Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Tim Keller: A Great Inspiration

"The Bible's purpose is not so much to show you how to live a good life. The Bible's purpose is to show you how God’s grace breaks into your life against your will and saves you from the sin and brokenness otherwise you would never be able to overcome... religion is 'if you obey, then you will be accepted'. But the Gospel is, 'if you are absolutely accepted, and sure you’re accepted, only then will you ever begin to obey'. Those are two utterly different things. Every page of the Bible shows the difference."

A few days ago I posted a prayer by Tim Keller. The dude is a stud. I was priveleged to hear him speak at the 2006 DesiringGod National Conference, and he blew me away. Seeing his desire to spread the hope of the gospel in the inner-city was a great inspiration to me. I would encourage you to read or listen or blog as much as you can from Tim Keller.

Daily Quote

"Certainty of death, small chance of success...well, what're we waiting for?" - Gimli, to the Captains of the West

Preaching that Understands the World

John Stott famously claimed that preachers should study for sermons with a bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other. His point was that good preachers are not only adept in their “Word study” but also in their understanding of the world around them. In today’s Classic Materials, Don Carson offers some practical pointers towards this latter aim.

1. Most preachers ought to devote more time to reading--widely. It is never right to skimp in Bible study, theology, church history, or excellent biography; but in addition, we must read books and journals and news magazines that help us understand our own age and culture.

Here are several principles that I try to implement into my own reading (outside of Scripture, commentaries, theology etc).

First, I try to read material from competing perspectives.

Secondly, certain authors I regularly skim: Os Guinness, Brian McLaren, Thomas Sowell, John Piper, Juan Williams, Mark Driscoll, Rob Bell and others - not because I agree with all they say, but because they are trying to understand the culture.

Thirdly, ocassionally I read ‘blockbuster’ books, simply because so many people are reading them that I think I must find out what is shaping the minds of the masses.

Fourthly, ocassionally I devote a block of time - six months, say, or a year - to try to get inside some movement. For instance, I devoted a considerable block to reading the primary authors in the various schools of Reformed Theology, Global Evangelism, Church Planting, Spiritual Disciplines, etc.

Not everyone reads at the same rate; not everyone’s ministry requires the same extent of reading. Some manage far more than I. At no time should such reading ever squeeze out the primary importance of understanding the word of God. But I believe selective rapid reading of many sources can help preachers better understand the world in which they serve.

2. Discussion with friends and colleagues with similar interests is a great help. This may be formal, for instance an agreed evening once a month to discuss a book or film in the light of Christian commitments; it may be informal, depending, of course, on the structures and friendships of one’s life. No-one understands everything; thoughtful, widely read and devout friends are to be cherished and nourished.

3. Nowadays there are some good audio resources available. I sometimes drive substantial distances, but never without an mp3, CD, or God forbid...a tape. The Mars Hill (fairly priced) and DesiringGod (free) audio files offer good value. In addition, many ministries today are recorded, and preachers do well to listen to other preachers who are particularly gifted in the handling of the Word and in applying it to life (such as Mars Hill, DesiringGod, Truth for Life, Grace to You, etc...)

4. It is essential to talk with non-Christians, whether one on one, in small groups, or in large crowds. There is no more important avenue towards understanding our world.

Monday, January 29, 2007

How to Query God: Desiring God

Thoughts on Romans 9:20

You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?" 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?"
Clearly Paul was displeased with this response to his teaching about God. Does this mean that it’s always wrong to ask questions in response to Biblical teaching? I don’t think so.

Paul had said some controversial things. Peter admitted that Paul was sometimes hard to understand: "There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures" (2 Peter 3:16). Paul had said that God "has mercy on whom he wills and hardens whom he wills" (Romans 9:18). The point was: his will decides finally whether we are hard-hearted or not. "Before they were born or do anything good or evil" God had mercy on Jacob and gave Esau over to hardness (Romans 9:11-13).

Someone hears this and objects in verse 19, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?" To this Paul responds, "You, a mere human being, have no right to answer back to God."
The word "answer back" (antapokrinomenos) occurs one other time in the New Testament, namely, in Luke 14:5-6. Jesus is showing the lawyers that it is lawful to heal on the Sabbath. He said to them, "‘Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?’ And they could not answer back (antapokrithenai) to these things."

In what sense could they not "answer back"? They could not show him wrong. They could not legitimately criticize him. They could not truly contradict what he said. So the word "answer back" probably carries the meaning: "answer back with a view to criticizing or disagreeing or correcting."

That, I think, is what displeased Paul in Romans 9:20. This leaves open the possibility that a different kind of question would be acceptable, namely, a humble, teachable question that wants to understand more if possible, but not rebuke or condemn or criticize what has been said.

For example, in Luke 1:31 the angel Gabriel comes to the virgin Mary and says, "Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus." Mary is astounded and baffled. Virgins don’t have sons. She could have scoffed and argued. But instead she said, "How will this be, since I am a virgin?" (Luke 1:34). She did not say it can’t happen; she asked, "How?"

Contrast this with Gabriel’s visit to Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist. The angel comes and tells him, "Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John" (Luke 1:13). But Zechariah knew that "Elizabeth was barren and advanced in years" (Luke 1:7). Different from Mary, his skepticism gave rise to a different question. He said, "How shall I know this?" Not: "How will you do this?" But: "How can I know you’ll do it?"

Gabriel did not like this answer. He said, "I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time" (Luke 1:19-20).

So I conclude that humble, teachable questions about how and why God does what he does are acceptable to God. To Mary God gave a very helpful answer, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you" (Luke 1:35). This did not remove the mystery, but it helped.

I can’t remove the mystery from Romans 9. But there may be more to understand than we have seen and I do not want to discourage you from pressing further up and further in to the heart and mind of God.

Wanting to be teachable with you,
Pastor John

cc: www.desiringgod.org

Word of the Day

urban amish: n. Someone who has none of the technological devices that have become a part of our daily lives, such as television, microwave, gaming platform or home computer.

Cherie's going to Virginia for a visit with the Urban Amish relatives. Where's her Etch-a-Sketch?

Sunday, January 28, 2007


Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever. - 1 John 2:15–17

This has been a great conviction of mine over the past few months. I plan to blog a series on Worldliness starting later this week. Please pray for me in my attempts to center my life on the God of the gospel, and not the trappings of this world. Thank you.

Daily Quote

"If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don't like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself." - Augustine

Friday, January 26, 2007

Daily Quote

"I do not want to dilate upon a general doctrine to-night, I rather want to press home to the conscience of every man here that God loves him. You know very well that God did not love you because you loved him, for there was not—you will confess it painfully,—anything like love to God in you, but much, very much, that sprang from natural enmity and aversion to him. Why, then, did he love you? Men do not generally love those who hate them, those who spite them, those who give them ill names; and yet God loved us! Why, there are some of the Lord's people that God loved who, before conversion, used to curse him to his face! The Sabbath-day was the day they took for sensual pleasure. They were drunkards; they were unclean; they were everything that is vile; and yet he loved them! Oh, the wonder of this! When they were reeking in the kennels of sin,—when there was no sin too black and too vile for them to commit,—God loved them. Oh, never dream that he began to love you when you began to love him! Oh, no! but it was because he loved you hard and fast, when you were revelling in your sin, that his love put its arms around you, lifted you out of your sin, and made you what you are. Oh, but this is good tidings to some of you! Perhaps you are still, as all God's people once were, living in sin. You hardly know why you have strayed in here, but perhaps, while you sit and listen, you may hoar that God has loved you. Oh, that it may come to be true, that you may prove to be one of his chosen people, whom he loves even though in sin, and whom he will love till you come out of sin and turn to Christ and got pardon for it!" - Charles Spurgeon

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Daily Quote

"God is pursuing with omnipotent passion a worldwide purpose of gathering joyful worshippers for Himself from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. He has an inexhaustible enthusiasm for the supremacy of His name among the nations. Therefore, let us bring our affections into line with His, and, for the sake of His name, let us renounce the quest for worldly comforts and join His global purpose." - John Piper

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

What I've Learned: Jack Bauer

Forget diplomacy. (I'm substituting for another "f" word.)

Actions speak louder than words. Though shouting can also be effective.

If you shoot a man's wife in the knee and he still doesn't give you the information, he's bad.

Revenge is the cruelest trick. I've seen it taken out on others, I've been victim to it, I've even done it myself. But it doesn't change anything, and it doesn't bring comfort.

Trust is the key to survival. And by trust, I mean getting out of the way and letting me do what I need to do.

The only thing harder than racing to stop a madman from releasing a deadly virus that will kill thousands of people is doing it while simultaneously trying to kick heroin.

I've been beaten, kidnapped, gassed, and shot at, but the most terrifying thing I've ever been through was facing my daughter after I made her believe I was dead.

I eat a lot of bananas. They're a good source of vitamin B and potassium. They're also easy to take on the move.

Love is a privilege.

If you have to trust someone, make it a quirky computer genius.

If I say "dammit," either something bad just happened, something bad is about to happen, or I'm going to do something drastic.

Any man can make a mistake. It's what he does to remedy that mistake that shows his character.

You better know who you are before you go undercover. If you don't, you could easily lose yourself.

Always carry at least one spare fully charged cell-phone battery.

So many times when I thought there was no more time, there was.

When interrogating a suspect, I've often found it effective to ask the question loudly and repeat it several times.

Remember, terrorists use the phone as much as we do.

In the event of a highway landing, always fasten your seat belt and return your chair and tray table to their upright and locked positions.

It's all key cards and thumb drives these days.

If the president of the United States ever orders you to shoot your boss in the head at point-blank range in cold blood, take a deep breath, ask God to forgive you, and just do it.

Without conscience, a man becomes his worst enemy.

Sometimes it's necessary to create a believable diversion, even at the risk of others thinking you're an hiney-hole.

A cell phone can sometimes be used to activate a secondary detonator on a terrorist's explosive vest regardless of how many minutes are left on your plan.

Dead terrorists can often be effectively used as human shields. So can live ones.

Bureaucrats want results but never want to get their hands dirty.

The safety of the people I love is worth any sacrifice. Even their trust.

Some people don't deserve to die, but that's not my call.

Serbs have a different word for everything.

If you don't have a Taser gun, the wires from a lamp will deliver the current needed to shock your subject just enough to get him to give up the information you need without doing any permanent damage.

Sometimes you have to do the wrong thing for the right reasons.

You can't save everyone.

If you see me running down the street, it's probably a good idea to take cover.

Don't piss off the Chinese.

cc: Nicole Ranadive is the staff writer of "24". Matt Michnovetz is the show's story editor.

Daily Quote

"Screw the truth into men's minds." - Richard Baxter

Excluded by a Hobby: Voddie's Story

Voddie Bachaum writes:

I recently became aware of the fact that I am ineligible for leadership in the Southern Baptist Convention. I have not lost my eligibility due to personal sin, inadequate training, insufficient education, or lack of skill (all of which are routinely ignored). Nor have I gone off the deep end into theological liberalism. No, I have been rendered ineligible by my hobby! I fancy myself an amateur chef. As such, I regularly engage in practices that, as of June 14, 2006, render me (and thousands of others like me) persona non grata. Ironically, I have been rendered ineligible by many of the foods I enjoy. This may sound ridiculous, but a close look at the Greensboro resolution tells the tale.

RESOLVED, That we urge that no one be elected to serve as a trustee or member of any entity or committee of the Southern Baptist Convention that is a user of alcoholic beverages.

While it looks harmless at first glance, this resolution is a powder keg. The resolution is fraught with careless wording, factual errors and saber rattling. In an attempt to uphold ‘righteousness’ the SBC may have slipped into legalism and irrelevancy. Moreover, it has disqualified many of us who don’t even drink!

Careless Wording

According to this wording, the SBC has rendered ineligible for leadership, any minister who “is a user of alcoholic beverages.” The wording of this line of the resolution is unfortunate. At best, this excludes anyone who has ever cooked (or eaten) Beer-battered shrimp, Shrimp scampi, Chicken or Veal saltimbocca, Chicken or Veal Marsala, risotto, and a number of soups and stews that are cooked with wine. Not to mention some of the very dishes served at the cafeteria during the convention in Greensboro. Why? because all of these dishes contain alcoholic beverages. Of course, by the time they are eaten almost all of the alcohol has been cooked off, nevertheless, those who cook the dishes, as well as those who eat them are guilty of ‘using alcoholic beverages.’

Factual Errors

According to the Greensboro resolution, “Years of research confirm biblical warnings that alcohol use leads to physical, mental, and emotional damage.” It is this kind of carelessness that has the rest of the world pointing and laughing. That is like saying, “Years of research confirm the biblical warnings that sex leads to physical, mental, and emotional damage.” While it is true that abusing alcohol (or sex) leads to physical, mental and emotional damage, research has shown that drinking in moderation may actually have health benefits (and sex actually makes babies). This fact is not lost on the writers of the Bible. In fact, Paul told Timothy “Don’t continue drinking only water, but use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.” (1Tim. 5:23, HCSB) Thus, Timothy would have been disqualified from SBC leadership for obeying the Apostle’s teaching (but I digress). Had the resolution substituted ‘abuse’ for the word ‘use,’ the first whereas clause would have been accurate. As it stands, sex may be next.

Saber Rattling

My biggest problem with this resolution is the fact that it is a paper tiger. Not a single person at the Greensboro convention believes that SBC has a problem with alcoholism among its leaders. In fact, abstinence from alcohol is a given among Southern Baptist pastors. The few who do drink know that it would be professional suicide to do it in the open. But what about other requirements for leadership?

I would love to have seen the Convention debate a resolution on pastors with rebellious children, or dysfunctional homes. 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 both mention the abuse of alcohol. However, the same passages clearly state that a man with rebellious children, or a household that is not managed well is disqualified from leadership. I bet you $1 that any resolution promoting these clear, biblical mandates would die a quick death on the floor of the Convention… But that would be gambling. I’m already in enough trouble for my cooking. No worries, though, the resolution on actually practicing church discipline and removing members from our rolls didn’t even make it out of committee.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Good Bye Emptiness

Do you feel empty? Is there something lacking? Do you long for something but don't quite know what it is? Are you longing for fulfillment? Are you unsatisfied with the daily routine of work, or school, or whatever? Maybe when you are by yourself and you look deep inside, you just don't feel content. Something is missing. Maybe you've discovered that indulging the desires of your flesh and mind have not produced the peace and tranquility that you need.

When I was younger I sought many things to replace God. I tried to identify with something, a cause, a philosophy, even a look. I was seeking an identity. For a while those things where entertaining and even exciting. But ultimately, the same emptiness came back. I can remember one night I was looking for something to break the boredom. I watched the people around me as they were pursuing the same thing I was and suddenly I realized how futile and empty it all was. I realized that if I got what I wanted I would still be unsatisfied. I wanted more than the same old thing. I wanted something that wouldn't leave me feeling empty after a little while. I wanted something real. Somehow, I knew I could only be satisfied by encountering God and finding His purpose.

In His great mercy, God has touched me. In the midst of my sin, in spite of pursuing my fleshly desires, He came to me and healed my heart. Emptiness is no longer my companion. In fact, it is so unfamiliar to me that I can barely remember what it was like. Now, I have peace, contentment, and fulfillment because I have found salvation and fellowship with God. This fellowship is found in Christ. "God is faithful through whom you are called into fellowship with his son, Jesus Christ," (1 Cor. 1:9). When you find Christ and his salvation, you discover your purpose and you find your hope fulfilled.

Good bye emptiness.

cc: www.carm.org

Daily Quote

"Carve your name on hearts, and not on marble." - Charles Spurgeon

Libertarian Free Will and Prayer

Excerpt from John Feinberg, No One Like Him: The Doctrine of God, Foundations of Evangelical Theology, pp. 705-706.

If I [believe in libertarian freedom and] plead with God to remove my friend’s illness, that is not absurd, for God can answer that prayer without negating anyone’s freedom. But what about the request that God change the attitudes and actions of my friend’s tyrannical boss? What about petitions that ask God to move those processing applications for graduate school to accept my friend? Or what about prayers that ask God to keep my enemies at work from bothering me? And what about pleading with God to save a dear relative or friend? In all of these cases, what am I asking God to do, if libertarian free will obtains? I am either asking God to override others’ freedom, or I am asking him to move them to do something freely in spite of the fact that my belief in libertarian free will means that I believe Gold cannot get anybody to do anything freely. If I truly value libertarian free will as much as libertarians say they do, why would I ask God to override it just because of my petition? . . . Libertarians may be asking God to try to persuade their friends, but I repeat that God can only guarantee their persuasion by casual determinism, and that abridges libertarian free will.

On the other hand, if I am not asking God to override someone else’s freedom, then I’m asking him to do something which I believe he cannot do (make it the case that someone else does something freely). I may ask him to try to persuade the person, but I know that without God overriding their freedom, he cannot guarantee that they will change. In fact, since at the moment of free decision making nothing decisively inclines their will, regardless of what God or anyone else does or says, the matter may be hopeless. In light of such problems with interceding with God to change someone’s incompatibilistically free actions or attitudes, there is good reason for anyone committed to libertarian free will who understands the implications of the position to think twice before offering intercessory prayers of the kind mentioned. In fact, prayer to change either our or others’ actions seems problematic.

"On Predestination"

The following poem appeared in The Continental Journal on March 11, 1779. It was entitled “On Predestination.”

If all things succeed as already agreed,
And immutable impulses rule us;
To preach and to pray, is but time thrown away,
And our teachers do nothing but fool us.
If we’re driven by fate, either this way or that,
As the carman whips up his horses,
Then no man can stray --- all go the right way,
As the stars that are fix’d in their courses.
But if by free will, we can go or stand still,
As best suits the present occasion;
Then fill up the glass, and confirm him an ass
That depends upon Predestination.

Two weeks the same newspaper published an answer by another writer:

If an all perfect mind rules over mankind,
With infinite wisdom and power;
Sure he may decree, and yet the will be free,
The deeds and events of each hour.
If scripture affirms in the plainest of terms,
The doctrine of Predestination;
We ought to believe it, and humbly receive it,
As a truth of divine revelation.
If all things advance with the force of mere chance,
Or by human free will are directed;
To preach and to pray, will be time thrown away,
Our teachers may be well rejected.
If men are deprav’d, and to vice so enslav’d,
That the heart chuses nothing but evil;
Then who goes on still by his own corrupt will,
Is driving post haste to the devil.
Then let human pride and vain cavil subside,
It is plain to a full demonstration,
That he’s a wild ass, who over his glass,
Dares ridicule Predestination.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Somebody Free Will...Please.

I have no idea who Will is. I have no idea where he is or what he did to get there. All I know is that everybody wants to free Will. And the funny thing is, nobody else knows who Will is either. For someone who gets so much recognition, it sad more people don't get to know this guy.

What if we spent all this time trying to justify our campaign to "Free Will," and he didn't even want to be freed? What if someone proposed the preponderous assumption that maybe Will doesn't even need to be freed? Maybe Will sucks. Who knows?

So that was lame. But seriously folks, what's up with "free will"?

Before you read this post any further, please read Matthew 12.33-37.

I think the best way to understand man's responsibility and the sovereignty of God can be summed up in this sentence: Man's will is not his Hope. Christ Jesus taught that the tree must be made good. Man must be renewed in his entire character. He must have a new heart to bring forth good fruit; the will cannot make the tree good; it may only exercise the freedom to be what the tree already is. The will cannot reload the treasure chest with a new kind of goods; it may only freely bring forth what is there. The will cannot cleanse the fountainhead; it may overflow only with the waters available in the soul.

Any gospel preaching that relies upon an act of the human will for the conversion of sinners has missed the mark. Any sinner who supposes that his will has the strength to do any good accompanying salvation is greatly deluded and far from the kingdom. We are cast back upon the regenerating work of the Spirit of the living GOD to make the tree good. Unless GOD does something in the sinner, unless GOD creates a clean heart and renews a right spirit within man, there is no hope of a saving change.

If we hold to a libertarian view of free-will, many of our prayers would just be absurd!

Here's another little ficticious conversation for you.

Student: Can we finish this conversation concerning free-will after we pray? I'm starving.
Teacher: We sure can.
(Prayer ensues and a conversation regarding the free-will of man ensues.)
Student: So what were you saying about free-will and prayer?
Teacher: Well, just think about the prayers about ourselves that do involve our free will.
Student: Ok.
Teacher: Suppose we ask the Lord to help us be more faithful in Bible reading, prayer, and witnessing. Or suppose we pray that the Lord will help us treat our family or neighbor better.
Student: That's easy.
Teacher: I'm gonna say that if libertarian free-will obtains in our world, these are to a large degree absurd requests.
Student: Why would you say that?
Teacher: Well, what are we asking God to do?
Student: What?
Teacher: In order for me to be more faithful in Bible reading, prayer, and witnessing, won’t I have to decide to do these things?
Student: Yeah. So...
Teacher: But if I have libertarian free-will and am allowed to exercise it, how can God fulfill my request?
Student: Um...
Teacher: If he doesn’t override my libertarian freedom, he cannot guarantee the fulfillment of my request. So what am I asking him to do? Override my freedom? Make it the case that I freely decide to do these things?
Student: But if God brings those things about and makes the case for you, you're not doing it freely. Why would God want me to engage in these spiritual exercises because I’m forced to do so? Doesn't God want my love and devotion to flow freely from my desires?
Teacher: Let's think about this now. If what you're saying is true, shouldn’t I, then, pray to myself in an attempt to convince myself to do these things? After all, only I can freely effect what I choose to do, given libertarian free-will.
Student: No way. We pray to God and God alone.
Teacher: But if I did pray to myself, wouldn’t that usually mean I had already decided to do these things, and if so, the petition becomes unnecessary?
Student: I see.
Teacher: Do you see why this is so crucial for us to understand? Unless we really want God to override our freedom, what we ask him in these cases is absurd. If he doesn’t tamper with our libertarian free-will, he can’t do what we ask; only we can, but petitioning ourselves engages us in the absurdities we've been mentioning...

To steal from a previous post on Election:
I think the best way to understand and explain the doctrine of [free-will] can be summed up in this: If you wrestle with the doctrine of election long enough it creates a problem that was always there and you didn’t see it. And the denial of election, or disagreeing of it, doesn’t get it to go away.

Here's some closing statements (paraphrased from J.I. Packer):
  • I will proclaim a God who saves, not a God who enables man to save himself.
  • I will proclaim the three great acts of the Holy Trinity for the recovering of lost mankind—election by the Father, redemption by the Son, calling by the Spirit—as directed towards the same persons, and as securing their salvation infallibly, not a view that gives each act a different reference (the objects of redemption being all mankind, of calling, all who hear the gospel, and of election, those hearers who respond), and denies that man’s salvation is secured by any of them.
  • I will regard faith as part of God’s gift of salvation, not as man’s own contribution to salvation.
  • I will give all the glory of saving believers to God, not divide the praise between God, who, so to speak, built the machinery of salvation, and man, who by believing operated it.

While addressing the wills of men in the blogsphere, university, the street, or in the church, we need to be reminded that they are wills bound in the grave clothes of an evil heart. But as we speak, and the Lord owns His word, we can reast assured that sinners will be quickened to life by divine power. His people are made willing in the day of His power [Psalms 110.3]. All who are adopted as sons of GOD were 'born not of the will of man, but of GOD.' [John 1.13] Let us stand to preach with no power to make the tree good. The 'trees' before us cannot make themselves good, so no gimmicks or policies of men can persuade them to make the change. But our glorious God, by inward, secret, transforming power, can make the tree good, the treasures good, the fountain good. Thus all glory be to God and to the Lamb! Salvation is of the Lord!

And that's the way Will likes it.

He Always Wins: Part II

A Sheep. A Shekel. A Son.

Jesus Christ had a way with words, a way with stories. He was so gifted that even the most learned men of his day could sit at his feet and be marveled at the depth of insight and the authority in his words. He never told a disjointed story. He never spoke without a purpose.

One such story can be found in the fifteenth chapter of the Gospel of Luke. Most every Christian alive today can summarize to you the story of the Prodigal Son. In fact, John Newton said this song came from this very chapter. (Newton literally believed he was the prodigal son. He had turned from his godly parents and lived a life of debauchery and slave trade.)

In this chapter, we find Jesus telling a collection of three stories together to form one parable. Each story is a part of the larger context of stories that becomes increasingly precious: the lost sheep is 1 of 100; the lost coin is 1 of 10; and the lost son is 1 of 2. In all of these stories, He inserts Himself as the main character: the shepherd, the woman, the father. He is always the one seeking the lost. He is always the hero. He always wins.

Most Christians would consider this a pretty elemental truth. We read the story, and assume the meaning. We have for years. But just as the lyrics of Amazing Grace can, over time, become numb and lifeless, so can the teachings of Jesus. No matter how rudimentary, if not attended to, time has a way of fading the luster of Gospel truth. “What’s the Gospel truth to be found here?” you ask. The truth is, in all these stories something is lost, and then it is found. The thing that is lost did not find itself. It was found by another. The shepherd finds the sheep. The woman finds the coin. The father finds the son.

If we told this story as it is often represented, we would say, “The shepherd comes back after a restless journey, and the sheep is sitting next to the fold.” Or, “The woman is sitting in the kitchen, and the coin flips up onto the table.” Maybe something along the lines of, “The father is at home, and the son shows up on his doorstep.” But is this how Jesus presents the story? There is a searching of something lost. And it is always found. Grace can only be understood in response to the outpouring of the Father’s love. Although the humiliation of the prodigal's father must’ve seemed overwhelming, the love never stopped. In fact, the only thing that followed the prodigal into the far country was the love of his father.

(Stay Tuned: Part III is on the way.)

This Is Abortion

Whether you believe in the sanctity of human life or the sanctity of human choice, this video shows the graphic reality of what really happens.

WARNING: The following video contains graphic and disturbing images of severe injustice. Viewer discretion is advised.

Daily Quote

"If ours is an examined faith, we should be unafraid to doubt….There is no believing without some doubting, and believing is all the stronger for understanding and resolving doubt." - Os Guinness

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Broken Thoughts of a Christian Nomad

This guy is awesome. His name is Matt Snyder and he has all the potential in the world. (He just needs to start blogging some more...)

Go check it out. Hopefully he'll be encouraged and will continue to be sweet and awesome.

Daily Quote

"Christ did not die for any upon condition, if they do believe; but He died for all God's elect, that they should believe." - John Owen

Friday, January 19, 2007

What's Up With Election?

What’s up with the doctrine of election?

As far as I know, the doctrine of election states that all human beings given 100 chances or 1,000 chances or an infinite number of chances, will always choose, because of their desires and such, to be their own lord and savior and they will never choose Jesus. And so God opens the eyes of some so that they can see the truth, but he doesn’t open the eyes of everybody.

The first question to face, which is the easiest, is: What do other Protestant churches believe about it? The fact is that the Protestant churches have been split over it for a long time. For instance, in the church that I am a part of (Independent Baptist), we tend to “major in the Majors.” What is meant by this is that the belief in election sometimes underlines and informs the things that are said, but nobody is going to be saying that you have to tow-the-line on this particular doctrine to be a member of the church.

Martin Luther taught election very strongly; however, his followers kind of backed away from it. So the Lutheran’s are pretty split on this issue. Presbyterian and Reformed churches have always taught it, and the Baptists have been split on it too. For the first 50-100 hundred years of America’s history, all Baptists believed in this doctrine. That’s the reason why the Baptists who didn’t were called “Free Will Baptists.” However, today, the average Baptist wouldn’t believe in election.

I think the best way to understand and explain the doctrine of election can be summed up in this: If you wrestle with the doctrine of election long enough it creates a problem that was always there and you didn’t see it. And the denial of election, or disagreeing of it, doesn’t get it to go away.

If you believe that years and years ago, at the beginning of time, God said, “I see that the human race is going to sin. So here’s what I’m going to do, I’m gonna go out and save a quarter of them.” Aww! That sounds awful! However, if you say, “No. What I believe is that years and years ago God said, ‘Aw, the human race is going to sin. I will send my Son and I will give everybody free will.” But since he is God, he immediately knows, if he does it like that, who will believe and who will not. So in other words, either way you have an action of God in the deeps of time that automatically consigns some people to heaven and some people to hell.

So we’re all in the same boat. Because here’s the issue: God looks like he can save everybody (we think), he says he wants to save everybody, but he doesn’t save everybody. Why? Nobody has an answer for that. Nobody. And everybody has got the same problem.

When we first hear of election we question the fairness of God. “He’s unfair. He could save everybody, but doesn’t.” My question is: Well, how do you get out of that, even if you don’t believe in predestination? The usual answer I hear is that, “Well, I don’t believe God would violate my free will.” Why not!? What’s the big deal!?! If I’m going to go to hell, then by all means necessary I want God to violate my free will. I need God to violate my free will. He can throw it away for all I care. I don’t want to go to hell.

Another concern then arises, “God doesn’t want robots. He wants people who freely love him.” This concern is usually borne out of a sincere and heartfelt compassion for the lost; however, it is also tainted by a completely twisted view of the doctrine of election. The doctrine of election doesn’t say that God made man as a robot. It says that God opens the eyes of men so that they can see spiritual Truth, which enables us to choose him freely. Imagine a bunch of people who are blind-folded running into a pit of fire and you say “Stop!” And they say “Why?” You then say, “You’re going to die!” Then they say, “No. We’re on our way to the beach. We can feel it getting warmer.” “No. You’re going to die!” And so you grab someone and take their blindfold off. Then the person says, “Oh my word. Thank you. I didn’t want to run into that.”

Is this forcing someone’s will? Not a bit. That’s all the doctrine of election says.

We all have the same problem: God opens the eyes. True. Why doesn’t he open them all? I don’t know.

The reason I believe in election is this: I have all the same problems that you do, but there’s one thing I need. The Bible tells me that I am saved by grace, not by anything better or good in me. I am saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

The truth is simple,but the implications are huge. Follow this ficticious conversation.

Student: I don’t believe in predestination.
Teacher: Fine. Have you thought about that in regards to it’s implications on grace?
Student: Why?
Teacher: Is your roommate a Christian?
Student: No.
Teacher: Why are you a Christian and she isn’t?
Student: Well, because I received Christ and she didn’t.
Teacher: Ok. That’s fine. Why did you receive Christ and she didn’t?
Student: Well, because I repented.
Teacher: Fine. Why did you repent and she didn’t?
Student: Because I humbled myself.
Teacher: Fine. Why did you humble yourself?
Student: Um.
Teacher: Are you really saying that somewhere, someplace, the real reason you are a Christian and she’s not is because something a little smarter, a little more open, a little better, a little…Are you really saying that basically you are the author of your salvation because Jesus didn't do anything more for her than he did for you, and it’s all the same?

Predestination has all kinds of problems for me to work through, but the one thing it is true to, is my experience: that my salvation has nothing to do with me being smarter or better at all. This is radical and unconditional grace…and it creates problems. But if you believe in a less-radical grace…you’ve got more questions that you can bear to answer.

Tim Keller's Prayer

"Lord Jesus Christ, I admit that I am weaker and more sinful than I ever before believed, but, through you, I am more loved and accepted than I ever dared hope. I thank you for paying my debt, bearing my punishment and offering forgiveness. I turn from my sin and receive you as Savior. Amen."

Jesus Made Me Do It

I think this is the first time I've ever heard the phrase, "I'm gonna kill you Jesus!" and thought it was funny.

...just like my Father in heaven.

I want to be a Dad someday. Of course, I'd like to be a husband first, but being a Dad would just be too sweet. All the slobber and poop and preschool and teeball and spankings and grade reports and recitals and pimples and rebellion and pizza and first-dates and musicals and shopping and holidays and girls...and so much more. Being a Dad would be such a blessing. What a privilege.

It's a tragedy that some of us men see the privilege of fatherhood as a duty, or anything less than a glorious, God-given privilege.

Everything that God gives any of us (especially a family, wife and kids), and every opportunity of obtaining what we need are undeserved mercies from the Giver of all good things. When we believe this, and have this written into the corner of our existence, it will transform our every task and our every day. Everything that God gives you and I, and every opportunity of obtaining what we need is an undeserved expression of God's favor and grace. In a society that is preoccupied with its “rights”, the word of God calls us to focus on “privileges”. As men of faith and integrity, we must embrace this truth for the good of our families, and for the Kingdom.

Just as Noah "found favor in the eyes of the Lord," I want to find favor in the eyes of my father. Just as any kind and loving son would, I desire to joyfully obey him, respect him, and serve him to the best of my abilities. And God willing, one day I will be able to look into the eyes of my son with this same grace and favor.

But it's a two-way street.

If it is true that young must learn to serve the elderly, then it must equally be true that the elderly need to learn, with good grace, to accept the offerings of the younger. We men will have to learn to respond to the good graces of our children in an equally graceful fashion. There are many children, who endeavoring to do well for their parents, have been so soured in the process by the reaction of their ungrateful, cantankerous parents the joy of service and the privilege of the opportunity have been dulled. I want to be the Dad who can respond with a sincere and grateful heart to the meekest of my children's offerings. I want to be a Dad...just like my Father in heaven.


John Piper lists some Sources to Help You Speak Against Abortion. Though I once would have vehemently disagreed with his conclusion, I now concur wholeheartedly: "May the Lord give you courage to address the carnage. I find it appalling that there are pastors and churches that NEVER address this issue."

Seriously, go through these resources. I must warn you, there is footage of an actual abortion that is pretty graphic; however, I would advise that you watch as much of it as you can. There really is no way to understand what abortion is all about until you see one.

Better Than I Deserve.

This week has been a trying one for me. Whether it be the snow and ice, failed windshield wipers, reconfiguring two hectic work schedules, starting a new Bible study, watching my cell phone fly through the air and smash into pieces, or having your wallet and everything inside it stolen...while you're in the process of applying for a passport...if you asked me the question, "How are you doing?" I would have to say, "Better than I deserve."

It's strange how often we allow ourselves to compare our situations with some imaginery perfect one and get dissatisfied. But when I stop and think about it, I am very fortunate.

My friends are far better than I deserve. They put up with all my quirks and sillies. My family has been there for me when they could have easily laughed me to the curb. My church, local and on-campus, treats me with dignity and loving accountability. I have jobs that help me pay the bills. I have a car that gets me where I need to go. I have a couch to sit on, a bed to sleep on, a computer to blog on, and clothes to put on. I have so many things I don't deserve.

I have been given an imagination, which I used quite regularly. I have been blessed with the ability to sing and play music. I have been given eyes to see, ears to hear, and a mind to use for the glory of God. Of course, the next breath that I am going to take is not something that is mine by right, any more than the pulsing of my heart is anything that I have done something to earn. So being allowed to live—let alone being saved by the sacrifice of Jesus—is much, much, more than I deserve.

So given all these things for which I have to be grateful, why is it that the quality and extent of my worship of Jesus remains so much less than He deserves from me?

Daily Quote

"What happens if a big asteroid hits Earth? Judging from realistic simulations involving a sledge hammer and a common laboratory frog, we can assume it will be pretty bad." – Dave Barry

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Marketing Churchianity

Carl Trueman has a great post on Reformation21 concerning faith in the marketplace. Go read it now. You won't be disappointed.

Here's an excerpt:

"We can be Emergent and puff ourselves as the church's most trendy
and influential thinkers; we can be Reformed and puff ourselves
as the world's greatest and most eloquent preachers; we can be confessional and puff ourselves as the soundest and most theological church leaders around; but in doing so, indeed, in the very moment we do so, we can be sure of only one thing: we are not what we claim to be; rather, we are in fact the very opposite."

Daily Quote

"The greatest enemy to human souls is the self-righteous spirit which makes men look to themselves for salvation." - Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Mohawks on the Scaffold

by Andrew Peterson

Everybody’s gotta have a building program
Stacking that money up, brick on brick.
Oh, we’ve got to have praise team worship
14 services take your pick.

Everybody’s gotta have special music.
We don’t want dead air when the plate goes by.
Oh, it’s got to be a 3 point sermon
With a poem and a pun to break the ice.

Oh, the organ hit the D chord,
Its time to sing the doxology.
Stand up, praise the good Lord,
Please define “doxology”.

So now we take communion,
But first a word to prepare our heads.
Joe gets up and talks politics,
He says a prayer and we break the bread.

We take the cup and we quench our thirst,
Dismiss the children for children’s church,
Stand and greet your neighbor first,
Well every aspect is well rehearsed.

Like Mohawks on the scaffold, heedless of the danger,
Don't look down at the city, brother it's a long way to fall.
Like Mohawks on the scaffold, strolling on the I-beams,
Hallelujah, praise the Lord, He's our buddy after all.

Oh, brother don’t get upset,
You see I’ve got my perfect attendance badge,
Sunday school and VBS,
I even pledged allegiance to the Christian flag.
(Which I have not to this day found anywhere in the Bible)

Oh, 4 years of Bible college.
Well I tucked my shirt and cut my hair,
No sister don’t get me wrong,
I learned a lot about Jesus there.

I went to class and I wore a tie.
I learned about who’s wrong and why.
Point the finger at the other guy
With the clearly flawed theologi.

Like Mohawks on the scaffold, heedless of the danger,
Don't look down at the city, brother it's a long way to fall.
Like Mohawks on the scaffold, strolling on the I-beams,
Hallelujah, Praise the Lord, He's a puzzle that I've solved.

Yeah well I hope you’re pickin up my sarcasm
Cuz I’m layin’ it on pretty thick.
It’s a useful tool of communication
Even God himself as employed that trick.
So, if you’ll turn with me in your Bibles
To the book of Job, chapter 38,
It’ll remind us who we’re dealing with.
I hope you don’t mind if I paraphrase.

Sometimes it’s like we’re sleeping on an airbus,
Like we’re taking home a little bear cub,
Like hiking mount Vesuvius,
It’s like we’re cooking s’mores in the burning bush.

Like Mohawks on the scaffold, heedless of the danger,
Don't look down at the city, brother it's a long way to fall.
Like Mohawks on the scaffold, strolling on the I-beams,
Hallelujah, Praise the Lord, He's so patient,
He’s so patient with us all.

Irreverence in Our Church Protocol

I used to be the “Assistant Worship Director” at a church downtown. It was quite the experience. Before church started every week, we would have a little meeting with the pastor, the band, and all the tech guys (we had a video guy, a lyrics gal, and a sound guy – and an occasional lights guy). The conversation was centered on and revolved around the “order of worship”, who's doing what when, who’s saying what while standing where, etc. And invariably, there was the following exchange (or a reasonable facsimile thereof):

Pastor: Ok, do you want to pray at that point, or do you want me to?Band leader: It probably makes more sense as a transition for you to do it...Pastor: Sounds good. You come on up during the prayer. Lights?Lighting guy: Ok, I'll drop the lights when the prayer starts, so they'll be down when the band starts playing.

I always get a little fidgety at the point. I know that that stuff is important. I do. I understand that excellence in doing church includes being polished and ensuring smooth transitions, etc. But, when we start talking about prayer as a transition, it gets under my skin a little. It's a real struggle for me; it always feels like dangerous business.

And I'm reminded of a couple of things. The first is the story of Uzzah in 2 Samuel 6. When the Israelites, led by David, are taking the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem, they don't follow God's instructions for how to transport it. And then, when the oxen pulling the cart stumble, and the ark starts to fall, Uzzah reaches out to stop it from falling. Verse 7 says, "The LORD's anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down and he died there beside the ark of God." It's dangerous business, messing with the ark of God.

Andrew Peterson (who is awesome, by the way) uses an interesting metaphor. He's got a song called "Mohawks on the Scaffold" that compares the way we do church to the building of the first American skyscrapers and the legend that Indians were used to build the highest parts, because they weren't afraid of the heights. The chorus goes, "Like Mohawks on the scaffold, heedless of the danger/Don't look down at the city, brother it's a long way to fall/Like Mohawks on the scaffold, strolling on the I-beams/Hallelujah, Praise the Lord, He's a puzzle that I've solved."

So where's the line? When does the business of church cross into irreverence? When does being concerned with the atmosphere and the content of church become too much about the concern and not enough about the church? Does it even matter? Am I too sensitive? Is it just part of the deal?

In the Peterson song, when he does the chorus the last time, he ends it with "Hallelujah, Praise the Lord, He's so patient with us all."

Lord, I hope so.

Daily Quote

"The quality or quantity of faith is not the main question for the sinner. That which he needs to know is that Jesus died and was buried, and rose again, according to the Scriptures. This knowledge is life everlasting." - Horatius Bonar

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

He Always Wins: Part I

This series, entitled He Always Wins, is taken from the revised version of Unearthing God. If you would like more information concerning UG, a PDF file or Word Document, just email me.

He Always Wins

Great songs are sweet. They evoke memories of glory days past, provide strength for the undertaking, and leave a wake of inspiration for centuries to come. There’s just something about a good lyric that sticks to you, kind of like peanut butter to the roof of your mouth. At times it can seem like a pain, you can’t get rid of it, but as soon as it goes down, you’re smiling. I love it. The sad thing is, we take them for granted. No matter how great a lyric a certain song or hymn may have, we will inevitably overlook its significance, become annoyed with its melody, and in turn, squander its blessing. Awful isn’t it?

Take for instance the lyrics of the great hymn by John Newton, Amazing Grace. Arguably one of the greatest hymns ever written and the most often sung hymn on the entire planet, and there I was, picking my nose. Countless souls had been arrested and transformed by God's amazing grace through this song, yet I’d had enough. I couldn’t begin to count the number of times I’d sung this song, hummed the tune, or heard an almost mediocre choir perform it. I even remember, as a not-so-young lad, thumbing through the church hymnal looking for the funniest name that I could find, all to the tune of Amazing Grace. And all of this is from a kid who was considered to be one of the “deeper” ones in the church. Whatever that means.

We handle Scripture in much the same way. A little here, a little there, and sooner or later it’s dull. Insensitive to the sting of conviction and the warmth of grace, we become jaded in our understanding and study. Entire sections of the Bible have been passed over and forgotten in this epidemic. Just as Amazing Grace appeared to a high-school know-it-all as “just another song,” so does an unending vow from the Sovereign of the Universe come across as flaccid. Awful. isn't it?

(He Always Wins: Part II coming soon...)

24: A Tribute

A tribute to some of the greatest 24 memories...ever.

Daily Quote

"Peace if possible, truth at all costs." - Martin Luther

Monday, January 15, 2007

More Reasons to Watch 24

As if there were any reason to watch a show other than 24, here are a few more tidbits that may tickle your fancy and titillate your trigger finger:

If Jack Bauer was in a room with Hitler, Stalin, and Nina Meyers, and he had a gun with 2 bullets, he'd shoot Nina twice.

Upon hearing that he was played by Kiefer Sutherland, Jack Bauer killed Sutherland. Jack Bauer gets played by no man.

If you wake up in the morning, it's because Jack Bauer spared your life.

Jack Bauer’s calendar goes from March 31st to April 2nd, no one fools Jack Bauer.

Superman wears Jack Bauer pajamas.

Jack Bauer once forgot where he put his keys. He then spent the next half-hour torturing himself until he gave up the location of the keys.

If it tastes like chicken, looks like chicken, and feels like chicken, but Jack Bauer says its beef. Then it's beef.

Jack Bauer played Russian Roulette with a fully loaded gun and won.

1.6 billion Chinese are angry with Jack Bauer. Sounds like a fair fight.

When life gave Jack Bauer lemons, he used them to kill terrorists. Jack Bauer hates lemonade.

Jack Bauer once won a game of Connect 4 in 3 moves.

Jack Bauer doesn't miss. If he didn't hit you it's because he was shooting at another terrorist twelve miles away.

When Jack Bauer was a child, he made his mother finish his vegetables.

Jack Bauer killed 93 people in just 4 days time. Wait, that is a real fact

Jack Bauer's favorite color is severe terror alert red. His second favorite color is violet, but just because it sounds like violent.

Jack Bauer won the Tour de France on a unicycle to prove to Lance Armstrong it wasn't a big deal.

Your attraction to Jack Bauer in no way affects your sexual orientation.

When the boogie man goes to sleep, he checks his closet for Jack Bauer.

Jack Bauer has been to Mars. Thats why theres no life on Mars.

If Jack and MacGyver were locked in a room together, Jack would make a bomb out of MacGyver and get out.

People with amnesia still remember Jack Bauer.

If you spell Jack Bauer in a Scrabble game, you win. Forever.

Jack Bauer literally died for his country, and lived to tell about it.

Superman's only weakness is Kryptonite. Jack Bauer laughs at Superman for having a weakness.

Jack Bauer knows Victoria's secret.

If Jack Bauer was gay, his name would be Chuck Norris.

Jack Bauer does not sleep. The only rest he needs is what he gets when he's knocked out or temporarily killed.

This is Incredible

It's all fun and games until someone loses an ATV.

On Baptism...

From soteriology to epistemology, dispensational to covenantal, the doctrine of Christ and the doctrine of the Trinity, no matter how you slice it, doctrine is inescapable. And so is controversy; however, both are necessary in the life of the Church, and the believer. The sad truth is that all to often we forget that both carry with them the potential to be lethal.

In my attempt to express why I believe the doctrine of baptism is important in the life of the believer, I want to convey the attitude and conviction that controversy is both necessary and lethal: necessary in "defense and confirmation of the gospel,” and lethal where prideful egos squelch Christ-centered worship and adoration (Phil. 1:7). We must always remember what Paul said in 1 Timothy 1:5 that "the goal of our instruction is love."

Christians have long differed with one another on both the meaning and the practice of water baptism. This short post will not be an end-all by any stretch of the imagination; nevertheless, I hope it will spark in you a renewed attitude of reverence for precious biblical doctrine and annihilate any speck of complacency that may have crept in undeterred.

In my limited understanding of Scripture, baptism in the Bible always follows faith. In every New Testament command and instance of baptism, that I have read, repentance and faith precede baptism. This is one reason why I do not believe infants should be baptized. Infants are not capable of repentance or faith; and also, the notion that a person should inherit the blessings of a Christian or be considered a Christian by virtue of his parents' faith or work is contrary to New Testament teaching. It must be confusing to someone who reads the Bible to see infants baptized when they don’t have faith. In the NT those who are baptized are said to be dead to sin and risen with Christ. But infants aren’t dead to sin, nor are they risen with Christ. Even more important, perhaps, is what happens in the church. Now infants are considered to be members of the church, even though they are unregenerate.

(I know that although the lack of mention in the NT concerning infant baptism does not rule out the fact that it may have been practiced, but I believe it is important to note.)

I just happen to be reading through the book of Colossians in the month of January and I can't help but mention chapter 2.
  • Colossians 2:11-12
    11 and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; 12 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which [i.e., baptism] you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.
Because I hold to a "believer's baptism," I believe that baptism is an expression of faith, and the raising with Christ that happens in baptism happens by virtue of baptism's being an expression of faith - which infants cannot perform.

I have heard it said that "Baptism saves!" and I believe it does--insofar as it is the appeal to God from a broken and contrite heart. The appeal always precedes the act of baptism. It is an outward expression of the inward reality--the work of the Holy Spirit.

The question to ask then is, "But what about the sign of the covenant made with the children of Israelites in the Old Covenant?" (Genesis 17:7-13)

Heidelberg Catechism:
[Infants of Christian parents] belong to the covenant and people of God . . . they also are to be baptized as a sign of the covenant, to be ingrafted into the Christian church and distinguished from the children of unbelievers, as was done in the Old Testament by circumcision, in place of which in the New Testament baptism is appointed.

Westminster Directory for the Public Worship of God
The seed and posterity of the faithful born within the church have by their birth an interest in the covenant and right to the seal of it and to the outward privileges of the church under the gospel, no less than the children of Abraham in the time of the Old Testament . . .

So why is baptism not administered to the children of Christian parents in the New Covenant as circumcision was administered to the children of Jewish parents in the former covenant? This is typically a question I hear from my more "Reformed" brethren...and rightfully so.

The main problem I have with this question is that I believe it to be a wrong assumption about the similarity between the people of God in the Old Testament and the people of God today. It assumes that the way God gathered his covenant people, Israel, in the Old Testament and the way he is gathering his covenant people, the Church, today is so similar that the different signs of the covenant (baptism and circumcision) can be administered in the same way to both peoples. This is a mistaken assumption, and in my opinion, downplays the importance of baptism and the work of the Father, Son, and Spirit.

There are differences between the new covenant people called the Church and the old covenant people called Israel. And these differences explain why it was fitting to give the old covenant sign of circumcision to the infants of Israel, and why it is not fitting to give the new covenant sign of baptism to the infants of the Church. In other words, even though there is an overlap in meaning between baptism and circumcision (Romans 4:11), circumcision and baptism don't have the same role to play in the covenant people of God because the way God constituted his people in the Old Testament and the way he is constituting the Church today are fundamentally different.

The people of the covenant in the Old Testament were made up of Israel according to the flesh - an ethnic, national, religious people containing "children of the flesh" and "children of God." (Paul speaks extensively about this in his epistle to the Romans, and also in Galatians) Therefore it was fitting that circumcision was given to all the children of the flesh.

But the people of the new covenant, called the Church of Jesus Christ, is being built in a fundamentally different way. The church is not based on any ethnic, national distinctives but on the reality of faith alone, by grace alone in the power of the Holy Spirit. The Church is not a continuation of Israel as a whole; it is an continuation of the true Israel, the remnant -not the children of the flesh, but the children of promise. Therefore, it is not fitting that the children born merely according to the flesh receive the sign of the covenant, baptism.

I believe that just as circumcision was administered to all the physical sons of Abraham who made up the physical Israel, so baptism should be administered to all the spiritual sons of Abraham who make up the spiritual Israel.

My prayer is that any believer who has not entered into the waters of baptism will consider, for themselves, the blessing of being baptized in Christ. And I pray that everyone who witnesses their next baptism will experience a rekindling of love to God for all he has done for us in making us part of the new covenant people through repentance and faith.

Daily Quote

Everyone in the world should know that today was the Special Premiere for season six of the hit television show, 24. Here are some of my favorite quotables from JB himself.

"I'm federal agent Jack Bauer, and today is the longest day of my life." - Jack Bauer

"If you don't tell me what I want to know, then it'll just be a question of how much you want it to hurt." - Jack Bauer

"The only reason that you're conscious right now is because I don't want to carry you." - Jack Bauer

"I'm gonna need a hacksaw." - Jack Bauer

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Songs of the Lukewarm Church

Do any of these sound familiar to you?

1. Blest Be the Tie That Doesn’t Cramp My Style
2. Pillow of Ages, Fluffed for Me
3. I Surrender Some
4. I’m Fairly Certain That My Redeemer Lives
5. Take My Life and Let Me Be
6. What An Acquaintance We Have In Jesus
7. Where He Leads Me, I Will Consider Following
8. He’s Quite a Bit To Me
9. Oh, How I Like Jesus
10. It Is My Secret What God Can Do

Daily Quote

"We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give." – Winston Churchill

Friday, January 12, 2007


Proverbs 19.21

Seminary Power Rankings

Student Relations
  1. SBTS
  2. McAfee
  3. Truett
  4. DTS
  5. RTS
Financial Feasability
  1. Truett
  2. SBTS
  3. McAfee
  4. DTS
  5. RTS
Campus Facilities
  1. SBTS
  2. Truett
  3. McAfee
  4. DTS
  5. RTS

Campus Location

  1. McAfee
  2. SBTS
  3. Truett
  4. DTS
  5. RTS
Institutional Integrity
  1. SBTS
  2. DTS
  3. McAfee
  4. Truett
  5. RTS


  1. SBTS (23 pts.)
  2. McAfee (18 pts.)
  3. Truett (17 pts.)
  4. DTS (12 pts.)
  5. RTS (5 pts.)

Daily Quote

"Oh sirs, deal with sin as sin, and speak of heaven and hell as they are, and not as if you were in jest." - John Flavel

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Scorpions on a Plane?

Snakes on a plane? That is so 2006 ... try scorpions on a plane!

In two separate instances, airline passengers were stung by scorpions after returning home from vacations. Read about it here.

Daily Quote

"Everyone may be entitled to his own opinion but everyone is not entitled to his own truth. Truth is but one." - Doug Groothius

Word of the Day

unprotected sleep: turning off your alarm clock and immediately going back to sleep; risking not waking up for a job, class, or other daily task.

I'm lucky that i didn't miss my final exam after having 30 minutes of unprotected sleep.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Potty-Mouth Piper

At the Passion07 breakout session, Piper used language that seemed inappropriate to some.

Just for the record, God kicks ass...and so does Piper.

Interested yet??? Go read Piper's resonpse.

William Wilberforce

Earlier I posted a video of the movie Amazing Grace, which will feature the life and passion of a man, William Wilberforce. I highly recommend you watch the trailer and read the following excerpt.

Against great obstacles William Wilberforce, an evangelical member of Parliament, fought for the abolition of the African slave trade and against slavery itself until they were both illegal in the British Empire. Many are aware of Wilberforce’s role in bringing an end to slavery in Great Britain, but few have taken the time to examine his beliefs and motivations that spurred him on for decades. In this concise volume, John Piper tells the story of Wilberforce’s transformation from an unbelieving young politician into a radically God-centered Christian and how his deep spirituality helped to change the moral outlook of a nation.

As world leaders debate over how to deal with a host of social justice and humanitarian crises, a closer look at Wilberforce’s life and faith serves as an encouragement and an example to all believers.

Read this book free online (PDF).

cc: www.desiringgod.org

Daily Quote

"Till men have faith in Christ, their best services are but glorious sins." - Thomas Brooks

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Daily Quote

"The point of having an open mind, like having an open mouth, is to close it on something solid." - G.K. Chesterton

Happy Bond Year!

Bond Year: Any year that ends in 007, such as 1007 or 2007.

Happy Bond Year! Let the countdown to 3007 begin!

Big You, Small Me

As we live in a culture that celebrates independence and “building our own kingdom”, we serve a God who celebrates dependence and invites us to join Him in building a kingdom that will outlast our small lives. We need to remind ourselves that it was Benjamin Franklin, not Jesus, who said, “God helps those who help themselves.” I’m slowly learning to let God be big and let myself be small. That’s liberating and life-giving because it’s exactly how God created things to work. Maybe that’s part of what Jesus meant in Mark 10:15 when He said that we have to become like little children to inherit the kingdom of God.

cc: Charlie Hall

Monday, January 8, 2007

Daily Quote

"Today Jesus Christ is being dispatched as the Figurehead of a Religion, a mere example. He is that, but he is infinitely more; He is salvation itself, He is the Gospel of God." - Oswald Chambers

Rate That Seminary

Dallas Theological Seminary

  • Student Relations = 5
  • Financial Feasability = 5
  • Campus Facilities = 4
  • Campus Location = 3
  • Institutional Integrity = 5
  • Overall = 4.4

George W. Truett Theological Seminary

  • Student Relations = 5
  • Financial Feasability = 5
  • Campus Facilities = 5
  • Campus Location = 4
  • Institutional Integrity = 3
  • Overall = 4.4

Reformed Theological Seminary

  • Student Relations = 4
  • Financial Feasability = 2
  • Campus Facilities = 2
  • Campus Location = 1
  • Institutional Integrity = 3
  • Overall = 2.4

McAfee School of Theology

  • Student Relations = 5
  • Financial Feasability = 4
  • Campus Facilities = 4
  • Campus Location = 5
  • Institutional Integrity = 5
  • Overall = 4.6

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

  • Student Relations = 5
  • Financial Feasability = 4
  • Campus Facilities = 5
  • Campus Location = 5
  • Institutional Integrity = 5
  • Overall = 4.8

*Scale = 1 being lowest, 5 being highest

Sunday, January 7, 2007

From the Suburb to the Seminary

You know, it doesn't seem like you've been traveling for 5 hours at a rate of speed somewhere close to 75mph across 3 states when you're sitting in the passenger seat of a 2004 Chevy Avalanche while listening to some sweet tunes on a radio transmitter and blogging on the the internet . . . all at the same time.

Basically, what I'm trying to say is that the brothas and I are roadtrippin' to some of the sweetest seminaries in the southeast . . . dare I say . . . the world!!!

Here's the list:

Dallas Theological Seminary - Dallas, TX
George W. Truett Theological Seminary - Waco, TX
Reformed Theological Seminary - Jackson, MS
McAfee School of Theology - Atlanta, GA
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - Louisville, KY

As soon as I get some pictures taken, you'll be able to fine them here: future seminarians.

Here's a little insider's peek into one of the day's conversation:

Josh: Hand me an apple.
(Josh is handed an apple)
Josh: Man, these apples sure are sweet.
Ryan: Them Japanese really know how to make them apples, these Fuji Apples are my favorite. The only problem is that they are too small.
Josh: Yeah, everything is smaller in Japan.
Jake: Everything looks smaller because we are in Texas.
Ryan: That's the biggest Dollar Tree store I've ever seen!
Josh: What's a Dollar Tree?
Ryan: It's a store where everything is a dollar.
Casey: It's a good thing you came on this trip Josh, you might end up learning something.
Josh: OK. Someone really did fart this time.
Casey: Yeah, sorry. That really was me. I was going to mention it earlier, but I was dumbfounded by Josh's Dollar Tree comment. STOP!
(Long Pause . . . )
Josh: What? You want us to listen to your fart?
Casey: No. I want to try and blog that entire conversation.

Daily Quote

"We pursue God because, and only because, He has first put an urge within us that spurs us to the pursuit." - A. W. Tozer

Word of the Day

enterdrainment: Any passive form of entertainment that is so incredibly mind numbing that it sucks the intelligence from the listener or viewer; ultimately over time reducing (or limiting) them to a simplistic proto-human mental state, incapable of cognition or rational thought.

Celebrity gossip, Country music, Pundit radio, Call-in shows, Soap operas, Tyra Banks and Reality TV are considered by many to be enterdrainment.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards

The resolutions we make as Christians (whether for the New Year or sometime else) ought to be profoundly deeper, and thus categorically different, than the resolutions made by unbelievers.

So if that’s the case, then what kinds of resolutions should we be making?

Though it is not an authoritative list (in the sense that Scripture alone is authoritative), the seventy resolutions of Jonathan Edwards serve as a wonderful example to us in this regard. Amazingly, Edwards penned these resolutions when he was only in his late teens and early twenties. Moreover, the commitments he made were lifelong pursuits; they were not limited to just the next year (as our New Year’s resolutions often are).

Whether you are a New Year's resolutions person or not, it would greatly behoove you to read the resolutions of Jonathan Edwards.

Here are a few (abridged) examples:

1. To live for God’s glory (see resolutions #s 1, 4, 27)
2. To make the most of this life, in terms of eternal impact (5, 6, 7, 9, 17, 19, 23, 52, 54, 69)
3. To take sin seriously (8, 24, 25, 26, 37, 56, 57)
4. To become theologically astute (11, 28, 30, 39)
5. To be humble (2, 43, 68)
6. To exhibit self-control in all things (13, 14, 15, 20, 21, 40, 44, 45, 59, 60, 61, 64, 65)
7. To always speak with grace and truth (16, 31, 33, 34, 36, 38, 46, 47, 58, 66, 70)
8. To constantly develop an eternal focus (10, 18, 22, 50, 51, 55, 67)
9. To be a faithful Christian, in prayer and dedication (29, 32, 35, 41, 42, 63)
10. To daily pursue a fervent love for Christ (48, 49, 53, 62)

As we consider the resolutions that we make for 2007, we can definitely learn something from the man widely recognized as America’s greatest theologian.

cc: A Puritan's Mind

Word of the Day

This is for all of those crazy gamer types out there. I know you can relate.

girlfriend button: The button on the controller of an xbox or PS2 you have to press to pause the game when your girlfriend wants to talk.

She said "[We need to talk]..." So I pressed the girlfriend button to pause my Madden game.

How Does This Make You Feel?

The Bible Will Melt Your Face

Ponder God. Seriously.

When you consider the things God, as written in Holy Scripture, prepare to have your face melted away and your brain microwaved and served in middle school cafeteria. But never fear, the Bible teaches us to expect this. It teaches us that our familiar ways of seeing things will most certainly be replaced with the truth of God's Word. For example, it says,

"Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!" (Romans 11:33).

"As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:9).

The Bible not only blows my mind, it takes it to the farthest reaches of comprehension and annihilates it with the hot iron edge of the truth of the gospel. And what a grace it is to have your mind blown to bits by the Word of God. Praise be His glorious grace.

However, it’s so easy for me to reject biblical teaching because it seems and feels out of sync with my instinct or intuition for what is right or possible for God. And the danger is that I tend to shape Scripture to fit my feelings. I fear that this may be the case for many of us.

If you are like me, I encourage you this day to remember that in understanding the truth of the Scripture, any understanding we may gleam will come not due to human will or exertion, but through God, who has mercy. So lean into His grace as you pursue the truth of His Word.

Daily Quote

"Is it not wonderful news to believe that salvation lies outside ourselves?" - Martin Luther

Friday, January 5, 2007

Let's Talk About The Issues

Flight of the Conchords

Daily Quote

"Let us not satisfy ourselves with a knowledge of God in the mass; a glance upon a picture never directs you to the discerning the worth and art of it." - Stephen Charnock

What Does It Mean To Be Human: Life Together

When first approached with the question of “What does it mean to be human?” one million thoughts popped into my mind. I know that from the standpoint of a Christian worldview, one could speak of the importance of the body and the soul, being made in the image of God, the vicarious humanity of Christ, the corruption and depravity of man, as well as many other relevant concepts that may fall under this category. However, I intend to take a somewhat different route in discussing what it means to be human. Hopefully you will be encouraged and God will be pleased.

To understand what it means to be human, we must start in the beginning (no pun intended).[1] God’s plan for the first human relationship involved perfect unity.[2] After awaking from sleep, Adam looked at Eve for the first time and uttered beautiful words that few men have since been able to match in beauty or simplicity,

"This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman, 'for she was taken out of man."[3]

God immediately decrees, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.”[4] The first relationship involved unity of a man to his wife. In their sinless world they enjoyed perfect unity. Yet after they sinned, this unity was shattered. The first result of sin Adam and Eve felt was shame as they realized their nakedness. Immediately after this we see that their unity had been disrupted as Adam tries to blame the sin on his wife saying, “The woman you put here with me-she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”[5] Since then all human relationships have been marred by disunity. Yet God’s plan for his people still involves communities that are united. There can be no true hospitality where there is no unity. How can one man edify another if they fighting against each other? How can we be devoted to people with whom we do not have unity? Evidently unity is the foundation for a godly community.

Before we look at unity we must first understand what it is, or perhaps it is best to understand what it is not. Unity does not necessarily indicate that everyone believes exactly the same thing. A person who believes in infant baptism (the Protestant form) can be in harmony with someone who believes in believer’s baptism. Unity does not mean that one person has to lower his standards of doctrine or theology so they come into line with another person’s. What unity does entail is a singleness of purpose or action. It is a sense of harmony and agreement in relationship. Unity is only possible where there is humility and a willingness to esteem others higher than oneself.

Let us turn to the Word of God to learn what our Lord has to teach us about unity. 1 Corinthians 1:10 reads, “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.” God calls us to agree with each other, laying aside differences so we can remove any type of division. We are to “stop passing judgment on one another,” allowing us to live in true harmony.[6] Christian unity serves as a powerful witness to unbelievers as they see evidence of God’s redemptive work in the lives of Christians.

Five times in Scripture Paul and Peter tell the readers to greet each other with a holy kiss (or a kiss of love as Peter terms it).[7] At the time and in the culture the Bible was written, a kiss was a form of greeting. The early church adapted this form of greeting and gave it wonderful meaning. Though the kiss of greeting is no longer practiced in our culture (thankfully, I might add, since I am not a big fan of physical contact beyond a friendly hand-shake), the principle holds true. We are to greet one another enthusiastically and meaningfully. The early church adapted the holy kiss as a symbol of their unity. Similarly, our greetings today should reflect the unity we have as a community of Christians. The greetings we are accustomed to in our post-modern society really have lost any real sense of meaning. What is really conveyed in the following typical exchange?

“How’s it going?”“Not bad. You?”“Pretty good.”

And we walk away content in our knowledge that we have just fulfilled our duty by greeting another believer.

That is just a typical exchange that might occur any number of times on a given Sunday morning. What sense of unity does this convey? What interest does one person show in another in such a conversation, if it can even be called that? We do not show true unity, true concern for each other, unless we know each other and unless we are willing to be known by others. There can be no unity where there is no concern. This is the plight of our humanity.

God gives us the ultimate example of unity in the Scripture. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit, though one God, are three separate persons. These three persons work together in perfect harmony. While distinct in function, they are united in purpose. And in the Trinity we see how different Christians, each with their own functions and their own identities, can be united. 1 Peter 3:8 says “Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.” Christ’s humility before His Father is the ultimate example of godly humility and submission. Just a couple of chapters later Peter says “Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility towards one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’”

Community begins with unity and unity begins with humility. Until we esteem others as better than ourselves and until we learn to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ" (Ephesians 5:21), we can never have unity, and will never fully understand what it means to be human.

[1] Genesis 1-2[2] The reason I say first “human” relationship is because the relationship that existed in the Godhead before there was time consisted of perfect unity…which gives meaning to being created in God’s image.[3] Genesis 2:23[4] Genesis 2:24[5] Genesis 3:12[6] Romans 14:13[7] Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 3:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:26; 1 Peter 5:14

NOTE: I began reading Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer today. Saying that it would be well worth the time spent in reading it would be an understatement. Read this book.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Daily Quote

"If we would talk less and pray more about them, things would be be better than they are in the world; at least, we should be better enabled to bear them." - John Owen

An Ode to Free Will

Everything about this video disturbs me: theologically, liturgically, musically, etc... However, the sad irony is that they began this "song" following the singing of a hymn that proclaimed that "...Jehovah Reigns!"

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Daily Quote

"There are persons who, when they cease to shock us, cease to interest us." - F.H. Bradley, Aphorisms

Passion '07: pix and flix

Hey everybody! I'm currently sitting at the computer desk in our hotel room listening to the sweet melody of snore. Passion '07 has been great thus far . . . which is more than I can say for most of the pictures I've taken. A lot of them are blurred, smudged, fuzzy, and/or terrible. I apologize. I'm a guy. I'm dumb. I didn't read the owner's manual to my camera, nor did I bring it with me on this trip. But who cares . . .

Here are the pics and flix of Passion '07 . . . thus far.