pierced body of Jesus, which was crucified in your place. (Galatians 3:13)
  7. Think long and hard about the gross and detestable implications of lust/adultery. One of the chief problems with lust is that it is completely unloving. The act of lust does not take into consideration the feelings of others. It is completely selfish and abusive. It is a lazy act. It ignores the person who is the object of lust. It ignores the father, mother, sibling(s) and spouse or potential spouse of the person who is the object of lust. It is mentally raping another person, because that person has not consented to participate. Additionally it is practically atheistic since the person who is lusting is assuming that no one knows. God does. (Proverbs 15:3) Lust will make you an adulterer, a sexual predator, an abuser, a rapist and an atheist.
  8. Seek out honest accountability. Consider this: You are sitting at the feet of Jesus as He unpacks the Sermon on the Mount and all of the sudden you realize that Jesus, being both God and man, knows what you think. (As displayed clearly in various gospel accounts.) That insight probably revolutionized how the disciples thought about everything. If we know that we have trusted friends who will see what we are looking at on the computer, or if we know that friend is also going to ask about our thought life, we might be more determined to fight sin. Ultimately our motivation is obedience to Jesus for the praise of God’s glory, but make no mistake about it, God has given us to each other for mutual edification. We need biblical and Spirit-empowered community so find someone you can trust and be honest.

There are many other ways to fight lust and adultery, but the worst thing any person could do is to do nothing. You must intentionally fight for sexual purity of the body and mind, and I hope these eight ways help you wage war on lust and adultery.

Taking Adultery and Lust Head-on

What does it mean that we largely ignore the pervasiveness of lust and pornography in our church culture? Is it just taboo because it is awkward? Is it inappropriate? Was Jesus being inappropriate? Is it a case of “What we don’t know won’t hurt us; ignorance is bliss.”? Is Jesus being unrealistic about his standard of practical righteousness concerning sexual purity?

This Sunday we will be preaching through Matthew 5:27-30 and hitting head-on the topic of adultery and lust. Below is a brief exhortation to our CORE Group facilitator/leaders about the need to go forward with this topic and the teaching of Jesus. Please be prayerful as we continue to go through “Exposed; The Sermon on the Mount.”

There is a reason we go through the Bible and not around it. We must deal with hard texts. This will be an uncomfortable text and topic (Matthew 5:27-30) as all difficult topics are, but keep in mind that tension is our friend because it causes us to think and act, hopefully in obedience. In times like these I see why Joel Osteen stays positive instead of biblical, though in doing so he clearly has no regard for the way Jesus or Paul or any other biblical writer did ministry and confronted real problems and sin. Adultery and lust are very taboo topics in the church and get danced around a lot. I will try to be sensitive to the complexity of this topic in my sermon. I would expect you will do the same and be tactful in facilitating. However, I will not avoid it and I implore you to hit it head-on too. The world rightly looks down on the church because we will not take on hard topics and deal with “real” issues, pretending like everything is fine when in fact it isn’t. Let that not be true of Eagle Heights for the praise of His glory in all things, especially in the depths of our hearts.

We will not be like Christ until we realize that we need Christ so that we can obey Christ. May the Spirit of Jesus convict, heal and change us as we honor the word that He inspired. HOW DO I BECOME A CHRISTIAN?

Incarnational Ministry; Engaging People on the Internet

Why do we tweet, blog, podcast, Facebook, do video and whatever else that will be next? The obvious answer is that people are on the Internet. We are going where the people are. This is especially important for our church since most of the whole body is only together once a week. The Internet and all the connecting points it affords us is  a way that we can influence and hopefully edify people between Sundays. This means of influence is not optimal since the best way to interact with people is face-to-face, but Paul wrote letters when he couldn’t be with people personally. We would do well to follow Paul’s lead and utilize the mediums that are available to us without neglecting personal interaction. For Paul it was with ink and paper, but for us it is through electrical stuff I can’t begin to understand. We would be foolish not to engage people via the Web even though we might not understand it or even like it.

Ryan Smith, our pastor of worship through music and media, does a great job of keeping us current with our website and also with social networking so that we can connect with people where they are. As with all things, sometimes the best thing we can do to influence people is be intentional and consistent. We have always had the sermons on the website but last summer we added the Question and Answer Podcast, which is a time where we answer questions from the previous Sunday’s sermon. This Q and A Podcast in-and-of itself serves a number of useful purposes including a level of feedback and interaction from the congregation on Sunday, and what we have found is that people seem to be connecting with what we are doing. When we first started we had a handful of listeners but it appears that we are slowly building a small but consistent audience (1765 downloads in February alone). Again, I can’t  emphasize enough the need for being intentional and consistent. I believe this has been the key to our growing Podcast connection and influence.

Just to give you an idea about how God is using this, I have provided some stats that Ryan has culled from our website. I am encouraged, but not satisfied. I hope that God is using our efforts to edify people to obey the gospel. I hope and pray that He does this more and more for the praise of His Glory.

One other thought. I’m not overly impressed with the sheer amount represented by these numbers. I am impressed and pleased with the progression or the trend I see in these numbers. Rome was built one brick at a time; little by little. It looks like being consistent and intentional is paying off with the help of patience. We must be patient and actively wait on God in all things, even in incarnational Internet ministry.

The following stats are merely to illustrate an upward trend that is the result, I believe, of being intentional, consistent, and patient while working hard at excellence. Again, I give most, if not all of the credit to Ryan Smith. The stats:

  • In 2010, we are experiencing 35% more web traffic than in 2009.
  • This past week was the highest week in web traffic in recorded Eagle Heights web presence.
  • Consistently, www.eagleheights.com is falling in the 200+ unique visitor range per week in 2010 and has not fallen below 200.  For comparison, in 2009 we only broke the 200 barrier twice.
  • Since the launch of our new website in summer of 2009, we have had over 31,500 unique page views.
  • 37% of web traffic is from new visitors.
  • From April 2009 – Dec. 2009 we had 2039 podcast downloads.
  • Already in only two months of 2010, we have had 2790 podcast downloads
  • 1765 of those downloads come during the month of February.
  • Already in March, we are on pace to break February’s record by over 125 downloads.
  • Listens are not unique to new uploads.  Rather people who are listening are going back and listening to previous pod casts as well as new pod casts.  This shows active and expanding listenership and is not merely indicative of new Core Group traffic.