Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Celebrating Easter Early AND Late

This year, the sunrise will be about 12 hours early for us.  We'll be celebrating the day that Jesus rose from the dead, conquering death and hell and sin, while traveling from Beijing to Guangzhou, China.  We're also praying that another resurrection will begin a day later, when we meet Zhong Xi Di and welcome her into our family.  We will give her a new name, much like Jesus gave Simon and Saul new names.  We're praying that bringing Xi Di into our family will result in a new, spiritual birth, and we will name her based on that hope: Karis Joy.

Jesus changed the world on that first Easter.  And he still is...

~ Todd

Thursday, February 02, 2012

An Incredible Journey

Many missionary biographies chronicle both the gentle and dramatic ways God proves his faithfulness, love, and presence to his people.  Even as they face persecution and death, they are enabled by the same Spirit who empowered Christ to love people who were, at best, indifferent to him, and, at worst, those who despised his very existence.  Despite being framed, prosecuted, and unjustly sentenced to death, Jesus cried out for God to forgive even his executioners (Luke 23:34).

This same Spirit leads us into a reformation; we are walking away from a self-centered and self-absorbed existence toward a reality defined by worshiping God and loving others.  This Spirit changes us, despite our frequent reminders of the past, into people who act and think more and more like Jesus.

As we walk with the Spirit on this journey of reformation, we see amazing changes in ourselves.  We do and say and think things we had sworn we would never do.  Growing up in a pastor's home, I swore I'd never be a pastor.  However, Jesus gently changed my thinking.  I swore, too, that I'd never be a missionary.

Jesus had different plans for me than I had for me.  He has called me to be a missionary, despite the battles that sometimes rage inside me.  He paired me with a partner who has long had a heart to serve others.  Heather demonstrated this in short-term mission trips in college before we were married, and she demonstrates it every day in serving our children, serving the people of our church, and serving her husband.  The mission Jesus called me to was to share his good news.  Despite our wickedness and rebellion, God made a way for us to dwell with him as his people through Jesus of Nazareth's death, burial, and resurrection.

By our belief in the truth of Jesus's death, burial, and resurrection, and by way of our ongoing dependence on his sacrifice as sufficient to pay the penalty of our sin and make us right with God, God has adopted us into his family.  We have become his children.  God chose to bring us into his family, and most of us don't look like Jesus the Jew.  God decided to love people from all over the world, and God's Spirit moves in us to do the same!

So, my wife and I are missionaries, preparing to share the good news with someone who doesn't speak our language.  We are travelling overseas to a distant, ancient land, and our target people group is made up of one individual!  We are praying that God will adopt the daughter that we are going to adopt.

Of course, we hope that we can influence others as well, but we have been called by God to illustrate his adoption of us by imitating him.  And he has gently and dramatically proven his faithfulness, love, and presence to us.  Please pray for us as we undertake the difficult task of loving and shepherding a little girl who may have serious developmental challenges, who doesn't speak English, and who may be indifferent to us, or even hate us.  Who knows what other challenges we may face?

Well, we know the one who knows, and those unknown challenges are all part of his plan for us to experience reformation.  May we grow in worship of Jesus and love for others.

~ Todd

Friday, September 02, 2011

The Fall and Redemption: A Wedding Sermon - Part 3

Finally, the conclusion of my previous two posts:
In Ephesians 5:22-33, Paul gives instructions to husbands and wives, and he exhorts husbands and wives to emulate Christ’s relationship with the church.  A husband is instructed to lead, love, and sacrifice himself for his wife.  A wife is commanded to respect her husband and submit to his loving, sacrificial leadership.  This is God’s design for marriage and an illustration of Christ’s special love and care for his people.

Since God has designed marriage to illustrate Christ’s relationship with the church, and since we, as followers of Christ, are called to and desire to be like him, we must pursue marriages that honor Christ and reflect his character and nature to the world.  One author has identified five principles regarding marriage that we all should understand, and to which we all should commit our lives and marriages.  Today, I charge you, Stephen and Amber, to understand and commit yourselves to these principles.

  1. First, I charge you to understand and commit to The Permanence of Marriage.
    Whether it is acknowledged or not, marriage partners make their vows before God.  According to Matthew 19:6, “What God has joined together, let no man separate.”  God has designed marriage not to end while both of you are living.  This relationship, like Christ’s relationship with his church, is permanent, meant to last as long as you both are alive.
  2. Second, I charge you to understand and commit to The Sacredness of Marriage.
    Marriage is a relationship designed, instituted, and initiated by God.  Proverbs 18:22 says, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.”  This relationship, like Christ’s relationship with his church, is sacred, initiated by God.
  3. Third, I charge you to understand and commit to The Intimacy of Marriage.
    Moses commented in Genesis 2:24 that, “a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.”  God’s design for marriage unites a man and a woman together intimately, removing each from their family of origin and creating a new union.  Marriage creates a context for knowing and being known.  This relationship, like Christ’s relationship with his church, is designed for intimacy.
  4. Fourth, I charge you to understand and commit to The Mutuality of Marriage.
    In Paul’s teaching on marriage in 1 Corinthians 7, he exhorts husbands and wives to selflessly serve one another and to pursue the other’s best interests above their own.  Just preceding this passage, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.  Therefore, honor God with your body.”  God’s has designed marriage for your mutual benefit and pleasure.  You are called to put the needs and desires of your spouse first.  This relationship, like Christ’s relationship with his church, is designed for mutuality.
  5. Last, I charge you to understand and commit to The Exclusiveness of Marriage.
    “No other human relationship must interfere with the marriage commitment between husband and wife.”  1 Corinthians 7:2 instructs us that, “because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband.”  It is God’s design for a marriage that a man and woman set themselves apart to the exclusion of all others.  This relationship, like Christ’s relationship with his church, is designed for exclusivity.

As Stephen and Amber prepare to make their vows and illustrate their commitment to each other, I would like to commend them for pursuing Christ together.  They have sought wisdom from many counselors leading up to this most joyous of days, and I know they have understood and committed to each of these marriage principles.  They have demonstrated the desire and determination to pursue each other’s best interests, and they understand that the close communion of marriage will require compassion and forgiveness.  Stephen and Amber, may your marriage reflect the loving care and tenderness that Jesus Christ has for his people.

~ Todd

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Fall and Redemption: A Wedding Sermon - Part 2

Continued from yesterday's post:

Despite the complexity of our lives and our bodies, we are, in many ways, simple creatures. We often understand concepts and principles more clearly and vividly when they are illustrated by a picture or a story. We are often unmoved by cold facts, but stories resonate with us and inspire us in ways we don’t always understand. Knowing this, God has given us many illustrations of his nature and character. He displays his eternal power and divine nature through majestic mountain vistas and vast seas. “The heavens are telling of the glory of God, and their expanse is declaring the work of his hands” (Psalm 19:1). He gave us the story of Joseph and the Exodus in the Old Testament to illustrate his providence and patience and his plan to redeem from slavery a special people for himself.
In a similar way, God has designed marriage to illustrate something greater than it seems on the surface. In the Old Testament, God describes his relationship with Israel as a marriage, and he emphasized his faithfulness even if his people were not faithful! God even commanded Hosea to marry an unfaithful wife to vividly illustrate the unfaithfulness of the people of Israel.
Thankfully, in the New Testament, the marriage metaphor has been radically altered. Instead of God’s bride being represented as an unfaithful wife, the bride of Christ is different. Christ has redeemed his people, and his bride has been washed clean, given new desires, and given white to wear on the wedding day. God is preparing for Jesus a bride that will never be unfaithful! Revelation 19:9 declares, “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”

Stay tuned for the charge to the bride and groom.

~ Todd

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Fall and Redemption: A Wedding Sermon - Part 1

I had the awesome privilege of officiating the wedding ceremony of Stephen Lawrence and Amber Osborne a few weeks ago, and I wanted to share the short sermon I preached:

The Fall and Redemption: The Charge to the Bride and Groom

In the beginning, when God rested from his work and stepped back to admire his creation, he was very pleased. Genesis 1:31 tells us that “God saw all that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” The crowning achievement of God’s magnificent design, the pinnacle of the first six days of creation, was the human being. The psalmist writes, “What is man that you take thought of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than God, and you crown him with glory and majesty” (Psalm 8:4-5). God made Adam and Eve to represent himself to the earth. They were given differences, yet they were designed for perfect and permanent unity. They were given different roles, yet their goals and instructions were the same. Their job was to have dominion over the world, and to fill the world with worshipers of God.

God designed Adam and Eve for permanent unity and dominion over the earth, yet Satan devised a plan to divide and conquer. God’s creation was very good; yet God left room for a great tragedy. Adam and Eve, the second in command over all the earth, failed to rule over creation. Instead, they chose to doubt the truth of God’s word and believe a lie. God had entrusted them with the garden, to manage and keep it, yet they betrayed God. The very design for unity that God had created for their joy and benefit had become corrupted. Eve led Adam (without a fight) into sin, twisting and distorting God’s design and resulting in blame-shifting and curses from God.

Yet God had prepared for this tragedy. From the very beginning, before the first word of creation was spoken, God had a plan to demonstrate his character to the universe. Even as he pronounced curses upon Adam and Eve and the serpent, he provided a glimpse into an incredible plan to redeem his creation. In Genesis 3:15, God promises to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” One day a baby boy would be born of a virgin, and he would grow into the One who would crush the serpent and all he represents. This is the birth of hope, the promise of redemption. In the very curses God pronounced as a result of Adam and Eve’s sin, he began to introduce a Hero, a Savior.

I'll probably post the rest in two additional parts.

~ Todd

Friday, April 15, 2011

What To Do When You See Yourself In Scripture

In 2 Timothy 3:2-5, Paul seems to be describing our culture as if he had an iPhone with YouTube on it and he could miraculously peer into the future. He writes:
"For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power."
What's most difficult about this description is that I see myself in this list. It is so easy to slip into a spiritual "neutral" gear, and we all too easily become lovers of self and pleasure and praise. This "neutral" is itself listed as being "without self-control." I am characterized, at least sometimes, by this list!

So what does Paul instruct Timothy to do? At the end of verse 5 he says, "Avoid such people." So what does that mean for the Christian who finds him or herself struggling with these issues, "having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power"?

Here's the answer: repent.

Writing to Christians regarding their ungodly passions and desires, James instructs his readers in chapter 4:
"Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you." - James 4:7-10
This is a pattern of repentance and contrition before God that we should emulate. If we see ourselves in Scripture, it usually means we should repent.

~ Todd

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

For the Fame of God's Name

Sam Storms and Justin Taylor recently edited a book entitled For the Fame of God's Name: Essays in Honor of John Piper. At first glance, this book looks interesting, but the cover does not really convey the content of this book. The table of contents, however, lifts this book to the top of my wish list:

  • Contributors - 11

  • A Note to John Piper - 13
    Sam Storms and Justin Taylor

  • Part 1: John Piper
    1. A Personal Tribute to the Praise of God’s Infinite Glory and Abounding Grace - 17
    David Michael
    2. Three Doors Down from a Power Plant - 24
    David Livingston
    3. Who Is John Piper? - 36
    David Mathis

  • Part 2: Christian Hedonism
    4. Christian Hedonism: Piper and Edwards on the Pursuit of Joy in God - 49
    Sam Storms
    5. When All Hope Has Died: Meditations on Profound Christian Suffering - 70
    Mark R. Talbot

  • Part 3: The Sovereignty of God
    6. The Sovereignty of God in the Theology of Jonathan Edwards - 105
    Donald J. Westblade
    7. Prayer and the Sovereignty of God - 126
    Bruce A. Ware

  • Part 4: T he Gospel, the Cross, and the Resurrection of Christ
    8. What Is the Gospel?—Revisited - 147
    D. A. Carson
    9. Christus Victor et Propitiator: The Death of Christ, Substitute and Conqueror - 171
    Sinclair B. Ferguson
    10. The Role of Resurrection in the Already-and-Not-Yet Phases of Justification - 190
    G. K. Beale

  • Part 5: The Supremacy of God in All Things
    11. A Biblical Theology of the Glory of God - 215
    Thomas R. Schreiner
    12. The Kingdom of God as the Mission of God - 235
    Scott J. Hafemann
    13. The Mystery of Marriage - 253
    James M. Hamilton Jr.
    14. Pleasing God by Our Obedience: A Neglected New Testament Teaching - 272
    Wayne Grudem
    15. The Glory and Supremacy of Jesus Christ in Ethnic Distinctions and over Ethnic Identities - 293
    Thabiti Anyabwile
    16. Dethroning Money to Treasure Christ above All - 308
    Randy Alcorn
    17. “Abortion Is about God”: Piper’s Passionate, Prophetic Pro-Life Preaching - 328
    Justin Taylor
    18. A God-Centered Worldview: Recovering the Christian Mind by Rediscovering the Master Narrative of the Bible - 351
    R. Albert Mohler Jr.

  • Part 6: Preaching and Pastoral Ministry
    19. Proclaiming the Gospel and the Glory of God: The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards for Preaching - 369
    Stephen J. Nichols
    20. The Pastor and the Trinity - 386
    C. J. Mahaney
    21. The Pastor as Worshiper - 405
    Ray Ortlund
    22. The Pastor as Counselor - 419
    David Powlison
    23. The Pastor as Shepherd - 443
    Mark Dever
    24. The Pastor as Leader - 463
    John MacArthur
    25. The Pastor and His Study - 477
    William D. Mounce

  • Part 7: Ministries
    26. The Vision and Ministry of Desiring God - 499
    Jon Bloom
    27. The Vision and History of the Bethlehem Institute - 508
    Tom Steller

  • Subject Index 516

  • Person Index 525

  • Scripture Index 529

What do you think? Worth the $23?

~ Todd

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Amazing Amazing Grace

Josh Wilson has some great music, and I think you will like this version of Amazing Grace. I am an acoustic guitar fan, and this is pretty awesome. Here's the song:

If you want to see a video of how he created this with one guitar and a bunch of foot pedals, check his video on YouTube.

~ Todd

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Examples of Christian Persecution in the United States

How are Christians persecuted in the United States? Persecution usually involves pain and death, at least in our minds, and we don't usually see that in this country. We don't usually think about persecution at all in the U. S., but Randy Alcorn, a well-known author and scholar, tells about his experience and the life-long consequences of a bold faith. Mark Driscoll interviews Alcorn over at the Resurgence.

Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. - Jesus in John 15:20

May we pray for boldness, not comfort.

~ Todd

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Free Greek and Hebrew Paradigm Charts

For all you former Greek and Hebrew students... If you are like me, you have forgotten much more regarding the languages than you still know. If you desire to brush up, or just need some help with paradigms, check out Logos Bible Software's free Greek and Hebrew Paradigm charts. You can download the .pdfs from the logos blog here.

~ Todd

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Make War!

You may have seen this already (it has been viewed about 100,000 times), but it is worth watching again. Check out John Piper declaring that Christians should "Make War!"

This quote is interesting and applicable to our war on sin and self:

"The general who loses a battle makes but few calculations beforehand. Thus do many calculations lead to victory, and few calculations to defeat; how much more no calculation at all!" -- Sun Tzu, from The Art of War

Let's learn to plot and calculate against our sinful desires. Let's Make War!

~ Todd

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Reality vs. Feeling

C. J. Mahaney asks David Powlison to comment on a quote from his book, Seeing with New Eyes. The five-minute interaction is worthy of your click...

~ Todd

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Graduation Announcement

"Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved,
a worker who has no need to be ashamed,
rightly handling the word of truth."
2 Timothy 2:15

As God graciously continues to teach me
to rightly handle the word of truth, he has
led me to a significant milestone

With great joy, I
Stephen Todd Young
announce my graduation from
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
with a
Master of Divinity degree
from the School of Theology
with a Concentration in Christian Ministry

Please celebrate this occasion with me
on December 11, 2009 at 10:00 a.m.
on campus in the Alumni Chapel

A luncheon will follow at
State Street Baptist Church
2303 State Street
New Albany, Indiana

Thank you for your encouragement and
prayer as I continue to pursue God's calling in
my life. May God bless you according to
the immeasurable riches of
Jesus Christ!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

What does it mean to be born again?

I recently had the opportunity to preach on short notice, and I wanted to share my sermon with you.

"Born Again: The Ultimate Metamorphosis."
September 6, 2009 at State Street Baptist Church


The Gulf Fritallary caterpillar is bright orange with black spines all over its body, indicating to predators that it is poisonous. This caterpillar looks incredibly ugly, almost alien or evil. Amazingly, however, as this bizarre creature matures, it finds a quiet and safe spot on the bottom of a leaf, for example, and it forms a chrysalis or cocoon. Inside this hard external shell, the Gulf Fritallary caterpillar undergoes an amazing transformation, changing from an ugly, poisonous, crawly critter to a beautiful butterfly. This amazing transformation is called metamorphosis. Today we will examine Jesus’ teaching in John 3:1-15 in an attempt to understand what it means for someone to be born again.

John 3:1-15:
3:1 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

"What does it mean to be born again?"

I. A New Covenant Requirement:

In John 3:3, Jesus tells Nicodemus that "unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."
  • First, who was Nicodemus? He was a Pharisee, one of the most religious people of Israel, and he was a member of the Sanhedrin. The Chief Priest was a member of the Sanhedrin, and it was the group of seventy men that ruled Israel under Rome's watchful eye. They had jurisdiction over both civil and criminal matters.
  • How did Nicodemus approach Jesus? Nicodemus called Jesus "Rabbi" or "Teacher," and he seemed to recognize that Jesus was sent by God. He considered Jesus to be at least a peer, since Nicodemus (we will see shortly) was also considered a "teacher of Israel." Nicodemus, however, failed to see that Jesus was God's anointed one, the promised one sent to establish the kingdom of God on the earth.
  • How did Nicodemus respond to Jesus' statement about being born again? Nicodemus completely misunderstood Jesus. He had absolutely no idea what Jesus was talking about. This new birth Jesus referred to should not have been foreign to Nicodemus, however.

II. An Old Testament Expectation:

In John 3:5, Jesus clarified his statement for Nicodemus (and us): "Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God."
  • "Born again" in verse 3 relates directly with "born of water and spirit" in verse 5.
  • "Seeing the kingdom of God" in verse 3 relates directly to "entering the kingdom of God" in verse 5.
  • Furthermore, in verses 6-8, Jesus explains that new birth is spiritual birth.
  • Once again, Nicodemus could not understand how Jesus could require such things for entrance into the kingdom of God. What about the Temple and the sacrifices and the Law?
  • Jesus, however, rebukes Nicodemus in verse 10. He calls Nicodemus out for not knowing his Bible well enough. Jesus criticizes him for not knowing what Jesus is talking about.
  • Ezekiel 36:25-27 is essential for understanding Jesus' statement in verse 5.
25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
  • According to the Law of Moses, the Israelites were required to wash their clothes and take a bath any time they became ceremonially unclean. In the new covenant, God cleanses his people and gives them a new heart and a new spirit.
  • Jesus understood from his Bible that this new, spiritual birth was the only way to see/enter the kingdom of God, and he chastised the "teacher of Israel" for not knowing what he was talking about.
  • In verses 11-13, Jesus addresses Nicodemus and his peers in the Sanhedrin and among the Pharisees regarding their failure to believe; they lack the faith required to enter the kingdom of God.

III. An Old Testament Example:
In John 3:14-15, Jesus describes the faith that is required for one to be born again.
  • Unlike the unbelieving Pharisees and Jewish leaders, the one who will see/enter the kingdom of God will exercise faith similar to the faith required of the people of Israel in Numbers 21:4-9.
4 From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way. 5 And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” 6 Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. 7 And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. 8 And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.
  • This is the faith required to be reborn; you must look to Jesus.
  • "Just as those who looked upon the bronze serpent were healed, so those who look by faith to the Christ crucified are saved" (McFall, New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, p. 774).
  • "That bronze snake on a pole was the means God used to give new (physical) life to the children of Israel if they were bitten in the plague of snakes that had been sent in as punishment for the persistent murmuring. By God's provision, new life was graciously granted." (Carson, 201)
  • Just as the bronze serpent was lifted up for the healing of God’s people, so Jesus was lifted up; both crucified and exalted. The double meaning of lifted up is intentional. By way of suffering, Jesus is glorified and seated at the right hand of the Father, and all that look to Jesus for healing from the venom of sin will be healed/born again (v. 3)/see the kingdom (v. 3)/enter the kingdom (v. 5)/have eternal life (v. 15).

"What will it take for you to be born again?"

1. A Clear Vision of Jesus Christ
  • Nicodemus came to Jesus in respect, believing that Jesus was a teacher come from God. He honored Jesus, and he believed true things about Jesus, but he did not see clearly who Jesus truly was.
  • Are you like Nicodemus? Do you believe Jesus was a great teacher, worthy of our respect?
  • That's not good enough! Jesus cannot be a great teacher, worthy of our respect, if he lied about who he was!
  • Jesus said he was the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one can come to the Father except through him! (John 14:6)
  • Jesus is God! (2 Peter 1:1; Titus 2:13)
  • Jesus is alive and seated at God's right hand! (Hebrews 1:3)
  • Jesus lived a righteous life and died to pay for your sins!

2. A Regenerating Work of the Holy Spirit
  • But you will never believe unless God's Spirit opens your eyes to see, opens your ears to hear, and gives you a new heart!
  • (Here I prayed for God's Holy Spirit to work on the behalf of unbelievers)

3. A Simple Faith in the Exalted Savior
  • If God's Spirit is working within you, you will simply look in faith to Christ; you will depend on Jesus to pay for your sins and give you his righteousness. You will be declared not guilty and adopted as heirs to the kingdom of God!
  • If you believe that Jesus is able to save you, and you stake your life on that fact, he will save you!
  • You must accept the pardon that God offers!
  • Repent and believe the gospel!
  • Then you will experience the ultimate metamorphosis; God transforms enemies into family, wicked, rebellious sinners into people bound for glorious perfection. You will become a new creation in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Who decides what we need to know?

The editors of the New York Times web site, nytimes.com, have recently encountered criticism for not depending on web site traffic to help them make editorial decisions. One competitor marvels, "What world are you living in if you don't know where your users are flocking to? How can you edit your website?"

This has direct parallels to the way that many church members feel about their pastors/teachers. How can we possibly determine what message to preach or teach unless we consult with our people? Maybe we need to consult with our listeners to draw more visits, to reach a wider audience, right? Maybe we need to play the marketing game a little bit better.

The fact is, however, that most people don't know what it is that they need to know. If nytimes.com only prioritized news stories based only on what would get the most clicks, then anything remotely related to sex or celebrities would always be headline news. Most people, however, expect news agencies to relay the most significant information first.

What do you need to know that you don't even realize is important? If I had bad news that related to you, would you want me to tell you or not? Some might choose blissful ignorance, but if a doctor walked into your room and said, "I have bad news," you would want to know, right?!?

Here's the bad news. You are not a good person. You are a bad person. Even if you pretend to be a good person, you really don't do anything that isn't tainted by selfishness or greed or lust, etc. You are what the Bible calls sinful. And you are not alone. The person you wake up with? Sinful. The person you work beside? Sinful. The lady at the checkout line at the grocery store? Sinful. The executive driving the Porsche? Sinful. The person typing this blog post? Sinful.

We are all broken! We are not functioning the way we were made to function. In the beginning, God made two people to love God and love one another. But they rejected God and started blaming others for their sin. Guess what! We carry on that tradition, that sickness, and the result of our sickness is eternal punishment from God. Why? Because God cannot stomach sin. It is like hair in his food. We are like hair in God's food!*

Are you ready for the good news? The doctor walks in with the bad news, like, "You have cancer." But what if there was an antidote? It's not really bad news anymore if he says, "You have cancer, but here's a shot that will cure you." Here's the good news regarding sin and our repulsive condition before God: Jesus never sinned and didn't deserve to die.

"That's it? How is that good news?" I'm glad you asked.

It is incredibly awesome, wonderful news! Jesus earned righteousness for those who depend on his righteousness, and he paid the penalty for sin for those who depend on his payment. Jesus of Nazareth, a man born in Bethlehem to a virgin girl in utter poverty, walked this earth as the only person ever to please God instead of making him want to vomit because of sin. Then, our representatives trumped up some false charges against him, sentenced him to death in an illegal trial, had him beaten half to death, and then hung him on a cross to finish him off.

Guess what? He really was God, and they shouldn't have convicted him of blasphemy, because he was telling the truth. So the Supreme Court of heaven overturned the ruling, and resurrected Jesus as the first of many brothers (Romans 8:29). Just like Adam plunged us into sin, Jesus leads us out. All you have to do is depend on his payment and learn to follow him.

Did you know that? Did you know that you need to know that? Just because it wasn't the most interesting headline doesn't mean you don't need to know.

So, to answer the question, "Who decides what we need to know?" God.

Read your Bible for the most important headlines.

~ Todd

* I heard Mark Driscoll use this illustration regarding tipping servers who did not perform well... it was memorable. You can preach the gospel with your tips.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Recommended Reading from 9 Marks

Photo by luis de bethencourt

9 Marks is a ministry of Capitol Hill Baptist Church, led by Mark Dever. I stumbled across their reading list for pastors and laity, and I thought I would share them. The reading list for pastors contains the following categories:
  • Church Discipline/Membership
  • Church History
  • Evangelism
  • Leadership
  • Missions
  • New Testament
  • Old Testament
  • Preaching
  • Study Tools
  • Systematics
  • Theology

The reading list for laity contain the following categories:
  • Aplogetics
  • Biography
  • Catechisms
  • The Church
  • Church History
  • Dating
  • Devotional
  • Discipleship
  • Evangelism
  • Marriage and Divorce
  • Parenting
  • Prayer
  • Study Tools
  • Suffering
  • Theology
  • Worship

You will need a book shelf like the one in the picture for all these books. :-)

~ Todd

Friday, July 10, 2009

Insanity Ensues

According to a recent headline, it appears that man's best friend has taken on a new role. A woman in Ghana has married her dog. Despite the fact that her family boycotted the "wedding," the "priest" warned those in attendance "not to mock the wedding but to 'rejoice with her as she has found happiness at last.'"

Are you kidding me? It is pretty clear to me that our world is out of control, and can you figure out who this priest and this woman are worshiping? They are worshiping individual happiness. It doesn't matter if you what you do is ridiculous in the eyes of your family, or despicable in the eyes of God, if it brings you happiness, you should do it--this is the "good news" that the world is preaching.

I would much rather hear that the ridiculous and despicable desires in my heart are radically offensive to God, and that he cannot stomach even the presence of my sin, but that he loved me anyway and devised a plan that would make his worst enemies his adopted sons! Because Jesus lived a perfect life and died an unjust death, all who depend on his sacrifice get his life credited to their account. God is pleased with us because of Christ.

So, let's don't be confused about the world. I expect men and women who don't know Christ to do incredibly wicked and perverted things, but don't be confused. If we are honest about sin, the gospel really becomes GOOD NEWS!!!!!

~ Todd

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

What's Happening?

For the five or so people that read my blog, I thought I'd give an update on life. I finished the spring semester at SBTS in early May, but I have been really busy with the only summer term I've taken in my 7 years at Southern. I have been working on the Applied Ministry requirement for my degree over the past 7 weeks, and I have been meeting with people, leading a Bible study, teaching Sunday school, visiting with people, discipling people, preaching, and even cutting grass as a part of ministry. It has been a busy summer. I still have quite a bit of paperwork to finish for the class, but I'm nearing the end of the ministry requirements; as an elder, however, ministry is never done!

I have also been practicing my photography skills. Here are a few of my recent shots:

Louisville, KYLouisville, KY by Night

Psalm 19Psalm 19, "The heavens declare the glory of God"

Stellar's Sea EagleStellar's Sea Eagle at the Louisville Zoo

African LionessAfrican Lioness at the Louisville Zoo

Steve LawrenceSteve Lawrence sharing
Two Ways to Live

You can find more of my photography on flickr.com.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Biblical Theology at BiblicalTraining.org

Biblical Theology may be expressed as seeking to understand a particular portion of the Bible in light of all of biblical history. What role does a particular story, psalm, or prophecy have to do with God's intended purpose in revealing himself and his mission in the whole of Scripture? At biblicaltraining.org, Miles Van Pelt, Craig Blomberg, and Tom Schreiner lecture in a series on biblical theology as it relates to the Old Testament, the Gospels, and Paul's writings, respectively.

I have not formally studied biblical theology, and I have read very little on the subject, but I am strongly convinced that our understanding of the Bible has been severly impacted by scholars who reject the integrity of the Scriptures. Many argue that the first five books of the Bible were written by various persons or groups, and that they were assembled much, much later. Others see more than one author for books like Isaiah. Not only does this undermine the integrity of individual books, but it quickly discounts views of the whole of the Old Testament as a cohesive document. If the foundation will crack, the whole will crumble.

Van Pelt demonstrates well the purpose behind the order of the Hebrew Old Testament, as opposed to the arrangement of the books in English. The order we see in our English Bibles seems to be traced back to Jerome as he sought to reach his Greek, western thinking audience who preferred a chronological, linear, logical arrangement, emphasizing chronology, authorship, and genre. The Hebrew Old Testament order, however, seems to exhibit different priorities.

Van Pelt shows how the original order of the Old Testament books fits nicely with the division of the New Testament books. He aligns Genesis with Revalation as bookends to the whole of Scripture. Next, he sees Exodus-Deuteronomy as the birth, life, teachings, and death of the covenant mediator, Moses. This fits nicely with the Gospels, the books that document the birth, life, teachings, and death of the covenant mediator, Jesus. Clearly, there are differences, but the similarities are striking. Next, Van Pelt sees a relationship between "the Prophets" -- Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the twelve other prophets -- and the book of Acts. Both of these sections describe the history and preaching of the covenants. Last, Van Pelt shows the relationship between "the writings" -- Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Ruth, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles -- and the epistles of the New Testament. These writings record how we should live within the covenant.

I find this analysis fascinating. It helps me understand that there are some times that I will never be able to ask, "What would Jesus do?" He was unique, the greater Moses, and he mediated the New Covenant to us. Similarly, we cannot always ask, "What would David do?" He, too, was part of the Covenant history, and life for us will probably be different. God's design for David was to point us to a better King, Jesus. Daniel and Ruth, on the other hand, were good examples for us concerning how we should live as aliens and strangers in this world. This place is not our home, and we should seek to live life in a way that communicates this fact (1 Peter 1:1-2).

I am sure God has more to reveal to us concerning this! I want to know more!

~ Todd

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Fools for Christ?

photo by Jo Jakeman

I'm reading the books of Proverbs, 1 & 2 Timothy, and Titus in order to determine some personal development goals for an Applied Ministry course I am taking this summer. Being a seminary student, I am surrounded on a regular basis by people who would regard themselves as fools for Christ. Many have forsaken all to pursue theological training in order to prepare for service to their Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. Proverbs 18:2, however, smacks many seminary students (myself included) square in the mouth:
A fool takes no pleasure in understanding,
but only in expressing his opinion.
Ow! Man that hurts. Have I been a fool when expressing my opinions? Do my opinions weigh more than those of other students, much less professors? How can we students feel so bold as to argue over minutiae with men who pour out their hours every day on interpretation and research? Especially those students who attend The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary? We hold most, if not all, of the faculty at this school with the utmost respect, yet it seems like every semester professors must deal with at least one disrespectful, foolish, opinion-expressing student.

I don't believe there is anything wrong with pursuing wisdom and understanding, but I believe this proverb helps us see the line that divides the wise from the fools. Let us be seekers after the truth, and let us be ready to abandon any opinion that is not clearly supported by Scripture! Let us be fools for Christ, not foolish "Christians."

~ Todd

Friday, May 01, 2009

Akin Calls SBC to Repent of Selfishness, Reform, Worship Jesus

I just listened to Danny Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, issue a call to repentance to the Southern Baptist Convention and the churches that it was designed to serve. He argues that, despite winning the battle for the inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture, the SBC has begun to splinter instead of unite. He has issued a call to unite around the great body of doctrine that Southern Baptists do agree on, and to graciously honor those who disagree on matters of secondary importance. Listen to his sermon here.

~ Todd

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Understanding Singing in Worship

I'm sure Justin Taylor has already pointed 100 million people at Bob Kauflin's message from the Desiring God 2008 National Conference entitled Words of Wonder: What Happens When We Sing? I am sure I missed out on this message for several months, and I wanted to share this with anyone who hasn't listened in. Kauflin gives us three ways that singing serves the Word:
  • Singing can help us remember words.
  • Singing can help us engage the words emotionally.
  • Singing can help us use words to demonstrate and express our unity.

He says so much more and his message is very helpful. You should listen, and tell me what you think!


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Six Questions to Ask when Studying the Bible

I have been enjoying Mark Driscoll's audio and video resources, and I listened to a very helpful message he gave to a group of church planters at the Dwell conference in New York City in 2008. I decided that the content was so helpful that I wanted to take notes:

Six questions to ask when studying the Bible:

1.What does the Bible say? (The Biblical Question)
    • Driscoll and Acts 29 upholds Verbal Plenary Inerrancy - "the very words of Scripture in all of Scripture are without error"
    • Become someone who really enjoys your Bible
    • Make time to fast from internet, cell phones, meetings, radio, television, technology - seek silence and solitude to spend time with the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures - give yourself permission to be alone with God
2. What does the Bible mean? (The Theological Question)
    • Use commentaries, Bible software, books, etc. - check your understanding with reliable sources
3. What is going to make this passage stick? What's the hook? (The Memorable Question)
    • a word, i.e., hesed
    • an emotion, i.e., bitterness from the book of Ruth
    • an image, i.e., the throne from Revelation
    • a doctrine, i.e., providence from Joseph
    • a life study, i.e., Nehemiah
4. Why, or how, is there resistance to this truth? (The Apologetic Question)
    • Start with you, and ask God to convict you of the resistance you have to the truth
    • How do we answer the objections that come up so that people are left without an excuse
      • People will defend themselves, or find some excuse as to why they are the exception to the rule
      • "This was the hallmark of good Puritan preaching"
5. Why does this matter? (The Missional Question)
    • It matters for me, my marriage, my church, my city, etc.
    • The Bible is not just true, it is helpful! It's a better life!
6. How is Jesus the hero? Where's Jesus? (The Jesus Question)
    • The whole Bible is about our God, Jesus Christ. John 5 - if you don't love Jesus, you don't understand the Bible. Luke 22, 24, Jesus taught that the Bible was about him.
    • Prophecies about Jesus, Christophanies, types (2nd Adam, prophet, king, sacrificial system, priests, temple, tabernacle, shepherds, judges), similar ministries (greater Adam, greater Isaac, greater Able, greater Jacob, greater Joseph, greater Moses, greater Job, greater David, greater Jonah, greater Boaz, greater Nehemiah, greater Hoseah), Jesus is seen in the Old Testament in events (exodus, passover, atonement, propitiation, expiation), titles for God (Son of Man, suffering servant, first and the last, light the rock, shepherd, savior, lord of glory)
      • "Don't be excited about church planting or preaching. Be excited about Jesus and then open your mouth!"
      • "My goal is to tell you that the Bible is true and Jesus is everything. . . . That fixes so many problems"
      • "If Jesus isn't the reason that you go to the Scriptures, he will oppose you in everything you do."

I hope this is as helpful for you as it has been for me.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Recommended Reading from Mark Driscoll

I recently began subscribing to The Resurgence, a blog related to Mars Hill Church, and I found Mark Driscoll's series on Great Books to be helpful. Here are some of the topics:
The last post in this series was just a couple days ago (4/21/2009), so hopefully we will see more from Driscoll.

~ Todd

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Choosing a Commentary

Photo by austinevan

Have you ever wondered which commentary would be the best choice for a certain book of the Bible that you are considering teaching or studying? I have been listening to Mark Driscoll's sermon series on 1 & 2 Peter, and he mentioned a helpful resource for doing just that. Bet you can't guess the name. Yep, bestcommentaries.com. That was a tough one! So I decided to drop by and check out the site.

As I was typing in the url, I wondered, will it just be a big spreadsheet? How will they organize their site to manage ranking all the various commentaries. Well, you navigate the site by selecting a book of the Bible. Here's how the list of commentaries is ranked:

This site works toward resolving [the] tension [between busy, poor students and the plethora of expensive books] by enabling Bible students at all levels to make good, informed decisions about which commentaries they should purchase and use by providing a constantly updated biblography of commentaries on each book of the Bible and collecting reviews, ratings, and prices of commentaries from a variety of sources.

The most notable sources are the published books by D. A. Carson, Tremper Longman, III, John Glynn, and Jim Rosscup. In addition to these print publications, the web resources of John Piper's Desiring God Ministries, R. C. Sproul's Ligonier Ministries, and the Denver Seminary Journal are in the site. The data from these books and websites have been used with permission from the respective owners and aggregated to provide an average score representing a wider array of biblical scholarship than would be possible with a single book. These books are still extremely valuable and should be consulted directly along side of this website.

Scores and ratings alone cannot determine the best choices for an individual pastor or student, but we hope the combined resources available through this site points them in the right direction.

If you are looking for a commentary, you should definitely consult this site.

~ Todd