Tuesday, October 23, 2007

God's Work at StateStreet (cont.)

As an update, I just wanted to give a quick note of praise to the Lord for working mightily at State Street today! We had the kickoff celebration for the KC Bible Study Group (an employee network at work) and it went very well, praise the Lord!

The pizza/pop/cookies were set up just in time and were delicious! The video-conference with Boston and Quincy went smoothly. Everyone could hear and see each other. It was somewhat difficult to fit all THIRTY-EIGHT of the Kansas City folks into the frame, but that was definitely a good problem to have! There was one glitch however: Peter and Julia in Boston had to leave the room momentarily due to a fire alarm that went off in their building! Unphased, they were going to stay on, though I urged them to go in case it was for real! Praise God this was a false alarm!

We asked God's blessing for the food and I gave a 5-10 minute talk about the group (our purpose and plans going forward). As I talked people quietly got their lunch. Then Julia from Boston shared some of the > 10 year history of the BSG in Boston and its origins. Then Phil in Quincy shared some verses that were right in line with the occasion! Peter also shared some wonderful encouraging and challenging words and expressed his amazement at what God is doing!

We took some questions and then enjoyed a time of fellowship and getting to know each other. Twelve of the New Testament outreach bibles we brought were picked up! I praise the Lord for His work here and am so blessed to get the opportunity to be a part of it!

I am so blessed to be in a company that allows this kind of thing! I'm in awe and disbelief that this just happend "at work"! It's an awesome responsibility as well and we are going to need to stay close to God in prayer! We are trusting the Lord to preserve this group and allow us to continue to study His word within the confines of our company! May Jesus Christ get all the glory!

I love Psalm 34, it's been running through my brain of late. It's so appropriate here, so I'll close with this ...

I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul makes its boast in the LORD;
let the humble hear and be glad.
Oh, magnify the LORD with me,
and let us exalt his name together!
I sought the LORD,
and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant,
and their faces shall never be ashamed.
This poor man cried,
and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him,
and delivers them.
Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
Oh, fear the LORD, you his saints,
for those who fear him have no lack!
The young lions suffer want and hunger;
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.
Come, O children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
What man is there who desires life and loves many days,
that he may see good?
Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.
Turn away from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.
The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry.
The face of the LORD is against those who do evil,
to cut off the memory of them from the earth.
When the righteous cry for help,
the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
but the LORD delivers him out of them all.
He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken.
Affliction will slay the wicked,
and those who hate the righteous will be condemned.
The LORD redeems the life of his servants;
none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

All About Joel

Joel Osteen’s new book comes out on Monday the 15th, so I thought I would take a moment to give my thoughts on his first book, Your Best Life Now. Published three years ago yesterday (10/12/2004). Sorry if this is old news to some. Maybe you’re like me, though, and new to discover this Joel phenomenon!

I love to read, but I’m slow. So I’m very picky about what I spend my time reading. Having heard negative reviews for Your Best Life Now (YBLN) from trusted sources, it never got on my “book list”. Then came the enthusiastic recommendations from multiple friends over the course of a year. Finally, I decided I had to give it a read.

Having listened to the entire book on CD (a nice compromise, eh?), I have very little to add to the two exceptionally well-written reviews that I will provide links to below. I will simply list my objections to the book and suggest one way to look at it that you may not have thought of before.

First my objections to YBLN:

  • Scriptural "silly putty". Joel’s irresponsible twisting of the Scripture to fit his “self-help” Christianity (can you say, “oxy-moron”?)
  • Shallow view of life. i.e. God wants you to have a big house not an apartment. He wants you to get the best parking spot and be first in line at the bank and in the checkout line. Please! Joel would no doubt advise me to live in “expectancy” that God will abundantly bless my fantasy football team!
  • The great "Omission". For a book that offers 7 Steps to reach the highest of human attainment, where is the life-changing Gospel of Jesus Christ?!? My greatest concern is shared in Wingerd’s review (see link below): that Osteen gives millions of people a false assurance of their standing with God, with his minimizing of sin, ommision of Jesus Christ (except as an after-thought) and failure to present the Gospel clearly (at all really!)

If you don’t see what all the fuss is about YBLN, may I suggest this: Read John Piper’s Desiring God (as I've mentioned before you can read it online) and contrast it with Osteen's superficial Christianity. While I was trudging thru YBLN, I was also reading DG, especially the chapters on Missions and Suffering. Piper’s illustrations were of missionaries who were joyfully giving their lives in service to Christ, allowing themselves to become destitute financially, brutally persecuted for their faith, even martyrd for Christ (knowing their reward was in Heaven for suffering for Christ). Osteen, meanwhile gave story after story of people living their “best life now” (including many of himself), getting promotions, making wise business deals, etc., ad nauseum! The contrast was sharp!

Here are a couple of quotes from Daryl Wingerd’s review of YBLN. I will then close with some Scripture to ponder.

“Nevertheless, here is my view in a nutshell: If you want to read a book in which discontentment is encouraged, a book that shows God to be powerless apart from your power-filled thoughts and words, a book in which sin is minimized and renamed in every conceivable way, and a supposedly Christian book that gives only trivial mention to Jesus Christ, Your Best Life Now is the book for you. But if you believe, with the Apostle Paul, that "godliness with contentment is great gain" (1 Tim. 6:6 NKJV), if you desire a deeper and more biblical understanding of God and His ways, if you desire to see Jesus Christ exalted in your life as you follow His pattern of humility and self-denial, if you believe a Christian's greatest hunger should be for righteousness (Matt. 5:6) and not for money, health, or easy living, then you would do well to look elsewhere.”

“Oh, I nearly forgot! Joel Osteen does share the "plan of salvation" with the readers of his book. The reason I nearly forgot was because it seems Osteen nearly forgot too. His "gospel presentation" as it might be loosely defined by some, spans one half of one page, and is neatly tucked on the very last page of the book— after the endnotes! It is not even given the courtesy of a page number in the table of contents. Additionally, Osteen's "gospel presentation" contains no Scripture references, no indication of who Jesus Christ is, no mention of His death on the cross or the necessity of His death in the place of guilty sinners, no teaching about the importance of Christ's sinless life, nothing about His resurrection from the dead, no reference to the grace of God, and no plea for the reader to respond by trusting in Christ's work.”

Wingerd gives a balanced and biblical review of Osteen’s book. He does mention some of the good things about the book, (namely the later chapters on giving, etc) while eloquently pointing out the dangers.

A Critical Review of YBLN

Challies speaks more to Osteen’s ministry as a whole and does a great job of expressing what I was thinking when I read the book, but couldn’t quite put my finger on!

Challies review

"For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Tim 4:3-4)"

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

God's work at StateStreet

StateStreet has allowed some Christians to start up an employee network group, a Kansas City "chapter" of the Bible Study Group originating in Boston. We are hosting a kick-off meeting on Oct 23rd to introduce our group to the 1,300 employees in KC! We're offering pizza and pop and will be available for this "meet 'n greet" to introduce ourselves and answer any questions. We plan to provide handouts describing our group, and encourage folks to suggest Bible studies on a signup sheet. We plan to make free Bibles available to pick up. We're also planning a short video-conference with the Boston group to say hello and speak on their 10-year history of the network group there!

Here's the flyer we were allowed to display on each floor of our two buildings (8 in all!) The flyers went up late Monday, and I've already been contacted by 4 people who are interested in joining the group! And we haven't even been mentioned in the mass KC-wide email ... this comes tomorrow (Wednesday)! Everyone we talk with is so excited about the group! Please pray for this effort to encourage believers and bring God's Word to the lost at StateStreet! As I type this there are two other locations seeking to get up and running, California and Scotland!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Piper Quote - Unlce Sam and Jesus Christ?

Just had to post this quote I came across in John Piper's Desiring God.

"The difference between Uncle Sam and Jesus Christ is that Uncle Sam won't enlist you in his service unless you are healthy, and Jesus won't enlist you unless you are sick. "

Piper then referenced Mark's gospel:

"Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners" (Mark 2:17).

To continue this theme, God led me to a message Jerry Bridges gave at the Desiring God conference. Bridges gives 4 Essentials for Finishing Well (this sermon is a must listen!). The second point really stayed with me: a daily appropriation of the Gospel. Here are the notes from the sermon, from DesiringGod:

"The gospel is for sinners. Before we spend time in communion with God, we must come to him with the attitude of the tax collector who prayed, "Have mercy on me, a sinner," and trust God alone to make us righteous. This alone will give us the confidence to approach God and have communion with him.

If we don't daily appropriate the gospel then we will begin to base our spirituality on our performance, which will eventually lead us either towards pride or despair. But reminding ourselves daily that we are sinners and that, by God's grace, we've been clothed with the righteousness of Christ, will equip us with true and pure motivation to continue following Jesus and renouncing the desire to love this world. We ought to work hard, not in order to earn God's approval but because we already have it."

Thank you, Lord, that you justify sinners like me and clothe us in your righteousness! Help us to come to you today as hopeless sinners and look to You for justification and sanctification! Amen!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Real-Life Child Converts

I gotta get this one on here quick. The Cubs first post-season game since '03 (remember Steve Bartman?) is on right now!!! (BTW, click this image to read the blog of another Christian Cubs fan, the incomparable Phil Johnson!) Go Cubs!

This week, I'm again featuring an article from Jim Elliff's ministry, Christian Communicators Online. You can find numerous short articles on their site, http://www.bulletininserts.org/, this one included. A friend at work today told me his very young son just accepted Jesus into his heart. What to make of this? Read on...

Real-life Child Converts

Jim Elliff & Steve Burchett

Even younger children may be converted. That may seem like a strange statement in our day when supposedly tens of thousands of children are coming to Christ at younger and younger ages. This seeming explosion in childhood conversions is evidenced in one denomination where, between 1977 and 1997, there was a 250% increase in the number of baptisms of children under the age of six.1 However, in the history of the church and evangelism, people have believed that children could be converted because "Whatever the LORD pleases, He does" (Psalm 135:6), but they have alleged that it was almost impossible to know if a child had been converted at a very young age.

God has converted younger children. For example, Jonathan Edwards tells the story about a 4 year-old girl he knew named Phebe Bartlett.2 Phebe was born in 1731, and at the age of four, though her parents didn't think she would be able to understand the gospel at such a young age, her eleven-year-old brother began telling her about Jesus. Soon thereafter she professed to have peace with God through Christ, and her profession of faith was accompanied by a changed life. For instance, highlighting Phebe's love for meeting with the church on Sundays, Edwards writes, "Her mother once asked her, why she had such a mind to go—whether it was not to see fine folks? She said, 'No, it was to hear Mr. Edwards preach.'"

Phebe's love for God and His Word lasted—58 years later (1789) she was still showing forth the character of a true follower of Jesus Christ. Examples could be multiplied throughout church history of boys and girls whom God saved at young ages. But throughout the entirety of the Bible, it seems that there is only one childhood conversion mentioned. Who? Samuel.

The common way to think about Samuel is as a just-weaned child being dedicated to the Lord in the presence of Eli the priest (cf. First Samuel 1), yet most Old Testament scholars believe that by First Samuel 3, Samuel is already somewhere between 11-16 years old. This is significant because Samuel does not become a child of God until chapter three. First Samuel 3:7 says, "Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, nor had the word of the LORD yet been revealed to him." The next few verses of First Samuel 3 include the record of God saving Samuel. So Samuel at his conversion wasn't even a very young boy!

Since the Bible contains only this one example of the conversion of a child, this should lead us to be extremely cautious about reports of large numbers of children coming to faith in Christ at a church camp or Vacation Bible School. We live in a "statistic hungry" day, and we often determine the success of our ministry to children by counting the number of professions of faith. Too often, these statistics are based on hands raised, aisles walked, or prayers prayed, but we would be wise to recognize with our forebears that really knowing if a child has been saved is quite difficult.

Occasionally, we might see potential signs of spiritual life within our children, like the boys and girls George Whitefield mentions in a letter written in 1742. Whitefield, describing a hostile environment he found himself preaching within (nearly losing his life), wrote a "Mr. L—" and he included this postscript about the children present, "I cannot help but adding, that several little boys and girls who were fond of sitting round me on the pulpit, while I preached, and handing to me people's notes, though they were often pelted with eggs, dirt, etc. thrown at me, never once gave way; but on the contrary, every time I was struck, turned up their little weeping eyes, and seemed to wish they could receive the blows for me."3 When similar affections for the Lord are evidenced in the lives of our children, it might be an indication that God is at work in their lives and has potentially saved them, yet knowing for certain will be difficult. In the meantime, we should pray earnestly for our children as Whitefield did for these boys and girls, that God would truly "make them in the growing years great and living martyrs" for Jesus.

We yearn for our children to come to Christ early in their lives, and then fearlessly stand for Him all of their days. The conversions of Phebe and Samuel should give us hope. God's work in their lives confirms that children, even younger children, may be converted. Keep preaching the gospel to the children in your life, and God may be pleased to open their hearts to receive the truth you proclaim (cf. Acts 16:14).


1Mark Dever, "Baptism in the Context of the Local Church," Believer's Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ, ed. Thomas R. Schreiner & Shawn D. Wright, (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2006), 346-7.

2For the historical account of Phebe, see The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Volume 1, (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, ), Chapter VIII.

3Quoted in J.P. Gledstone, George Whitefield: Supreme Among Preachers, (Greenville, South Carolina: Ambassador, 1998), 184-5.

[Adapted from a forthcoming book on childhood conversion by Jim Elliff and Steve Burchett]

Copyright © 2007 Jim Elliff & Steve Burchett. Permission granted for reproduction in exact form. All other uses require written permission

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Here is my testimony: mike