Archaeology and Studying The Bible

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It’s not exactly Indiana Jones, but archaeology is a fantastic aid to Bible study. Much of the Bible customs we know today have been either verified or enlarged upon through archaeological findings. In addition we have more accurately labeled certain Bible sites, which is a wonderful thing if you get the chance to visit the Holy Land and stand and visualize the Bible.

 

Archaeology doesn’t trump the Bible at any point. When your archaeological findings come into conflict, you need further study and, of course, keep believing the Bible. As great as archaeology is, it is only as good as the presuppositions that the archaeologist holds. That can make for scandalous news stories. Personally, I have never once seen an unbiased archaeologist have findings that fully contradicted the Bible.

One famous case is the dig done at Jericho by the famous Kathleen Kenyon. She was, without question, an accomplished archaeologist. The problem was the miraculous tumbling of the walls of Jericho as recorded in Scripture. If you hold an anti-miracle position, it would be an embarrassment for your archaeological findings to match the Biblical record. She did good work except for dating the findings too far away to match Joshua’s account. It wasn’t the facts that required the dating, but her presuppositions and biases.

Interestingly enough, archaeologist Byrant Wood has done further work and reviewed the massive details of Ms. Kenyon’s work. His findings? The pottery would, in fact, match the time of Joshua. Even more amazing, there were burnt items and jars of stored food in the ruins. Likely there would have been fire in Joshua’s conquest. If the walls fell suddenly, then you would expect the food to be found in containers. Had Jericho been overthrown at the end of a siege as some claim, the food would have been all consumed. I didn’t need that to believe what the Bible said, but it is absolutely fascinating!

Time and time again, findings match exactly what the Bible said. In the first two pictures here, you are looking at Samaria. You can see what efforts are required to do this type of study. Herod built a palace here in Jesus’ day right where the Kings of the Northern Kingdom had their palace. Archaeological findings only backed up what the Bible said. Deep in the West Bank in the current day, it is a beautiful site that commands an impressive view. No wonder the palace was there. What a thrill it was for me to go there and imagine Ahab being visited by Elijah and Elisha, or daydream about the four lepers at the siege. I couldn’t help but notice the evidence of past archaeological work there too.

 

samaria ruins two

Archaeology isn’t the only element in identifying a Bible site in Biblical lands. Place names carried down through the years, what previous generations have believed, texts preserved, and a correlation to all the facts the Bible mentions are all essential. Now we just add archaeology to the list.

Sometimes all of these elements still fail to yield a conclusive answer. Take, for example, Sodom. There has always been debate. Some scholars I respect have suggested a place called Bab edh-Dhra. I am convinced by their evidence. Though difficult to find, I went there when I was in Jordan. In the picture below, you see it looks so God-forsaken. I fear presuppositions have hindered study of the site of Sodom too.

Archaeology can add a helpful level to our study of God’s Word. Some understanding of a process we don’t have to be part of (though being part of a dig would be awesome), can yield us great results.

sodom

Book Review:

doing archaeology

Doing Archaeology in the Land of the Bible by John Currid is a fine aid to grasping what archaeology is, how it is done, and what it brings to us. It is a basic guide and all most Bible students need. In 120 pages it gives a real overview that would make descriptions of archaeological results more meaningful to you. As a pastor, I would give it high marks.

Gender Issues And The Christian

gender isszuesHave you heard the news lately? In a barrage of negative cultural news, two cases involving gender issues jump off the page. One is a high-profile military case where one court-martialed soldier upon receiving sentence decided that he is actually a woman and should be sent to a woman’s correctional facility. The other situation involves public schools in the state of California. Their state government decided that children should be allowed to go to the bathroom of the sex they feel like at the time.

Just think, our country is growing to believe that our sex is not determined by the biological makeup given to us by our Creator. O for the good old days when a one-second glance at birth told us all we would ever need to know about what sex you are!

Of course this comes from radical homosexual lobbying groups, but their inroads into changing our culture are extraordinary. Americans, in greater and growing numbers, are buying into their propaganda. From a Christian perspective, this is really simple. God made them (us) male and female. He never mentioned that He would allow men to be trapped in women’s bodies, nor women in men’s. That is not to say that the Lord didn’t recognize the existence of homosexuality. He talked about it, and a Christian is left with no other choice but to consider it a sin as His Word so specifically says. It is not a sin where we hate the perpetrators, but like many other things, it is sin. A Christian must begin here.

Perhaps you are not a Christian, and you do not begin here. Can we at least talk about consequences of these choices? What is this doing to society? What is this doing in the lives of men and women, and even boys and girls?

In the case of the soldier, my first thought is how easy it may become to manipulate the system. Maybe he really feels that he is now a women, but maybe not. Could it be that if you faced years of incarceration you might prefer a more cushy women’s facility? If you were secretly what you always were (a man), could the thought of spending the years ahead with women be a plus? With the track our society is on, and the fact that free speech is less and less allowed on this subject, why not try it? I mean if Matt Laurer of the Today Show starts calling you by your new female name, who is going to risk the backlash of political correctness to call the soldier out? Of course I do not know how he really feels, but people are going to start manipulating the system. I also know that he is man in any event, and that should be enough to settle the issue, and that a man should not be allowed in a women’s facility for the protection of women from male predators.

The case of California public schools is even more horrific. This thought of going to the bathroom of which gender I feel I am rather than which sex I know I am is a minefield of abuse waiting to happen. Surely someone would have enough sense to realize that many red-blooded boys are going to be taking advantage of the situation. Instead of giving comfort to a homosexual, it will be giving discomfort to those who are not. Sexual abuse will inevitably rise for some while an increase in sexual activity will rise for others. That is lose-lose even if you can’t cope with talking about the morality of the issue.

Then there is the fact that they made the law read that you can change anytime. You can be a guy and go to the men’s bathroom today, feel like a woman and go to the women’s bathroom tomorrow, and then switch back the next day! Talk about confusion! What is forgotten is all the confusion that exists already in that time of life. What profession should I choose? Will I be successful? Do I have what it takes to make it? It is a time of swirling emotions and fears and so we add to the difficulty of that season of life by adding to the uncertainty! All those questions just get harder when we add this question to their plates–am I a man or a woman?

Then there is, to my mind, the strangest thing of all. Most who advocate the position would equally hold to a strong feminist position. Right up front let me say that while as a Christian I don’t hold to the more radical aspects of feminism, I do realize it was born out of clear abuses of women. Did you notice what will be the some of the worst possibilities from the above situations? Yes, the abuse of women.

Women want more sexual freedom (I am not advocating men should have more) and in getting it, they often get more abuse. How can you criticize what is labeled amoral? How can you advocate men not be bad boys when you are being a bad girl? Then there is a freedom that goes so far that you little need a man. So you get what you aim for–no man. Either he is not there emotionally or relationally, or not there in person. You find yourself alone in raising children and in life itself. Talk about winning the battle and losing the war! The effects are so deep that many men are ashamed of being a man. That pulls us down into that gender issue.

There should not be a gender issue. The Lord knew what He was doing when He made men and women. He knew how essential both really are. So that we would have one less uncertainty in our uncertain world, He chose this one for us. The happiness and protection for us all is in following His choice.

 

RELATED POST:

As Christians we should treat homosexuals in a Christian way. Many, sadly, have not.
The Christian and Gay Marriage

Preachers and Preaching by Lloyd-Jones (Books on the Ministry # 6)

If you had to list the two or three greatest books on the ministry, you would have to consider Preaching and Preachers by Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Since it was published in 1972, it has perhaps been the most influential title on the subject.

Why has it been so popular? On the one hand, Lloyd-Jones clearly stands as one of the masters of the pulpit. He could open the Scriptures with a deftness most of us who preach could only dream of. Then there is the fact that he is a racy lecturer. This volume is a written record of his lectures on preaching near the end of his career. What he has to say is worth hearing! He gives life to what some call “the romance of preaching.”

He begins at the beginning–the primacy of preaching. As he says, “…the work of preaching is the highest and the greatest and the most glorious calling to which anyone can ever be called.” He laments the increase of entertainment in worship at the expense of preaching. That is only more true today. He disdains the shift from our great task–the exposition of God’s Word. His solution is to bring preaching back to its proper place. Actually, it is his answer to every issue that he will discuss. I suspect that he is exactly right!

Lloyd-Jones carefully unfolds what preaching is as well as what a sermon itself really is. Along the way he drops nuggets of gold as if he were dispensing cheap candy. For all the criticisms of preaching today, his explanation that preaching smashes pride, with our need of being humbled so real, preaching then is the avenue to reach people. He believes people with come to hear preaching if, and only if, it be real preaching.

To him real preaching must be expository. Though there can be an occasionally blessed topical message, he is right. The reason is that we need God’s Word, not our own creative message. It is the Bible first, not your sermon idea. How contrary to most preaching today, but perhaps a good explanation for preaching’s low standing in current times.

In the larger context of preaching, he elevates the importance of corporate public worship. He writes of the wonderful long term benefits of preaching in people’s lives. He explains what a call to the ministry really is. He is adamant that “the pew” not control “the pulpit.” He explains how people can pull the preacher away from what we are to do, but we must hold true for their good.

His chapter on “The Preparation of the Preacher” is incredibly good. It gives us so much on personal growth. He ends with a discussion on the necessity of the unction of the Holy Spirit in our preaching. That is a correct emphasis.

Some criticize how dogmatic he is in this volume. He is truly harsh on a few occasions and a little too picky on some minor matters. Still, if you just overlook a few such lapses, you will find incredible treasure throughout this volume.

Be sure to look for Zondervan’s 40th Anniversary Edition of this great classic. In addition to his text, six modern well-known preachers explain why this volume is so good. What they have to say is worthwhile too.

I love this book and I think you will too.

Related Posts:
You can find all posts and books reviewed in this series here in this introductory post.

Introductory Post

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A Man In The Making — A Book To Instill Character Into Your Son

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Do you ever worry about instilling character and values into your sons? Do your even feel awkward about it in light of our culture’s rewrite of what it even means to be a man? What values most need reinforcing? This volume by Rick Johnson and published by Revell can be a help to you.

Johnson takes from the lives of twelve great men from history to illustrate great character traits that we so need to see in the next generation of men. Personally, I find some of the men more worthy of emulation than others in his list, but he does a fine job drawing these traits out of the men he looked at. His rationale is that boys need role models. It is the absolute best way to see these traits in our boys. What is modeled will be followed!

It is not just biography we find here, however, as he gives practical advice of how to help boys take these traits into the fabric of their being.

He is not afraid to be politically incorrect and that certainly makes the volume refreshing. I agree that it is time we quit going with the current of cultural downgrades and turn and swim toward what previous generations almost intuitively knew. Our boys are too important to play the games played today!

There is little Gospel here. He is not writing about what God can do, but what we should do. For what it is, it is good and I recommend it.

 

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 .

Together Is A Beautiful Word by Guest Blogger Jennie Bender


bender family
Here is a story that will reach your heart. Jennie Bender and her family walked through the fires of trial. She is wife to Shane and mother of Sabrina, Elaine, Darcy, and Davison. They are a wonderful Christian family living now in Fairborn, Ohio. The other day when I wrote a blog post called “What If Your Healing Doesn’t Come”, Jennie privately wrote my wife and I on her experiences with praying for a healing that didn’t come. In her case, it wasn’t for herself, but for her child. That is just as appropriate to the subject as any parent would realize. What she wrote was so touching, powerful, and real, I asked if I could share it as a guest blog post. Be sure to read the extra information she gave at the end. It is an honor to give her piece here. It is little edited so nothing of her heart is lost. Here it is in her words…

I just read your piece on healing. It was a blessing. I believe He can, but I have peace that He didn’t. God gives grace, mercy, and peace to go through trials. I could not do without any of those three at any given time. I have learned more, gained more, so much more. If I could go back– I’d probably selfishly choose to take away trisomy 18 (explained below) and have my daughter alive– without sleepless nights and burning tears, without knowledge of impending death, without… But I’d not know this great grace, I’d not have a strong realization of Heaven, I’d not have a measure of faith, I’d not have the blessings of brokenhearted strangers who reached out and gave me friendship through our mutual suffering, and I’d not have lifelong friendships given to me on her behalf by God’s hand…

I had so many say that God would take away this problem and it’d just go away– because He is God. Death was surely not coming to my house– according to them. They meant well; it was what we all wanted.

bender children

The Lord showed me that wasn’t the way I was going– though I wanted it badly, more than anyone passing by could fathom. I remember my own prayer– “Lord, I know you are praying for me because I don’t know what to pray.” I even went so far as to pray for her death so she could be truly safe– and hastily recanted it as soon as I spoke it– because I couldn’t believe I spoke it aloud. Only a mother dealing with a fatal disorder could understand that prayer and its depth. I wanted her more than I could bear, but my love for her wanted the fullest, happiest life for her– and with her diagnosis the best place was not with me but with God.. There was a guilt after I prayed that prayer because of my absolute humanity, but my heart later knew that prayer was because of my love for her — her grave struggles and future caused me to desire to give her to God– though it broke my heart in pieces. And I am sure someone will say that’s wrong, but the Lord knows how desperately we wanted her– with or without her so-called deformities. She was perfect to us and still is, no one dare question our love for her. Even if they did, there is no point to prove to them. We stand before God Almighty; He knew and knows our hearts. We only wanted her best– and that is love– and the greatest love is someone else’s best over your own selfish desires.

baby pic

This is a real issue, as you say. There are so many remarks you receive… some are not helpful. I am so thankful for the people who came into my life– people who were broken hearted, mended, and ministering because they had seen God. They all spoke the same words, just like a painter’s hand is recognized in every painting, you could see His hand and hear His voice through their unique stories. Others did not have that, only the broken ones. They had seen God work –they were compelled to comfort as He had personally comforted them and as they had been blessed by His people through their own sorrow.

I am changed because of those days. They are painful at times to recall, but the changes God made have only made our lives better. Every move He makes is for our good, and I trust the loving kindness of the Lord.

And as for your family and mine, our situations are not the same and not to be compared, but the Lord has made us better friends because of our trials.

(Editor’s Note: There is a hard-to-explain camaraderie in suffering.)

Trisomy 18 is a generation of an extra chromosome. It can be shattered, misplaced, or a duplicate chromosome. The simplest explanation is– it is like an extra puzzle piece. It fits, it is perfect, it is useful, fully functioning, alive. The only problem is–it is extra, therefore it destroys the whole. It can be genetic, it can be due to the age of a mother, but most of the time, as in our case, it is simply an accident at the onset of the division and multiplication of cells. Every time the bundle of life multiplies and divides it creates more problems. Since it is in the actual cells, there is nothing to do but wait. We were told she would die before her due date, she would have great struggles and die eleven days after her birth on average, and if she survived beyond those early days–she would surely be dead within a year.

Gravestone

Elaine had an extra finger, water on the brain, strawberry shaped skull, a twisted foot, and three holes in her heart– nearly every marker of T18. Our marriage was given a 1% survival rate because of the stress before and after her delivery. God has been good, we’ve not been prefect, but He has led us gently all the way. We have an unexplainable daily joy and gratitude that was given to us because we put our child and our broken hearts in God’s hands. “We are better for knowing her–even if it was just for a moment.”

She is the reason we say and know, “Together” is a beautiful word.

Thanks Jennie

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

If you know anyone going through such times, please let us know –jennie@benderparty.com.

Also, Now I lay Me Down to Sleep is a non-profit organization consisting of professional photographers who photograph families whose children have been given a fatal diagnosis. They were a great blessing to us. Lori Anderson of Simply Southern Photography took pictures of Elaine through NILMDTS.org.

RELATED POSTS:

What If My Healing Doesn’t Come? The original post Jennie responded to.

Confessions of a Disability Marriage Jennie mentioned God’s grace in her marriage getting through what wrecks many marriages. It is tough and I have written on my own case.

The Woman I Love

woman i love AliciaHere it is a year and a half later since I wrote this about my dear Alicia as a guest on her blog. I feel I was in many ways still having difficulty with our new life of disability. I was the most difficult then for a few months that I ever was to her. Still, I loved her and thank God for His grace in getting us over the difficult places of life. Every word was true and I am reflecting how I only feel more strongly about her now. I thank God for her and for the Lord’s work in both our lives. Alicia, you are still the woman I love, now more than ever.

alicia reagan

The task of writing before me is challenging, almost intimidating. It’s not that I lack inspiration. Alicia means more than life to me. It’s just that I know that most of you who read this already love and appreciate her yourself. Much that I could say would be no revelation to you. As much as anyone I’ve ever known, she embodies what is called “friend”. She collects friends like some of us collect junk. Her friendship is sincere, pleasant, can take perhaps more than most, and will last as long as you want it. But hey, you knew that. See what I mean.

As she stated in her last blog, we were friends from the beginning. That we could be more occurred to her before it did to me only because I never thought that such an incredible young lady would actually like me. Before you start thinking this false…

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What If Your Healing Doesn’t Come?

We cringe every time. I imagine you have heard it too. For that matter, you might believe it. You know, if you believe enough or pray enough, your healing from God WILL come. My question to you: is it true? Even more to the point, what is this theological point doing to the lives of some already in the midst of suffering? My wife has just written a passionate piece (in case you didn’t know, she is over 4 years into paralysis), where she comes from the other side to share that perspective. (Link below)

I suggest to you that that is bad theology, really bad theology. Still, we hear in many circles some saying it all the time. Before you cast this off as harmless and perhaps irrelevant, what effect will it have on someone who desperately would like to have healing? I have no doubt that those who say it offer it as a help. Something along the lines of “keep your head up; God will heal you.” What is sincerely offered as hope is in fact hopelessness.

When I say hopelessness, I mean this: imagine praying and wanting healing and praying your heart out after being told God always heals His children, and then the years start adding up and no healing comes. If that theology be true, what are you left to think? There is nothing left to think except that you are an inferior Christian. You simply don’t have it. Others have faith and can reach the Lord, but you can’t. What will that do to your spiritual psyche? Then, when you most need Him you drift away. If you put your all in it, you can only assume the Lord doesn’t think much of you, and really must not love you. Let someone else get healing, and hear a chorus of “See, the Lord does heal all who pray in faith enough”, and at this point, it is hard to even enjoy someone else’s healing!

Well, let’s pick this apart. Will that theology hold up? If it were true, what would it tell us about God? To say that if we pray in faith enough the Lord will heal, does that mean it is a matter of talking God into it? Then, when was God mistaken? When He originally allowed it for you? Or after you talked Him into changing His mind? Did He change His mind because you proved Him wrong? Did He just want to see you grovel? I think you know the answers to these questions!

I do not deny that prayer is an essential part of God’s plan for us. But what is prayer? What is its purpose? Is it to talk a reluctant God into helping you? Of course there is an asking element to prayer, but what is its point from the Lord’s point of view? Many cite the Unjust Judge in Luke 18, but the point there is not that God is like the Unjust Judge and will respond when He gets tired of your griping. It is that if an Unjust Judge can respond from rotten motives, surely you realize that the Lord with His pure, loving motives will be concerned about your case.

If the prayer of a righteous man avails much (James 5:18), how do you define “avail”? If it means get the answer you want , then if your healing doesn’t come, you simply aren’t in the category of the righteous. If, however, it means it pays off, then your case, if healing doesn’t come, may simply be that of the Apostle Paul. That poor fellow begged God three times in some of the most intense prayer for his healing, but it did not come. For him, he got no less of his suffering or disability, but he got more of His Lord. His healing never came, and as the Lord designed his case, it meant his prayer availed in victory. The apparent failure of his prayer in disability was actually the success of a very able spiritual life and service.

That explodes the theory before us. Would you not agree that Paul is one of the greatest Christians ever? Take another Bible character, Hezekiah. He prayed and was delivered from death to 15 years of good life. I love that story. That is how able my God is! But does that mean Paul is inferior to Hezekiah? They both prayed passionately, yet one was healed and one was not. Could we be overlooking one key concept in all of this?

What about the plan and purpose of God? If He is all-knowing (and we are not!), and full of the truest love, could He see what we can’t? Could He know why it was best all around for Hezekiah to be healed and for Paul to not be? Can you not imagine both Hezekiah and Paul praising His name around His throne right now? Did He not work it too to where they both glorified His name and served Him better? And it was better for us all.

I believe this theory almost completely leaves the Lord out of it. It is up to us to get it done in prayer and faith? Is He that passive in our lives? Even worse, if healing comes, who will get the glory? Often we are more impressed with the great prayers than the Great God Who hears our prayers!

So Now I Give You 3 Recommendations:

1. To Christians

Pray! Pour out your heart to your listening and caring God if you find yourself in need of healing. Walk with Him till you can hear His voice whether He says He will heal you or that like Paul He has another plan. He wants you in “the fellowship of suffering” and He wants to show off His grace in you by proving in a cynical, dying world that His strength is made perfect in weakness and that it makes all the difference.

2. To Pastors and Influential Christians

Measure your words carefully. What you offer as help may be throwing the weight of the world on one already so heavily loaded down. Make sure your statements are truly theologically correct too. To say that God always heals those for pray in faith enough, though it may give some momentary cheer early on, is but an emotional and spiritual time bomb that will later blow up and wreak havoc all around.

3. To Those Whose Healing Has Not Come

Don’t judge yourself by the words of other’s questionable theology, but by the actual words of God. The Lord has a mighty plan for you. Stay close to The Lord. If you take hold of His grace in your suffering you may find that we able-bodied ones, including the ones who make you feel spiritually inferior, may have to tip our hats to you when the rewards in Heaven are passed out. You may be about to soar spiritually if you but respond in faith. Forgive the personal word, but my dear wife whose healing did not come is twice the woman of faith than she was before. Just remember, the Lord knows the rest of us so desperately need you. Hold your head up high!

Link to my wife’s post mentioned above:

We Didn’t Get Healed…Or Did We?

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Facebook And The Christian

Have you heard the sermon: social media is BAD? You haven’t, obviously, fully embraced it since you likely followed a Facebook link to this blogpost. But have you wondered about it? Do you second guess your participation in social media? Is it wrong?

The question before us can only be decided by looking at what is bad about social media, what must be done to deal with what is bad, and what is good with it.

What Is Bad About Facebook

Of course there is some bad in it. That is true to the point that my wife and I have been cautious about the extent our children can be involved in it. So far my 14 year-old daughter can only use my Facebook account. I need personal guidelines for me and my family on Facebook.

Specifically, what bad is in Facebook?

1. I might make a connection that could lead to sin.
2. I might gossip.
3. I might waste too much time.
4. I might neglect other more important duties.
5. I might carelessly say something that hurts someone.
6. I might conduct myself in a way I wouldn’t have the nerve to do otherwise.
7. I might present myself hypocritically as a person I really am not.

Does that pretty well cover it?

What I Must Do About What Is Bad About Facebook

To put this in perspective, look at the above list again and ask, could this list not just as easily be applied to a telephone? When was the last time you heard a sermon on the need to rid the telephone from your life? There used to be such sermons years ago, I am sure, but we all feel they are too essential to life to live without.

You might make a connection that could lead to sin at work or at the grocery store too, so the answer to that problem is to control yourself, not quit working or buying food at the store. Since I am a married man, I need the extra precaution on Facebook that my wife have access to my account at any time. A few times a bad friend request or private message have come my way, and I just immediately showed my Alicia. Once she told one women,who suggested I might want pictures of her, a few things!

The temptation to gossip is no stronger on Facebook than anywhere else. Facebook is neutral in my success or failure on that score. Restraint is needed on social media just as it is needed anywhere.

Yes, I have wasted too much time before on Facebook, but I am just as tempted to neglect and loaf at other times and places. Some self-discipline is in order here just as when there is an awesome desert on the table (I have failed some there too!). This says something about me and not really anything about Facebook. Perhaps I need to cut back, but that does not make Facebook inherently sinful any more than the cook of that fine desert. I have also failed in my prayer life over lesser things than Facebook too.

I have seen many say something on Facebook that some internal review should have caught. Still, it seems Facebook would be a less likely place for a loose tongue since your words become a matter of public record at least to those on your friend list. People who cut loose on Facebook have a deeper problem and likely would burn your ears in person.

There has been research that some feel disconnected in the cyber world and are, for example, bolder or more argumentative. The answer there is just to force yourself to live in reality. Just because you don’t know some of your Facebook friends that well does not mean they aren’t real people with real feelings.

Finally, hypocrisy is a problem we all deal with. I will confess that you get the best of Jimmy on there, and I usually share my successes more than my failures, but what I share is part of me, and often exactly what I want to be and even try to be. We probably have a greater problem in this area at church and no one would suggest that we leave church as some have suggested that we leave Facebook. Praying “Lord, help me be what I should be and want to be” is the solution here.

What Is Good About Facebook

I suggest there is much good. I was later than many getting on Facebook, but seeing what my wife did on there brought me in. (I learned much about its good from her).

1. A place to meet new people

I have met other preachers, some writers, and other Christians from all walks of life. I have loved it. I have met several of my wife’s college friends (I have concluded she was part of a special group of God’s servants at that time–a great percentage of them are serving the Lord wonderfully). I have genuinely enjoyed getting to know some new Facebook friends. For Alicia and I, we have been incredibly blessed to connect with other families that live with disability. It has in some cases it has even turned into real friendship. We recently, for example, met Michael and Elizabeth Ferguson from Texas. Michael became paralyzed a few months before Alicia. I assure you that was a pleasant connection to make!

2. A place to reconnect with family and old friends

I have reconnected with people I knew from years ago. I much better keep up with my extended family, cousins and so on, than ever before. I love it too.

3. A place to pray for others

It so easy to stop and pray for a prayer request that scrolls by on your newsfeed. Many of us do it all the time. Without Facebook we never would have even known about it!

4. A place to encourage family values

Call me a sentimental sap, but I love to see people share pictures of their children, or spouse, or loved ones, or a special family event, or enjoyable activities at church. These are good things that are needed in this world. Sometimes I will see a picture of a parent and child doing something together and I will think that I need to do that too!

5. A place to encourage others

Research has shown that we all like what we share to be noticed. How easy it is to hit “like”. It takes just a moment to leave a short comment. How wonderful it is to rejoice when others rejoice, and at times, even weep when they weep. When Alicia’s health problems were at their worst, you would be surprised how encouraging Facebook was to her. Call me weird, but I even love to send a “Happy Birthday” to all my Facebook friends on days I am on to see it. ( A soapbox moment–unless it is vulgar, don’t get worked up about what people share. If you don’t like it, just learn the art of scrolling faster!)

6. A place to give extra encouragement to closest loved ones

Facebook would be a worthless substitute for the ways I should love my loved ones, but it can be a fine little extra ribbon on the package. Facebook programmers knew what they were doing when they made the “closest friends” designation. For example, if my wife is going to take the time to say something in the cyber world I assure you no one is going to be more diligent than me to “like” or comment. If my mother shares a picture from her life, she will know at least one will always look at it. If one of my closest preacher friends shares some ministry news and I see it, I will without fail hit “like”.

7. A place to share my faith

Alicia and I both have several Facebook friends who are not Christians. We are glad to have it that way. We wouldn’t allow that alone to be a factor in accepting a friend request. (We usually only reject devos and those who are up to obvious no-good). Since we both blog and serve in ministry, we actually love it. We just live our lives, share it as anyone would, and in our case, our lives are wrapped up in Jesus Christ. We love Him and His grace brings great joy to our lives, the kind that fills the emptiness we all feel. We are happy that others can see that too.

Concluding Thoughts

So I can’t see how anyone could say Facebook is wrong for all. If it is wrong for you, stay away from it. If you don’t enjoy it, that is your choice that we must all respect it. But please don’t have the gall to tell all the rest of us it is wrong. It is simply, as a thousand other things, just what you make of it.

And, please, if you are a preacher don’t cross the line and tell others they cannot be part of social media. Really, who do you think you are? Never forget what the Lord thinks of those who say “Thus sayeth the Lord” when the Lord has not spoken!

Sorry, I have got to go. I need to go see what you have posted today! 🙂

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Future Grace by John Piper

How would you like a book that takes the concept of grace and interweaves it through the whole of Scripture? By that I mean what grace really means to us. How does faith play out to bring the dramatic power of grace into our lives? How does grace, faith, sin, and the promises of God interrelate to make the Christian life the awesome thing it is? I assure you that Mr. Piper makes one of the strongest explanations I have seen in that regard.

Not that I would agree with everything he writes (I don’t), but he takes you to thoughts that need to be entertained though you have never thought them before. That interrelation of key Bible concepts I spoke of is the volume’s greatest asset. He connected a few dots for me.

Though he ties many things together, his theme is one: we must live by faith in the future grace of God. We find that that simple theme brings great clarity to the Christian life as expressed in the Scriptures. Or as he further explained, “…the faith which justifies also sanctifies, because the nature of faith is to be satisfied with all that God is for us in Jesus.”

I can at best whet you appetite in this review of the things he brings out. For example, he describes sin as what you do when you are not satisfied with God. We sin, he says, because we believe we will find happiness there. That presupposes a lack of faith in what God said. If we believed His grace will deliver what it promised, it would be impossible to think that the sin in question could bring happiness. I can see that truth, can’t you?

Perhaps you will be as shocked as I was to follow his discussion on the debtor’s ethic. He justly describes how we so often try to motivate ourselves and others by saying that we owe the Lord for what He did for us. Though what He did for us is monumental beyond description, he shows that is not at all how the Bible seeks to motivate us. No, he rightly argues, our problem is always a lack of faith, not a lack of gratitude, when it comes to the matter of radically following and obeying Jesus Christ.

Pride, he goes on, is a specific form of unbelief that is a turning from God to self. With that goes a loss of faith that comes a foolish faith in the promises of self. That ties the hands of grace’s work. Building on C.S. Lewis he tells of the “itch of self-regard and the scratch of self-approval.” He quotes: “The pleasure of pride is like the pleasure of scratching. If there is an itch one does want to scratch; but it is much nicer to have neither the itch nor the scratch.” He explains how the craving of the praise of others is a loss of faith in future grace.

There is so much more. He goes all the way to a faith in future grace that can triumphantly lay down one’s life for the glory of God as many martyrs before us have done. How did they do it? They believed the promises of God and the grace they contain.

Besides a few points of disagreement, I love this book. I find it superior to his writings on Christian hedonism, though he believes they are connected. It is 400 pages that I had to read slowly, but it is worth it. He has conveniently given this work in 31 chapters if you want to take a month with it. That might be the best way.

This volumes re-establishes how my faith in what my Lord has told me is so essential to the overall success of my Christian life. For that, I thank Mr. Piper.

 

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 .

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