“Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus” – feedback please!

Hey TD’ers,

I just came across this video recently, and judging by the 25 million views, it looks like I’m late to the game.  Have you guys seen it already?  I’m not endorsing it nor not endorsing it right now.  I’m just curious to know what you think of it.  Would you mind either commenting on it or emailing one of the counselors with your thoughts?  Thanks.

Btw, most of TD’s leadership will be retreating together this weekend to refresh, plan, seek, and pray for you all at TD.  Please pray for us!  God does work through sincere prayers.  As I said, we’ll be praying for you! – Arthur

Good Reasons to Say Grace in a Restaurant

If you’ve ever eaten a meal with me or my family, at our home or at a restaurant, you know we pray and give thanks to God for His provision.  I’ve never given it much deliberation nor have ever considered not pausing and giving thanks to Him.  But, in conversations with Christians, I realize that some are uncomfortable with that practice.  And I know there are a good number of you who don’t pray before your meals at lunch time at school, for one reason or another.  And I’m not judging you if you don’t.  That’s between you and God.  But, I am just letting you know that some positive things may result if you begin to practice the conscious giving of thanks to God before, during, after your meals.  Leading apologist and friend, Greg Koukl (www.str.org), shares some of his thoughts on the matter that I’d like you to consider. – Arthur 

Greg explains how saying grace in a restaurant can be a good witness.

I always try to bow my head and give thanks over meals in restaurants, even when I’m alone. Sometimes, though, it creates awkward moments.

Often servers are oblivious to the prayer (I suspect this doesn’t happen for them that often). They return to the table and carry out their duties, refilling coffee or dropping off mustard, completely unaware of the significance of the moment.

I don’t make a fuss, of course. I just pause, smile, and wait until they’re finished before I finish.

Just a few weeks ago, something unique happened while I was at a Mexican restaurant with my wife and girls. As usual, we held hands, bowed our heads over enchiladas and chili rellenos, and prayed. Nothing fancy, just a specific, genuine expression of thanks from the heart.

When I lifted my head, I noticed our server waiting patiently—and politely—for us to finish. He then came closer, took a knee next to the table, and in broken English asked a question. Could I teach him to pray?

He told me he liked the idea of giving thanks with his own family over meals, but he was a little unsure of himself. Did I have any suggestions? I thanked him for his interest, offered some thoughts, and then passed on a word of encouragement.

It was a short conversation, but it reinforced for me the importance of appropriate gestures of public piety.

I have three specific reasons for saying grace in restaurants, none having anything to do with grandstanding, trying to look “religious,” or attempting to impress anyone with my spirituality. Here they are.

First, I want to express gratitude to God.

When Jesus dined—whether in private (Luke 22:19) or in public (John 6:11)—it was His practice to give thanks. Paul did the same, once “in the presence of all” before a shipload of nearly 300 prisoners, soldiers, and seamen—virtually all non-Christians (Acts 27:35).

It is right to be grateful to God for every good thing we receive from Him, including what we eat (1 Tim. 4:3-5). Giving thanks for any meal—even in the humblest circumstances with no one watching—is simply good manners towards God.

Sometimes people are watching, though, which brings me to the second reason I always try to say grace publicly in restaurants. I want to express gratitude to God before other people.

Though I’m not trying to show off, I do want people to know that I care about honoring God and that I don’t care if they see. I want them to know I am not uneasy about my love for the Lord, even in a culture where some might think it odd.

But isn’t it possible an onlooker might be offended? I don’t know why they should be. Furthermore, in all my years of praying in public, I’ve never had anyone object. Quite the contrary, many times people have come over to my table to tell me they approved and were even touched by the practice.

This brings me to my final reason for always saying grace publicly in restaurants: I want my simple act of devotion to have a beneficial effect on others.

Instead of thinking the worst of those around me, I assume my behavior might encourage them. I don’t expect to get many requests for a short tutorial on prayer, but I do hope my effort will get others thinking in a positive way.

Some of those who offer a compliment turn out to be believers who weren’t as bold themselves. My effort encouraged them to stand a little taller and be more concerned about honoring God rather than being anxious about the judgment of others.

Even with non-believers present, I’m willing to take the risk that they may not like what they see. Those who don’t share my convictions display their values publicly. Why should I, as a Christian, timidly shrink into the background?

I hope in the future you won’t miss opportunities like this. Non-Christians frequently zero in on the negatives of religion. Maybe your decision in this small area will give them something positive to consider.

– Greg Koukl

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The Pernicious Lie: You’re Not THAT Bad!

Is it more loving to tell someone a lie or to tell someone the truth, but hurt her feelings?  Of course, there’s more than meets he eye here, for intent often must precede content.  But, if the intent on both counts is to genuinely, sincerely love the other, what’s better?

In the latest essay our “The Pernicious Lie” series, Eunice thankfully loves us by giving the truth about ourselves in unmasking the pernicious and soul-condemning lies of compromise that we want to believe, to our peril.  Please read on with a willingness to change.  Comments welcomed! – Arthur  

Charles Spurgeon, a British Baptist preacher, once made a startling remark about mankind, “You cannot slander human nature; it is worse than words can paint it.” Harsh words.

Scripture doesn’t paint a prettier picture. Actually, Scripture uses severely vile terms to describe man. Men are “corrupt, and have committed abominable injustice.” In all of humanity, “there is none righteous, not even one…There is none who does good.” (Romans 3:10, 12)

I don’t disagree with the truth of Scripture. Looking at the world and, especially, at my own record, I am cognitively aware of the reality of sin and its presence within me. However, even with this knowledge, in my heart of hearts I question, “Uh, really? Is sin that bad? Am I really that bad?”

On the horizontal level, leading a moral life can wear the guise of sinlessness. As long as you don’t do horribly bad things, you’re okay. Just make sure you go to church on Sundays, read your Bible occasionally, and generally keep the Ten Commandments. When I evaluate myself according to that scale, I seem to be doing just fine. I can give myself a pat on the back and move on with my day.

Then, why is God making such a big fuss? What’s the big deal?

The prophet Jeremiah speaks on behalf of the Lord:

“For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, to hew for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.” (Jeremiah 2:13)

As I let this pierce through my heart, I realize the great weight of my sin. Sin is not just simply a ‘missing of the mark’, although it includes this. Sin is worth infinite condemnation because of who it offends. John Bunyan goes further to describe sin as “the dare of God’s justice, the rape of His mercy, the jeer of His patience, the slight of His power, the contempt of His love!” Each time I disregard my mother’s words, diminish the imago dei in another person, worry about my future, or covet the talents of a close friend, I take a stab at God. His heart.

For the typical Christian, we easily play the game of blurring the lines between black and white, and make everything ‘gray.’ Drinking is fine; just make sure you don’t drink too much. Dating that person is okay; just make sure that the person goes to church. We can dabble in activities of the world; just make sure that we still maintain our Christian label. John Wesley’s mother, Susanna Wesley, with precise words described sin as “that which weakens your reasoning, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes away your relish for spiritual things—in short, if anything increases the authority and power of the flesh over the spirit— that to you becomes sin, however good it is in itself.” Anything and everything that pulls you away from a closer fellowship with the Lord, Your Heavenly Father, is sin.

When the exterior—one’s looks, reputation, accomplishments, talents, personality, and self-esteem—is stripped away, every man is nothing more than a filthy, murderous, delusional harlot, seeking satisfaction and salvation from every where and anywhere else, except from God, her true Love. Under all our make-up, our bodies are temples for the indulgence of lusts and the worship of idols.

Christian brother, Christian sister, do not be deceived, “for when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.” Do not think that your actions— no matter how small, insignificant, or trivial— don’t have eternal consequences.

– Eunice Im

Including Isaac

Hey TD!

Could you please do me a favor and watch this video?  Listen to the adults, for sure, but pay particular attention to Isaac’s fellow students … scratch that … Isaac’s … friends.  This is the big-C Church being the big-C Church.  Take a BIG whiff of the BIGNESS of attitude, spirit, understanding, and perspective that is there.  It’s BIG, and it’s what we desperately need in TD and in our little-c church.

Will you join me in surrendering to what God wants for us, His Bride?  That we would work really, really hard at being a body that actually values the whole Body? That we wouldn’t settle for superficial unity around superficial, circumstantial, external things? That we wouldn’t be guilty of the oft-so present and oft-so Pharisaical sin of mistaking uniformity with true unity?

Will you – who have felt uncomfortable at being comfortable, at TD being comfortable, at our church being comfortable – will you, as a member of our little-c local church, be willing to do what needs to be done to be a proactive, contributing, impacting member of God’s BIG-C universal Church that impacts people’s worlds for His honor?  If you will, God is going to be highlighted and appreciated!  And if you will, this is going to be an amazing year at TD … and beyond!

Please read 1 Corinthians 12:12-26 before watching, ok? – Arthur

A Personal Conversation With RC Sproul, Pt. 1

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As I’ve shared many times, RC Sproul is one of my heroes in life.  I think you’ll enjoy this candid, honest, and one-of-a-kind conversation that I had with him earlier this summer.  Learn and glean from one of the world’s leading theologians over the last 4 decades, and allow his enduring passion for the Lord encourage and spur you on! Comments welcomed. – Arthur

Arthur: We are starting a summer series called, “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants” …  I wanted to do not only biographical sketches, but capture the passion and thrust and vision that you have, and had, and that God has called you to … If you could share your life and vision and what you want people to know, that would help me to be faithful to you and to what God has called you to.

RC: I would say, Arthur, understand where my theological passion comes from.  It comes from the initial days of my conversion … When I was converted, it was a Damascus Road kind of experience.  It happened to coincide with the beginning of my freshman year in college, which happened to be a church related college.  I went there not because it was church related, but because I went on [an] athletic scholarship.

I was converted the first week and then I had to go to an “Introduction to the Old Testament.”  So, I started to read the Bible for the first time, and my virginal reading of the Old Testament, particularly overwhelmed me (with emphasis) with the sense and majesty of God the Father.  I can remember walking the dormitory halls at 3 in the morning when everybody else was asleep and dealing with this portrait of God that I found in the Old Testament; and then I realized that this God plays for keeps [and] this can’t be something that’s just a matter of peripheral or surface commitment …

My next experience was in a philosophy class when I had my teacher expound an article from Augustine on creation – creation ex nihilo – and again that had a remarkable impact on my understanding of God.  Then, of course, when I went to seminary and studied under [John] Gerstner, I was exposed to the great minds of church history, particularly … Augustine, Anselm, Athanasius, Thomas Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Edwards, and each one of these giants upon whose shoulders we stand today differs in some degree from the others – usually in small matters – nevertheless, what came across to me in all of them was that they were all intoxicated with the majesty of God the Father.  And that defined my theological thinking, I think, more than anything else …

… and the realization that in the church that we live today, there seems to be a shallow approach to the nature and character of God; we’ve become almost unitarians of the second Person of the Trinity, preoccupied with Jesus, as important as Jesus is, obviously.  Remember that His work was that He was sent from the Father to reconcile us TO the Father.  What I was afraid [of] was that we were losing the very nature and character of God; and if you don’t understand the very nature and character of God Himself, you can’t understand the very character and nature and work of Jesus.  And so those are the things that really informed my vision to communicate the character and nature of God in my teaching through so many decades.

Arthur:  You were talking about the shoulders of giants that left you in awe because they were intoxicated with God the Father.  I talked to you back in the early ’90’s … and asked you for advice for me in leading youth.  Your response to me back then was, “Teach them who God is. Teach them the character of God.” Now that you’ve had the chance to rub shoulders with the [newer guard, like Mark Driscoll] and have seen a little bit more of the youth today, would you add to that advice at all?  Or would you say we need it more than ever?

RC:  [We need it] now more than ever!  Particularly now, if anything that’s awakened me since pastoring a church, Arthur, is where this works itself out at the level of worship.  I’m afraid that the shallow way in which God is being worshipped in the evangelical world today reflects the theology that people have.  I think our worship should reflect what we believe about the nature and character of God. And when you understand who God is, you can’t be casual or cavalier in His presence.

Arthur:  The shallowness that you see … can you expand on that a little bit more?

RC: How we dress, how we sing, how we behave in church is at kind of a casual level, which doesn’t make sense to me if we understand Who it is we’re worshipping.

Arthur:  Is there a place for maintaining the respect and yet not being “outdated?” for maintaining the respect, yet being in current culture and not just putting on the “dress of the old?”

RC:  I’m sure there must be.  I just haven’t seen much of that.

Arthur:  When speaking of standing on the shoulders of giants, how do you feel about being considered by many to be one of those giants today?

RC:  Well, I think that the people who think of me as a giant instead of a dwarf are the people who don’t really understand who the giants are, the people whose shoulders I’m standing on.  But I understand that in every age people are pushed into positions of leadership and it normally is the case that contemporaries pay more attention to contemporaries than to leaders from the past.  I mean that’s common human experience, and I understand that.  In fact, even when I write, every time I’ve written a book, Arthur, I have felt like whatever I’ve had to say in this book has been said so much better by people in the past than I can do now.  But I also realize that people won’t read the people from the past, and so what I’m trying to do in a sense is introduce them to those people from the past and then they’ll at some point get rid of my books and then get to reading the giants.

Arthur:  Now RC, you really believe that?  Or is that … the “right answer?”

RC:  Well, that question is a little bit insulting, Arthur, (chuckling)!  Yeah, as a matter of fact, I do believe it.  I couldn’t believe it more strongly.  I’ve said it many times and I’ve had that feeling when writing and struggling to communicate certain things. Like when I was writing on Willing to Believe, of course I’m giving a little rehearsal of what others have said, like Luther and Edwards, and I’m thinking, I wish the people would really dig into Edwards on this because he does it so much more profoundly than I did.  And I thought many times that I realize that I’m in a position of prominence, if you want to call it that; but I have often felt that if I lived in another century, where the Warfields and the Hodges, and people like that were around, people wouldn’t be paying me any attention.  I think the reason I’m in some kind of prominence today is because of the age in which we live.  I do honestly believe that and I have for years, Arthur.

Now at the same time, to get to the other side of what you were getting at, I … I was talking with a church leader recently who is prominent in his denomination and he’s 20 – 25 years younger than I am, and he asked me to do something, and I said, “Why do you want to hear from me on this point?  I’m a dinosaur now, you know,” and he was horrified that I said that, and he said, “I don’t think you realize that your influence right now is greater than it’s ever been.”  And I was not just surprised but I was shocked he said that.  I thought, hmmm, maybe he’s right.  When you think about all the things that Ligonier does to expand the outreach of the ministry, and the way it’s gone overseas, and the way radio has multiplied.  You know, the guy may be right, but I may be just kind of feeling my age.  Does that make sense to you?

Arthur:  Yeah, totally.  Hey, have you been on the internet yet?

RC: What do you mean have I been on the internet?

Arthur:  I was watching you tell Mark Driscoll (a couple of years ago) that you haven’t been on the internet. 

RC:  Well, since I have my iphone, I guess it counts.  Like if someone asks me a question about who starred in a movie in 1946, and I don’t know the answer, I have this app that says, “google,” and I go google that question, and so, I know this may sound stupid, but I understand that that’s kind of like being on the internet, right?

Arthur:  Yes, it is (RC laughing)

RC: I still don’t have a computer. (laughing)

Arthur: So, you don’t spend too much time on http://www.ligonier.org?

RC: Uh, you mean the internet site?

Arthur: Uh huh

RC: You want me to tell you something?  Are you standing up or sitting down?

Arthur: I’m sitting down.

RC:  I’ve never seen it, Arthur.

Arthur: Is that right?

RC: Yeah, that’s right.

Arthur: Let me tell you, they’ve done a tremendous job [with the site]

RC: I’ve heard wonderful things about what we call Ref Net and all the things we’ve done online, but like I said I’ve never visited the app.  I know there is one, but I’ve never visited it.

Arthur:  Now is that intentional to keep your clarity?

RC:  I really haven’t given five minutes thought to it.  I’m just not into that kind of stuff, you know?  I was on the radio for at least five years before I ever heard a broadcast of Renewing Your Mind, Arthur.  I don’t read my own books.  I don’t listen to my own messages.  Is that unusual?

Arthur:  No, I don’t think so.  I figure that once you hear yourself a couple of times to evaluate yourself, that would’ve done it.  Yeah, I wouldn’t want to hear myself either if I already know what I said.

RC:  Yeah, well, I tell you this.  The other side of that is that sometimes when I have listened to my program, I’ve gotten very engaged in it, listening very carefully, and enjoying it, and liking what the guy is saying, forgetting that it’s me! (laughing heartily)

Arthur: (also laughing heartily) Haha, that is so good!  I’ve done the same thing when I’m listening to a message that I did, and then I say, “Man, that’s good!”  Then Sandra walks by and she kind of gives me that look!

RC: (laughing harder) Yeah, I know that look! (continuing to laugh)

Arthur:  When you had your conversion, you took your classes, and you were so voracious.  You said before that you read the Bible in like two weeks or something, and then you’ve taught it to so many, you’ve taught Dust to Glory, you’ve written seventy plus books and all that.  When you come to it today, is it still your food?  Are you still fresh?  Is it still alive to you?  Does it still make RC Sproul come alive?

RC:  Yes, I would say if anything, moreso.  I’ve never gotten jaded about that … It’s still very difficult for me, however, to preach and to teach from a nervous anxiety aspect.  I’ve never gotten any less nervous about speaking.

Arthur:  You’re still nervous today?

RC:  Oh, absolutely.  You mention today?  You know I always preach without notes, so as soon as I’m done with one lecture, I immerse myself in the next one, and I worry about, am I going to do justice to the text next time, and so that never stops, absolutely never stops.