Grace Alone Revisited and Defining Hate Speech. Sin Boldly Episode 88

Sola-GratiaIn this solo episode, I look at two articles. The first looks at “Grace Alone” from a Roman Catholic point-of-view. (That article is here.) What does it really mean to “cooperate” with God in salvation? Is “grace first” good enough or were the reformers right to insist on “grace alone”? I also look at an article that argues that there is no such thing as hate speech, only unfavorable opinions that are labeled as such to shut down free speech. Oh, and just how much should churches spend on their parking lot?

If you want to listen via the podcast feed, that link is here. That link will take you to iTunes. To subscribe to the Sin Boldly podcast with an Android phone, I recommend the Cast Box app, which easily finds Sin Boldly via search. Your iPhone (or iOS) Podcast app finds it easily on iTunes. If you subscribe to the show, you get the episodes immediately upon release.

Why the name “Sin Boldly”? Martin Luther wrote to his friend Philip Melanchthon in 1521: “If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary but the true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin. God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong [sin boldly], but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world.” To sin boldly, therefore, is not to seek unholy living, but to follow the course we believe the Bible demands even if the world is against us. And if and when we sin, trust in an even greater savior.

The Benedict Option. With Wyatt Graham. Sin Boldly Episode 87

0df9b00027d31d1f34f6b786b5129f09The Benedict Option has been called the most important Christian book in decades. But what does it really propose? Is it anything new? And is it even the best “option” out there? For that matter, do Christians have options other than the biblical “option” found in the Great Commission? How should Christians response to a hostile culture? Wyatt Graham of The Gospel Coalition joins me and we use his latest article as the foundation for our conversation. That article can be found here.

If you want to listen via the podcast feed, that link is here. That link will take you to iTunes. To subscribe to the Sin Boldly podcast with an Android phone, I recommend the Cast Box app, which easily finds Sin Boldly via search. Your iPhone (or iOS) Podcast app finds it easily on iTunes. If you subscribe to the show, you get the episodes immediately upon release.

Satanism. As Told By An Ex-Satanist. Sin Boldly Episode 86

a6e4bf731cbf751e7b0f6a7067001f44I was joined by Zachary King, a former Satanist of 26 years, of All Saints Ministry. We talked about his past life as a Satanist and what Satanists believe, the Biblical reality of the devil and his minions, and recent Satanic encroachment into the public square. Is Satanism essentially a boutique rebellion, or a more mainstream group than we think? Is this an underground movement that has significant appeal or does the media blow it out of proportion? You listen and decide. I definitely will take it more seriously than I used to after this interview. [I’m not labeling this episode either Clean or Explicit because the content may be inappropriate for some children, though there is no profanity.]

If you want to listen via the podcast feed, that link is here. That link will take you to iTunes. To subscribe to the Sin Boldly podcast with an Android phone, I recommend the Cast Box app, which easily finds Sin Boldly via search. Your iPhone (or iOS) Podcast app also finds it easily on iTunes. If you subscribe to the show, you get the episodes immediately upon release.

Orthodoxy and the Reformed: Differences in Understanding the Fall and Salvation. Sin Boldly Episode 85

1211-003ji-saviour-yzantine-wooden-icon-average_enlIn a relatively rare exchange, an Orthodox priest (formerly Baptist) dialogues with a Reformed Baptist pastor (formerly Orthodox) on the questions of the Fall and its effects, how man is made righteous before God, and how one grows in holiness. The East and West do not have frequent debates and exchanges, and this pairing came as a result of a desire to understand the differences between the traditions. Many thanks to Father Wilbur Ellsworth and Pastor Theodore Zachariades for joining me. Learn about Fr. Ellsworth’s move to Orthodoxy here and check out Reforming America Ministries here.

If you want to listen via the podcast feed, that link is here. That link will take you to iTunes. To subscribe to the Sin Boldly podcast with an Android phone, I recommend the Cast Box app, which easily finds Sin Boldly via search. Your iPhone (or iOS) Podcast app also finds it easily on iTunes. If you subscribe to the show, you get the episodes immediately upon release.

The Johnson Amendment and the Temptation to Meaninglessness. Sin Boldly Episode 84

1954-johnson-amendmentI was joined again by Pastor Kevin Baird who offered his thoughts in support of a repeal of the Johnson Amendment, which generally prohibits (or so pastors believe) political engagement by those involved in 501(c)(3) organizations. Pastor Baird argues it limits free speech and pastors have a role to connect issues of conscience with policies and candidates. I then look at the way the devil tempts us and ask if it is only in the way of the temptations of the flesh? Can we also be tempted to apathy or meaninglessness?

If you want to listen via the podcast feed, that link is here. That link will take you to iTunes. To subscribe to the Sin Boldly podcast with an Android phone, I recommend the Cast Box app, which easily finds Sin Boldly via search. Your iPhone (or iOS) Podcast app also finds it easily on iTunes. If you subscribe to the show, you get the episodes immediately upon release.

How the Devil Tempts Me

Father and SonThe other day, it dawned on me just how short the line is between some doubt – even reasonable doubt – and outright despair. I came to appreciate that the only real difference between the casual thought that something small is not worth doing and desiring to give up altogether is only a matter of scale. Or to make an even more dramatic case, the line between occasional apathy and suicide is thinner than what we might like to believe. Total despair rarely comes on all of a sudden. It begins with a voice that consistently says, “Quit wasting your time. No one will care. This isn’t worth doing.” I believe that is the voice of the devil.

There are many paths the devil will take when tempting us away from trusting our Lord. Over the course of our life, we will be offered every one of them. The pleasures of the world will probably be the first, and most obvious, attempts to draw us from Jesus. Drink, drugs, and lust are tried and true methods to get us to idolize pleasure rather than to trust in God.

If those methods prove not to destroy us, our temptations might become more existential. That is, we begin to look at our life and ask questions about its nature. As we venture on something new or desire to experiment with a new business or ministry, the small beginnings can especially invite questions. Why keep doing this if no one else cares? Does my life make a difference? Where do I fit into the grand scheme of things? Why bother with such difficulties?

I’ve written before and believe it is true that these questions are accelerated in the age of social media. There is an extra pressure that we are missing out, that we are not as successful as we ought to be, often because we see only the best parts of our “friend’s” lives. That alternate, or augmented, reality can cause us to wonder why our reality is so drab when, in fact, our reality is just normal.

Our increased knowledge of the complexity and diversity of the world can also contribute to a feeling of smallness. In a world full of so many people, I am only one more! One wonders if our knowledge of the outside world was limited to our tribe or town or village if existential dread would visit us so often, or if we would be more content with our daily bread?

But man has likely always struggled with questions of importance or relevance, even before Facebook, because it is a prime temptation of the devil to get us to undervalue ourselves. The devil, you see, wants us to despair over the smallness of our life and to see us in a way different from how God sees us. “What difference does our life make?” This question is not representative of God’s point-of-view of us. But it is a remarkable form of temptation.

And it is a temptation we must resist as much as any other. You see, we can easily see what happens when others fail in their “simple” vocations of parenthood or laborer or politician, perhaps because they previously fell to the existentialist temptation of believing their “small” and “ordinary” lives do not matter. When a mother neglects or abuses her child, she is vilified, and rightfully so. When a police officer is crooked, he is a the worst kind of public servant. When a judge takes a bribe or a teacher ignores a student or a pastor neglects his parishioners, these are all obvious vocational sins and we would be right and quick in judging those who commit them. Seeing those failures in others is easy.

Yet, when we are tempted to fall into similar apathy about our callings (because it seems they don’t really make a difference), we aren’t as hard on ourselves. It matters when someone else fails, but we don’t have enough pride in our lives if we despair over their smallness. We can stop valuing our daily work as we ought to. The reality is that very few of us will change the world in a dramatic way, and by the way, those super-humans who do also struggle with this same temptation. Most of us will not cure cancer or build a business empire or become a media star. But if you have ever sat at the feet of a good teacher, were nurtured by a loving parent, served by an attentive salesman, or mentored by a hard-working boss, you know the importance of ordinary people doing ordinary things again and again. And you know the value of people who resist the temptation to despair over ordinary and “small” vocations.

This is a bit of an honest “confessional” for me, but I wanted to share it because I am rather certain it is a common temptation. To name it as such begins the work of shutting that voice up and carrying on with the work God has put on our plate, despair be damned. And it begins our return to the Lord with our whole hearts, trusting that we are his able vehicles working in his vineyard.

 

The Origin of Life. With Dr. Walter Bradley. Sin Boldly Episode 83.

Volcano_lightning2Are you familiar with the primordial soup theory of how life began? It begins with a pond of water and a strike of lighting. Is that really how life could have “naturally” began, eventually evolving to the level of diversity we see now? Evolution occupies a lot of the attention in apologetics and debate circles. But the question of life’s origin is far more foundational…and impossible to answer cogently in a merely naturalistic worldview. (No, alien seed is not a good naturalistic explanation!) Dr. Walter Bradley is a co-author of the classic textbook The Mystery of Life’s Origin (which you can find for free at http://themysteryoflifesorigin.org)Thanks to Dr. Bradley for offering his time!

If you want to listen via the podcast feed, that link is here. That link will take you to iTunes. To subscribe to the Sin Boldly podcast with an Android phone, I recommend the Cast Box app, which easily finds Sin Boldly via search. Your iPhone (or iOS) Podcast app also finds it easily on iTunes. If you subscribe to the show, you get the episodes immediately upon release.

Arrested Street Preacher and Religious Freedom Issues. Sin Boldly Episode 82

maxresdefaultI was joined by Christian evangelist Mike Stockwell to discuss his recent arrest and trial in England. Is preaching the words of scripture an arrest-worthy offense? Apparently it is England. From there, I take a look at a smattering of issues involving religious freedom, including the almost surreal juxtaposition of Catholics fighting for the right to offer insurance that doesn’t include birth control and the Pope recently saying Catholics should decrease their number of children.

If you want to listen via the podcast feed, that link is here. That link will take you to iTunes. To subscribe to the Sin Boldly podcast with an Android phone, I recommend the Cast Box app, which easily finds Sin Boldly via search. Your iPhone (or iOS) Podcast app also finds it easily on iTunes. If you subscribe to the show, you get the episodes immediately upon release.

Booing Jesus and Abortion in the Public Square. Sin Boldly Episode 81

jesus-trialpppaI was joined by two great guests on this episode of Sin Boldly. Chaplain Dr. Michael Sprague was booed upon praying in the name of Jesus at Louisiana’s state capital. Apparently Jesus is still not popular! We discussed the nature of prayer in a public setting and what good can come from such a discouraging moment. I also talked with Wes Thomas of Abolish Abortion TX to look at HB 948 in more detail. We delved deep into Texas legal history and the path forward for legislation like this. Thanks to both for their time! (And as I had two guests this episode, it would be fair to each not to assume they share the same convictions on all issues. They very well may, but I wanted to make that distinction.)

If you want to listen via the podcast feed, that link is here. That link will take you to iTunes. To subscribe to the Sin Boldly podcast with an Android phone, I recommend the Cast Box app, which easily finds Sin Boldly via search. Your iPhone (or iOS) Podcast app also finds it easily on iTunes. If you subscribe to the show, you get the episodes immediately upon release.

What’s the Difference Between Perseverance and Insanity?

 

the-12-worst-shark-tank-pitches-of-all-timeWhen I watch Shark Tank, I can’t help but to be impressed by the entrepreneurs who not only have taken the risk to create something new, but also have the perseverance to see it through from idea to product or service. If you’ve never watched Shark Tank, it’s a made-for-TV opportunity for entrepreneurs to pitch a product to 5 investors, who will either become a strategic investor and make a deal, or dramatically say, “I’m out.” Sometimes a deal is made for equity of the business in exchange for cash, and sometimes the entrepreneur walks away empty-handed.

It is a fact of reality that new ideas are rejected dozens or even hundreds of times before they are widely accepted, if they are accepted at all. Therefore, these entrepreneurs really need to believe in their product and sacrifice to make it profitable. The founder of Starbucks, for example, was rejected by 217 investors before someone invested in the coffee house chain. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter stories were passed over by many publishers. Indeed, I would say that almost everyone who ever got published, began a business or invented something new was told “No” more times than they could count. Everyone agreed that that they had a bad book, idea or model on their hands, and they shouldn’t quit their day job.

For some people, that’s good advice. More businesses than not, more books than not, more ideas than not, are bad. They won’t make money. The entrepreneur really does need to keep his or her day job. But sometimes, it is hard to know which projects will succeed and which projects will fail, and only by perseverance will the truth come out. After all, if the Starbucks guy was rejected hundreds of times but eventually became a billionaire, who’s to say the same isn’t true for me? So for those who stick to it and make it a success, we admire them for their perseverance. They are the stuff of legend. They inspire us to keep on even when the times are hard.

But what do we say about those who are persevering but fail? Well, that’s where the all-too-common definition of insanity comes in. By now, we all know what insanity is, right? Insanity is “doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results.” Yeah, that’s pretty much the definition of every human being who has ever been committed to a cause. But it seems the “insane” ones are the ones who experience failure. The “perseverant” are the ones who succeed. And sometimes the line between the two is a lot thinner than we’d like to think. No doubt a certain amount of good fortune and chance meetings goes into an idea being a success.

Why, just a few years ago I had this awesome idea to write a novel that acted as a defense of the resurrection. Heck, I even wrote half of it. Then I realized that a book with the same idea had already been written and Antonio Banderas had already been in a movie based on the book. If I was born in 1969 rather than 1979, Antonio Banderas might have been in my book’s movie adaptation!

This problem of knowing the difference between insanity and perseverance applies to life in the Church as well. Perseverance is most definitely a Biblical virtue. Paul says that love always perseveres (1 Cor. 13:7). He tells us to “be joyful in hope, patient [the same Greek word for persevere] in affliction, faithful in prayer.” (Romans 12:12). The author of Hebrews tells us to “endure hardship as discipline” [also the same Greek word]. (Hebrews 12:7). And James says “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial.” (James 1:12). Also see James 5:11 and 1 Peter 2:20.

Sometimes, what we do in church really looks like insanity. After all, how often do things change in the life of the church? How often do we do the same thing again and again? And how often do the results change? Should we even strive for dramatically different results? Are we foolish for calmly accepting the same thing week in and week out?

In short, how do we know when we are faithfully persevering or foolishly being insane? If you have a new product or idea to bring to the market, don’t ask me. I’m a terrible judge of such things. But in the life of the church, it all hinges on whether or not we’re being faithful to our task. Are we living by the Great Commission as found in Matthew 28:19? Are we doing life together as seen in Acts 2:42? Are we teaching the “whole counsel of God” as Paul did in Acts 20:27? Are we staying true to the one and only Gospel? Are we proclaiming Christ to the world and never denying him? Are we faithfully administering the sacraments? If the answer is yes, then, in general, we shall carry on, in spite of the results. That is our bottom line.

In the meantime, we should also be very careful to try new evangelical methods and activities. We should welcome every visitor as the precious guest that they are. We should be forthcoming in our desire to grow as a community. For perseverance does not have to mean we are content to do poor ministry. It really just means we’re content with what God provides when we do the best ministry we can.