Sunday, March 30, 2008

Should Christians Pray before Meals?

Praying before meals may seem like a non-issue because it is a discussion that doesn't seem all that prevalent in Christian circles. I can't think of any books dedicated to the subject, I haven't heard any sermons about it, and I'm not aware of any SBC conferences devoted to mending the rift between those in favor of mealtime invocation and those against. (I don't even want to get into the whole pre-meal/post-meal/a-meal debate.)

This is something I have been thinking a lot about lately. When should Christians pray before meals? While there are numerous passages in scripture that call us to "give thanks," there isn't a single command telling us that this must occur before meals. The closest we have to a command are the examples of Christ saying a blessing or giving thanks when he fed the 5,000 (Matther 14:19), when he fed the 4,000 (Matthew 15:36), and when he broke bread with the disciples in the upper room (Matthew 26:27).

I realize that as Christians we should live our lives in constant gratitude to the One who sustains us by his grace. But how does that translate into coming up with a "special" prayer for meals? How should we pray? Should we limit our prayer to what we are about to consume? Should we always pray before eating? Are there any settings in which prayer would be inappropriate? Does it depend on whether or not the one hosting the meal is a Christian? What if we're in the company of non-believers? Do we take into consideration the ratio of Christians to non-Christians gathered at the table? What if I'm the only Christian at the table? Is it a cultural thing? Do Christians the world over pray before they eat? And should the prayer always come before eating? What if the meal was prepared by a really bad cook? These may seem like silly questions, but you know you've asked them all at one point in your life.

I realize that some of you are probably thinking, "Of course we should pray when we eat. It isn't even up for debate." Well, ask yourself why you don't pray when you go out for ice cream. Does it depend on the quantity of food you are about to consume? (And yes, I've seen that tactic employed.) Or is it only required at designated mealtimes?

Some of you may not think it's a big deal at all. If that's the case, then what example are you setting for your children if you sometimes feel like praying before you eat and sometimes you don't?

This issue may not be as important as the debate over the doctrines of grace or the importance of sound biblical preaching in our churches. But I am curious to know your thoughts on the matter. So, what do you think?

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Thanks for Your Prayers

A couple of weeks ago, I asked for prayer for my mother-in-law. Today, I am happy to report that she is doing much better. Praise God!

She has been downgraded from critical condition, has been weaned off the ventilator, and has been moved to a hospital that specializes in rehabilitation and physical therapy. We're looking at another three weeks or so before she can come home, but who knows? Depending on how she responds to treatment, it may be sooner.

My wife has spent more time with her than anyone else, so she does a much better job at giving health updates. You can follow up on her mom's progress at our family blog.

We thank you for your prayers and support. Most of all, we praise the Giver of Life. May his name be glorified in our sickness and in our healing.

Friday, March 28, 2008

This Week in Calvinism - March 28, 2008

  • Calvinism destroys freedom and leads to fatalism, right? Wrong.

  • Jerry Boyce quotes Dave Hunt in his ongoing quest to destroy Calvinism. The quote has to do with John 6:35-65, where Christ says, "All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out." What Hunt and Boyce fail to pick up on is that the giving precedes the coming. Only those given to Christ will come to him. How exactly does this passage refute Calvinism?

  • I'm afraid too many people think that Fred Phelps represents Calvinism. He doesn't. Actually, if you think that Phelps is even a Christian, then you obviously know nothing about him. But just because he talks about Hell doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Hell isn't a Calvinist or a Phelpsian teaching; it's a non-negotiable truth.

  • Reformed Theology and the Church: An Interview with Dr. Timothy George.

  • When passages of scripture are pulled out of context, anyone can "prove" that grace is resistible and that Christians can lose their salvation. But then you have those crystal-clear verses that should belay all doubt: "And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified" (Romans 8:30). Our justification and glorification are spoken of in the past tense, as if they have already been secured. Maybe that's because they have.

  • Eric Carpenter asks, "Where are all the Calvinist Troublemakers in the Southern Baptist Convention?" No, seriously. We hear about them all the time, but where are they?

  • Kerry Gilliard (a.k.a. BlackCalvinist) promises to get back to blogging and speaking soon. Come on, Kerry, let's go. I realize you're a busy guy, but we miss you!
  • Tuesday, March 25, 2008

    Hijacked by Cultists

    It all started with an unrelated comment left on this thread. Here it is:
      The following paper will be of interest and pertinence to you for possibly several reasons among many. It has been our great honor to discern and identify the error and spirit of John Calvin, whose rule is yet propagated in the hearts of men with evil consequences for all. The Lord Jesus Christ has visited us with the Light of His countenance to put an end to this evil, justifying His servants whom Calvin murdered, and His Name in the sight of all.

      The Fruit of Cain Multiplied: The Murderer John Calvin

      Show me whom you follow, and I will know what manner of person you are or will become. If you do not know whom you are following, don't you think it is time to find out how and where you are being led? Do you think you will altogether escape the consequences because ignorant? Think again. You already suffer them.

      John Calvin was one of the most vicious of wolves ever to pose as a lamb of God. His supremely self-righteous spirit lives on in those who lionize and follow him, even unbeknownst to themselves. Truly, "that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God."

      Paul Cohen & Victor Hafichuk
      www.thepathoftruth.com
    The comments that followed were...well...interesting, to say the least.

    I checked out their web site after reading the first comment and realized immediately that we were dealing with a cult, followers of a self-proclaimed prophet by the name of Victor Hafichuk. Paul Cohen must to be the cult's keynote apologist as he is the one who seems to have the time to troll the blogosphere looking for some poor sap to take the bait. (Yeah, I bit.)

    While I refuse to argue by taking on their worldview (Proverbs 26:4), I am compelled to point out just how ridiculous their position is (Proverbs 26:5). For example, Paul's incessant ranting demonstrates his utter foolishness. According to his own site, he believes that all men will be saved. If that's true, then what exactly is the point of their "ministry"? Why bother calling people out as false teachers? I mean, who cares? If all men are saved anyway, what's the point?

    Once again, I must ask: From what are we saved? They don't believe in eternal damnation, so what was the point of Christ's sacrifice? If they teach that people will eventually end up in heaven anyway, then why not let them live like hell? After all, there is no ultimate reckoning for sin, right? Can't they see how foolish that sounds?

    I only pray that the Holy Spirit will open their eyes. I pray that they will be convicted of their error and that one day I can welcome them into God's kingdom as a brothers and sisters in Christ.

    Friday, March 21, 2008

    This Week in Calvinism - March 21, 2008

  • Breaking news at TBNN: A resurrected John Calvin claims to be only a 3.5-point Calvinist!

  • Jerry Boyce is on a mission to "expose the error of Calvinism." As he sees it, "Calvinism/Reformed Theology is probably the number one issue facing Bible-believing Christians."

  • T. J. is cooking up some liver and onions liar's opinions.

  • USAToday asks, "How can Christians celebrate Jesus' atonement for their sins and the promise of eternal life in his resurrection if they don't recognize themselves as sinners?" Well...they can't.

  • "Calling all haters of Calvinism..."

  • Want to bring down Calvinist blogs? Gordan Runyan shows you how.

  • This pastor tries, quite feebly, to disprove Calvinism. What he ends up doing is make God out to be one who has no power or control over his own creation. This is the same pastor who preached that America is in trouble because our men sit down to pee, but real men are those who "pisseth against the wall." No. I'm not kidding. I suspect that words like "exegesis" and "hermeneutic" aren't in his vocabulary.

  • The altar call: Do some churches look at it as a new sacrament?

  • Pastor John Piper writes, "The love of Christ for us in his dying was as conscious as his suffering was intentional. ... It is one thing to say that the details of Jesus’ death were predicted in the Old Testament. But it is much more to say that Jesus himself was making his choices precisely to see to it that the Scriptures would be fulfilled."
  • Sunday, March 16, 2008

    When Were You Saved?

    There's a great new tool available to Christians who don't like to look to God's word for assurance of their salvation and opt instead to listen to pastors who have probably read less scripture than they have. TBNN reports:
      For this very important moment in your life, why not trust your salvation memories to Remember the Moment? All Remember the Moment Stopwatches are tested and retested so you will never fail to know the exact moment again.

      With 7 different pre-programmed modes, you can precisely capture up to 7 different moment times. Here's how it works:

      • Have your finger ready on the 1st button. When your foot touches the aisle, simply press the button.
      • When the pastor touches your shoulder, press the button again.
      • When you begin to pray the simple prayer, hit the button upon your first utterance of the word "Lord."
      • Do the same at the very end of the prayer when you say "Amen."
      • Since the Remember the Moment Stopwatch is waterproof, take it to your baptism and press the blue button as soon as you re-emerge.
      • Finally, have the watch ready in case you ever pray any unknown words.
      • The seventh mode is for any other exact time you would like to remember.

      Why 7 different moments? Don't let the potential for a future change in theology spoil the moment. Consider the testimony of Ralph Lendleton, "When I attended the Baptist Church, I used to think the moment of salvation was the exact time I stepped into the aisle. After my conversion to the Church of Christ, I was so glad I had used the Remember the Moment Stopwatch during my Baptist Church baptism."
    Consider getting the Remember the Moment Stopwatch for yourself and your loved ones. Because if you can't remember the exact moment you were saved...well, let's just say that the difference between heaven and hell could be just a hundredth of a second.

    Friday, March 14, 2008

    This Week in Calvinism - March 14, 2008

  • Tom Ascol nails it: "The resurgence of Calvinism within the SBC bodes well for our churches and missional efforts. It is leading to a reexamination of what the Gospel actually is, which is leading to a recovery of that Gospel and a more thoughtful, biblical approach to proclaiming it. And that is the foundation of reformation and revival."

  • One Scottish pastor sees "systematic expository preaching, exercise of church discipline, Calvinist doctrine, ministry in the power of the Spirit, focus on prayer, evangelism, and church planting" as the building blocks of revival.

  • Is Darwinism the new Calvinism? Shaun Johnston thinks so. He rejects what he calls "scientific determinism" because it denies free will. For the last time, people: Calvinists believe in free will!

  • Kangaroodort thinks Calvinists "should have the decency to stop trying to tell Arminians why they reject Calvinism." So, we should quit trying to explain total depravity? Oh, come on. I'm kidding. (Sort of.)

  • Pastor Joe Scearbo believes that God's election is based on his foreknowledge of who would and wouldn't have faith in him (i.e., God chose us because we first chose him) -- and yet he accuses Calvinists of trying to put God in a box.

  • When the world seems overwhelming, remember that evil plays a role in God's ultimate plan. He remains sovereign.
  • Thursday, March 13, 2008

    Prayer Request

    My mother-in-law, in her battle with ovarian cancer, has already been through surgery and a round of chemotherapy. She was doing well, but with only one treatment left in her second round of chemo, she took a dramatic turn for the worse.

    She was admitted to the hospital on Monday morning with pneumonia and began to decline rapidly. By that afternoon she was moved to the ICU and listed in critical condition. In addition to the pneumonia, she has been diagnosed with a skin and blood infection.

    Thankfully, she has somewhat stabilized. She is currently on a ventilator, but the doctors hope to wean her off of that soon.

    Throughout all of this it has been a blessing to see her faith remain strong. We have a sovereign God who is in control of all things, and therein lies our hope.

    Still, it's never easy to see a loved suffer, and it has been especially hard on my wife. We would appreciate your prayers for healing and comfort. Thank you.

    Friday, March 07, 2008

    This Week in Calvinism - March 7, 2008

  • How is it that two people can read the same passage of scripture, but each have different interpretations? Short answer: sin.

  • Justin blogs about Lemuel Haynes, staunch Calvinist and the first African-American minister to be ordained in America.

  • Once again, we see that people who have a problem with the doctrine of perseverance of the saints are quick to quote all the verses that seem to "disprove" it while ignoring the crystal-clear passages -- John 10:27-29, Romans 8:30, and 1st John 2:19 come to mind -- that make it undeniable.

  • Kevin Williams reminds us, "Calvinism is good Biblical doctrine, and it's an important truth, but we need to remember this: Calvinism does not save. Christ does."

  • My pastor, John Piper, on Calvinism, Arminianism, and education.

  • "The cross isn't sexy. The cross is offensive." Timmy Brister learns this from sharing his faith at work.

  • Here's Michael's list of the five worst Christian books.
  • Thursday, March 06, 2008

    The Pastor as Father and Son

    It has been one year since John Piper's father went home to be with the Lord. In this video, Pastor John talks about his dad on location in Greenville, South Carolina

    Tuesday, March 04, 2008

    Baiters of the Lost Ark

    The story of a Welsh lecturer searching for the lost Ark of the Covenant sounds like something out of Hollywood:
      Tudor Parfitt, from Porth in South Wales, thought he had solved the mystery that had eluded all others.

      In his new book, The Lost Ark of the Covenant, the 63-year-old reveals the moment he tracked down what he thought was the ark.

      His search had taken him from Wales to London, the Middle East, Africa and Papua New Guinea.

      Finally, he was faced with a collection of dusty artefacts in a store room in Victoria Museum, Harare, Zimbabwe.

      A hunch about an ngoma (a wooden drum used to hold holy objects) discovered by Swedish missionary Harold Von Sicard had led him there. The ngoma had been photographed in the Museum of Southern Rhodesia in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, 60 years ago, only to vanish some time after 1949.

      But there it was.

      He said: "I felt a shiver down my spine. Without a shadow of a doubt this was the Von Sicard ngoma. Everything in the room suddenly took on a hard-edged radiance.

      "A strange sanctity seemed to shine from it. The ngoma was not covered in sheets of fine gold. There were shattered remnants of rings on each corner, through which carrying poles would have been thrust.

      "There is no better description of the object that stood before me than in the Biblical passage from the Book of Exodus."
    This kind of thing might make for great cinema, but it ultimately shows the futility of focusing our attention on relics. The Ark and everything it contained only served to point to the One who would come -- who has come. And with the shedding of his blood, we now live under a New Covenant. Anything Mr. Parfitt may have found, real or not, would be nothing more than an interesting antique.

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