Saturday, May 30, 2009

Trip to Minneapolis (Saturday)

Well, one of Kelli's friends got married today, so we ran up to Minneapolis with two little girls. It sounded like a fun reason to get away and enjoy some family time. My line of work hasn't exactly been flourishing in this economy, so we had to do it on the cheap.

Step 1. Book a Marriott with one of our free nights. Yeap, sign up for a Marriott credit card (or many other major hotel chains) and get anywhere from 1 to 3 nights free. Watch out, some of them have annual fees, so we'll be closing our Marriott account here shortly.

Step 2. Pack everything but the kitchen sink. Pack and Play, water toys, food, pop, milk, juice boxes, snacks, beyond the normal overnight stuff that we all need. For those of you who don't have kids yet, you have no clue how much stuff you'll need. Take your normal amount of luggage and triple it (for the first kid).

Step 3. Leave town (on time!)

Step 4. Make the big out-to-eat treat for the weekend the McDonald's dollar menu at a McDonald's with a playland. To quote Elena, "Is this a kid's meal?" "Yes, because you're a kid and you're eating it." Kelli and I ate stuff we packed, minus her side salad. $3 at McDonald's has been our only expenditure so far, other than gas.

Step 5. Go to the wedding. Very nice service. The bride walking down the aisle to "All Creatures of Our God and King" sang by a girls' chorus was pretty cool. This makes the second wedding in as many weeks that I have mistakenly not worn a suit coat to. How do you know what the dress code is at a wedding? Just when you think that no one except the guys in the wedding party, dad, and the pastor wear a suit coat to a wedding, you're shown up two straight weddings. Of course, if I would have fully understood which church this was, and that Central Baptist Seminary was a part of it, that would have clued me in to the necessary suit coat. Being at the church brought back visions of FBBC, mostly good, but some not so good. I still wonder how sinners and tax collectors can be ushered into churches where everyone else is nearly perfect in every way.

Step 6. Go back the hotel and play in the pool for a good hour and a half. Oh yes, go back to the hotel after getting totally lost. In what city do they name a street the same name on both sides of an interstate? In west Minneapolis they do.

Step 7. Do an improvised dinner in a hotel room with the food we packed. Feeding a hyper 18 month old in a hotel room with no kitchen table or high chair is a mess waiting to happen.

Step 8. Spend some family time together, put the girls to bed, and let Kelli run out to do some shopping while I sit here and write this and keep an eye on the girls. And yes, the shopping will also be on the cheap.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Inward Witness and Outward Fruit, Part 2

So, what is the inward witness and the outward fruit? In other words, what authenticates conversion? The criteria of the Scripture is much higher than a single profession of faith.

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!" The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs--heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
(Rom 8:15-17)

There is one obvious allusion to the inward witness in this passage, and a more subtle reference, also.

Verse 16 says that His Spirit bears witness with our spirit. There must be an inner witness of the Holy Spirit saying to our inner man, "you are a child of God." This is a mystical thing. It is something spiritual, that happens between God's Spirit and our spirit. This is the most crystal clear verse on the inward witness. Anyone who is saved, has this witness.

In verses 15 & 17 we see family kinship with God as a form of inward witness. There is a closeness to God that relates to him as "daddy," versus Supreme Ruler/Creator of the Universe. Verse 16 says we are God's children. Verse 17 says we are fellow heirs with Christ, as if we were His brothers. So, another part of the inward witness is kinship with God.

Other forms of the inward witness I believe are:

  1. An ongoing, Romans 7 style struggle with sin (Rom. 7:7-25).
  2. Progressive (perhaps) slow inward growth (Phil. 1:6).
  3. And others that I won't go into here, like communion with God.
So what about outward fruit? The Scripture is plain. Someone who is getting their supply from the Vine, will bear fruit. Are there death bed conversions? Sure. We know this from the thief on the cross. But you aren't on your death bed, nor are most of the people you know, so the only exception to a fruit-bearing life is a deathbed conversion.

Here are just a few of the many verses that talk about outward fruit:

You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (Mat 7:16-21)

As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty." (Mat 13:23)

"The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. "Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do what I tell you? (Luk 6:43-46)

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (Joh 15:5)
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? (Rom 6:1-2)

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Php 2:12-13)

So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (Jas 2:17)

For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. (Jas 2:26)

If someone professes belief in Christ, and has the inward witness and the outward fruit, the only conclusion that can be made is that he or she is indeed a Christian, saved from their sins and on their way to heaven.

Now the problem that particularly the outward witness presents is this: Innumerable people have made a profession of faith, as discussed in previous blogs, but are not and do not bear fruit in keeping with repentance. What's our attitude towards them? Evangelism. What damage is there in repeating the gospel to someone who has already heard it? Either they will repent of their carnal living and continue to grow (if they were saved), they will reject Christ either actively or passively by continuing to suppress the truth in unrighteousness, or they will be converted.

This inward witness and outward fruit applies to all, but we should go back and think about our children. If and when they make a profession of faith, we should rejoice assuming that they have been born again. But we do not stop teaching the gospel, nor do we present a model of "eternal security" that turns into licence. Then we look for them to have inward confidence that they are a child of God, and display outward fruit confirming God is their Vine. We must look for all three: Profession of belief, inward confidence, and outward fruit.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I will be posting soon...

I will be doing more posts soon. I have been busy at work and home and I am trying not to post these blogs about salvation in a hurry.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Inward Witness and Outward Fruit Part 1

First, let me make it clear that most people's conversions are clear cut, defined experiences that they can point to and say, "that's when God saved me." This sort of conversion was the norm in the book of Acts. People preached, people heard, believed, and were baptized. What I am meaning to warn against is:

#1 Neatly packaged sinner's prayers that guarantee entrance into heaven, regardless of internal witness or outward fruit.

#2 Those who would question the conversion of someone who has both the inward witness and outward fruit of regeneration, without having a concrete date and event to point to.

Neatly packaged sinners prayers has done a great deal of damage to the church. These little rituals of salvation, as far as I can tell, only came into existence in the 20th century. It was a great way to hit all the bases of what a conversion to Christianity was all about, and do it in a very tangible way that people could latch onto in masses. To this day I believe that part of the reasons these are used is merely for the evangelist, personal or mass, to put notches on his or her belt. I remember visiting a Baptist church and seeing a bulletin board with children's names of those who made decisions for Christ during VBS. Great. But do these kids have the inward witness and outward fruit of salvation? Or did we simply lead them in a prayer and walk away, feeling great about ourselves and the numbers we reached?

Please, do not misunderstand. A sinner's prayer is an accurate way of walking people through the gospel and what they must believe about themselves and about Christ. But, taking people, especially children, through a "repeat these words after me" prayer, and then turning to them and saying they are a "new creation" and from that point on saying that they will go to heaven when they die, while they may not experience the inward witness nor manifest the outward works of salvation, is a terrible disservice to them. I have used sinner's prayers before, and may again in the future. The problem isn't the prayer itself. The problem is the assumptions we make about the prayer and the person praying it.

The other problem I mention above is evangelists who question the authenticity of Christians who have believed "ever since they can remember." As is the case of two young people that have come through our youth group, and must be the case for others. They have the inner witness, and the outward fruit, but can't point to a single event of the new birth. I have heard preachers say "if you aren't sure, pray this prayer after me." Why? Is there something magical about it? Is it a condition for salvation? As posted in the last blog, our faith/trust/belief/confidence in Christ is what saves us.

So, I haven't really put Scripture in this blog, so upcoming, I plan to post:

The Inward Witness and Outward Fruit Part 2 (What are they according to the Bible?)

The Godward and Manward sides of redemption.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

"Does Jesus Live Inside Everyone's Heart?"

Elena asked us a little over a week ago. Just out of the blue, at the dinner table. We carefully answered her, explaining that He doesn't but that He does for those who believe in him.

When I was a kid, the Evangelical church had been taken over by the invitation, walk the aisle, "repeat these words after me," mode of evangelism. Terms like "accept Jesus into your heart" were the norm.

As I have grown as a Christian, and wrestled with my first profession of faith at 4, after being led in a tract and a sinner's with my Mom versus my later profession of faith, when I was 13 after my world had been rocked by suicidal thoughts and actions and gross rebellion, I've realized saving faith is more complex, and more simple than a sinner's prayer.

Was I saved at 4 at 13? We may never know. Of course, if we are living in a world of "spiritual birthdays" this is a most disturbing thought. What if I wasn't saved either time!? What if I didn't say something right!? Or do it right!?

Or course, that begs the questions, what does an expression of saving faith look like?

Paul and Silas knew what it looked like when the spoke to the jailer:

Then he brought them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" And they said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household." And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.
(Act 16:30-32)

Paul in Romans:

For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
(Rom 10:13)

Or just Jesus, in the most famous of them all:

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
(Joh 3:16)

The central issue is our belief, our trust. It's not about repeating certain words, or making sure that "repentance" or "submission to Christ's Lordship" or "accepting Jesus into your heart" (more to be said about this term in an upcoming blog) are part of some equation. Did the thief on the cross hit all the high points of a sinner's prayer on his way to paradise?

So instead of writing a massive blog tonight, which no one would probably read to completion, I'll start with this and post more thoughts in what will hopefully be an upcoming series of blogs on children and salvation.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Stupid things I've seen people do to leave themselves vulnernable

#1 Put their kids, young or old, in lower level bedrooms with giant egress windows with those convenient landscape timbers making stairs (window wells) going down to the bedroom window.

#2 They have a garage keypad for their garage door, and the code is their numeric address. Or it's 1-2-3-4

#3 Leaving the door going from their attached garage to their home unlocked. All the time. I mean, they never lock it. Ever. Uhm, ever heard of thieves driving through neighborhoods pushing a button on an universal garage remote and waiting for a door to go up? It happens.

#4 Leaving the front door unlocked and unattended. Guy is on the riding lawn mower in the back. House is unlocked. Crook walks in, grabs tens of thousands of dollars of jewelry, and walks away.

#5 A combination of #2 & #3.

#6 Having a security system and never turning it on because they feel that is somehow reflects badly on what they tell themselves about their neighborhood, their ability to protect their family, or because they own a gun.

#7 Trusting a deadbolt on one door to keep an intruder out. Oh, I'm so impressed that you got the Titan 1000 Mega Tough HD Dead Bolt for your front door. What about the other doors? Or that giant window as tall as a grown man that is 6" off the ground that's concealed from view behind your home?

#8 Believing gun ownership secures their home and family. "Excuse me crazed rapist burglar guy while I go down to my gun safe, put in the combination, find the right hand gun from my collection, disable the trigger lock, and shoot you with it." Oh yeah, that's right, I forgot that you'd let him commit the crime an then track him down bounty hunter style and kill him. Right.... Yeah, that's really goin happen.

I guess there's a little sarcism in this blog. Just a little.

Some thoughts about the crimes in our community

So this is what have the phones ringing off the hook at work. Tons of people want security systems or want to activate the ones they have.

It makes you wonder all kinds of things.

What would you do as a husband or father?

What about the husband who was there at time and the perpetrator only told him them he had a knife?

I talked to a lot of scared people today. A lot of scared parents.

What would you do? How far would you go to protect your family?

Friday, May 1, 2009


I'm getting tired of plagiarism in all it's forms. Including:

  • Quotes in your facebook status that aren't cited. I never know if someone had an intellectual epiphany or if they are just ripping someone else off.
  • Sermons or lessons that are 90% inspired by a book or a sermon from someone else but the source is never cited.
  • People who quote radio talk show hosts and pass it off as if it was original. Just a hint, if there's like 40 million people listening to the same show you are, someone is bound to catch you.

I know there's tons of other instances of this. What can you all think of?

There's even an entire website devoted to this.