James 4:2 in relation to abortion

Stan McCullars, who is a new to the blogging scene at Just After Sunrise, posted a great sermon by John Piper on abortion. Occasionally, we need to hear sermons like these that explain why abortion goes against God’s will. Often we forget because sometimes it’s not preached on enough from our pulpits. Twenty million abortions have happened in America since the courts made the ruling on Roe vs Wade in 1973. Piper’s sermon applies James 4:2 to abortion “You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it” (NLT). It explains the practices of our hedonistic society and why we find it so convenient to do anything to get what we want, and even to steal the life of an unborn person. The psalmist wrote about himself in Psalm 139:

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it. You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.”
(Psalm 139:13-16, New Living Translation)

This serves to reminds us of our own vulnerable and helpless state of being while we were still within our mother’s womb. Life is precious and holy.

Gov. Sarah Palin: a good pick for Republican ticket

This election is getting even more exciting now with a young female governor in the picture; not that I think a 71 year-old white male presidential candidate wasn’t exciting enough. Sen. John McCain’s pick of Gov. Sarah Palin is a calculated political move not just to attract female voters but also to counter Obama’s theme of “Change.” If Palin is a mover and a shaker in Alaska, she’ll be able to shake things up in the Washington beltway. Way to go, Gov. Palin! Thanks to McCain for picking a woman. She’ll be great for the Republican ticket.

As an outsider coming in, she’s also a counter to McCain who’s been in Washington for too long. In fact, this Republican ticket is kind of a counter to the Democratic ticket. Obama represents an outsider, a racial minority; and Palin represents an outsider who is gender minority, and both McCain and Biden represent long-time insiders in Washington. The one ticket almost perfectly counters the other.

Some voters who might be silently accused of voting based purely on race, gender, and outsider/insider will now have to look at what’s really important—that is—the issues. This race is getting more exciting by the day. I’m really looking forward to the Republican National Convention beginning next week. It’ll give Americans a chance to get to know Gov. Sarah Palin.

A fine speech by Barack Obama at the DNC, Denver

After watching Barack Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention on TV tonight, I was once again blown away by his gift of the gab. Even though I didn’t agree with everything he said, I thought that his speech was masterfully crafted and delivered. On the most part, his speech was quite positive, but there were a few accusations he made toward Sen. McCain and President Bush that were illogical, based more on pure emotion, and were non-factual. However, what I do like about Obama is his ability to raise the level of hope in people and the average blue-collar/middle-class person. He does have an amazing ability to touch the hearts of people and stir their emotions like J.F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and Martin Luther King, Jr. It’s something I haven’t seen in McCain, or any candidate of any party in a long time. But I should wait and see what’s going to happen next week at the Republican National Convention at Minneapolis-St.Paul’s. I didn’t see any of the first three nights but this night was probably the best speech I’ve heard from him.
Personally, I don’t stand where Obama is on abortion. I do believe partial-birth abortion is infanticide. His position to support this is still unthinkable for me. Even some liberal Democrats will not support this. Some people can disregard points of disagreement and still support him. I don’t know how Christians can reconcile these moral issues and still support him. On the other hand, when it comes to conservative politics, social and fiscal conservative Christians also do this on other issues. I think a lot of us do this no matter what party we support. Can everyone agree with Bush and McCain on every issue? I doubt it. When it comes down to it all, it really depends which points hold closest to our hearts. We will give first prioritize to those closest to our hearts.

An important area that I think Obama could improve for America is race relations and unity. For many Democrats, Obama, for the first time in a long time, embodies the hope of uniting black and white, Asian and etc. In his speech, I heard hope for a united future but more importantly, I heard hope for people in the lower classes who have felt suppressed and hope for a better future. I think more people will vote for him just because of his uncanny gift to inspire hope in the future. That’s why the granddaughter of Pres. Eisenhower, who is a Republican, was moved enough by him to give her support to him in February. I really do wish more Republicans could speak like Barack Obama. I know there are tired Republicans out there who are yearning for something new and if they don’t find it in McCain, it is a realistic possibility that they will turn to support Obama who expresses a new hope for the future so well. Politically and philosophically, I’m a conservative, but what I have seen in Obama sounds so attractive to my ears and heart that even this conservative could be tempted to vote for him (if I could, but I can’t, because I’m Canadian).

Even though Obama may not have much experience in the international affairs, I think he might be able to do fairly well in this area because he does have a sense of justice, fairness, and an innate ability to walk the middle ground. This will go very far with foreign national leaders who are at heads with each other. He has the potential to be the linkage to foster peaceful relations around the world. This is just based on my intuition; but I could be wrong too.
Whether Obama has the ability to handle the economy is the biggest question. Likely, it’s the economy that is going to determine how he is remembered most as President of the United States. (Though Bush will be remembered most for his policy in Iraq, people may forget about the other good things his administration has done for the country, and that is not really fair for Bush). I think his lack of experience in running the country or even a state will be his weakness because his understanding of economics may be his Achilles Heel. No matter what Obama may have said tonight to undercut his critics, this weakness will be his big test in the future. Despite this area of weakness, he does have a realistic chance of be elected the next President of the United States. And if Obama does become the next President of the United States, he’d do well to have strong economic advisors to back him up.

After watching Senator Barack Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention on TV tonight, I was once again blown away by his gift of the gab to stir my emotions. It was truly incredible. Even though I didn’t agree with everything he said, I thought that his speech was masterfully crafted and delivered. On the most part, his speech was quite positive, he did make a few accusations toward Sen. McCain and President Bush that were illogical, based more on pure emotion, and were non-factual. However, what I do like about Obama is his ability to raise the level of hope in people and the average blue-collar/middle-class person. He does have an amazing ability to touch the hearts of people and stir their emotions like J.F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and Martin Luther King, Jr. It’s something I haven’t seen in McCain, or any candidate of any party in a long time. But I should wait and see what’s going to happen next week at the Republican National Convention at Minneapolis-St.Paul’s. I didn’t see any of the first three nights but this night was probably the best speech I’ve heard from him.

I do not agree with where Obama stands on abortion. Partial-birth abortion is still infanticide. The right of women to choose is one thing, but this is going way too far in my opinion. I don’t know how Christians can reconcile these moral issues and still support him on abortion. Democrats with a moral conscience will not even support his position. Some people can keep a blind eye on points of disagreement and still support him, but it’s definitely not easy to do when it comes to moral issues. On the other hand, when it comes to conservative politics, social and fiscal Christian conservatives also do this on certain issues. I think a lot of us do this no matter what party we support. Can all conservatives agree with Bush and McCain on every issue? I doubt it. When it comes down to it all, we give first prioritize to the issues closest to our hearts.

Where I think Obama can make a positive contribution to American society is bringing more racial harmony and healing to African American families. For many Democrats, Obama, for the first time in a long time, embodies the hope of a better future for all people of different ethnicities and races in America–not just for white anglo-saxons. I think more people will vote for him just because of his uncanny gift to inspire this new found hope. There is something very valuable that Republicans can learn from Obama. Many Republicans have also been inspired by Obama. That’s why the granddaughter of Pres. Eisenhower, who is a Republican, was moved enough by him to lend her support to him in February (even though she still looks and feels the part of a hardcore Republican). I really do wish more Republicans and conservatives could speak with heart-felt emotion like Barack Obama. I know there are tired Republicans out there who are yearning for something new and if they don’t find it in McCain, it is a realistic possibility that they will turn to support Obama who expresses a new hope for the future so well. Politically and philosophically, I’m a conservative, but I have to admit that what I have seen in Obama sounds so attractive to my ears and heart that even this conservative would be tempted to vote for him (if I could, but I can’t, because I’m Canadian).

Even though Obama may not have much experience in international affairs, I think he might be able to do fairly well in this area because he does have a sense of justice, fairness, and an innate ability to walk the middle ground. This will go very far with foreign national leaders who are at logger heads with each other. Just based on my intuitive sense, I feel he may have the potential to be a vital linkage to foster peaceful relations around the world. A few months ago, he tried to make himself look presidential and statesman-like when he toured Europe and the world, and this strategy paid off for him big time.

The biggest questions in the minds of most people is whether Obama has the ability to handle the economy. Right now, the U.S. economy is not looking too good; and likely, it’s the economy that is going to determine how he is to be remembered in history as the President of the United States. (Though Bush will be remembered most for his policy in Iraq, people may forget about the other good things his administration has done for the country. I don’t feel that is fair for Bush). I think Obama’s lack of experience in running the country or even a state will be his weakness. His lack of understanding in economics may be his Achilles Heel. No matter what Obama may have said tonight to undercut his critics, this weakness will be his big test in the future. Despite this area of weakness, he does have a realistic chance of be elected the next President of the United States. And if Obama does become the next President of the United States, he’d do well to have strong economic advisors to back him up.

The NLT Study Bible by Tyndale House

Three weeks ago, I received in the mail an advanced copy of the NLT Study Bible (NLTSB) from Tyndale House Publishers to review and have finally gotten around to writing this review. The NLTSB is scheduled for official release on September 15, 2008 and I’m sure many people will be impressed by it. I have found it to be an excellent study bible. Any time now in August, the NLT Study Bible website will be launching a fully searchable online version of the study bible with a free 30-day trial.

The slogan Tyndale has given the NLTSB is The Truth Made Clear. I do not think that this quickened sense of clarity in the bible’s truth is necessarily all attributable to the tools in this study bible. Even though the tools in the NLTSB are top-notch, this study bible can compete almost head-to-head in understandability with other study bibles. What really makes this slogan ring true, I believe, is the readability of the New Living Translation itself. The NLT is the most easy-to-read English bible translation available today. Most people will find it more readable than the TNIV, ESV and NRSV because it takes the dynamic approach in translation philosophy. Perhaps its increasing demand for such a translation is an indication that what readers want is a simple, easy-to-understand translation. But, different strokes for different folks. If I may, back in March 2007 I stated that the NLT had the potential to “breakout of its current status of alternate translation to the NIV” and that it also had “the potential to compete head-to-head with the NIV as the first bible of choice.” Today, based on CBA’s unit sales for September 2008, the NLT translation has surpassed the NIV in unit sales and will likely improve upon this trend. So kudos to the NLT and Tyndale on your big gains in readership! Based on the current demand for the NLT translation and based on the NLTSB’s own merits as a high quality study bible, I believe it would be safe to predict that the NLT Study Bible will become one of the most popular study bibles in the next decade to come.

I think people will like the NLTSB for many reasons, and I state my reasons them here below. One thing that impresses me about the NLTSB is its up-to-date biblical scholarship. This is evident throughout the pages of its study notes and book introductions. Over 48 scholars and editors have contributed to this bible. Its contributors are reknown evangelical theologians from a variety of seminaries and theological departments of universities.

The historical-critical stream within evangelical biblical scholarship seems to be more evident in the NLTSB. If you are familiar with the dating of Isaiah, you might chuckle at how the introduction to Isaiah attempts to satisfy all views:

The book of Isaiah addresses three different historical situations, two of them beyond the prophet`s own lifetime. As a result, some critical scholars have argued that the prophet Isaiah could not have written the entire book, a view that has prevailed since the mid-1800s. However, if we assume the reality of God`s inspiration, predictive prophecy is a reality, so it should not present a problem that parts of the book address what was in the future for Isaiah. Furthermore, the book displays a remarkable literary unity (p.1106).

This comment on the authorship of Isaiah carefully tries not to alienate those who adhere to the older view that it was the prophet Isaiah who wrote the entire book of Isaiah.

A literary approach to biblical scholarship is also evident in the pages of the NLTSB. It speaks of literary genres, imagery, patterns, etc. Although the NLTSB is not trying to become like the ESV Literary Study Bible, it has not neglected the increasingly significant literary aspect within modern biblical scholarship.

The amount of study notes in the NLTSB is quite immense. It competes with the NIV Study Bible. The study notes discusses not only the facts but also what the message means to the reader. So perhaps I should also attribute the contents of the study notes toward the fulfillment of the NLTSB’s slogan The Truth Made Clear. The size of the NLTSB amounts to a massive 2486 pages (not including the colorful maps in the back). The expanded notes bring out insightful details into words, people, themes, and topics.

The feature of Hebrew and Greek word studies is an invaluable feature, especially to those preparing bible studies and for pastors preparing sermons. It follows Strong’s numbering system and uses the transliteration instead of the Greek spelling so as to not exclude ordinary people cannot read or understand biblical Greek. Tyndale has done a great job because it keeps in mind the interests of ordinary people whom they know are non-readers of the original biblical languages. Here is an example of a Greek word study on repentance:

metanoia (3341): repentance. This noun means the action or condition of change, especially of behaviour and opinions. In the NT it usually refers to changing from a sinful state to a righteous standard. Repentance is not merely regret about something, it is a change of perspective that results in changed actions. See Mark 1:4; Luke 3:8; 5:32; 24:47; Acts 11:18; 20:21; Rom 2:4; 2 Tim 2:25; Heb 6:1; 2 Pet 3:9.

The introductions of each book includes the historical setting, maps, outline, timeline, summary, authorship, date and other historical issues, meaning and message. As much as I appreciate the historical setting, the timeline in each introduction also allows me as a reader to have a better idea when the events in a particular letter or book occurred. Many ordinary readers like me can appreciate such timelines because it helps me place the text in its proper chronological context. Note, there is also a master timeline at the beginning of the NLTSB. An outline in each introduction is also a helpful tool. Although I would have appreciated a more detailed outline for each book, the basic outline provided here manages to suffice my need for visual aids. Moreover, many other study bibles do not even provide an outline for each book. The visual aids of timelines, charts and maps scattered throughout these pages are extremely helpful. As far as I’m concerned, these visual aid tools should be in all study bibles because they help the reader simplify potentially complex things. Furthermore, I have found that the maps within the NLTSB is more numerous than in most study bibles. I have always loved maps because they help visual learners like myself visualize where the events took place.

Personally, I also like reference bibles. The cross-reference system is a very helpful feature that I use all the time in bible study. It think this feature is often under-rated and under-used by many people. Another feature in the NLTSB that is very useful is the parallel passages (e.g., Lk 28-36; Mt 17:1-9; Mk 9:2-10). I like them because I like to do critical comparisons of parallel passages. This feature will save me time having to search through the Harmony of the Four Gospels and cross-references. I have seen this feature in only a few bibles so I am glad to see this in the NLTSB.

Most of the articles in the NLTSB are quite brief. These include the introductions to the OT and NT; introduction to the four gospels; chronology of the life of Jesus; the introduction to the time after the apostles; and the historical background of the intertestamental period. My favourite and briefest article is the Historical Background of the Intertestamental Period. I have always been curious about the period between the OT and the NT. This article nicely ties the two together. It fills in the gap explaining the periods of the Persian Empire, Greek rule, Egyptian rule of Ptolemies, Syrian rule of the Seleucids, the self-rule under the Maccabees or Hasmonean dynasty, and the Roman rule. This section is appropriately placed in between the OT and NT.

As for reference helps, there is a comprehensive subject index and a dictionary-concordance in the back of the study bible. The NLTSB has done a fairly good job with this because it is sufficiently large enough. The bible that I feel that has done the all-time best job at this is the topical index found in Nelson’s New Open Bible. If Tyndale can develop something like that, it would be even better.

The NLT Study Bible not only has up-to-date scholarship, but it remains firmly grounded in a piety that many evangelicals love and appreciate. Some study bibles that neglect Christian piety, and approach the biblical text from a purely scholarly/critical point-of-view are not designed for ordinary people but only for a narrow stream in the academic world. In contrast, I would consider piety in the NLTSB as a feature. Its scholarly contributors speak with strong pious convictions about our Christian faith, and its study notes are geared help the average bible-reader or seeker to understand the bible and learn about what God is seeking from his people. This makes the NLT Study Bible very accessible to a broad range of people who wish to nurture their faith. This is an excellent study bible I highly recommend it as a faith-building tool.

Finally, I wish to thank Laura Bartlett of Tyndale for sending me an advanced copy of the NLT Study Bible to review.

Whitehorse, Yukon: the most northern parts of Canada




I have been away from blogging for over 2 weeks and I loved it. I have been away at a bible camp doing some speaking, and also returned from the Yukon, which is located way up north next to Alaska. Yes, Saskatoon, SK, Canada is north, but Whitehorse, Yukon is even further up north. I can say that this is the furthest north I have ever been. I was up there for a national youth gathering of about 1,200 youths from across Canada.

I also took some pictures of the travels through the northern Rocky Mountains. They were not as majestic as the Rockies around Banff, Alberta but they were still beautiful. Northern Canada is truly a very beautiful country. It was my first time up in the Yukon and I savored the beauty in creation. I took a lot of photos and videos of the Rockies on the bus going up to Whitehorse. I even saw herds of buffalo (Yes, those are pictures of real buffalo taken from outside the bus window!). These are some of my shots. Enjoy.

I have also tried to upload videos of some awe-inspiring mountainous landscapes but it failed to upload. I don’t know why. Maybe I will try again later.

A theologian #3: Rev. Carlton Pearson

Recently, I have been doing more reading and I have just finished reading The Gospel of Inclusion: Reaching Beyond Fundamentalism to the True Love of God by Carlton Pearson (ASUZA Press/Council Oak Books, 2007). Today, Bishop Pearson is considered a heretical pentecostal preacher who no longer believes in hell and believes that everyone will be saved. Proponents of universalism believe that whether or not one leaves this earthly life believing in Jesus Christ as the son of God, one will eventually be saved. This is the theology that Pearson has now accepted.

The rise and fall of Carlton Pearson intrigued me. Before being rejected by his congregation of 5,000, by his fellow pentecostal-charismatic clergy, and labeled a heretic, he was at the height of his pentecostal ministry in the charismatic world, but it all came crashing down. In his early days, he sang in the Oral Roberts gospel choral team, attended Oral Roberts University, and was noticed by Oral Roberts himself and taken under his wings. He was considered a protégé of televangelist Oral Roberts, and even sat on the Board of Regents at Oral Roberts University (ORU). But what a change of events when he announced to the world that he held universalist beliefs. He eventually lost the congregation he worked so hard to build. They left him. The church property went into receivership. He was no longer welcomed to speak at pentecostal conferences.

He begins his book discussing where he came from and where he has gone in his theology and ministry. Living a life holiness and evangelism defined his Christian life. He was as typical a Pentecostal as one could get. He also started the Asuza Conferences that brought in the big names like T.D. Jakes, and others.

Today, he has invited gays and lesbians to take an active part in the ministry of the church. The bulk of his book is spent discussing why he disagrees with the theologies of hell and damnation. He refutes the orthodox understanding of faith and grace. His book also begins with some quotes from the early church fathers. He also claims that most of the early church fathers were universalists themselves.

I was taken aback as I read his book, The Gospel of Inclusion. I could never imagine that a person of conservative evangelical influence could ever go that far away from one’s theology. By the end of his book, I got a slight feeling of insecurity because if someone like him I can go that far with his theology, who is to say that I might never go this far myself? When I look back and reflect on where I have been and where I am now, some might also consider me a heretic…but I’ll be quiet about that.

From what basis does Carlton Pearson build his theology? Is it the bible? Or is it from the writings of the early church fathers? I am cautious of putting the early church fathers on a pedestal simply because their theologies contradict one other’s. Some read their theologies as if they were the gospel truth but there is a hidden element of danger to doing so because it puts their writings on the same level as the holy scriptures. It is ironic that the Roman Catholic Church, Orthodox church, and some from the liturgical Anglican and Lutheran persuasion hold that the historic faith of the ante-Nicene fathers are orthodox and apostolic. How can anyone claim that there is a true historic episcopate when the theologies of the early church fathers contradict one other’s theology? In my humble opinion, this simply does not square. Today, a part of the emerging church movement has placed a premium on the theologies of the early church fathers, but at what cost? Have they traded in theological truth for theological acceptance and inclusion of all religions?

Also see similar posts:
A theologian #2: Rev. Francis Schaeffer
A theologian #1: Rev. John Shelby Spong