Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Learning from the Old Testament

     To listen to some Christians talk one would have to come to the conclusion that the Old Testament is obsolete. If I were to quote a Minor Prophet, for example, I can almost here someone’s thought: But that’s Old Testament. Where do we get this idea that the first 39 books of the Bible lost their value once Paul picked up his pen?

     Consider some of the wonderful truths that the first testament brought us:

*The beginning. Genesis 1:1 boldly declares that God, not Darwin or chance, is responsible for the universe.

*The Messiah. Isaiah and the Psalms paint vivid pictures of the first coming of the Messiah. Jesus in the New Testament is recognized as the Messiah (instead of just a teacher or prophet) because He met the descriptions written centuries before.

*Wisdom. Where would we be without the poetic book of Proverbs? Whether Old Testament or New, “the fear of the Lord” is still “the beginning of wisdom.”

*The end. John’s New Testament Revelation is found lacking on its own. Only when blended together with Daniel do we get a fuller eschatological picture.

     There is so much more that could be pointed out, like the fact that 2011’s most quoted verse was probably Micah 6:8 (and for good reason). And yet, if one were to look at the average church, you might discover that children’s classes are rich with the accounts of David and Goliath, Samson, Noah, and Jonah, while the adult classes are pure epistles.

     It’s almost as if we subconsciously think that the Old Testament is just little kid stories, far too imaginative for our adult reasoning.

     But as adult believers we must understand how both Testaments work together. No one would pick up a good novel, flip two-thirds of the way through the book, and begin reading late in the story. “Ah, the first part is just introduction stuff.” This is why we fail to understand the Gospel—we are skipping the beginning.

     Here is a quick run through of the Old Testament:

     God created the world as a perfect place, but when Adam and Eve chose to sin, they invited the curse into this planet. Fellowship with God was broken, and in Genesis 3:15, God gave the first hint that a Deliverer would eventually solve this problem.

     Years later, God appeared to a man named Abram and made him a great promise, that he would become the father of a great nation that would live in a promised land. The Lord blessed him with a son named Isaac, and that same promise was repeated to this “child of promise” years later. Isaac’s son Jacob had a dream one night where the Lord reaffirmed this same promise; Jacob’s name was soon changed to Israel, and his descendants became the Israelites.

     Jacob’s 11th son Joseph was hated by his 10 older brothers, and they sold him into Egyptian slavery. After many years and a major famine, his family was forced to move to Egypt to find food, and they were reunited with their brother. They remained in Egypt, and after many generations, grew into millions of people. However, the Egyptians ruled over them as taskmasters.

     That is why God rose up a deliverer, a foreshadowing of the Deliver that was to come. This first deliverer, Moses, was commissioned by God to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and into the promised land. Moses does his part, but dies on the brink of the new land; Joshua then led the people in to possess their inheritance.

     After several years, which included judges and a wicked king, God anointed David to rule over Israel. Between David and his successor/son Solomon, a beautiful temple was built as a place of worship and sacrifice. God promised that His Son would come to the throne through their family line.

     The Old Testament ends with the nation being defeated, split, and exiled, although they eventually come back together. The New Testament opens with Israel being oppressed by the Roman government. The stage is set for that promised Deliverer to come, although many misunderstood Jesus’ mission.

     To see why this is all so important, read Part 2.

(Read Part 3 here)

Friday, July 27, 2012

Surfing for God

Michael John Cusick’s book Surfing for God operates on the premise that “every man who knocks on the door of a brothel is looking for God (a quote attributed to G.K. Chesterton).” Cusick’s premise is that every person struggling with lust or pornography addictions are really searching for something else.

Each person, he says, must examine himself and find out where his urges to lust come from. It is only then they can begin dealing with it.

The author is a licensed professional counselor, and he uses a lot of psychological techniques. Personally, I am a nouthetic counselor, meaning that I believe the Bible is a sufficient source of information, and that Jesus is stronger than any addiction. Cusick is not nouthetic, as evidenced by his techniques and his quoting of Carl Jung (p.84).

In chapter 3 the author mocks his pastor for saying, “If we can just align our desires with God’s, then and only then will we win the battle over the sins and struggles that entangle us.” He brushes off that idea, and yet in the next paragraph admits that he knew his sexual sin was “empty,” but he left church, bought a six-pack of beer, drove to a motel, and took a nap (p.25-26). It seems that the pastor is the one who was right; if you know your sin is empty, don’t get drunk and pursue it.

He also quoted and agreed with someone who said that “telling men to pray more in order to overcome porn was tantamount to spiritual abuse.” Ironically, the very next paragraph was a prayer for the reader to pray to help with his struggle (p.189-190).

Cusick’s main objectives seem to be finding out where the struggle comes from (molested as a child, stressed at work, needing to be loved, etc.), confessing them to God, and even saying it out loud during temptation. He says that when a man is tempted he should sit in a chair and recite why he is being tempted. I know I am being tempted because I don’t feel loved. The urgings, he says, will subside.

This is being picky, but I also didn’t like the author’s use of The Message instead of a Bible. 

The author did have some good things to say, but overall I was disappointed with this book. Any person interested in buying it should know that there is strong language in the book, although it is used appropriately.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Abstinence Education Part 2

I recently wrote about abstinence education, and I explained how Union County’s Comprehensive Health Committee helped keep contraception out of our schools.

If you read that you might have pictured some school administrators, professionals, or beaurocrats sitting in a room making these decisions. Perhaps you even thought, “I wish I could make a difference like that.”

The reality is that you can make a difference. When I first heard that the committee was being formed I decided to show up at the first meeting. Initially against my will I was elected as chairmen of that board, and it has been a pleasure to hold that position for all three years of the board’s existence.

There are professionals on the board: there are members from the county office, teachers, coaches, counselors, and nurses on the board. But there are also members of the faith-based community: pastors, church leaders, and volunteers from the crisis pregnancy center have spent time on the board. There have even been student representatives there.

In a group so diverse we will never all see eye to eye on every issue, but we all come together for one reason, and that is to make a difference. How to do that is different to many of us, and we have disagreed many times. But at the end of every meeting there is laughing and hugging before we part ways.
It is easy to read the paper or watch the news and become angry, but instead of complaining about it over coffee, why not do something about it? Get involved, call congress, run for office, join a board, draft a petition, write an op-ed, start a charity. We have enough complainers; we need more doers.

You might not think that you could ever make a difference, but as long as you’re sitting on your couch thinking that then you aren’t making a difference anyway. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Who is God? Books

In July of 2010 I released my 2nd book Who is God?, and then in December there was a follow up book called Who is God? Book 2. Those books were for sale for $10 each, but now they are discontinued.

There is now a 2nd addition release of Who is God?, which is both books combined together. If you are not already familiar with this book, here is the pitch:

People don't know who God is anymore. That sad truth is what led to this book. Who is God? shows some of things that make the God of the Bible unique from the gods of other religions.
Who is God? shows the reader that God is sovereign, love, wrath, wise, eternal and immutable, and jealous. Part 2 of this book introduces the reader to God the Comforter, Deliverer, Justifier, Counselor, Rewarder, and Creator.

This 2nd edition book is still just $10, and is available at www.tommymannministries.com or by clicking the Shop tab on this blog. When you order the paperback you will also get a PDF download of the discussion questions that turns this book into a discipleship course.

You can also buy Who is God? Book 2 there for just $1 (plus shipping). They will stay at that price until they are gone.   

(For more info, you can read these articles from The Baptist Courier and, to see the worst picture ever, The Union Daily Times)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Secret Life of the American Teenager

I want to let you know about a TV show your kids may be watching. But before I begin let me give a disclaimer. Some of you might get annoyed when I “tell you what you can and cannot watch.” If that is you then please never mind this. This is written to those parents who don’t want their children watching anything ungodly.

The show is called Secret Life of the American Teenager, and it comes on ABC Family Channel (whose slogan is “A new kind of family”). To call this show awful would be a compliment.

The show follows the lives of several teenagers in their high school, and most of the characters are just 16. One of those 16 year olds has a toddler and one is currently pregnant. There is a guy on the show who is known for being “the bad boy” who has slept with almost every girl in the school. The parents speak bluntly to their children about the kids’ sex lives, but only as a means of keeping up, not for the sake of putting a stop to it. And how could they? The parents are all divorced due to affairs among them.

But beyond the fact that this show is terrible in content is the idea behind it. The word sex is used about every minute, and it is done in such a way that it makes the viewer believe that this is just the normal way of life. And I don’t believe that it is any coincidence that commercials for birth control are played during every break.

Can I be blunt with you as to how bad our society is? It goes deeper than inappropriate content of TV. Our nation’s largest providers of abortion are also the largest supports of sexual education over abstinence education. Why? Because they know that the more often young people hear about sexual things, the more curious they will become, which will lead to experimentation. They know that more experimentation will actually lead to more pregnancy among teens, not less, and those pregnancies most often end in abortion.

And who pays for abortions for students? Not mom and dad. These usually come from tax payer funding to groups like Planned Parenthood. The more abortions they perform, the more tax payer dollars they get from Congress. That is why these groups are big Liberal fundraisers—they help pay to get them in office, and the Libs  return the favor once in office by giving more revenue to these companies. That is why you might hear talk of making abortion free to 16 years olds who don’t even need parental consent. More abortions=more money in a sadistic cycle.

So a TV show like Secret Life makes the baby making look fun while the baby raising is difficult. The message is simple: have fun, get pregnant, have an abortion, and the cycle continues.

Think TV is just a harmless pastime? Think again. The devil, who is the ruler of this world, has waged war against us, and the TV has become one of his favorite weapons. Be sober, be vigilant, because he is seeking who he may devour.

(Related post: Abstinence Education)

Abstinence Education

With Sex Education being a part of our public school system, each county or district has to decide how they will teach it. Some have abstinence education, while others teach “safe sex” and give out taxpayer-funded contraception.

In Union County where I reside we are abstinence only in our approach. The fact that as recently as three years ago we led South Carolina’s counties per capita in pregnancies among 15-19 year olds was a black eye on the abstinence approach.

Was it time to introduce “safer choices”? Is abstinence a failing system? Do desperate times call for desperate measures?

 For starters, the real problem was our county’s approach; the only thing we were abstinent from was a curriculum. It was discovered that with budget cuts and busy days many teachers didn’t have time to get around to what they were supposed to teach, and there was little to no oversight from the county.

That led the county to form a Comprehensive Health Committee that was tasked with finding an abstinence-based curriculum, and to also find ways to address drug and alcohol abuse, bullying and violence, and other related issues.

The committee soon discovered that finding an abstinence-based curriculum was easier said than done. Some were purely about abstinence, but they gave no reason as to why students should not do what they already wanted to do (and were doing). Others claimed to be about abstinence, but a closer inspection found homework assignments about putting condoms on cucumbers and calling STD hotlines. Obviously, those are two things that an abstinent person need not worry about.

The committee eventually found a curriculum called Choosing the Best, which was also being used in one of our neighbor Spartanburg’s districts. There was eventually unanimous support from the committee, and after an initial balk from the school board, was unanimously approved for Union County’s 6th grade and up (high school students only take it once, so each student will go through four years of abstinence education).

One year after the curriculum was instituted there was only positive feedback from both teachers and students. Now two years later we see that Union County once again led the state, but this time in a different category. We led all counties with a 21% decrease in 15-19 year old pregnancies. Care to take a guess at who was #2? You guessed it: Spartanburg’s District 7, who has used the curriculum for three years.

Some told us that desperate times call for desperate measures, and that condoms would solve the pregnancy problem (I disagree; condoms increase sexual activity, and then the number of pregnancies increases proportionally). But in my opinion, the only reason we have “desperate times” is we have already instituted the “desperate measures.” Do you realize that teenage pregnancy was not a problem in our grandparents’ generation? It only became a problem once contraception was introduced into our schools and our children became the victims of the liberal agenda.

Contraception was what started the desperate times, so the desperate measure should be to return to abstinence until marriage.

I laugh when people tell me that abstinence doesn’t work. I say, “Have you ever met an abstinent person who was pregnant or had an STD?” I’ve met plenty of people who got pregnant while using birth control. Abstinence is not 100% effective, it is 1000% effective.

It’s funny to me how strongly I feel about this issue because I am actually opposed to sex education. But the government requires that it be taught in the public schools, so the important question is in deciding what will be taught. And what we have found is that when abstinence is taught the right way students can make the right choices.

If you want your children to be taught safe sex, tell them that it isn’t safe until they are married. 

(Read Part 2)
(For more on the relationship between birth control and increased sexual activity, as well as the Planned Parenthood agenda, read this blog)