Being Saved (1 Corinthians 15.2)

In Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth, he left us with one of the earliest accounts of the basic gospel truth:

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. (1 Corinthians 15:1-9 ESV)

So many items are of interest in this brief statement. For instance, Paul was convinced that Christ’s death and resurrection was in accordance with the Old Testament Scriptures. Further, most of the eyewitnesses to the resurrection of Christ were still alive at the time Paul wrote this letter which means the veracity of the gospel claims could be fact checked and validated, further strengthening the veracity of the gospel message.

But one small phrase continues to jump off the page to me: “by which you are being saved.”

The various English translations are divided on how to translate this phrase. The NIV (by this gospel you are saved), NASB (by which also you are saved), KJV (by which also ye are saved), and HCSB (you are also saved by it) all translate the verb in the present tense.

But the ESV (by which you are being saved) and NRSV (through which also you are being saved) translate the verb with a continual action present tense. Which one is it and does it make a difference? Continue reading “Being Saved (1 Corinthians 15.2)” »

darwin fish

The Talk: My Response to David Barash

Dr. David Barash, an evolutionary biologist and professor of psychology at the University of Washington, recently published an opinion piece in the New York Times (September 27, 2014). He neither requested, nor is interested, in my response to his op-ed, but I think that “his talk” deserves to be challenged. Before I offer my rebuttal, I offer his complete article below:

“God, Darwin, and My College Biology Class” (David Barash)

            Every year around this time, with the college year starting, I give my students The Talk. It isn’t, as you might expect, about sex, but about evolution and religion, and how they get along. More to the point, how they don’t.

            I’m a biologist, in fact an evolutionary biologist, although no biologist, and no biology course, can help being “evolutionary.” My animal behavior class, with 200 undergraduates, is built on a scaffolding of evolutionary biology.

            And that’s where The Talk comes in. It’s irresponsible to teach biology without evolution, and yet many students worry about reconciling their beliefs with evolutionary science. Just as many Americans don’t grasp the fact that evolution is not merely a “theory,” but the underpinning of all biological science, a substantial minority of my students are troubled to discover that their beliefs conflict with the course material.

            Until recently, I had pretty much ignored such discomfort, assuming that it was their problem, not mine. Teaching biology without evolution would be like teaching chemistry without molecules, or physics without mass and energy. But instead of students’ growing more comfortable with the tension between evolution and religion over time, the opposite seems to have happened. Thus, The Talk. Continue reading “The Talk: My Response to David Barash” »


Where is Fasting in the Bible?


Exodus 34.28 – Moses fasted for 40 days while receiving the Law from God

Deuteronomy 9.18 – Moses fasted for 40 days to intercede for the people after the golden calf

Judges 20.26 – the army of Israel fasted for one day, asking for the Lord’s direction in battle

1 Samuel 7.6 – the people fasted for one day, confessed their sins, and Samuel prayed for them

1 Samuel 31.13 – Saul’s army fasted seven days when they buried Saul

2 Samuel 1.12 -  David fasted and mourned at Saul’s death

2 Samuel 12.16-23  – David fasted for seven days, asking God to spare the life of the child born to Bathsheba

1 Kings 19.8 – Elijah went without food for 40 days, though it was not called a “fast”

1 Kings 21.27 – Ahab humbled himself before the Lord and fasted

Ezra 8.21-23 – Ezra proclaimed a fast to ask the Lord for safe travel from Babylon to Jerusalem

Ezra 9.5 – Ezra sat appalled and fasted when he learned of the people’s faithlessness

Nehemiah 1.4 – Nehemiah fasted when he learned that the walls of Jerusalem was broken down

Nehemiah 9.1 – the people of Israel fasted in confession of sins for one day in a sacred assembly

Esther 4.3 – the Jews responded to the news of their impending slaughter with fasting

Esther 4.16 – Esther asked the Jews to fast on her behalf as she prepared to approach the king

Psalm 35.13 – the psalmist, David, fasted and prayed when his enemies were sick

Psalm 69.10 – the psalmist, David, fasted as part of his prayer to God for help

Psalm 109.24 – the psalmist, David, was weak as he prayed and fasted

Isaiah 58.1-14 – God desires the kind of fast that leads the people to holiness, love of neighbor, and working for justice

Jeremiah 36.6 – Baruch read Jeremiah’s words in the Temple on a day of fasting Continue reading “Where is Fasting in the Bible?” »

worship 2

Serious Worship (Psalm 113)

If the book of Psalms was the Hebrew prayer book and worship book, then we have much to learn about worship from the book of Psalms. And one of those lessons is that worship is serious business. Consider Psalm 113.

Praise the LORD! Praise, O servants of the LORD, praise the name of the LORD! Blessed be the name of the LORD from this time forth and forevermore! From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the LORD is to be praised! The LORD is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens! Who is like the LORD our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down on the heavens and the earth? He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people. He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise the LORD! (Psalm 113:1-9)

The psalm starts out easy enough, encouraging the worshipper to praise the name of the Lord from this day into eternity. All day long, praise the name of the Lord. And if we did nothing in worship but repeat these words over and over, our worship would have a good beginning but would not journey on the path that the psalm writer intended. The psalm very soon demonstrates that to praise the name of the Lord is to wrestle with life through the eyes of God’s blessed name.

A few observations.

First, the psalm declares that the Lord is high above all nations. This statement means that God sits on a throne that is much greater than any earthly ruler. But more than that, His reign and rule is qualitative different than earthly rulers or the power of earthly nations. God is working out all of history towards His divinely appointed end, an end revealed in the New Testament which is to unite all things under the headship of Christ (see Ephesians 1.9-10). Not only is God more powerful than the nations, but He is orchestrating the nations to His end. Nations rise and fall at His bidding.

So far, so good. May the name of the Lord be praised. Continue reading “Serious Worship (Psalm 113)” »

Bolivian boy

The Nations: Bolivia

As our church prepares to send a mission team to Bolivia to work with Danny and Vanessa Beams, allow me to paint a picture of Bolivia.

The territory that we now know as Bolivia was been inhabited for thousands of years by the indigenous Indians. One ruin dates back as far as 1500 BC. The Inca Empire spread to control the territory beginning in 1438, and when the Spanish Empire conquered the Inca Empire in 1533, the Bolivian territory fell under their control, too. Bolivian silver was an important resource for the Spanish Empire, and they enslaved much of the population to mine it from the earth. After hundreds of years of Spanish colonial rule, the revolution against Spain began in 1809. Simon Bolivar was the political/military figure that led much of South America to gain its independence from Spain. Finally, after years of war, independence from Spain became a reality for Bolivia in 1825.

The rule of Bolivia was far from stable, with as many as 200 military coups taking place over the next 160 years. During these unstable times, Bolivia lost almost half of its territory to neighboring nations, mostly the resource rich portions. Finally, in 1982, the government stabilized with a democratically elected government that remains in place today. The current President, Evo Morales, is the first indigenous Bolivian president. Morales was elected under the political banner of “moving towards socialism” and returning the power of the nation to the indigenous people. However, by some standards, it is one of the most corrupt nations in all of South America.

The population of Bolivia is 60% indigenous peoples, commonly called Amerindians. The population is diverse, and the constitution recognizes 36 languages in addition to Spanish which is spoken by 88% of the population. Tin and natural gas are two significant natural resources. Life expectancy is 68 years, and the majority of the population has no access to health care.  Some rate Bolivia as the second poorest nation in the southern hemisphere, behind Haiti. Continue reading “The Nations: Bolivia” »

BN Shelf

Side By Side

My wife took this picture at our local Barnes and Nobles. Two worldviews side by side on the same shelf. One devoted to helping one person understand the other’s love language in order to better sacrificially love them. While I haven’t read the other book, judging by book summaries and reviews, it is a worldview about a relationship between two people who sign a contract agreeing to a sexual relationship without any romance, and a bondage/submission sexual relationship at that.

Two distinct worldviews about the role of sex in a relationship or whether or not a relationship is even required for sex. Two distinct worldviews about the nature of love and whether or not love is required for sex.

Which one do you think is selling more books?

This Week’s Memory Verse

Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. Revelation 2:10 (ESV)


i5 Logo

Latest Sermon Series

i5 (Invite): The Power of a Personal Invitation

One effective tool in the ministry of reconciliation is to invite our friends to “come and see” Jesus by coming to church with us.

August 31, 2014

John 1.35-51

Sermon Series: i5: Evangelism for the Rest of Us

Video Link Coming Soon


The Accident: A Book Review

I overlooked Chris Pavone’s first novel, The Expats, but I will certainly seek it out after reading his second novel, The AccidentThe Accident is a well written, well crafted novel with an unusual setting for an action thriller: the publishing industry. Without spoiling the plot, an “expose” type of book was written about a well known and powerful media mogul, and not only is the publishing world willing to kill to get its hand on it, but so is the CIA and others. The plot is filled with unexpected twists and turns, and has just enough complexity to it to keep the reader guessing.

Personally, I could have done without the graphic descriptions of several sexual encounters, though they were few and brief. And the obscene language was not necessary to the plot or book development.

If you are looking for a break from the typical police/murder mystery and spy novel genre but still want some intrigue and action, Pavone’s book might just scratch your itch.

(Disclaimer: I was provided a free copy by the publisher in exchange for a review but was not obligated to provide a positive review)

Why Are Unbelievers Unbelievers?

I know the question sounds like gibberish, but the core question is very important. Why does an unbeliever not believe in the name of Jesus? You might say, “Because they are an unbeliever,” but my question goes to the heart of what it means to be lost, what it means to be saved, and what it means to be involved in evangelism. What stands in the way to keep an unbeliever from becoming a believer?
For instance, we might suggest that one reason a person does not confess Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior is because they have too many unanswered questions or intellectual difficulties with the gospel message. Perhaps they are not convinced in the existence of a divine being, or perhaps they question the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus.
Or it might be that they have a problem with the moral requirements of being a Christ follower. Perhaps they embrace our culture’s ethical standard of “everything is permissible as long as it doesn’t hurt another person,” and they cannot see why God would deem certain “victim-less crimes” as immoral. Continue reading “Why Are Unbelievers Unbelievers?” »

fishing trip 2014a

Fishing Buddies

fishing trip 2014b

Fishing With My Son

What a great day fishing with my son on Lake Texhoma!

success failure

Failure: The Unintended Consequence of Success (Judges 8.27)

The writer of Hebrews demonstrated faith in action by highlighting the life of faithful men and women throughout biblical history. The famous “faith hall of fame,” otherwise known as chapter 11, is full of great faith stories like Abraham and Moses. But it also includes a list of names, stories that the author didn’t have the time to tell. One of those un-expounded faith stories is the story of Gideon.

Gideon’s story is found in Judges 6-8. He was the unlikely man chosen by God to deliver Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Though he was the least in his father’s house, the angel of the Lord told him to “go in this might of yours and save Israel.” In faith, Gideon destroyed his own father’s altar to Baal. The Spirit of the lord clothed Gideon, he rallied Israel around him, and gathered for battle. He famously sought confirmation from the Lord through the fleece, twice. And he trusted in God’s plan, even though the Lord whittled his fighting force down to a paltry 300 men and gave him a battle plan about a silly as Joshua’s: torches, trumpets, and clay jars. But “through faith,” Gideon “conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, and obtained promises” (see Hebrews 11.33). Continue reading “Failure: The Unintended Consequence of Success (Judges 8.27)” »

curmudgeons guide

Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead: Book Review

Charles Murray, author and social historian, has written several weighty works of great value. I have previously reviewed Coming Apart, a book about the changing culture in White America, and was looking forward to reading his latest release, The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead: Do’s and Don’ts of Right Behavior, Tough Thinking, Clear Writing, and Living a Good Life.

The Curmudgeon’s Guide is certainly different than Coming Apart. The later is a social research book, the former is the collection of a life time of wisdom, wisdom summed up in 35 thoughts with short explanations. According to the dictionary, a curmudgeon is “an old man who is easily annoyed or angered and who often complains.” Murray defines a curmudgeon as “an ill tempered old man”  or as “a successful person who is inwardly grumpy about many aspects of contemporary culture.” But what could easily be dismissed as the rantings of the old man down the street who constantly tells the neighborhood kids to get off his lawn is tempered by this one key thought: “most large organizations in the private sector are run by curmudgeons” (15) like Murray, and they have the power to decide who gets promoted and who gets fired. So, like the sub-title suggests, if you want to get ahead in a world run by curmudgeons, then you need to learn the values of curmudgeons.

Much of Murray’s wisdom is very practical: stop using the world “like” in conversations, don’t get tattoos, dress properly, address people with terms of respect, learn how to write well, leave home, etc. Young people won’t like much of the wisdom, but that won’t change the basic premise of Murray’s work: curmudgeons are the ones who have worked hard and earned the positions of power in the places where most young people will end up working.

It is an easy read, entertaining, and makes a great graduation gift book. Unfortunately, it will probably be left un-read by the non-curmudgeons, but that will be to thier own demise. Don’t blame the curmudgeons; they told you so.

Disclaimer: I was provided a review copy of this book by the publisher at no cost in exchange for a review. I was not obligated to provide a positive review.


nytimes opinion logo

Faith Based Fanatics: A Response to Timothy Egan

I’ve never heard of Timothy Egan, but then again, he’s never heard of me either.

Mr. Egan is an author and journalist who lives in Seattle. He has authored six books, his most well known probably being about the Great Depression: The Worst Hard Time (2006). He has won several awards for his writing, and he contributes to the Opinion section of the New York Times.

On July 18, 2014, his recent Op-Ed piece, entitled “Faith Based Fanatics,” appeared in the Opinion Pages of the NYT. As a man of faith, and probably what Egan would call a “faith based fanatic,” his opinion piece infuriated me, most likely, much to his delight. The truth hurts, he might be heard saying all the way from the West Coast. After stewing over his rant against religion, I decided to invest some time into articulating a response to Egan’s trash talking Op-Ed piece.

Just to be clear about terms, a fanatic is one who is “marked by excessive enthusiasm and often intense uncritical devotion.” Many of those who Egan rants against would reject the idea that they are devoted “uncritically” to their faith. In truth, they have excessive enthusiasm because they have critically examined their faith just as atheists share the same devotion to their beliefs. And let’s be honest, “non-faith based fanatics” are legion, too. Continue reading “Faith Based Fanatics: A Response to Timothy Egan” »