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January 13, 2004

Every month or so I like to drop by George Barna’s site to read his updates, which are generally published every two weeks or so. In case you are not familiar with Barna Research Group, it “is a full-service marketing research company located in Ventura, California. BRG has been providing information and analysis regarding cultural trends and the Christian Church since 1984.” Essentially he does surveys and polls of the Christian community or of the wider community but with a Christian theme.

In December he wrote about the results of a survey about worldviews. Allow me to quote a portion of the article which can be found in full here.

The research indicated that everyone has a worldview, but relatively few people have a biblical worldview - even among devoutly religious people. The survey discovered that only 9% of born again Christians have such a perspective on life. The numbers were even lower among other religious classifications: Protestants (7%), adults who attend mainline Protestant churches (2%) and Catholics (less than one-half of 1%). The denominations that produced the highest proportions of adults with a biblical worldview were non-denominational Protestant churches (13%), Pentecostal churches (10%) and Baptist churches (8%).

Among the most prevalent alternative worldviews was postmodernism, which seemed to be the dominant perspective among the two youngest generations (i.e., the Busters and Mosaics).

For the purposes of the research, a biblical worldview was defined as believing that absolute moral truths exist; that such truth is defined by the Bible; and firm belief in six specific religious views. Those views were that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life; God is the all-powerful and all-knowing Creator of the universe and He stills rules it today; salvation is a gift from God and cannot be earned; Satan is real; a Christian has a responsibility to share their faith in Christ with other people; and the Bible is accurate in all of its teachings.

It makes you wonder what churches are doing if they are not teaching their people the basics of Christianity. God as all-powerful and all-knowing Creator, Satan’s existence, the Bible’s accuracy…these are not radical new teachings and they are certainly not advanced teachings. They simply form the basis of a basic understanding of the Christian faith!

Of further interest are the results of not having a Biblical worldview. “One of the most striking insights from the research was the influence of such a way of thinking upon people’s behavior. Adults with a biblical worldview possessed radically different views on morality, held divergent religious beliefs, and demonstrated vastly different lifestyle choices.” You can read more about that at Barna’s site.

Now I would like to know what the specific questions are that the researchers asked of people. It is possible that they phrased the questions in such a way that people did not understand. From what I have seen of Barna’s work in the past, though, I suspect this is not the case.

Regardless, the results of this research is shocking. It shows that in many ways these days the church is little different than the world.

January 12, 2004

Forgive me if I deviate from my usual theological themes to discuss America’s other religion for a moment…

A weekend like this makes me wonder why I love football so much. Going into this weekend I was cheering for the Rams, Titans, Packers and Chiefs. Incredibly enough, all four of those teams managed to lose their games. How depressing!

Being a Rams fan, I was especially upset to see them lose. It was incredible to watch Mike Martz lose confidence in Mark Bulger to such an extent that he elected to run out the clock and force overtime rather than taking a couple of shots at the end zone. Such things did not happen when Kurt Warner was in the game! Martz made a couple of terrible coaching blunders and Bulger was not sharp. They had chances but time and again came up short (literally in the case of the missed field goal in overtime). It was a game they could and should have won.

The Chiefs are another team I enjoy watching and I hated to see them lose yesterday. Their defense may as well not have bothered as they were completely ineffective. The Colts ran roughshod over them the entire game and it was only with some great offensive power that the Chiefs managed to stay in the game. Priest Holmes was his usual spectacular self and Tony Gonzalez was a consistent receiver. Unfortunately he was the only consistent one as Kennison, Boerigter and Morton all had some terrible and costly drops.

As for the Titans and Packers, I do not so much like them as hate the teams they were playing against. But they too let me down.

At the end of it all I guess I can say that although my teams all lost, it was a wildly entertaining weekend of football – probably the best weekend of football I can remember. I think I’ll root for the Colts from here on in. As long as the Eagles don’t win the Superbowl I’ll be okay.

January 11, 2004
This week’s Sunday Reflection comes courtesy of John Newton and his hymn, Safely Through Another Week. It is a song of thanks for another week of safety and a song of petition, that we may feel God’s presence near to us during the upcoming week.

Safely through another week God has brought us on our way;
Let us now a blessing seek, on th’approaching Sabbath day;
Day of all the week the best, emblem of eternal rest,
Day of all the week the best, emblem of eternal rest.

Mercies multiplied each hour through the week our praise demand;
Guarded by almighty power, fed and guided by His hand;
Though ungrateful we have been, only made returns of sin,
Though ungrateful we have been, only made returns of sin.

While we pray for pardoning grace, through the dear Redeemer’s Name,
Show Thy reconciled face, shine away our sin and shame;
From our worldly cares set free, may we rest this night with Thee,
From our worldly cares set free, may we rest this night with Thee.

Here we come Thy Name to praise, let us feel Thy presence near,
May Thy glory meet our eyes, while we in Thy house appear:
Here afford us, Lord, a taste of our everlasting feast,
Here afford us, Lord, a taste of our everlasting feast.

When the morn shall bid us rise, may we feel Thy presence near:
May Thy glory meet our eyes, when we in Thy house appear:
There afford us, Lord, a taste of our everlasting feast,
There afford us, Lord, a taste of our everlasting feast.

May Thy Gospel’s joyful sound conquer sinners, comfort saints;
May the fruits of grace abound, bring relief for all complaints;
Thus may all our Sabbaths prove till we join the church above,
Thus may all our Sabbaths prove till we join the church above!

January 10, 2004

I recently completed a critical (by which I mean in-depth) study of Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life. I went through each chapter of the book not only reading what he had to say but also looking up each and every Biblical proof-text he used (more than 1200 in all), paying special attention to his use of the Bible (since that is the greatest criticism of his detractors). You can trace my journey below.

Purpose Driven Blog
(Preconceptions & Methodology)
Who Is Rick Warren?
(Purpose & Introduction To The Author)
Beginning The Journey
(Introduction)

The Journey
Days:
1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13   14   15   16   17
18   19   20   21   22   23   24   25   26   27   28   29   30   31   32
33   34   35   36   37   38   39   40

Here is my Book Review of The Purpose Driven Life

January 10, 2004

This week’s Blog of the Week is Blogs4God. This site is both a Weblog and a listing of over 900 other Christian blogs. The various blogs are divided into several categories, each of which has an editor who, at least once a week, writes an introduction to some of the topics being written about in those blogs. The definition of Christianity is a bit loose, but on there are many valuable links on that site.

I also want to take an opportunity to point out BibleAndReference.com. This is a resource offered by Christianity Today that is aimed at aiding Bible Study. There are many valuable resources there, from Christian questions and answers to dictionaries and lexicons. Most of the resources they link to seem to be pretty (suprisingly?) solid.

January 09, 2004

At the request of a few people I have begun a series examining the basic teachings of Christianity. Consider it something of a “Christianity 101.” The series is intended for two main audiences. The first is people who are not Christians and are seeking to know something about this faith. The second is people who are Christians but may have only a basic knowledge of Christianity. In order to reach these audiences I have purposely avoided using “Christianese” words and phrases and have done my best to avoid using concepts that have not yet been explained.

Here are the articles thus far:

  1. Basic Christianity Part One- Ground Rules & Presuppositions
  2. Basic Christianity Part Two - Introduction
  3. Basic Christianity Part Three - What is God?
  4. Basic Christianity Part Four - The Trinity
  5. Basic Christianity Part Five - God’s Revelation
  6. Basic Christianity Part Six - The Bible
  7. Basic Christianity Part Seven - Creation

I am attempting to write at least one article per week. I expect there to be at least another ten articles in this series.

January 07, 2004

A few days ago I had a lunch appointment with a group of church planters connected with my church. One of them was supposed to cook for us but there was a miscommunication and we were forced to find a restaurant where we could eat. We ended up heading to Pizza Hut for their all-you-can-eat lunch buffet. In case you are not familiar with their lunch special, I’ll give the details. In the middle of the room is a cart, and sitting on this cart are all different varieties of pizza. There are also a few types of salad and bread available. They usually also have dessert pizza which surprisingly is not quite as disgusting as it sounds. The pizza is cut into miniscule slices and the plates are equally tiny. This is geared, of course, at limiting the amount you can eat.

I watched with amusement as the guys filled the tiny little plates with slices of pizza. One of them is on the Atkins Diet, so he stacked at least half a pizza on his plate and as soon as he returned to the table, proceeded to pull all of cheese and toppings from the pizza. He then threw all the crust in the trash and ate only the cheese and toppings before returning to the cart for another round.

It occurred to me as I sat there munching my pizza that many people treat religion in general and Christianity in particular much like that buffet. They stand back and survey the religious options and then choose a bit of this one and a bit of that one. They might like Jesus’ teaching about loving your neighbor, so they’ll add that to their plate, but when it comes to his teaching about sin and damnation, well, they just leave that one sitting on the cart. Then their eye catches a glimpse of Hinduism and the teaching about reincarnation, and again, that gets shoveled onto their plate. They pick and choose, adopting the parts they like and rejecting those they don’t.

But what of truth and what of absolute standards? Surely one of those religions must be superior to the others or hold the keys to truth! But no, people prefer to believe that there is truth to be found in any and all religions, regardless of how those religions may contradict or condemn each other.

Jesus did not allow for buffet-line religion. He said “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” When it comes to Jesus, we have to take Him as He is, and that means taking all of Him – the parts we like as well as the parts we may not like.

January 06, 2004

For the past few months I have been wrestling with the content management of this site. What I mean, is that as time goes on and the number of articles increases, a lot of them are going to get lost to the archives, never to be found again (except via Google, I suppose). I have been searching for some design ideas so I can try to preserve some record of some of the better articles. So to that end I have come up with this design.

I would like a bit of feedback on that design, if you are so inclined. My design priorities are:

  • Readability - More than anything, I want the site to be easy to read. A site like this is all about the text, so it needs to be preeminent.
  • Accesibility - I want the site and the site content to be accessible. This means that the site can be accessed using any browser. It also means that content does not get lost.
  • Looks - Bringing up the rear is looks. I want an attractive site, but it is less important than the other conditions.

So my questions about the new design are:

  • Do you like it more or less than the old design?
  • Do you think it accomplishes my objectives?
  • Do you find the new colors distracting?

Any other input you may have is appreciated.

By way of disclaimer, the woman praying will be disappearing in favor of something more relevant to the content of the site. I may change the book background at the top, as well, as I’m hoping to find roughly the same picture but with an english book! Please note that the bulk of the links do not yet work.

Feel free to comment or email me.

January 06, 2004

As you know, I spent 40 days blogging my way through The Purpose Driven Life. I finished the book a couple of weeks ago and since then have been forming my thoughts so I can write a review of it. A couple of days ago my thoughts turned to the word “driven” and its implications. I began to look for the word in the Bible and found quite a few references to it. Interestingly, the word driven generally has negative connotations in Scripture. It most often denotes an active force pushing and controlling a passive subject. For example, a ship is driven by the wind and the enemies of the Israelites were driven out of the land.

My thoughts then turned to the alternative to being driven. This, of course, is being led. The Bible has many references to the word led, and they most often speak of a believer choosing to follow God’s ways through knowing Him better. For instance the Israelites were led by a pillar of cloud which they chose to follow and Jesus taught us to ask “do not lead us into temptation.”

And so I wonder, does God call us to be driven or led? Does He call us to be driven by a purpose or led by His Spirit? Or can the two be one in the same? Can a determination of our purpose make us more willing to submit to the Spirit’s leading? Initially I must say that I am more comfortable with the concept of being led by the Spirit, who dwells within me, than being driven by a purpose. But this will require some more thought.

I hope to have my review of The Purpose Driven Life completed in the next day or two.

January 04, 2004

God gave us the Sabbath, the seventh day, to use in remembrance of Him. Ultimately, the day of rest should stir our thoughts to think of the final rest we will enjoy when we go to be with Him.

The following hymn, For All The Saints (written by William W. How), is a favorite of mine. It speaks of our struggle in this life, that though it may be difficult, we look forward to the day when God will call us home. It speaks of God’s faithfulness to those who have gone before us. It speaks of what we should reflect on as we enjoy this day of rest.

For all the saints, who from their labors rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

Thou wast their Rock, their Fortress and their Might;
Thou, Lord, their Captain in the well fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true Light.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For the Apostles’ glorious company,
Who bearing forth the Cross o’er land and sea,
Shook all the mighty world, we sing to Thee:
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For the Evangelists, by whose blest word,
Like fourfold streams, the garden of the Lord,
Is fair and fruitful, be Thy Name adored.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

For Martyrs, who with rapture kindled eye,
Saw the bright crown descending from the sky,
And seeing, grasped it, Thee we glorify.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
All are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

O may Thy soldiers, faithful, true and bold,
Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,
And win with them the victor’s crown of gold.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
And hearts are brave, again, and arms are strong.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

The golden evening brightens in the west;
Soon, soon to faithful warriors comes their rest;
Sweet is the calm of paradise the blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

But lo! there breaks a yet more glorious day;
The saints triumphant rise in bright array;
The King of glory passes on His way.
Alleluia, Alleluia!

From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
And singing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost:
Alleluia, Alleluia!

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