Trayvon Martin and Loving the Truth-Dr. Keith Plummer

Trayvon Martin and Loving the Truth

The email contained a photo of what appeared to be archaeologists standing around a massive, partially unearthed human skeleton whose skull was the size of a small car. The story, which had been forwarded to me from a Christian I sincerely admire, insinuated that this “discovery” was evidence of ancient giants referred to in Genesis as the Nephilim. Why news of such a monumental and sensational find hadn’t broadcast worldwide was one of a number of questions that evoked my suspicion. It took little time and effort to find that indeed the photo was a hoax, though I must admit, an impressive one.

The ubiquity of such Christianized urban legends makes me wonder how much we, who claim that truth matters, really care about truth. I’m confident that the brother who sent that email had no intention of propagating what he knew was false. His lack of discernment was generated by his desire to bolster the faith of fellow believers and commend the faith to those who need Christ. We tend to relax our critical powers when assessing what appears to confirm the narratives to which we’re deeply committed.

February’s tragic killing of Trayvon Martin and the events that have ensued, have me asking once again, “How much do we really care about truth?” Actually, it’s more a question of how much I really care about truth. This essay would have been very different had I written it even a week ago. Based on what I knew or thought I knew then, I engaged in a passionate exchange with a friend, incredulous that he couldn’t see the clear racial motivation behind Trayvon’s killing and the Sanford Police Department’s handling of the case.

From Anger to Awareness

I was also angered by the apparent silence of Christian media about the situation. Now, in light of recent developments all is not as clear as I originally thought. Reports from eyewitnesses to the events of that night have recently been made public, and a close black friend of George Zimmerman is publicly defending him (while admitting that patterns in how the Sanford Police Department has handled things in the past would lead him to deem this a racist incident if he didn’t know Zimmerman). A week ago I was angry that major evangelical media were not lending their voices to the nationwide cries for justice. This week, while I would still like to have seen more Christian acknowledgement by way of reporting, I’m painfully aware of the difficulties involved in opining on the matter—not least of which is the possibility that anything said can become obsolete in view of new developments. So, I ask myself again, “How much do you really care about the truth, regardless of what it is?”

As I’ve contemplated the answer to that question, taking into account my own reactions as well as others’, among the biblical passages that keep coming to mind are two verses from Proverbs 18: “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame” (18:3). Responding wisely to a situation requires attentive listening and examination with the aim of acquiring understanding from which to speak. Foolishness, on the other hand, does not value understanding but rather, the airing of its own opinions (18:2). The bits of data that bombard us every day can give us a false notion of being well-informed. The speed with which the internet allows us to publish our thoughts for others to consume further tempts us to be fools (and yes, I understand the irony of making this statement on the web).

Proverbs 18:17 is another passage I think has tremendous relevance: “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” Anyone who has done marriage counseling has a catalog of illustrations for this truth. This is not to say that whoever speaks last speaks most truthfully. Rather, as fallen human beings we have an innate tendency to self-servingly select what we include and what we omit from our stories. Recognition of this fact should critically interact with reports about this and any other event, regardless of whether it comports with or contradicts our opinion at the time. This requires not only asking about the veracity of what is reported but also about what is not being reported and why.

Two Equal and Opposite Errors

In light of America’s reaction to the Trayvon Martin story, I’ve also been thinking a lot about C. S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters. In its preface, Lewis warns: “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.” I think the same dangers exist and should be avoided when it comes to our thinking about racism in America. According to some, it is ubiquitous. According to others, it is non-existent. I suspect that the truth lies somewhere between these poles.

Our hearts’ commitments and desires can not only lead us to see weak evidence as strong, they can also lead us to minimize the strength of compelling evidence and, for self-seeking reasons, seek to extinguish it. I’m always amazed at the aftermath of Jesus’ raising Lazarus from the dead. If ever a persuasive case existed for Jesus’ authority, Lazarus was it. But John tells us that the chief priests, motivated by their fear of Jesus’ growing popularity, “made plans to put Lazarus to death as well” (John 12:10). Lazarus was evidence that needed to be suppressed or, more accurately, killed because he threatened the narrative the priests wanted to be true.

Despite conflicting opinions about the Trayvon Martin case, I hope that believers can unite in prayer that justice will be served by truth coming to light. But let us also add the petition that we will so cherish truth that we will accept it wherever it lies.

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One way to read and study The Bible…..

This is a helpful way to think about various questions that can be asked of the text. Within each of the three categories, there is another threefold set of questions, focusing upon author, discourse, and audience. The results look something like this:

Text as Picture (form + content)

  • What dramatic portrait did the speaker intend?
  • What picture does the discourse present?
  • What portrait may the audience have received?

Texts as Windows (portal to historical events and periods)

  • What historical information did the speaker intend?
  • What historical information does the discourse present?
  • What historical information may the audience have received?

Texts as Mirrors (reflection of the interests and topics of the believing community)

  • What did the speaker intend to say about the subject?
  • What does the discourse say about the topic?
  • What did the audience understand about the theme?

Discipleship….Apprenticeship-Trevor Wax

The culture of the first century put a high priority on learning through apprenticeship. You see hints in this direction as you read the New Testament, particularly in how Jesus spoke of His relationship to the Father. But it’s also likely that in the early Christians’ desire to “make disciples, teaching them to obey all that Christ had commanded them,” their vision of “teaching” was somewhat different than what we mean by the term today.

Teaching and the Delivery of Information: Two Camps

To be clear, teaching involves the transfer of important information. The New Testament authors were steeped in the Old Testament, having probably memorized entire books of the Bible. When I say that making disciples and teaching them involves more than conveying information, I’m not saying that it is ever less.

Camp 1

One of the problems plaguing contemporary evangelicalism today is that pastors and teachers have rightly diagnosed a problem: there is more to teaching than just giving information to people. But the proposed response is often worse than the problem.

Once they recognize the deficiencies of an information-only type of teaching, these leaders begin to downplay the need for verbally teaching people the fundamental doctrines of the faith. The result is a largely atheological ministry that inevitably leans toward a behavior-focused, moralistic message. The good news (powerful, life-transforming information) subtly shifts into good advice (“Just tell me how to live!”). And we wind up with a biblically illiterate mass of well-intentioned Christians being told each week what to do.

Camp 2

In response, other church leaders swing the pendulum back. We must teach people and teach them well. The problem, however, is that “teaching” in these churches is often reduced to conveying important biblical information. The assumption is that once we learn the right things, we will live the right way.

Francis Schaeffer, no lightweight when it came to doctrine, warned against this way of thinking:

Most of the Reformation then let the pendulum swing and thought if only the right doctrines were taught that all would be automatically well. Thus, to a large extent, the Reformation concentrated almost exclusively on the “teaching ministry of the Church.” In other words almost all the emphasis was placed on teaching the right doctrines. In this I feel the fatal error had already been made. It is not for a moment that we can begin to get anywhere until the right doctrines are taught. But the right doctrines mentally assented to are not an end in themselves, but should only be the vestibule to a personal and loving communion with God…

Teaching right doctrine matters. Discipleship without a strong emphasis on teaching will inevitably be stunted. But there is more than one way to stunt your growth. Just as the first approach reduces discipleship to behavioral modification, the second approach reduces discipleship to information dump.

Teaching and the Modeling of the Christian Life

The biblical vision of teaching, particularly with its emphasis on apprenticeship, opens up new windows as to how “teaching” needs to include both the delivery of Christian truth and the modeling of a Christian lifestyle. Belief and action go together. Schaeffer again:

It seems to me that the real question is what we really believe. It seems to me that we do tend to have two creeds—the one which we believe in our intellectual assent, and then the one which we believe to the extent of acting upon it in faith. More and more it seems to me that the true level of our orthodoxy is measured by this latter standard rather than the former. And more and more it seems to me that there is no such thing as an abstract Christian dogma—that each Christian dogma can be experienced on some level.

So dogma and experience go together. How does that shape our vision of “teaching”? In particular, what does “teaching them” in the Great Commission refer to? Sermons? Bible studies? Lectures? Maybe. But there’s a clue there in the text itself. Teaching them to obey all that Christ has commanded. This necessarily involves both modeling and verbal teaching.

Without verbal witness we are unable to teach what Christ taught. But teaching to obey, in this context, surely demands more than just telling people what to do. This is the language of apprenticeship – a teaching that takes place through doing life together, as a teacher models what this life is supposed to look like. It’s the kind of “teaching” that takes place implicitly when Christians welcome one another into their homes, when Christians do good works together for the community. It’s the kind of life that is caught, not taught. Or better said, it’s taught through doing life together, inviting people to follow us as we follow Christ.

That’s why in conversations about the mission of the church, making a sharp distinction between representing and proclaiming Christ introduces more problems than it solves. Making disciples is the mission of the church, yes, but the teaching aspect of this process is more than delivering the gospel verbally and teaching the Bible verbally to new Christians. It is certainly never less, which is what the pastors in Camp 2 instinctively and rightly realize. But neither can it be just this.

David Mathis asks:

Does “disciple all nations” not call to mind how Jesus himself “discipled” his men? They were, after all, his “disciples.” And when they heard him say, “disciple all nations,” would they not think this discipleship is what he did with them – investing prolonged, real-life, day-in, day-out, intentional time with younger believers in order to bring them to maturity as well as model for them how to disciple others in the same way?

The answer, of course, is yes! Discipleship and teaching must mean more than conveying true information.

Bottom Line

Apprenticeship is serious business. Never downplay the importance of sermons, theological education, and deep Bible study. Just make sure you match all of these with doing life together, modeling a new way of being human, inviting people to come alongside of us and learn what it means to follow Jesus – not merely by what we tell them but also by how we live.

7 Verses on Evangelism- Tim Chailles

I find it tremendously valuable to have my prayers guided by Scripture. As I pray about sharing the gospel with others, or as I pray for those who do not yet know the Lord, there are many passages from the Bible that can give focus and direction. Here are just a few of them.

1. There is work to be done

Matthew 9:37-38 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

2. Jesus has commanded you to do it

Matthew 28:18-20 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

3. Success is guaranteed

John 10:16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.

4. Jesus is the only salvation

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

5. You were given the Holy Spirit for this purpose

Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

6. People won’t be saved without hearing

Romans 10:11-15 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

7. Evangelism is necessary for your own growth in Christ

Philemon 6 And I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.

Lost Diamond!-Derek Wadsworth

This week I am reminded of Matthew 13:44-“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”

We have truly been enjoying this awesome weather. My amazing wife was washing our windows with bleach and guess what happened?…..

Did you know that bleach weakens karat gold and prongs on rings?  Yeppers we lost the diamond.  17 years of wild and crazy memories can be brought back in an instant. What an emotional time we had as we looked for the stone.

Down to the Park where we last saw it.

Could I possibly purchase the park just to give my bride some relief? No chance!

Can any of us work or  buy our way to eternal life?

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Here is an all-important phrase: “in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We should, of course, ask: How can sinners like you and me hope to receive eternal life? Why should we get the gift of life and not the wage of sin? And the answer is that we are “in Christ Jesus our Lord.” In him we are righteous. In him we are forgiven. In him we are loved.

And how did we get into him? And how do you know you are in him? In the only way that accords with a free gift, and not a wage. That is, by faith. Faith sees the offer of a free gift of grace held out to the world at Christmas and Good Friday and Easter. And faith receives the gift as a treasure. If you will receive Jesus Christ as your treasure, then you will be “in Christ Jesus” and have eternal life. And Romans 6:23 says that “the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

In the meantime, abide in Christ Jesus, by trusting in him as the treasure of your life. For the Word of God to us  is clear: “The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Praying for your Pastor…

Father, I ask You to make ___________________ into a man after Your own heart who will do all Your will (Acts 13:22; 1 Samuel 16:7).

Father, cause __________________ to love the Word of God with all his heart and enable Him to memorize and meditate on it all day (Psalm 119:97).

O Lord, I plead that You will guide __________________ in all that He says and does (Psalm 37:23).

God, I ask that You would make _______________ into a mighty man of prayer (Mark 1:35).

Father, I ask that You would continually control and empower __________________ for his own Christian life and the task that You have given him (Ephesians 5:18).

Lord, I ask that the fruit of the Spirit would be powerfully and clearly displayed in ________________’s life (Galatians 5:22-23).

Father, I ask that __________________ will be humble, depending totally on You and remaining useable by You (1 Peter 5:5-6).

God, I plead that You would make ____________________ into a holy and godly man that You can use in a dynamic way (1 Timothy 4:7, 6:11; Hebrews 12:14).

Father, enable __________________ to overcome temptation and give him a hatred of sin in any form (1 Corinthians10:13).

Lord, teach __________________ the truth of the Word of God by the power of the Holy Spirit so that _______________ can explain, proclaim, and defend the Word of God (1 Timothy 3:1-7, 15; 1 Peter 5:1-4).

Father, I plead that You would give ______________________ a servant’s heart and enable _________________ to compassionately minister to this congregation and the lost in this community (Philippians 2:5).

Father, I pray that You would create in _____________________ the faith that pleases You. Enable _________________ to approach You, believing that You are a rewarder of those who diligently seek You(Hebrews 11:6).

Lord Jesus, I pray that _________________ would take deny himself, take up His cross, and follow You (Matthew 16:24).

Father, I pray that You would give ____________________ a heart for fasting (Matthew 6:16-18).

His Preaching I plead that ____________________ would be a Christ-centered and Christ-exalting preacher (1 Corinthians 2:1-4).

Father, I pray that __________________ would remember that God, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the angels are listening to His preaching (2 Timothy 4:1).

Lord, I ask that _________________ would preach all of the Word of God (Acts 20:20-21).

I pray that ____________________ would preach in the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:8-12).

God, I plead that ___________________ would preach the Word of God boldly and fearlessly (2 Timothy 4:1-2).

I ask that _______________ would have the time and the discipline to study the Word of God (1 Timothy 4:15).

I pray that the Word of God would be central and absolute in __________________’s preaching and ministry (2 Timothy 3:15-16).

Lord, I plead that _________________’s preaching would be used by You to save the lost, mature the believers, and build up Your church (Ephesians 4:11-16; 2 Timothy 4:5)

I ask that ________________ would be faithful to preach the truth in spite of opposition or indifference (1 Timothy 6:12, 20-21; 2 Timothy 3:13-14, 4:2-4).

His Ministry Father, I plead that ____________________’s ministry would be fruitful and would glorify You (John 15:16; Colossians 1:28).

I ask that _________________ would be devoted to praying and preaching (Acts 6:4).

Enable _______________ to intercede for and instruct the congregation according to Your will (1 Samuel 12:23; Romans 1:9-10).

Enable ________________ to equip the saints for service and discipleship (Ephesians 4:11-12; 2 Timothy 2:12).

Father, I ask You to protect ___________________ from Satan and all his attacks. I also ask You to protect and strengthen _________________ during the attacks of unregenerate church members (2 Timothy 4:15-18; 2 Corinthians 11:26).

Lord, I ask You to give ___________________ insight and direction into the solutions for the problems of the church (1 Kings 3:7-9).

God, give ____________________ wisdom and discernment in counseling those who come to _________________ for help or advice (Proverbs 2:6).

I plead that __________________ would have a strong, close, harmonious relationship with those in leadership in the church (Psalm 133:1; Ecclesiastes 4:9-12; Amos 3:3).

Father, I ask that ____________________ will be able to respond to criticism and opposition in a gracious and Christlike way combined with a determination to be faithful to God and His Word (Matthew 5:10-12, 43-48, 10:28; Romans 12:14, 17-21).

His Relationship To The Church I ask that the congregation will be stirred by the Holy Spirit to pray for_________________ (1 Thessalonians 5:25).

I pray that the congregation will have a growing love and hunger for the Word of God (Psalm 119:97).

I plead that the leadership of the church and the membership of the church will be committed to _______________’s ministry (Hebrews 13:17).

Cause this congregation to respect and love ___________________ (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13).

Father, I ask You to silence any rumors, gossip, or slander that is being spread about ____________ (Proverbs 15:28, 20:19, 21:28).

Lord, I ask that the congregation will be prepared to hear and respond to __________________’s preaching and teaching (James 1:21).

Father, I plead that the congregation will be doer of the Word and not simply hearers of the Word (James 1:22).

His Relationship To His Family I ask that _______________’s family would be loving, unselfish, respectful, and understanding to each other (Ephesians 5:25; 1 Peter 3:7; Ephesians 5:33; Ephesians 6:1-4).

Father, I plead that You would strengthen and bless __________________’s marriage and family life (Proverbs 5:15-20).

I pray that __________________’s family would be a source of joy and blessing to one another (Proverbs 23:24, 31:28- 30).

Word of God? You mean God speaks to us?

Is the Bible the Word of God?

Is the Bible the Word of God? Then mind that you do not neglect it. Read it! Begin to read it this very day. What greater insult to God can a man be guilty of than to refuse to read the letter God sends him from heaven? Oh, be sure, if you will not read your Bible, you are in fearful danger of losing your soul!

Is the Bible the Word of God? Then be sure you always read it with deep reverence. Say to your soul, whenever you open the Bible, “O my soul, you are going to read a message from God!”

Is the Bible the Word of God? Then be sure you never read it without fervent prayer for the help and teaching of the Holy Spirit. Humble prayer will throw more light on your Bible than any commentary that ever was written. You will not understand it unless your heart is right. You will find it a sealed book without the teaching of the Holy Spirit. Its contents are often hidden from the wise and learned, and revealed to babes.

Is the Bible the Word of God? Then let us all resolve from this day forward to prize the Bible more. God has given us the Bible to be a light to guide us to everlasting life. Let us not neglect this precious gift. Let us read it diligently, and walk in its light.

-Tim Challies