Thursday, December 27, 2007

Thankful for the Criminal on the Cross

Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. . . . One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” -- Luke 23:32, 33, 39-43

In recent months I have become very thankful for the criminal who was crucified next to Jesus. God in his providence used this man and his interactions with Jesus to provide us with helpful information and encouragement concerning the Christian life and eternity. Here are a few ways that God has used the thief on the cross.

First, the criminal helps us understand the gospel. Notice that he said, ". . . we [are condemned] indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds" He recognized his guilt. Also, he recognized Christ's innocence: "But this man has done nothing wrong." This man simply acknowledged his own sinfulness, saw Christ's righteousness, and simply believed that Jesus was the Messiah and had the power to save him when he died.

Second, the criminal helps us understand that baptism is not absolutely necessary for salvation. Jesus accepted his public profession of faith and promised that he would be saved. Baptism is prescribed for believers, but obviously it is a sign or a symbol. It does not produce salvation, nor is it required for salvation.

Third, we see that this man did not go to purgatory. He didn't cease to exist. He was with Jesus in paradise the same day he died. He placed his trust in Jesus Christ and when he died he was assured he would be with the Lord (cf. 2 Cor. 5:1-10).

I think there are other ways this man crucifixion bears implications for our lives, but I wanted to point out these three. I am truly thankful for that criminal!


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Creation, Broken by Sin

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. -- Romans 8:19-22

Yesterday, a tiger escaped from its enclosure at the San Francisco zoo, killing one person and mauling two others. Personally, this is one of my greatest fears--being eaten by an animal. I have fought to control a fear of unfamiliar dogs. I have fought against the very unlikely fear that I will be eaten by a lion or a tiger. And most of all, the stories of survivors of grizzly bear attacks have haunted me when I have given in to thinking about them.

But this is not how it is supposed to be! In the beginning, Adam was in charge of the animals, and he brought them before him to be named without fearing for his life from a tiger or a lion or a bear. Only after Adam fell into sin did God curse creation. Only then did creation become broken and "subjected to futility." And only after Jesus returns will this place be fully restored!

Come Lord Jesus!


Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Kids Say the Craziest Things!

Bekah as Mary!
Last night we watched The Nativity Story before we got the kids ready for bed. During the scene when Zechariah recovered his voice and said, "His name is John," my daughter perked up and said, "Like John Piper!"

Wonder where she ever heard that name?!?


Monday, December 24, 2007

Evaluating Our Traditions

"You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!" -- Mark 7:9

I'm not sure why this passage of Scripture seems to speak to me so clearly every time I read it. I have blogged on this passage previously, but I wanted to address it again in light of my recent post on alcohol.

This statement from Jesus really challenges me to evaluate every tradition in light of Scripture. From the type of music we use in church to the translation of the Bible we use to the constitutions and covenants that govern our corporate convictions, I want everything to be governed by divine revelation. We must be subject to God's Word! How can we expect to please God when we reject his commandments in order to establish our own traditions?

What about our traditions like Christmas and Easter? Why do we celebrate these things? Do we celebrate because we enjoy it, or do we celebrate because we enjoy God and want to honor the name of Christ? Do we hold convictions against certain practices simply because we were taught to do so?

This evaluation of our traditions will require great effort. If we want to be biblical in every area of our lives, we must know our Bibles and we must apply God's Word to our lives. We must recognize the principles behind the biblical practices and seek to apply those same principles in our own traditions. We cannot expect to please God by doing whatever we want to do without thought to the reasons why we do them.

"There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death." -- Proverbs 14:12

"Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason--I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other--my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise. God help me." -- Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms, 1521

May our consciences, too, be captive to the Word of God!


Friday, December 21, 2007

Evidence of Joy

Yesterday I visited with a friend from church who's mom just passed away. This brother is a believer, as was his mom. As I was talking with him, I noticed the large group of people that were there for the visitation. What I didn't really notice until I was leaving was the joy that they all seemed to express during this time of grief. I've been to parties with less smiles and hugs and laughter! It was a party, a celebration of this dear woman's life, and the people there were happy to see each other!

The significance of this joy struck me as I walked out of the room through a side door, and walked down the hallway past another room where another group of people were receiving visitors. The difference was striking! Words like "gloom" and "dejection" race to my mind. A small group of people with long faces and heads hanging seemed to characterize the mood. I could still hear the laughter and noise from the other room, but silence seemed to fill this one.

I didn't linger; I kept walking. But the difference is clear. One of these groups was exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit. For those who place their trust in Christ's perfect obedience and sacrificial death, we can see even death with joy. If you have ever fought sin, death will be joy! If you have ever physically hurt, death will be joy! If you have ever longed to love God and others with perfect love, death will be joy! And those who remain may be sad, but we can be sad with joy! We know that to be absent from the body means we will be present with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:1-10).

"For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." -- Philippians 1:21


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Does the Bible Prohibit the Drinking of Alcohol?

I am a John Piper fan. You're surprised, I know. One of the main reasons that I respect and admire him as a man of God is his desire to base everything he says on Scripture. I was recently listening to him preach a sermon on Romans 12:3-8, and he stated this:

"I pray that all leaders at every level would pray for the gift of teaching. There's a joke at this church; you want to get something through the elder board or committee? Write a paper. That's not an accident, and its not a joke, merely. It's true! And the reason is this: I have done my best for 24 years to cultivate a leadership atmosphere in which persuasion on the basis of the Bible carries the day. Not personality, and not high lifted voices. Elders can tell when my voice is getting so high because my arguments are weak. We argue with each other. We write papers. We give reasons from the Bible. That's a power issue, to keep personalities and brokers from getting their way in this church, including me! Truth holds sway at the elder council, and if you have good reasons from the Bible for your view, it will pass, God willing. And therefore you are inclined then to assemble them, and that's why they turn up on papers. This is an issue for me, and it's really big, and I hope I never lay it down; that we lead by truth! That we lead by teaching! That we lead by persuasion! And therefore we can be shown wrong on the basis of the Authority."

I admire his thoughtful subjection to the Scriptures in all areas of life, faith, and practice. With this in mind, I want to consider carefully the subject of the consumption of alcohol for believers. I want this post to be so carefully based on Scripture that my reasons for holding my position are obvious. So, does the Bible prohibit the drinking of alcohol?

First, even as early as Genesis 9, abusing alcohol caused people to get drunk. After the flood, Noah planted a vineyard, made wine and drank it, and got drunk. Lot drank wine and got drunk, too, and evil resulted (Gen 19). These are two clear abuses of alcohol. But there are other uses of alcohol in the same book that do not lead to evil. Melchizedek, Priest of God Most High, served Abram bread and wine as he blessed him (Gen 14). Isaac, too, drank wine during his blessing of Jacob (Gen 27). I think it is clear that the Bible does not condemn Melchizedek or Isaac for drinking wine, while clearly Noah and Lot sinned in their drunkenness.

Furthermore, the provision of wine is used in the Scriptures to indicate blessing. In Deuteronomy 29:6, Israel did not drink wine or strong drink during the 40-year period of wandering "so that you may know I am the Lord your God." This was a time of God's punishment upon Israel. By contrast, Deuteronomy 32:14 describes God pouring out his blessings upon his people, blessings that include his people drinking "wine made from the blood of the grape." The promised land is described as "a land of grain and wine" (Deut. 33:28).

Nehemiah commanded the people to "eat the fat and drink sweet wine . . . for this day is holy to our Lord" (Neh. 8:10). David praised God when he wrote, "You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart" (Psalm 104:14-15).

Isaiah 55, a beautiful text about the grace and mercy and compassion of God, tells us to "Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price" (55:1). Jesus made (good) wine at the wedding in Cana (John 2). Jesus marveled at the Pharisees' rejection of John the Baptist because he did not eat bread and drink wine, and he marveled again at the Pharisees' rejection of himself because they thought he was "a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners" (Luke 7:33-34). Interestingly, in Luke 22:18, Jesus plans on drinking of the "fruit of the vine" at, and not before, the coming of the kingdom.

We all will agree that being drunk with wine is a clear violation of Ephesians 5, and Proverbs warns us not to be led astray by it (Proverbs 20:1). Many other passages of Scripture warn against abusing or longing after wine or strong drink, but I cannot find evidence in Scripture for a strict prohibition against the drinking of alcohol. I am personally convicted and convinced that I will not drink alcohol, but I cannot, in good conscience, demand more from others than does the Bible. I will preach and teach that we must avoid causing brothers to stumble, but I cannot call the simple act of drinking alcohol sin.

Otherwise, Jesus Christ was not without sin.


By the way, I found this article on helpful.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Snake Spit Proves Evolution?

What? That title didn't explain everything? In a recent study, squirrels have been observed chewing up shed rattlesnake skins and then applying the snake-scented saliva to their fur. This bizarre activity is theorized to ward off rattlesnakes. The ground squirrel, sleeping in a burrow after applying this special spit-bath, would thus cause a snake to pass by its burrow, not wanting to enter another snakes home.

Amazing! Smart little buggers, those California ground squirrels. But does this prove evolution? Does this really illustrate that "predators and the risk of predation select for adaptations to reduce the risk of predation"? What is really amazing to me is the leap of faith that "scientists" take to link interesting beneficial behavior with evolution. Will the next evolutionary step for California ground squirrels be the squirrels' natural production of this scent?

"There is a way that seems right to a man,
but its end is the way to death." -- Proverbs 14:12

And you thought believing in the resurrection was an act of faith!


The Wages of ... School

Well, this semester was interesting. I went into the final exams of both my classes not knowing one single grade on any exercise, book review, term paper, or sermon. I had no idea if I would make an A+ or a C-.

Thankfully, my perfectionist tendencies (when it comes to school, at least) seem to have earned good grades. First up, in my Ministry of Proclamation class, I earned an A-. Second, and last, in my Doctrine of Humanity and Sin class, I earned an A. I still don't know how I earned these grades, though. I haven't gotten a single page back from my professors. I'll have to track them down!

Being out of school has caused me to be in front of the computer much less; I still think of things every day to toss up on the blog, but it seems like it just doesn't happen as often. I am reading a great book on being a pastor, and I want to blog some of the highlights. I spent this weekend working on a Christmas gift/project, but I'll have to blog about that later. I met with Dr. Allison yesterday for lunch; hopefully I can share some of that conversation soon, too.

Work seems to have picked up instead of slowing down for the Christmas holidays, so I guess I need to get back at it!

Enjoying the wages of my labor,


Friday, December 14, 2007

Subjection to God and Subjection to the State (Piper)

In a sermon on Romans 13:1-7, John Piper argues that, since God has established (and "disestablished") every government in history, even evil ones, we "should learn that it is God's will to govern the world of mankind through human civil authorities."

But how can we submit to evil governments? What Piper argues is that since God ordained these governments, you are worshiping God by willingly submitting to their God ordained authority. He illustrates this principle with Pilate:

And what about Pilate, the ruler who above all other rulers did not reward good behavior but punished the only perfect man whoever lived? When he said to Jesus, “Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?' 11 Jesus answered him, ‘You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above'” (John 19:10). So Romans 13:1 includes Pilate.

So Jesus worshiped God by submitting to evil authority, because God ordained this authority to carry out his will.

Piper recognizes some of the difficulties of this passage, including the idea that maybe there are times when we should not submit to the authorities, but he goes on to illustrate some implications of this passage like this:

Jesus is over the government. Keeping the speed limit is Christian worship! How you doing, all you snot-heads, when you say, you seventeen year-olds, "oh, this is just kind of a rule of thumb"? Your pride behind your steering wheel stinks in heaven! "I will get there on time; I don't care what the servant of my God says. Not a big issue." This is just a small illustration of the arrogance of the human soul. That's a big issue.

So, how you doing all you snot-heads? Wow, I know I felt convicted.

Yesterday afternoon, after listening to this message, I drove 55 mph on I-64 through Louisville. You have no idea how many people are speeding when you are speeding. Hundreds of cars passed me in the 20-30 minutes it took me to get over to Indiana. Isn't it easy to be sucked in to what everyone else is doing? It's easy to rationalize things, and say, "well, I'm going to get run over if I don't go with the flow of traffic." But what is more important?

So, why don't you join me in the slow lane worship service?


Thursday, December 13, 2007

God on Job

Oh, how I long for God to so work in me that God himself could say something like this about me! Even after great loss, Job continues to rest in God...

"Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason." -- Job 2:3

By his grace and for his glory!


Monday, December 10, 2007

Owing Grace

On Saturday night, our Sunday School class celebrated Christmas with a class party in our fellowship hall. What a blast! Several ladies worked really hard to set the mood with candles and decorations. We had "heavy hors d'oeuvres" and desserts, and the food was excellent!

This was our second annual Christmas party together, and we continued another tradition as well--we collected money to help provide for a family in need during the Christmas season. In light of this, I felt led to lead our group in a short meditation on God's gift of his Son and the immediate implications. Here's a summary:

Luke 2:29-32 describes Simeon's Holy Spirit empowered revelation that this little baby, Jesus of Nazareth, conceived out of wedlock, was God's gift of "salvation, that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel." God had just presented the world with "a Savior, who is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:11).

This brought to mind Ephesians 2:8-9, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." This salvation is a gift, by grace, through faith. It is not a result of our own works; it is purely God's doing.

As a result of this gift of grace, Paul instructs us in Romans 12:1-8 to present our bodies as living sacrifices. We are called to die to self and live for others! We are exhorted to be transformed! We are commanded to humble ourselves and serve one another in the ways that God has gifted us, and we are to display these gifts in love for one another!

I wrapped up this mediation with three thoughts:
  1. We cannot repay God for his incredible gift of grace!
  2. We become debtors to others because of God's grace to us...
  3. We must become living sacrifices, giving our lives to serve others...
. . .

What a debt we owe Christ that we can never repay! Let us then seek to bestow upon others a similar gift, and in so doing maybe we can give the gift that lasts for eternity!

May we ever be owing grace!


Ligonier Recommended Reading

A friend recently sent me a link to Ligonier Ministries' recommended reading list. Somewhat interesting: apparently Grudem's Systematic Theology didn't make the list.

Thanks Justin G.!


Saturday, December 08, 2007

Noel Piper on God's Sovereignty - "I Almost Died"

I just read a post by Noel Piper on the Desiring God blog where she recounts God's sovereign hand in her recent automobile crash--not accident. It is worth reading.


Essay on the Image of God

This semester, in Dr. Allison's Doctrine of Humanity and Sin class, I had to write an essay on the image of God in human beings. I wanted to share with anyone interested the things I learned from the class.

NOTE: I may revise this after I get the grading back. :-)


The Image of God in Human Beings

What is the image of God in human beings? Genesis 1:26-31 provides both questions and answers. Throughout history, various identifications of the essence of the image of God have been suggested: human spiritual capacity, human moral capacity, human rationality, and humanity’s dominion over creation. The Reformers proposed a faceted material/formal, or broader/narrower, view. This view proposed that humanity completely lost the knowledge of God, any holiness and righteousness (the material or narrower aspect), and that human personalities, moral capacities, and rationality, etc. (the formal or broader aspect) were perverted.

Contemporary views of the image of God, however, often synthesize many of these ideas into a more overarching construct. One view, the functional view, finds the essence of the image of God to exist in the fact that God created humanity to exercise dominion over the world, to rule as God’s vice regent. Psalm 8:5-6 is used to support this view.

Substantive or structural views, common throughout history, emphasize qualities of humans that separate us from the rest of God’s creation. Often reason, moral conscience, and freedom are identified as distinctive human traits.

Another contemporary view of the image of God in human beings emphasizes the relational aspects of human nature. Humans reflect the image of God in our relationships with God and others. Genesis 1:27 clearly indicates that the image of God is both male and female, and this gendered nature reflects God’s inter-Trinitarian relationships. This view of the image of God is quite appealing in reference to the relational nature of the Decalogue and the two great commandments of Matthew 22:34-40. Relationally, Jesus, as the “image of the invisible God,” (Col 1:15) exemplified right relationships with God and man.

Millard Erickson argues, however, that functional and relational aspects of the image of God are only secondary since God created humanity in his image prior to any human activity. He argues that functional and relational aspects only follow God’s creation of human beings in God’s image. The image of God, in Erickson’s view, consists of God’s communicable attributes that enable us to carry out God’s design for relationships and dominion.

Anthony Hoekema argues, in contrast with Erickson, that God created humanity for a function, and that function requires a structure. The functional aspects of the image of God are primary and the structural aspects are secondary. Hoekema also includes the relational aspects of the image as a portion of the functional aspects; the relational is a subset of the functional, and the functional aspects are God’s primary purpose for creating humanity. Hoekema argues that human beings, as whole persons, represent God, both physically and spiritually; God intended human beings to be a reflection of himself to the world.

Because of the fall, this reflection of God is distorted. Hoekema argues that the structural aspects God equipped humanity with were retained after the fall; our reason, moral sensitivity, capacity for relationships, etc. continue to serve human beings, but not for the designed purpose. Because of the fall, the functional and relational aspects of the image of God have been lost; human beings no longer exist to reflect God in relationships and dominion. God is no longer the focus of our service and worship. After the fall, human beings employ the structural aspects of the image of God for the perverted and corrupt purpose of glorifying and pleasing self.

Because of Christ and his redeeming work on the cross, Hoekema helps us see God’s renewal of his image in believers. God is progressively restoring in humans the ability to relate rightly with God and with others, and we are journeying toward a restoration of dominion. When Christ returns and we are glorified, we will not be fully restored to the image of God in Adam and Eve, but the image of God in human beings will be perfected, and we will be like Jesus Christ, the perfect image of God.

For me, Hoekema’s view comes closest to accounting for all the ways in which we reflect God, yet I agree with Dr. Allison that the entire discussion of the image of God might be overly complicated. Human beings, created in the image of God, should function to reflect God—to cause others to turn toward God. Like Jesus Christ, who refused to glorify himself (John 8:54), all human beings are designed to glorify God.

Humanity has been commissioned to rule the earth, and directly tied to this mandate exists the mandate to be fruitful and multiply. God created humanity in his image, and he did so by creating us with gender. This engenderedness enables us to fulfill God’s purposes for humanity: to reflect God in procreation and vocation (Gen 3-11). The image of God in us should point others to God as we carry out God’s mandates in society. This understanding of the image of God also directs our efforts to make disciples; we seek the redemption and restoration of the image of God in others. In reflecting God’s glory to others in procreation and vocation, we hope to see God’s glory reflected in others as a result.


Simple, right?


Friday, December 07, 2007

Desperate for Change

Are you desperate for change? Have you exhausted your resources in an effort to fix your life? Mark 5:24-34 tells a story about a woman who had spent all that she had in an attempt to heal her body, but all that money and time and pain had been an exercise in futility. For 12 years, this woman had fought with her disease, gotten a second opinion, then a third, and yet no doctor or treatment could cure her of her disease.

Aren't our lives like this? We have a horrible disease; it is called sin. You can fight it, but you will lose. Just like someone with a deadly virus, we are dead men walking, because sin is a spiritual disease that has physical effects. We die physically because of the disease of sin we were born with. That's the bad news.

Here's the good news. Jesus Christ. Just like our friend in Mark, who stalked Jesus, reached out her hand in faith and touched his clothes, all we must do is reach out our hand in faith and trust in Jesus' obedient life and sacrificial death. When we put our faith, our trust, in Jesus Christ, we are healed, too! Our spiritual disease gets cured, and we start seeing evidence in our thoughts, attitudes, and actions.

So go in peace, and follow Christ!


Thursday, December 06, 2007

Why Does the Bible Have to be Difficult?

"For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him." -- 1 Peter 3:18-22

In 1998, John Piper preached a sermon from Romans 3:1-8 entitled "Why God Inspired Hard Texts." He argues that schools, among other things, are one of the main answers to this question. "Education is cultivating the life of the mind so that it knows how to grow in true understanding. That impulse was unleashed by God's inspiring a Book with complex demanding paragraphs in it."

So get into the Word and grow your mind!


Portrait of a Believer

Mark 5:1-20 tells us the story about a man who was out of control. His life was ruled by demons. And not just a couple; the name of the demon was Legion, "for we are many." How many? Enough to stampede 2,000 pigs to their death. This man was miserable, crying out and cutting himself day and night. He was living in the graveyard, for crying out loud, and he was obviously harassing the general public if they were attempting to restrain him with shackles. But it didn't do any good; the demons were too strong. No chains could bind him; no jail cell could hold him.

So how do you explain the man, "sitting there, clothed and in his right mind"? Who is this Jesus? And what happened to the pigs!?! I can imagine the reactions of the people, and I'm not terribly surprised that they begged Jesus to leave. Jesus rocked their world.

Jesus rocked the world of the man with the demons, too, and he was ready to follow Jesus. Jesus had other plans, however. Jesus told the man to go home, and to tell his friends what God had done for him. I think this is precisely what God expects us to do; we have been freed from the demonic stranglehold of sin. We are no longer in bondage to sin. We are free to serve! And all God wants us to do is keep loving Jesus and to tell our friends what he has done for us.

What has Jesus done for you?


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Can it Possibly be True?

This semester has felt like a marathon! I just finished a final exam for Dr. Allison's Doctrine of Humanity and Sin class, and I am brain fried! All that's left is for my poor wife to read through the beast and make any necessary corrections.

Praise God! Only twenty credit hours left! I should be done by May 2009, hopefully...


Friday, November 30, 2007

Global Incident Map

Keep up with all the latest terrorist incidents and suspicious activities at this interesting site.


ht | Heather

Mindless Fun

How long did it take you to get 105 meters?  I'm not telling...
Someone at work sent me a link to an addictive, silly little paper airplane game. Check it out, but be careful that you don't get addicted.

By the way, let me know if you beat 105 meters. :-)


One Down

It is that time of the semester when mixed emotions are common. We finish one race, yet cannot rejoice because the tasks are not all complete. I took a final in my Ministry of Proclamation class last night, and plan to spend the weekend working on my Doctrine of Humanity and Sin take home final.

Praying for endurance,


Monday, November 26, 2007

Free Online Books at CBMW

The Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood has several free books available by authors like John Piper, Wayne Grudem, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Mary Kassian, and Dennis Rainey.

I know you like free books, so check it out here.


Baxter on Sincerity

Richard Baxter, as quoted by Stott in Between Two Worlds, writes,

"It is a palpable error in those ministers that make such disproportion between their preaching and their living, that they will study hard to preach exactly and study little or not at all to live exactly. All the week long is little enough to study how to speak two hours; and yet one hour seems too much to study how to live all the week . . . We must study as hard how to live well as how to preach well" (268).

Sanctify us, Heavenly Father, so that our lives might match our proclamation of the truth of your Word!


Thorny Soil

Mark 4:1-9 records Jesus' parable of the sower who casts his seed indiscriminately upon various soils. Some seeds are snatched up by the birds. Some take root but wither and die because they are malnourished. Some are choked out by thorns and fail to produce fruit. Other seeds fall on good soil and produce lots of fruit.

In the next passage in Mark (4:10-20), Jesus explains this parable to his disciples. The seed is the gospel and the soils are human hearts of various condition. Some hearts are hard and the gospel does not penetrate their lives. Neither does Satan let the gospel remain on their minds long enough to have an effect. Some hearts are shallow, and the gospel seems to impact their lives, but their faith withers at the first sign of sacrifice; their faith is not deeply rooted in the truth.

And then Jesus explains the soil with the thorns. In my devotion time this morning, I was reading this passage and I was convicted by these words:

"They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful."

Don't we all risk being choked out by "the cares of the world"? What about "the deceitfulness of riches"? Are you distracted by "the desires for other things"? I think this is a clarion call for us to sacrifice the things of this world that may be good for the things of God that are better. I struggle with this every day. I want to see and do and smell and taste and touch and drive and play and experience stuff that gets in the way of my wanting to follow Christ with all my heart.

Do you have a hobby? Does it hinder you from producing fruit? Do you have a passion? Does it hinder you from producing fruit? Do you have a pet worry (or lots of pet worries!), or a pet sin, or a pet habit that interferes with your fruit production?

Hobbies are not wrong. Recreation is a blessing from God that can restore our mental and physical health. Rest and relaxation are sometimes a great benefit to the weary. But do we risk eternity for the light pleasures of this world?

Let us evaluate everything in the light of eternity.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Spurgeon on Preaching

I could not help but post this one. Here's Spurgeon's take on preachers who can't connect with their audiences.

"Christ said, 'Feed my sheep . . . Feed my lambs.' Some preachers, however, put the food so high that neither lambs nor sheep can reach it. They seem to have read the text, 'Feed my giraffes.'"

Sometimes I think Dr. Mohler might have read this text when I listen to his radio program! :-)

***Please don't kick me out of school, Dr. Mohler. I was just kidding.***


Friday, November 23, 2007

Stott on the Church and the Word

I'm reading John Stott's Between Two Worlds and I thought I would share his take on the Church. In one section of his book he addresses "Theological Foundations for Preaching" and Stott states,

"Doubtless we have numerous convictions about the Church. But for my purpose I have only this one in mind, that the Church is the creation of God by his Word. Moreover, God's new creation (the Church) is as dependent upon his Word as his old creation (the universe). Not only has he brought it into being by his Word, but he maintains and sustains it, directs and sanctifies it, reforms and renews it through the same Word. The Word of God is the sceptre by which Christ rules the Church and the food with which he nourishes it" (109).

When I read this paragraph, I immediately felt the need to renew my daily commitment to Bible reading and meditation. Not only does God bring about new life in Christ by the power of his Word, but he also leads, sustains, and sanctifies us through his Word. If we ever struggle with sin (that would include you, too!), we need to be regularly applying God's Word in our lives in order that he may continually renew us.

Make us like you by the power of your Word, Lord Jesus!


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

"Chuck Norris Approved"

The Grind

Well, finals are next week. I have one final next Thursday, November 29, and one take-home final due on Thursday, December 6. I have two books to read:


I also have to listen to several SBTS chapel services and evaluate them.

All this to say, I may be posting sporadically for the next few days.


Friday, November 16, 2007

One Vote Under God

My wife and I have discussed briefly who we might vote for in the primaries, but we have not landed on one particular candidate yet. We didn't have enough information and had not done enough research. Where can you find out more about what the candidates really believe? I found this site helpful in comparing candidates, understanding their religious backgrounds, and identifying their stances on the different issues.

Check it out: One Vote Under God


Barry Bonds, Arrogance, and the Promises of God

You talkin' to me?
Barry Bonds was indicted on Thursday, November 15, 2007, for perjury and obstruction of justice charges. While we don't really "know" whether he is guilty or innocent of these charges, we do know that he is guilty of a different charge. One would be blind not to recognize Bond's arrogant attitude. It exhibits itself after every home run. It is written in the contempt on his face for every television camera. No one can deny the charge that Bonds public life is characterized by arrogance.

The Bible speaks clearly on this matter, and God expresses his own attitude about those characterized by arrogance. Proverbs 16:5 tells us, "Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the LORD; be assured, he will not go unpunished." It is no wonder why Bonds has earned such incredible negative sentiment from the public. Everyone who sees his attitude for what it is feels disgusted by his contempt.

Nevertheless, I am not happy that Bonds faces the possibility of prison. Don't get me wrong; part of me longs for that guy to get his name expunged from the baseball record books. Part of me wishes he would get what he deserves. But much more of me wants to weep for that poor, miserable, unhappy, contemptuous, arrogant man. He has no idea what awaits him in eternity! He bears fruit in keeping with ungodliness, and this is precisely why God can assure us that "he will not go unpunished." How will he deceive the Judge who was with him when he put the needle in his arm and could hear his thoughts?

You are not getting over...What's worse? You are arrogant. You are contemptuous. You display attitudes just like Barry Bonds. Maybe you don't do it on TV in front of millions of people, but you might do it in your car when somebody wants to get over in your lane and you don't want them to. Maybe you feel a little too proud of your achievements at work. Maybe you fail to offer up every praise you receive to the one who gave you everything you have, including every breath and heartbeat.

Barry Bonds' arrogance will be paid for; either by Barry, in hell for eternity, or by God's glorious gift of grace in Jesus' sacrifice on the cross. We, with broken hearts, long for God's justice, but we pray that his justice will fall on Christ's work and not Barry's ultimate demise.

Forgive us Father for our pride.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

"If You Could Only Say One Thing To Us"

Tonight, in our last regular preaching class, one of the students asked Dr. Vogel, "If you could only say one thing to us, what would it be?" Dr. Vogel replied, "Guard your walk with the Lord. It doesn't matter how much you invest in your preaching skills if you shipwreck your faith because you failed to guard your heart" (rough paraphrase). He gave us a couple of examples of men who had excelled at preaching but failed miserably in ministry because they let down their guard and Satan landed a crushing right hook on their glass jaw.

"Be killing sin or it will be killing you."

Thanks Dr. Vogel and John Owen.


Pyromaniacs on Logos Bible Software

Interesting. I upgraded to the latest version of Logos Bible software today, and Dan Phillips over at Pyromaniacs posted this review of the software this morning, too. He compares BibleWorks and Logos to contrasting tools like a scalpel and a chainsaw (no comment on which is which). Each tools is great for the job it is designed for.

Read Phillips' review and buy the software if you can.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Earth, Right Now, From Space

Check out this World Sunlight Map "showing current sunlight and cloud cover as of Nov 14 2007 23:00 UTC."

Even the space shuttle can't see this view!


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Piper on "What Should We Expect?"

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog entry asking some tough questions like, "should our government legislate in ways that make unbelievers criminals for living life according to their fallen nature?" John Piper, by way of one of his 200+ sermons on Romans, lends his perspective on the issue in a sermon from August, 2004.

In a sermon on Romans 12:1-2 addressing the issue of homosexuality and the marriage amendment, Piper argues that we must approach life on this earth from two perspectives: as indigenous and as pilgrims. As indigenous to the people we are a part of, Christians should get involved in the law-making process. He says,
We should pray and work to shape our culture, its customs and laws, so that it reflects the revealed will of God, even if that reflection is only external and dim and embraced by unbelievers with wrong motives. . . . If someone asks, Why do you impose your religious conviction on the whole culture, we answer: all laws impose convictions on a culture. And all convictions come from worldviews. They don’t come out of nowhere. People argue for laws on the basis of a certain view of the world.

He argues that we should work as indigenous people to make our world better.

He also argues from the perspective of the pilgrim when he says,
On the pilgrim side of the tension, we make our Christ-exalting, cross-centered, soul-saving biblical worldview known with brokenhearted joy. Joy because Christ really is the sovereign Lord of the universe and will establish justice and purity in due time out of this fallen world. And brokenhearted because we share in the pain and misery of what sin has brought on this world. . . . The salt of the earth does not mock rotting meat. Where it can, it saves and seasons. And where it can’t, it weeps.

I don't think this answers the question, but it does help us frame the question a bit more clearly. We must be engaged, but we cannot leave all our hopes and dreams in the hands of government.

We have a greater hope.


Salting our Words

Justin Taylor recently posted a blog entry On Blog Commenting that is really applicable to blogging on the whole and the Christian life in general. Too many of us fail to remember Jesus' commands about true greatness: "let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves" (Luke 22:26). Our interactions with one another really must be characterized by humility: "Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves" (Philippians 2:3).

Do you consider how you are impacting others when you simply say what is on your mind? What reason do you have for ungracious speech? "What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?" (1 Corinthians 4:7)

"Heavenly Father, help us salt our words. Let us be a blessing to others, not a thorn in their side. Forgive us."


Monday, November 12, 2007

So This is How Monday Feels For Preachers

Boy, I'm beat down. My pastor called me on Thursday of this week to tell me that he was going to have to have a wisdom tooth removed. Thankfully, I had prepared a sermon for my Ministry of Proclamation class the week before, so I had something in my back pocket. I spent my normal way-too-many-hours on Saturday between doing schoolwork, reworking my sermon for a different audience, and having some friends over for supper.

I arrived at church about 8:15 on Sunday morning in order to prep the PowerPoint with my sermon slides. From 8:30-9:30, our band (minus our preacher/drummer and his wife/pianist, plus Bart/fill-in drummer) worked out the kinks (most of them) in the music we were playing for worship. We discussed the person of Christ, specifically his eternal reign as a man, in Sunday School, and then we had a short time of prayer before the worship service began.

I preached on James 1:2-4, and tried to illustrate that we are like the hunk of steel a blacksmith forges into a useful tool. The point of the sermon was that we should have joy in our trials because we should recognize that God is shaping us into useful (fully mature) tools that he can use for his own purposes. I felt the clutch slipping quite a bit to begin the sermon; I couldn't get everything together. I felt like I was floundering! Thankfully, I started to get into a groove about half-way through, and the illustration about the blacksmith helped me pull the thing out of a steep nose-dive. God is so good; he shapes us through various trials, including preaching!

After church, we practiced the music for our Christmas service, and then several of us went out to grab something to eat. We got home about 2:30 or so, and I started working on my illustration file for my preaching class. We headed back to church at 5:00, and got home around 8:00. Heather and I talked for a while, working on a few projects that required our attention, and then I spent another hour or so on that illustration file.

So, that was my weekend. I am so tired! I hate the fact that I cannot enjoy school because of the incredible demands it places on my waking (and sleeping) hours. I hate the fact that I cannot enjoy my family the way I want to! But ultimately, I will consider this all joy, because God is working in all these various trials to bring about my full maturity; he is shaping me into a finished tool that will be useful for his purposes.

Thank you Father for working all things together for good!


Saturday, November 10, 2007

A Great Definition of Perversion

From Plantinga's book, Not the Way It's Supposed to Be, a definition of perversion that is helpful for understanding the extent of its impact:
Perversion is an ends-and-purposes disease. Most broadly understood, perversion is the turning of loyalty, energy, and desire away from God and God's project in the world: it is the diversion of construction materials for the city of God to side projects of our own, often accompanied by jerry-built ideologies that seek to justify the diversion.

Plantinga's book is filled with wonderful, descriptive illustrations of sin, its corruption, and its extent. Check it out.


Friday, November 09, 2007

A Paper on The Problem of Evil

In my Personal Reformation post, I mentioned a couple of papers that I had written that were formative for my life and theology. I posted the first about God's sovereignty about a week ago, and I just posted the other, a paper on the problem of evil.

I have no delusions; I do not claim to be a good writer or wise scholar. I just wanted to share with you how God has worked in my life.

Please feel free to comment, but only with graciousness, please. ;-)


Recommended Reading from Reformation Theology

Reformation Theology has some recommendations for those of us interested in studying theology that are not able to attend a great institution like SBTS. I can personally recommend several of these titles, and I look forward to reading the others.


ht | Thad

"I Am Ridiculous"

Here's an awesome video of Mark Driscoll talking about humility. Yes, Justin Taylor found it first, but I just loved the way Driscoll approaches humility with humor. He said, "Humble people can laugh at themselves. They can say, 'I am ridiculous, and that was ridiculous. And were it not for Jesus, this would not be funny.'"

That, my friends, is worth pondering. We even owe our ability to have a sense of humor to our Savior!


Thursday, November 08, 2007

Not the Way It's Supposed to Be

You should read this book.

You don't understand sin like you might think you do.

Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., brother to Alvin Plantinga (recent guest at SBTS for the Norton Lectures), wrote Not the Way It's Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin in 1995 in an attempt to revive an awareness of sin that has been all but lost.

In this book, Plantinga makes a case that the Jewish notion of shalom is not simply an idea of peace, but a much fuller and all-encompassing idea of "the way it's supposed to be." And in this book, Plantinga does a masterful job of showing many of the different ways things aren't.

You will be convicted and enabled to guard your heart in new ways. Promise.


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Serving Without Pay

In 2 Corinthians 12:14-15, Paul writes these words, "Here for the third time I am ready to come to you. And I will not be a burden, for I seek not what is yours but you. For children are not obligated to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls."

While working on a paper this week, I stumbled upon this passage. I know I have read it before, but this time it was like a punch in the face. When I first moved to Louisville to attend Southern, I hoped I would find some ministry position that would allow me to serve God and help pay the bills. God, however, did not plan that for me.

As I look back on my long Seminary career, I realize that God put me in a ministry where I would not be a burden. I would be free to learn to "spend and be spent" for the souls of those with whom I am ministering. Not only has God given me a ministry in which to grow, but God also provided me a job that helps me seek not what is [others'] but [others themselves].

I am thankful that God brought me to State Street Baptist Church. I am thankful for the people God put me with, and I pray that God will allow me to seek the good of others without being a burden on my church.

Forgive me God for questioning your plans, and give me eyes to see others the way you see them!


Note: Just to clarify, I have nothing against a pastor or elder being paid by his church, and neither did Paul. I mentioned this only because it is directly applicable to my little church!

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Mystery of the Mind, Migraines, and Moving

Wow, this weekend was crazy. I spent all day Saturday working on a paper for my Doctrine of Humanity and Sin class with Dr. Allison. You might think I would be more than 1/4 the way through with it, but I decided to tackle a topic that I have little experience with. Thus, I have to do tons of research. My topic? Oh, yeah, neuroscience and theology. Yeah, I know, I'm crazy. My wife already told me.

Nothing sidelines your plans quite like a migraine, however. Well, except for two migraines. I woke up early to try to take advantage of the time change, and about 7:30 Sunday morning I started seeing an aura, which is described as "the perceptual disturbance experienced by some migraine sufferers before a migraine headache." My vision becomes distorted by sparklies. Kinda neat except you can't see very good and the pain that you know is coming makes you nauseous to think about. So I missed worship yesterday morning (totally bummed), and I missed work today (not so bummed--I need to work on this paper).

I did recover enough yesterday to help a brother move, and we enjoyed spending time with the Delaneys. We finished up watching Luther last night, and now I need to finish up my paper. So I hope you had a better weekend than I did!


Friday, November 02, 2007

New Interpretations Tested by Church History

Please note: This post is a bit long, but if you have ever read anything by John Gill or Charles Spurgeon, it is worth it.

Recently I had some email communication undergo some questionable interpretive procedures, and, well, the hilarity ensued. I began the chain event with a call to plan a Christmas get-together for our Sunday School class...
Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Christmas season is approaching quickly! I would love for our Sunday School class to get together and celebrate. . . . Let's not do any gift exchanges . . . Don't get me wrong, I enjoy gifts more than you do, but let's make this about us helping others . . . But I'm going to be disappointed if we fellowship together somehow! . . .

Someone called me out on my type-o, and I sent a quick update with this text:
But I'm going to be disappointed if we don't fellowship together somehow!

In order to maintain Terry's someone's dignity, I won't tell you who responded with this interpretive work:
I think authorial intent was that he was gonna be bummed out if we got together and did not bring him any gifts. I arrived at this by exegeting the E-mail (he likes gifts more than we do and he wants us to do something for others and he still wants us to get together) that was preserved for us by God! After all, He is sovereign.
Just my interpretation of the passage!

So, quickly, I recovered by responding:
You know, this is proof that we cannot see into the minds of the authors of the Bible. We must only take them at their Word.

Now, don't give up yet. This is the best part, from our very own church historian:

Brothers and Sisters,

You know.... after watching the "Amazing Grace" DVD on Sunday nights.... and hearing R.C. Sproul helpfully comment on the fact that if a person comes up with a new interpretation or one that cannot be found in the history of the church that it is probably false.... I thought it necessary to run brother Terry's interpretation of Todd's email through the test of church history. Thus, I went to the commentaries on this one and consulted John Gill, Matthew Henry, John Macarthur, and one of Charles Spurgeon's sermons. Here's what I found.

John Gill wrote: "In the firsteth email, one couldeth observetheth that the original writer of the email, with fingertipest to the keys accidentalliest tappeth the wrongest key. The factest that the writer wouldest be in much sorrow if those assembled in the church, those predestined before the foundation of the world, justified, and in the future glorified, who have taken part in churches two sacraments, namelieth baptism and the Lord's Supper, did not participatiteth in some event during the Christmas season gives us reason to believe that he is a Calvinistic Baptist. He meanteth to typeth "don't getteth togetherest" but insteadeth typest in the first email "do getteth togetherest." This email needs to be compared with the newest manuscripts which do in fact prove that the inspired writer of this email meanteth to sayeth "don't getteth togetherest." Three things therefore remaineth.& nbsp; The orginal writer wantest to get togetherest with those within the church, not to bring gifts for the other or for himself but to share Christ's love with others so that the elect may come. We also have reasoneth to believeth that the writer of the email is Superlapsarian.

Matthew Henry wrote, "By lookingnest to the original manuscripts it seems as though the most holy author of this there original email had his lofty and holy affections and desires setteth on typing "don't getteth togetherest". But do to a war which took place within this person's very soul, between the flesh and the Spirit, the writer's right index finger failed to reach down and hitteth the letter "N" with clarity and precision and thus an error took place in the original manuscripts. It is likely that a Masorite (Scott Lee) later came along and noticed the error and had it then correctedeth. This appears to be the case due to the evidence that we find in the SL translation "I'm going to be disappointed if we don't fellowship together somehow." It is the most recent manuscript available. We have everyieth reason to believe that the original writer of that email was baptized as an infant, due to the testimony of his parents belief in the gospel, the original writers love for his brethren and sistren and therefore have every reason to believe that the person is in the covenant."

John Macarthur commented, "In the first dispensation of this email the writer wrote "I'm going to be disappointed if we DO fellowship together somehow." Someone in a later dispensation came along, noticed the unfortunate error and recommended that the sentence be changed to "disappointed if we DON'T fellowship together somehow." We also have evidence in this statement to believe that the church will be raptured before the great tribulation and that Christ will return, set up a millenial kingdom which will also include the Old Testament sacrificial system. Those that don't believe in the message communicated in the original email should expect to be left behind to go through the great tribulation period."

And Charles Spurgeon commented, "Listen here men, women, young boys, and little girls, remember that in the firsteth email we have the welcome of the original author to cometh at once and welcome to this here Christmas party, bringeth a gift only to give away, and enjoyeth the fellowship. Do this and the Lord will be Glorified and His saints will be encouraged! We knoweth that not onest can do this unless it has been granted to him to do so, but to those who cometh we know that there election of this party is sure. Do this now, don't let your conscience cause you to linger from coming, sendeth your RSVP as soon as possible.... and the author of that email will welcometh you with open arms. Just as the Father welcomenest his long lost prodigal son. There's no need to walk an isle... just believeth the intent of the email at once, even while your sitting there in your office chair a nd then show your belief in this here email by sending an RSVP and coming to the party!! Let us pray..."

These are the observations that I found and thus brother Terry's interpretation seems to fall within the interpretation of the history of the church! God Bless you brother for your helpful insight in this matter!

Happy Reformation Day,


Wow. Hope you enjoyed.


The Religious Affections

I've heard rumblings that the next free audio book from would be a good one. Well, it's true. Jonathan Edwards' Religious Affections, in unabridged audio form, is more than just "something" for exactly nothing. Be sure to use the promo code.

Don't just download it though.


ht: Justin Taylor

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Paper on God's Sovereignty

In my last post, I made reference to a paper I wrote in Systematic I entitled, God's Sovereignty, Human Moral Freedom, and Responsibility. Well, I think I have figured out a way to publish it for anyone interested in reading my feeble exercise. Posted here. I'll be working to upload other stuff, too.

By the way, I think Google is taking over the world...


UPDATE: I uploaded the file as a PDF to better preserve the formatting...

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Personal Reformation

Today is a nice day to consider my own personal reformation. Not so long ago I was working for the weekend, living for baseball and computer games. Oh, don't get me wrong, I went to church. I was committed to church. I even sang in the choir. I was a deacon. I taught Sunday School. But I had no idea (and to a degree still don't) what it meant to be a follower of Jesus Christ. I was quite sure that I had decided to be a believer, and that Jesus was happy to be my friend.

And then things started clashing. What do you mean God chose me? What does Paul mean when he says "elect" or "predestined"? Because these obviously don't mean what they look like they mean. Or do they? I had conversations with a friend (who in retrospect possibly had hyper-Calvinist tendencies) into the wee hours of the morning debating free will vs. predestination.

I began to come around eventually. Some of the influences in my life were the book of Romans, R. C. Sproul's The Invisible Hand, and Southern Seminary. Systematic Theology I & II at SBTS were highly formative, and I continue to benefit from two papers I wrote on God's Sovereignty and Human Freedom and Responsibility and The Problem of Evil.

In the recent days of my personal reformation, I have experienced the joy of real spiritual communion and fellowship with my church, over 160 Piper sermons on Romans, and many discussions about the subject with my best friend.

At this time, I feel like things are culminating at James 1:2-4. In my preaching class this semester we have to preach a sermon (duh). Well, I drew this passage. And the main idea of the passage is that believers should maintain an attitude of joy--even during persecution and poverty. Why? Because trials produce perseverance, and perseverance produces maturity. And maturity is God's design for believers in this life. So, come what may, I am trusting God as he brings about this personal reformation, and I am incredibly grateful that God included me in his saving work.

And, ultimately, "we know that for those that love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose" (Rom. 8:28).

"Give what Thou dost command, and command what Thou wilt." -- Augustine of Hippo


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Roasting the Papal Bull

Pyromaniacs' own Dan Phillips has some great ideas for a Reformation Day celebration, including candy "to show how sweet the Gospel is," a "diet of Worms," and they are even "roasting the papal bull."

Awesome. Can I come?


Reformation Day Sale!

Currently $27, the hard-cover ESV Reformation Study Bible is on sale at Ligonier Ministries Store for $15 tomorrow, Reformation Day.

Here's the ad.


Just for Fun

I added a few links down to the right under a heading called "Just for Fun." They include Crummy Church Signs, How Not to Measure Weather, and The "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks.

Oh! I should add the funniest blog I have ever read.



Prodigal Jon on Drinking Poison

Tim Challies pointed out this guy, Prodigal Jon, and so I clicked. I'm impressed; I really appreciated the couple of posts that I read, and I thought I'd share them with you. First, the post entitled, "The Worst Part About Drinking Poison" is a must. I won't spoil it for you. Second, read the next post, "This is what $3 gets you." It sure does put things in perspective.

-=Work to live, don't live to work.=-


Monday, October 29, 2007

Following Jesus

Mark 1:35-39 says,
"And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, and they found him and said to him, 'Everyone is looking for you.' And he said to them, 'Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.' And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons."

As I read this passage today in my quiet time, I thought it was interesting that Jesus went outside the town and waited for his disciples to find him. Once they did, he told them it was time for a road trip. He didn't instruct them to go back and pack their bags or kiss their wives good-bye. They just headed out.

Was this normal practice? Did the disciples' wives and families expect them not to come home when they started hanging out with Jesus? Maybe many of his disciples were not married, but they must have seemed irresponsible to leave their normal lives for this Jesus fellow. Who would feed the dog? Who would pay the rent?

Maybe the whole family followed. Maybe they were a whole family of disciples. Probably not, but this passage of Scripture reminds me of the way God brought my family to Louisville, KY in order to go to school. I had encountered some turmoil in my job and we decided it was time to test the waters. We put our house on the market in Knoxville, TN, and two weeks later we had a contract on the house. I remember thinking, "uhhh... God? This seems a bit sudden." I didn't have a job. We didn't have housing arranged in Louisville. What was God doing with us?

Well, God is good, and he provides for our every need. He provided a place to live and a job and we learned to trust God when he leads us. That doesn't mean we didn't wonder what was happening, but like the disciples in Mark 1, we must learn to follow Jesus, ready or not.

Will you follow him?


Friday, October 26, 2007

What Should We Expect?

In the news today, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that the 10 year sentence of a 17 year-old male for consensual sexual acts with a 15 year-old female was cruel and unusual punishment. This brings back to my attention a question that I have wrestled with for years. How should Christ followers relate to society? Specifically, should we expect unbelievers to act morally? Should our government legislate in ways that make unbelievers criminals for living life according to their nature?

Of course, I have no question about whether or not we should have laws against theft, murder, kidnapping, etc. We expect laws to protect one person from the wicked intentions of another. But what about laws regulating sexual practices? Yes, there ARE laws in the Bible about ungodly sexual practices, but we do not live in the theocracy for which these laws were written. We live in an ungodly, pagan society. Homosexuality is common, even if it is not normal. Adultery is rampant. Divorce is prevalent. Should our governments have laws that address these issues?

Should we expect government to protect our children from indecency on the television? Should we expect government to regulate the content of shows on the radio? Should we expect anything more from our society than that they are ungodly people doing what ungodly people do? Should we be surprised that schools are teaching sex education to elementary school kids?

I am proud of my country's heritage. I thank God that we have been influenced by godly men for over 200 years. But we cannot expect laws to govern hearts! The condition of our society reflects the condition of the hearts of the people who make up our society. And in my judgment, we no longer live in a "Christian" nation.

So, how should we live in such an ungodly society? Are not followers of Christ called to be salt and light? I do believe we should engage in the public square; the Bible gives us clear instruction:
"Thus says the LORD of hosts, 'Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart'" (Zechariah 7:9-10).

We should be a loud and consistent voice for justice; this honors God. But what purpose do we serve by legislating against consensual immoral acts?

Please feel free to comment.


"You Will Hear But Never Understand"

At the end of Acts (28:17-31), Paul arrived in Rome and asked to speak with the leaders of the Roman Jews. They appointed a time for him to speak and many Jews came to hear Paul. He spent all day trying to make them see the "light of the glory of the gospel of Christ," but they were divided. So Paul quoted Isaiah and said,
"'You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed; lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.'
Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen."

These Jews were responsible for their sinful rejection of Jesus, but God ordained this from the beginning. God's chosen would reject the Christ so that God could extend his grace to the Gentiles. We owe our salvation, in part, to the Jews' rejection of their Messiah!

We could thank them, but our hearts are broken that they rejected Christ. This is the epitome of mixed emotions.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Believe the Gospel and Be Baptized

For several months my son, Brandon, has been hinting that he may be a believer. I gather this from his statements when we talk about what it means to be a Christian. He will say things like, "Daddy, I believe in God," or "Daddy, I trust Jesus." Monday night, after our family devotion time, he seemed to indicate again that he believed in Jesus, so I decided to give him some work to do.

I worked from home yesterday in order to help with the kids since my wife was feeling under the weather. I gave Brandon an exercise: read in the book of Acts and write down what one must do to be saved, and what one should do when they are saved. He worked off and on during the afternoon, and he made it through Acts 9. I helped him here and there, and finally he had written enough that I thought he could recognize a pattern. His results were something like this:

accept the message, be baptized (2:41) believe the message
(4:4) believe the good news about Jesus, be baptized (8:35, 38) be filled with the Holy Spirit, be baptized (9:17, 18)

I asked him, "Brandon, do you see a pattern?" He smiled and said, "I need to be baptized!"

I told him to go tell his mom, and we talked about it briefly. I am planning to spend more time talking with him about this, but I think the first fruits of a believer are clearly evident.

I'm looking forward to celebrating his faith in Christ when he is immersed in believer's baptism!


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Godly Men?

Piper just posted a blog entry on Valuing Biblical Manhood, and he fleshes out what he sees as "masculine Christianity."

Would our church/city/state/world be different if more men lived like this? I'm sure this will be a controversial discussion.


Monday, October 22, 2007

The Depths of Sin

How far would you go to have a baby? Today, a Kansas woman was found guilty for strangling an expectant mother and using a kitchen knife to extract the baby, which she kept for her own. The woman was pretending to be nine months pregnant at the time of the murder, and she even attempted to convince her husband that she had delivered the baby unexpectedly while on a shopping trip.

Do you realize that we are restrained from depravity like this, or even worse, only by God's magnificent grace? We are kidnappers and murderers straining against God's restraining grace.

I am horrified by our sin, both the actual sin that people commit and the potential sin within my heart, and I pray that God will be pleased to move in a massive work of grace on the ever darkening continent of North America.

May God forgive us.


10 Simple Evidences for the Reality of Adam and Eve

I just sent an email via Gmail, and a "Sponsored Link" appeared at the top of the page stating, "Adam and Eve, Oh Really? - - Ten good reasons to believe they're the real deal."

I clicked it and thought it was worth passing along.


Groovy, Baby!

Check out R. C. Sproul circa a long time ago in the latest Together for the Gospel advertisement.

Animated Time Line of the Spread of Religion

Yesterday Justin Taylor posted a very cool animated time line of the spread of religion throughout history. May the whole world be blue to the glory of God!


Sunday, October 21, 2007

In Honor of Luther

I am reading a book on the doctrine of sin entitled With Willful Intent and I have happened upon the portion of the text that covers Luther's view on sin. Ten days before Reformation Day, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to pass along a quote. This is from page 66:
Luther acknowledged that the idea of God willing humans to sin seemed clearly to suggest that He was, therefore, the cause of sin. To continue to insist that God had also made the law and expects humans to keep it creates intense conflict. Luther's response to such a dilemma? 'This is too deep for us. God's will is involved, but I am not supposed to know how this all happens.'

Yes, we all struggle with this, don't we? I'm glad the dead guys struggled with it, too!


Oh, That I Might Bear Fruit!

I'm listening to a CD by Jeremy Riddle entitled Full Attention, and I'm praying right now in my life the title track:
May Your voice be louder
May Your voice be clearer
Than all the others, than all the others

May Your face be dearer
May Your words be sweeter
Than all the others
Than all the others in my life

Please keep my eyes fixed on You
Please root my heart so deep in You
Keep me abiding, keep me abiding
Keep me abiding that I
Oh, that I might bear fruit

May Your presence be truer
May Your presence be nearer
Than all the others, than all the others

May Your light burn brighter
May Your love go deeper
Than all the others
Than all the others in my life

What an awesome prayer! May God answer this prayer for all who seek him!

"Oh, that I might bear fruit!"


Friday, October 19, 2007

Who are you voting for, Dr. Grudem?

I recently received an email with a link to an article by Wayne Grudem entitled, "Why Evangelicals Should Support Mitt Romney." Let me preface my comments here by saying that I am terribly disillusioned by any and all politics; I don't think we should bury our heads in the sand, but, at the same time, I see very few real changes happen when "my side" wins elections. That said, I highly regard Dr. Grudem, and I thought this might be worth reading.

Grudem begins with a clear statement of his position on the matter:

As an evangelical professor of Bible and theology, I have decided to support Mitt Romney for President (even though he is a Mormon) for two old-fashioned reasons: First, he is the best-qualified candidate, and second, he holds moral and political values consistent with those in the Bible.

The rest of the article reads like a systematic theology paper. He clearly addresses why he thinks Romney is the best-qualified candidate, why he thinks Romney holds values consistent with the Bible, questions about Romney's religious views and their impact, and finally Romney's ability to win.

I thought it was helpful. What do you think?


HT: Thanks Justin G. for the email!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Equipping the Saints?

As a seminary student, I regularly get to sit under the teaching of godly men. While not perfect, these men regularly exhibit lives that are winsome to the world, filled with spiritual fruit. Often they have processed deeply through issues that students have not even encountered. I am truly grateful for these godly men who invest themselves regularly in their students.

At the same time, I'm afraid many students complete their time in school and feel qualified for ministry, but lack all the training necessary for serving as a role model in a church. Our minds are well fed; we probably know the difference between supralapsarianism and infralapsarianism and we have studies the hypostatic union, but do we still struggle with daily Scripture intake? Do we struggle with frustration? Do we struggle with honoring God in our families? Do we guard our eyes and our minds from temptation?

All these struggles are clearly addressed in Scripture. In a sense, seminary students are "taught to fish" in a way that we are able to go to the Bible and understand and apply these principles to our lives. But there is a condition that is common among students in seminary, and much more rampant among less "fanatical" members of our churches; our churches often fail to make disciples. Many boys and girls grow up through the youth group and fall straight into the weeds that are waiting to choke them to death.

I believe in the grace of God; I believe in God because of his grace. Satan had many opportunities to steal the seed or choke me out. Yet God is faithful and has sustained my spiritual life through temptation and sin, and I often wonder why. My past, despite growing up in a pastor's home, has not been a model of Christian discipleship. I regularly encounter other believers who were discipled by older brothers in the faith, and the benefits are manifold.

Often, it seems, that someone who has been mentored by a thoughtful, godly person is more mature in their faith and practice. Self-discipline is often a result. They seem capable to establish deep, positive relationships with others easily, and they are able to invest themselves in ways that are foreign to those who have never experienced a mentoring relationship.

I think the practice of mentoring is incredibly neglected, and I cannot help but wonder if a school (or a church) can properly equip its people without it.

Please feel free to comment, and if you know of any resources that might be helpful, please pass them along!

Feeling less than adequate to be a role model,