Tuesday, December 30, 2008

What's Happening?

I have been really bad about updating lately. I finished with school for the semester about three weeks ago, and I have really been enjoying the break. I have now completed 84 of the required 94 hours (88 hours + Elementary Greek and Elementary Hebrew) towards my Master of Divinity degree from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Yes, "The" is part of the school's name. When I checked online today, my grades were finally posted: Bible Teaching, A; Petrine Epistles, A-; Beginning Guitar, A. Woohoo! 10 hours to go! I'm hoping to finish with school in December of 2009!

Despite being out of school for the winter break, it has been extremely busy and sometimes I wonder if I was more busy during school or during the weeks before Christmas. It seems like we had something going on every night. Shopping, cleaning, cooking (that would be Heather), and hosting guests for a meal. We love having people over to the house for dinner, but it seems like we try to cram so much into the short break from school! I'm not complaining, because I love to hang out with friends and church family.

Speaking of family, we took a whirlwind trip down to Maryville, TN, last weekend to celebrate Christmas with my family, and we got home late on Saturday night. The drive home was terrible because I have been having some problems with one of my eyes. I decided to go to the doctor yesterday after work, and apparently I have a chalazion. It's very small, but it has been interfering with my vision. I'm supposed to have an appointment with an opthomologist today.

At church, we've been studying the book of Galatians for the past several months, and we finished just in time to study Mary's, Zechariah's, and Simeon's responses to the revelation of the Messiah (Luke 1-2). In January and February, we are planning to have a combined adult Sunday school class in order to study Mark Dever's What is a Healthy Church as we continue to revise our church government. I'm looking forward to discussing this topic with our members! I'm also interested in reading Thabiti Anyabwile's What is a Healthy Church Member to see how it relates to Dever's book.

Personally, I'm trying to get organized to prepare for next semester. I am going to try to include in my schedule a 30-minute daily Bible study time each morning, as well as a time for guitar practice each night. I have to make time for lots of reading for Church History II, and I am trying to dedicate more time for my family. It seems like quite a challenge to fit everything in! If you are interested, here are the required books for Shawn Wright's Church History II class:
A while back, I started reading in the gospel of John, and I'm going to try to get back into that book during my study time. I hope to post some thoughts as I work through the book.

Well, I guess that's plenty for now. Hopefully I will be more diligent in posting as we begin 2009! May God's blessings be upon you as we anticipate the coming celebration of a new year!

~ Todd

Monday, December 15, 2008

FLAME: Carrying the Gospel to the Hip Hop Culture

I have been totally impressed by Marcus Gray, the young man known as FLAME. He grew up in the inner city of St. Louis, and was heavily influenced by hip hop culture. After an auto accident and the death of his grandmother, he gave his life to Christ and began using his musical talents to share the gospel.

FLAME has been attending Boyce College, the undergraduate school associated with Southern Seminary. The book list on his web site contains classics from John Owen to John Piper, and he points his guests to ministries like founders.org and desiringgod.org. His last two albums include one entitled "Our World: Fallen," which shares the story of Adam and Eve and humanity's plunge into sin. His latest release, "Our World: Redeemed," focuses on Christ's work on the cross and the deliverance Christ purchased for his people.

I purchased "Our World: Fallen" last week, and FLAME really does an amazing job of incorporating deep doctrine and cultural application. He exposes the downward spiral of sin that is pervasive in hip hop culture, and he tells his audience the truth about sin and that our only hope is Christ.

Listen to the song, "Joyful Noise," from his "Our World: Redeemed" album:



Here are the lyrics:

You know what it is
I love it
Let's talk about it

VERSE
Your boy's been a Christian, quite a few years
Victory and faith, but I failed in my fears
I heard a lot of words that have tickled many ears
That's why I praise God for the Word that we adhere
The Word became flesh, lived for thirty years
Died at 33, but after days reappeared
Jesus Christ anointed one ascended in the air
Or you can say the air where the Father made Him heir
Of all things the throne know it's more than a chair
But after our redemption yes He did take a chair
Greater than the angels name superior to theirs
This is Hebrews Chapter 1 if you cared
I'm leaning to the right
the light is where I'm running
I thought I wanted life, drunk, sexed out and blunted
But all I really wanted was the One who really won it
Fought death, beat it gave His life to the public
I love it!

HOOK
Angels surrounding His throne and
Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
The whole earth is full of His glory
All nations bow to His name
His majesty fills the Heavens
Our hearts give thunderous praise
Declare the Lord is forever
Make a joyful noise in this place

VERSE
Man I'm trying to lift Him high
Higher than the stars
I am not of this world like I'm from the planet mars
I love to preach Jesus you can read it in my bars
I'm pretty straight forward when I'm speaking bout my Lord
He paid the sin price being beat by Roman guards
But when He resurrected gave us life free of charge
Now me and my boys need to be in a psych ward
Cause we went crazy for God our lives was scared
Now in the Book of Life, our names have been written down
We're casting our crowns before His feet on the ground
It's such a holy melody and a heavenly sound
Hearing holy holy holy coming out of the mouth
Of the four living creatures by His throne all around
Can you picture the scene this this is how it's going down
You just need a little faith and a new set of eyes
And a telescopic lens to look in and see God
I love it!

HOOK
Angels surrounding His throne and
Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
The whole earth is full of His glory
All nations bow to His name
His majesty fills the Heavens
Our hearts give thunderous praise
Declare the Lord is forever
Make a joyful noise in this place

VERSE
One day we gon' be out man, like three strikes
And home son like a homerun CHRIST
IS -- KING -- LION -- LAMB -- GOD -- MAN
SIN CONQUEROR -- GRAVE CONQUEROR -- SATAN CONQURER
Can take a sinner, atheist sinner to God conscience
Can take nothing
make creation and lives honor
The same God that came through a fetus as Jesus
Limited to breathing
Got believers singing

HOOK
Angels surrounding His throne and
Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
The whole earth is full of His glory
All nations bow to His name
His majesty fills the Heavens
Our hearts give thunderous praise
Declare the Lord is forever
Make a joyful noise in this place

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Indelible Grace: Your King Has Come

If you like Indelible Grace and haven't heard their Christmas album, you can listen to 5 of the 10 songs here. It's worth clicking just to listen to free, God-honoring music!

If you like this music, you can purchase it here or here.

Meditating on Autumn

Photo by jhritzAs I have been driving to and from work lately, I have been worshiping God for the glorious beauty he designed trees to display when cold weather comes. This morning, I thought about the trees as an illustration of the end of a believer's life. Just like the way trees display the true color of their leaves during autumn, so should believers show their true colors when life begins to wane. When we face cancer or congestive heart failure, what will others see? Will they see a glorious display of God's mercy and grace in our lives? Will they see an attitude that points others to the source of our hope? This extends even to persecutions and sufferings that Paul calls "light momentary afflictions" (2 Corinthians 4:17).

So, will you be an autumn tree, bringing glory to God when facing the wintry chill?

~ Todd

Friday, October 31, 2008

Reformation Study Bible - Special Offer!


According to this special offer from Renewing Your Mind, the broadcast ministry of Ligonier Ministries and R. C. Sproul, if you give a gift of any amount, you will receive a genuine leather Reformation Study Bible. You can find out more about the Reformation Study Bible here.

Happy Reformation Day!

~ Todd

Friday, October 10, 2008

ESV Study Bible

WTS Books has just put up links to several different editions of the new ESV Study Bible. Check them out:
Be sure to click these to help me get free books!

~ Todd

UPDATE: Of course, Challies and Justin Taylor both published this same list and clogged up the site with all their traffic. Just be patient. :-)

Monday, September 29, 2008

More on the Alcohol Discussion

Photo by sling@flickr
I just found a good discussion (from this page) between Dr. Albert Mohler and Dr. Russell Moore on the subject of beverage alcohol. This discussion presents some of the underlying reasons behind the policy of abstinence from beverage alcohol required for all students and faculty of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

I'm interested in your opinion, so listen in and please comment!

~ Todd

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Angel Food Ministry

Check out the local news report on how God is meeting our community's needs through our church:




I'll be signing autographs around 9:30 tomorrow morning at the church. :-)

Todd

Friday, September 26, 2008

Something to Sing About

Yesterday was my birthday and it was a great day! Thank you to my wonderful and beautiful wife for making the day so special. She is very thoughtful! One of the gifts she gave me was the Come Weary Saints album by Sovereign Grace, and one of the songs that has really captured me is titled "As Long As You Are Glorified." We need to meditate on the words of this song; we need to live thinking like this! Here are the words:

As Long As You Are Glorified

Shall I take from Your hand Your blessings
Yet not welcome any pain
Shall I thank You for days of sunshine
Yet grumble in days of rain
Shall I love You in times of plenty
Then leave You in days of drought
Shall I trust when I reap a harvest
But when winter winds blow, then doubt

Oh let Your will be done in me
In Your love I will abide
Oh I long for nothing else as long
As You are glorified

Are You good only when I prosper
And true only when I’m filled
Are You King only when I’m carefree
And God only when I’m well
You are good when I’m poor and needy
You are true when I’m parched and dry
You still reign in the deepest valley
You’re still God in the darkest night

Now listen. And worship. And sing!


As Long as You Are Glorified - Sovereign Grace Music

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Fathers are Important?

Jason Whitlock, columnist for the Kansas City Star, recently wrote an article about Vince Young, quarterback of the Tennessee Titans. Young, beginning his third year in the league, caved under the weight of adversity Sunday, asking to be removed from the game after throwing a second interception. Since the game on Sunday, Young has apparently been suffering depression, and the Titan's head coach, Jeff Fisher, had to call on the police to locate him.

What makes all this drama interesting is Whitlock's take on the plight of young athletes who lack the intestinal fortitude required to handle the rigors of such a spotlight. He references two negative examples: Young and
Michael Vick. He also contrasts them with Donovan McNabb, quarterback of the Philadelphia Eagles. Unlike Young and Vick, McNabb seems to have adapted to his environment in ways that allow him to excel.

To what does Whitlock credit this difference? The influence of fathers. He argues that the position of quarterback in the NFL (like many other roles in life) requires "thick skin and genuine self-confidence."  "It doesn't take much to crack a man with no real identity, especially if he's grown accustomed to having all his shortcomings rationalized."

Here's the most interesting quote:
It's not about color. It's about fitting the profile of someone who can handle all that goes along with being an NFL quarterback. If I'm an owner, I spend my quarterback dollars on young men who were raised by strong fathers. It wouldn't be an infallible system, but on average I bet I'd hit more winners than if I turned over the leadership of my team to a kid who isn't used to having a strong male authority figure.

This makes me think along a couple of lines.  First, honest evaluation is important and neglected.  Second, being and having a strong male authority figure is important and neglected.  This article makes me want to be a better dad.

What do you think about Whitlock's analysis?

~ Todd

Monday, September 08, 2008

How to: Filter the Internet for Free

Last year I purchased a product, the D-Link DSD-150 SecureSpot Internet Security Adapter, in an attempt to filter out the temptations of unfettered Internet access. The product worked fairly well, but after using it for a year, we were required to pay about $80 to renew. Since we didn't use most of the features, including the anti-virus functionality, we decided to survey our options. So I began a quest to find an alternative.

A software client that monitors and filters web content is one option. There are several free options available. This, however, is not a good fit for my household. Because I work in information technology, I have more than one computer in the house, and I might have a temporary operating system loaded on a workstation at any time. If I am trying to guard myself against sin, I need to close this loophole. So a software client won't work.

Another option that closes this loophole is a hardware based solution. This is exactly what the D-Link adapter provided. I searched for a replacement for this product, and found a few wireless routers that partnered with an filtering service to provide protection. Most of these, however, were older model routers, and I was hesitant to purchase something that was not current technology.


I then stumbled upon a third alternative: OpenDNS.com. This web site provides filtered web browsing for free. For free!?! With no client, how does this work? For those of you who don't know your computer from your hard drive, DNS, or Domain Name System, translates domain names (like google.com) to IP (Internet Protocol) addresses (like 64.233.167.99).  Each request for a web site must be translated from a name to a number.  OpenDNS manages this system to block questionable web sites.  The only trick is turning the service on!

OpenDNS provides instructions for enabling their service for your computer or network.  I chose to point all my web traffic to OpenDNS.com by changing my DNS servers in my router.  My router serves as the central connection for all my network traffic, and all traffic out of my network must pass through my router.  Once the filtering categories are selected on OpenDNS's site, I can have someone password protect my router configuration and the filtering categories.  Now everyone in my house is protected!

You should check it out!

Todd

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Meditations on John

I'm going to start posting some thoughts on the gospel of John as I read through the book. I'm going to try to read a paragraph or so each day, recognize something important or significant, and meditate on it throughout the day. I am planning to blog my thoughts in an effort to spark further meditation, as well as to be disciplined.

John 1:1-5

John tells us so much about Jesus in this passage. He existed in the beginning. He was both with God and was God at the same time. Jesus was the means by which everything was made. He was, and is, the origin of all life.

What is amazing to me is that the origin of life loved us to death. He created humanity, watched Adam and Eve crash and burn, sacrificed himself to resurrect us, and now leads us to a perfected, finished humanity. Despite the darkness that attempted to destroy humanity, Jesus is a beacon of light that defeats the darkness.

I think this is an image of hope. "In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." The light is still shining.

"Heavenly Father, give us eyes to see the light; help us look to the light and not love the darkness."

Monday, August 11, 2008

Hype Well Deserved?

Check out this video introduction to the new ESV Study Bible due out in October. Many of the scholars I respect are touting the value of this resource. I look forward to using it.

~ Todd ~

Monday, July 28, 2008

Prosperity Gospel: Oxymoron?

In Mark 8:34-38, Jesus continues to rebuke Peter for his misunderstanding of Jesus' mission. Jesus had just finished explaining his rejection by the Jews and his death and resurrection, and Peter took Jesus aside and begin to "correct" Jesus about who the Messiah was supposed to be. Jesus explains to Peter and the rest of his followers that being a disciple of Jesus demands us to sacrifice our lives for Jesus and the gospel. What does this mean? "Let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me"?

For many in this world, the meaning is very clear. Becoming a follower of Christ in many countries means willingness to be persecuted or executed. The Voice of the Martyrs does a very good job communicating the plight of the people of God in hostile lands. One might be arrested, kidnapped, beaten, shot, stabbed, raped, tortured, or murdered in places like Eritrea, Indonesia, Pakistan, India, China, Columbia, etc.

Photo by Tanya RynoBut we live in the United States of America; how can we relate to this command of Christ to take up our cross and follow him? To sacrifice our lives for Jesus and the gospel? We don't face persecution (yet) like our brothers and sisters in distant lands. In many ways, however, we would be better Christians if we lived with persecution. Because we live with deception.

How many "Christians" in the U.S. are willing to sacrifice their lives for Jesus and the gospel? Many would confess with their mouths their willingness to do it, but how many confess with their actions? I often don't. My life is filled with entertainment. I struggle to make time for Bible reading and prayer, much less additional reading that is not required for school. Yes, everyone needs times of refreshing, but how long will we live like the world and call it Christianity? Are we deceiving ourselves?

Photo by re-alityI think this is why Joel Osteen and his fellow proclaimers of the "prosperity gospel" are so "successful" and dangerous. Jesus said that he came to give us abundant life, but that does not necessarily mean a life filled with material possessions. How is anyone sacrificing their lives for Jesus and the gospel if he or she is living life for material wealth? How does the well-to-do church member Photo by The Car Spywith a boat and a big-screen and a Benz reflect Christ to the homeless man on the street? Not that those things are wrong in themselves, but are we living as a witness to the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ, or do we treasure our treasures above all else? Would you give up your job for full-time ministry? Would you abandon your comfortable life to move somewhere hot and humid and disease infested for the sake of Christ?

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." - Matthew 6:19-21


"Help us, Heavenly Father, to seek first your kingdom, and to trust you to meet our every need."

~ Todd ~

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Piper on Galatians and the Gospel

John Piper, in a sermon on Galatians, states that "any requirement that goes beyond faith in the work of Christ ends the gospel!" "The good news to the world is that right standing with God was bought totally by Jesus Christ at Calvary and it can be enjoyed only by faith in his work, and any requirement that comes in to incline us to rely on our work ends it, and Christ is no more advantage to you."

This leaves us with the question: "What are you relying on for your salvation?"
  • Your decision when you were ___ years old?
  • Your good works?
  • Your Bible reading?
  • Your not swearing?
  • Your not killing someone?
  • Your church membership?
  • Your faith?!?!?
There is only one right answer to this question. Only your reliance on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as sufficient to make you right with God can save you. That, plus nothing!!!

This does not mean we get to "believe in Jesus" and do whatever we want. But it does mean that nothing but depending on Jesus can save us.

And that makes Jesus Christ very beautiful.

~ Todd ~

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

DWYL Podcast on Adoption

Check out John Piper's thoughts on adoption in this Don'tWasteYourLife.com podcast:



Adoption was at the very center of the creation of our universe in the mind of God! And, thus, adoption is a beautiful picture of Christ's salvation of sinners.

~ Todd ~

Monday, July 14, 2008

ESV Study Bible - Psalms Sample


I just received an email from the ESV Study Bible Team with a link to the latest sample of their upcoming work -- Psalms.

Thought I would pass it along. I can't wait to get this resource!

~ Todd ~

Divine Initiative

I sometimes have a problem taking the initiative to start something new. I don't know why! Genesis 1, however, helps us see very clearly that God is the Divine Initiator. He began this world by working his plan of creation. And he begins new life in us by working a different kind of miracle; one that takes a broken, messed up person and forming a new creation! Every day he continues to shape us, conforming us to the image of his Son, Jesus Christ.

So, today, I am praying that God will grant me some small measure of his divine initiative so that I may be more like Christ.

~ Todd ~

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

A Heavenly Perspective on Life


I recently heard Arturo Azurdia quote Richard Baxter regarding a Christian's perspective as he approaches the magnificent satisfaction of heaven. Baxter wrote:

The memory will not be idle, or useless, in this blessed work. From that height the saint can look behind him and before him. And to compare past with present things must raise in the blessed soul an inconceivable esteem and sense of its condition. To stand on that mount, whence we can see the Wilderness and Canaan both at once; to stand in heaven and look back on earth, and weigh them together in the balance of a comparing sense and judgment, how must it needs transport the soul, and make it cry out,


“Is this the purchase that cost so dear as the blood of Christ? No wonder. O blessed price and thrice blessed love, that invented and condescended! Is this the end of believing? Is this the end of the Spirit’s workings? Have the gales of grace blown me into such a harbor? Is it hither that Christ hath allured my soul? O blessed way, and thrice blessed end! Is this the glory which the Scriptures spoke of, and ministers preached of so much? I see the Gospel is indeed good tidings, even tidings of peace and good things, tidings of great joy to all nations! Is my mourning, my fasting, my sad humblings, my heavy walking, come to this? Is my praying, watching, fearing to offend, come to this? Are all my afflictions, Satan’s temptations, the world’s scorns and jeers, come to this? O vile nature, that resisted so much, and so long, such a blessing! Unworthy soul! is this the place thou camest to so unwillingly? Was duty wearisome? Was the world too good to lose? Couldst thou not leave all, deny all, and suffer any thing for this? Wast thou loth to die, to come to this? O false heart, thou hadst almost betrayed me to eternal flames, and lost me this glory! Art thou not now ashamed, my soul, that ever thou didst question that love which brought thee hither? that thou wast jealous of the faithfulness of thy Lord? that thou suspectedst his love, when thou shouldst only have suspected thyself? that ever thou didst quench a motion of his Spirit? and that thou shouldst misinterpret those providences, and repine at those ways which have such an end? Now thou art sufficiently convinced that thy blessed Redeemer was saving thee as well when he crossed thy desires, as when he granted them; when he broke thy heart, as when he bound it up. No thanks to thee, unworthy self, for this received crown; but to Jehovah and the Lamb be glory for ever.”


-- Richard Baxter, The Saint's Everlasting Rest


Dare we dwell on the pleasures of this life and jeopardize the pleasures of the next? Can you see heaven clearly enough to forsake the snares of this world? Help us, Heavenly Father, to become entranced with a clear vision of heaven!


~ Todd ~


P. S. - You can also read Baxter's works at the Christian Classics Ethereal Library!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Additional Benefits to Obeying the Law

by Nicholas T
Several months ago I began a concentrated effort to drive the speed limit. When I filled up the tank in my Honda Accord today, I noticed that I had gotten 370 miles out of the last fill-up. Despite the fact that I was almost pushing my car to work because the tank was so empty, I have actually seen a boost in fuel economy from obeying the speed limit. Since slowing down, I have seen my average go from 22 miles per gallon to 24-25 mpg.

These guys, however, have taken the gas mileage-saving game to a whole new level. 133 mpg! Wow. I'm not that interested in turning off my engine while driving, but the results are pretty impressive...

~ Todd ~

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Brandon the Blackbelt!

A few weeks ago my son, Brandon, earned his 1st degree black belt. He achieved a perfect score on his test and I thought I would show you his form:

video

Daddy's proud of his boy! (Now I'm gonna have to take karate so I can discipline him when he's a teenager!)

~ Todd ~

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Only Real Hope for our Postmodern World

David Wells, author of several books, including The Courage to be Protestant: Truth-lovers, Marketers, and Emergents in the Postmodern World, views the historic Christian faith as the only real hope for our postmodern world.

In this book I am nevertheless going to think of myself as a biblical Christian first and foremost, as in continuity with Christians across the ages who have believed the same truth and followed the same Lord. The period in which these truths were brought into the most invigorating, health-giving focus was the Reformation. I therefore think of myself as a Reformational in the sense that I affirm its solas: in Scripture alone is God's authoritative truth found, in Christ alone is salvation found, it is by grace alone that we are saved, and this salvation is received through faith alone. Only after each of htese affirmations is made can we say that salvation from start to finish is to the glory of God alone. These affirmations do not stand simply as solitary, disconnected sentinels, but they are the key points in an integrated, whole understanding of biblical truth. This is what gives us a place to stand in the world from which to understand who we are, what the purposes of God are, and what future lies before us. These are the things that historic Protestants believe, and that is what I am.


If this sparks any interest, check out Robert Sager's summary of this first chapter of this book. I will be writing a summary of chapter 4 in a few weeks.

~ Todd ~

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

My Posts Haven't Been Publishing! Really!

Ok, not really. I've been lazy and distracted since getting out of school for the semester. I haven't posted for a couple of weeks, and I'm starting to feel quite guilty! Hopefully things will pick back up soon.

On a side note, if you haven't visited Said at Southern, you should. I've been invited to participate in a group book review of David Wells' The Courage to be Protestant. My contribution should publish on June 16. If I get it done. :-)

I'll try to write again soon! Thanks for reading my blog!

~ Todd ~

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

An Illustration of Faith?

I've been thinking about how faith in Christ transforms us; the Bible teaches us that we are a new creation, yet we are now in transition. We are in the cocoon, metamorphosing into a butterfly from the caterpillar we once were. We see and taste the life to come, yet we still feel the dirt and desires from our death.

As I was driving to work, I started thinking about how God has been working in my life. I don't drive like a madman anymore. I feel terribly guilty when I'm driving 10 miles per hour over the speed limit, even when I'm just passing someone! And yet, when I think about the entire landscape of my life, this is a very small patch of land that has begun to sprout new, green grass. But if I were to examine every corner of my life, I would find many bare patches. And I think I probably have more bare patches than I realize.

Someday, when Jesus returns and I am transformed into a real man, one who could not even consider the thought of sinning in every area of his life, then the landscape will be lush and green, and God will look upon his new creation and smile.

Yet, he sees me this way already. I have been forgiven, and God has credited Jesus' righteousness to my account. How terribly unworthy I am to receive the grace of God.

This leaves me feeling... speechless.

~ Todd ~

Q&A With a New Believer

Recently my son, Brandon, placed his faith in Christ, and as we prepare for his upcoming baptism, I sat down with him to help him think through some important questions. While I admit helping him think about each question, these answers were his own response to the questions:

Q: Why do you want to be saved?
A: "Because I sin a lot, and that makes me a sinner."

Q: What does it mean to repent?
A: "Turning your back on sin and saying, 'I don't want to keep going the wrong way.'"

Q: Who can save you from your sins? How?
A: "Jesus Christ, God's one and only Son, because he came to die on the cross to pay for our sins."

Q: How do you know that Jesus' death was good enough to pay for your sins?
A: "Because God resurrected Jesus."

Q: What makes you good enough to go to heaven and be with God?
A: "When all of my sin was placed on Jesus, he gave me his obedience."

Q: Why do you want to be baptized?
A: "To show people I was spiritually dead, and now I am raised from the dead."

Q: What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus?
A: "To follow God and do what he instructs you to do (as best as you can)."

Q: Who helps you to be a disciple of Jesus?
A: "God, because he gives you the Holy Spirit to help you obey."

Pray for Brandon that God will use him in a spectacular way to make the name of Jesus famous in the world!

~ Todd ~

Monday, April 28, 2008

Jesus, Friend of Sinners!


At the Together for the Gospel 2008 conference, the Sovereign Grace Ministries booth was distributing their most recent Song Sampler CD. Where have I been? This music is incredible, God-honoring, and gospel-centered! I have been listening to this CD in my car non-stop, and I thought I would share the words to one of these incredible songs:

His Forever

Jesus, friend of sinners
Loved me ’ere I knew Him
Drew me with His cords of love
Tightly bound me to Him
’Round my heart still closely twined
The ties that none can sever
For I am His and He is mine
Forever and forever

Jesus, friend of sinners
A crown of thorns You wore for me
Bruised for my transgressions
Pierced for my iniquities
The wrath of God that I deserved
Was poured out on the Innocent
He took my place, my soul to save
Now I am His forever

Jesus, friend of sinners
I love to tell the story
Redeeming love has been my theme
And will be when in glory
Not death nor life nor anything
Can ever separate me
O love that will not let me go
Yes, I am His forever


You can actually download this song and another for free at the Pierced for our Transgressions web site.

Enjoy!

~ Todd ~

Friday, April 25, 2008

Cue the Hallelujah Chorus!


Last night I finished my Greek Syntax and Exegesis final! Without a doubt, this was one of the most difficult classes of my seminary career, and now it is done! I am thankful for the opportunity to study under Dr. Rob Plummer, and I am thankful that I have the ability now to begin to understand the original languages of the Bible. With this class complete, I now have 77 credit hours toward the 94 required to complete a Masters of Divinity degree at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Only six classes remaining!

Pray for perseverance!

~ Todd ~

Friday, April 18, 2008

T4G Books - Investing in Us

At the second ever Together for the Gospel conference, the four friends who developed this conference (Mark Dever, Ligon Duncan, C. J. Mahaney, and Al Mohler) made a significant investment in the lives of 5500 or so people this week in the form of books. Here are the books that were given away this week at T4G 2008 (in no particular order):














*Together* for the Gospel 2008


I have so many things to say about this fantastic conference. Let's begin with "Together." I served with an army of volunteers from Boyce College, Southern Seminary, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Sovereign Grace Ministries, and Clifton Baptist Church, among other groups. The fellowship was gracious and warm! The conference was also filled with men I read in books and blogs. Here's a list of men I am grateful I had the opportunity to meet: Bob Kauflin, John Piper, Phil Johnson, Tim Challies, Tom Ascol, Dan Phillips, and Frank Turk. There were so many more people I would have enjoyed meeting, but I am thankful to be encouraged and to encourage those men that I did speak with.

I also met many people I didn't know. As I stood at my post as usher, I had the opportunity to speak with some from Cincinnati, some from Ohio, others from North Carolina and Illinois, and some from north of Toronto. It was a blessing to meet so many people gathered from across the world for the sake of Christ and his gospel.

Probably the best aspect of "Together" was the opportunity I had to hang out with my two good friends, Justin Guffey and Thad Noyes. (I was tempted to say, "two bloggers," but you have to actually post even rarely to be called a blogger, Justin.) My only regret was not getting to spend more time with them both at the conference, but, because of my ushering duties, my free time was limited. Thank you brothers for the fellowship! Hope you enjoyed the mango habanero wings!

I think I will stop here for now. I will try to post more thoughts on the week later.

~ Todd ~

Monday, April 14, 2008

Together for the Gospel *2006*


If you didn't know (yeah right!), Together for the Gospel 2008 starts tomorrow. I am thankful that I have the opportunity to attend and serve as an usher this year. Unfortunately, I won't be able to participate in the Band of Bloggers pre-conference ... conference ... because I will be attending a volunteer training session. Many of my favorite bloggers will be participating.

You may wonder what the big deal is about T4G. Well, to be perfectly honest, this conference is like the MLB All-Star Home Run Derby. The Major League Gospel Preachers Association is sending their finest expositors to crush their main points out of the park and deep into the souls of pastors and church leaders. This conference features many of my present-day heroes; Albert Mohler, John Piper, Mark Dever, R. C. Sproul, John MacArthur, C. J. Mahaney, and more! Lest you suspect I am worshiping men instead of God, understand that I am simply praising our great God and King for using these men to work in my life, and I am excited to see many of them for the first time in person.

If you still don't understand all the hype, check out the 2006 conference for yourself. I found the entire Together for the Gospel 2006 conference, including all the sessions and panel discussions, on Soveriegn Grace Ministries web site. You can download them all in mp3 format. Listen in; you won't be disappointed.

I pray God will change hearts and lives this week; I pray that God will continue to shape me into a vessel in which he can trust to carry and deliver the gospel of Jesus Christ.

~ Todd ~

Friday, April 11, 2008

American Idolatry?


Did you catch the end of American Idol on Wednesday night? They sang "Shout to the Lord." It was surreal; I couldn't listen to the song. Instead of singing, "My Jesus, my Savior, Lord there is none like You," they changed "My Jesus" to "My shepherd." I just sat there with my stomach churning. I had to change the channel.

I thought about this some, thinking, "well, they have decided to sing this popular worship song without worshiping Jesus, the one for whom the song was written." Then, last night, they sang the song again, without changing the lyrics! And I don't know which song was more disturbing. What is Christian music? Is it just music? Is it not meaningful speech accompanied by instruments? I am not an avid American Idol fan, so I have no idea about the faith of the people singing in the competition, but what if one of them were Buddhist? Or any other faith? Were they required to sing this song? What if American Idol decided to honor a different faith next week?

I think this event exposes the "christian" culture of the U.S. that fails to be characteristic of true Christianity. Singing "Lord there is none like you" is not an honor to Jesus Christ if you don't mean it! "All of my days I want to praise the wonders of your mighty love"?

Am I wrong here? Does the hair stand up on the back of my neck for no good reason? It seems that American Idol has united the cultural "christianity" of the Bible belt with Hollywood, and it makes me sick to my stomach.

What do you think?

~ Todd ~


Update: Here are some related links:

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

When Children Believe the Gospel

"If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved." -- Romans 10:9-10


Several weeks ago, I asked Brandon when he was going to become a believer in Christ and be baptized. He told me he didn't know. We didn't talk about it very much, but I did tell him that when he becomes a Christian, I would not only be his Daddy, but I would also be his brother in Christ. I said this, in part, because I believe Brandon has already exhibited faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of his sins; I believe God has been working in his life for some time.

A couple of weeks ago, just before bed, Brandon came into the office where I was studying and told me, "Daddy, I'm ready to confess Jesus as my Lord and Savior." I was thrilled to see God answer my prayers in this way; I had talked with him, but I intentionally did not put pressure on him to make a decision. He came to me on his own after thinking about things, and he answered God's call.

He makes me think of Samuel. Samuel was a boy who had been dedicated to God by his mom and dad after God answered his mom's (Hannah) prayer for a child. Samuel heard the voice of God and thought it was Eli, the priest. Three times he woke up Eli, and finally Eli realized that God was calling Samuel.

All Eli did was point Samuel in the right direction. And that's all we have done for Brandon. I believe this is one of the best ways to teach children the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are called to love them and teach them, but not pressure them. God doesn't NEED our help, but he does allow us to help point our kids to Christ.

If you're interested, we have used several tools to help point Brandon to Jesus. Here are some:
We are praising God for his saving work in Brandon's life!

~ Todd ~

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Why I Haven't Been Blogging Much Lately

One word. Greek. It is a ton of work. I am two weeks behind before a mid-term next week. I have about 100 vocabulary words to stuff into my head over the next week, and I have to keep the other 550-600 words from falling out. I have to translate 1 John 3:19-5:21 (here in Greek), bone up on my Greek syntax, finish 1 John in Stott's excellent commentary on The Letters of John, and complete two more 20 minute, audio-recorded readings/ translations/ meditations.

I'm tired! I've been working mornings and evenings on Greek, to the neglect of my family (!), and I even dream Greek vocabulary words!

So, I'll post when I can!

~ Todd ~

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Gracious Engagement of Google Geeks


Wow. I think Tim Keller is an incredibly gifted minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He recently spoke about some very difficult questions (discussed more fully in his new book, The Reason for God) with a skeptical, and packed, audience at Google, and he blew me away with his gracious attitude and mastery of the philosophical subject matter.

Here's the video on youtube.

I believe God is using Tim Keller to engage people that many other ministers cannot.

Interestingly, one questioner commented that the only recent guest to draw half the crowd that Dr. Keller did was a sex-blogger giving a talk on sex education. May the name of Jesus Christ be praised.

~ Todd ~

ht | Monergism.com

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Unclean Made Clean

Yesterday, as I was studying my Greek vocabulary, my children were "helping" me. I began trying to use some of the Greek words to describe everyday activities, like "get your ποδος (foot) off me!" Or, "raise your χείρ (hand)!" It was just silly.

My son had just finished with his shower, and so I asked, "are you ακαθαρτος (unclean)?" Of course, he didn't understand, but when I explained my question in English, he said, "Yes."

"Yes?" I asked. "Didn't you just take a shower?"

"Oh!" answered Brandon. "I thought you meant unclean because of sin!"

The poor boy doesn't have a chance. He's already pondering theology on a regular basis. Sometimes I'm shocked by how clearly he is like me. He even summarizes, restates, and illustrates things that I teach him. It is something that I have always done--a tool for trying to understand and clarify.

Did I mention that he's seven?

"Heavenly Father, thank you for your mercy and grace in creating a little one who is so much like me. He is made in my image, just like I am made in yours. I only ask that you help me not to pass on the sinful tendencies of my heart. Make the unclean in both of us clean before you through the sacrifice of your Son, our King, Jesus Christ the Righteous!"

~ Todd ~

Friday, March 14, 2008

Up Next on the MP3 Player

Have you heard of Arturo Azurdia? He's the "Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology and Director of Pastoral Mentoring at Western Seminary in Portland, OR." He is the author of Spirit Empowered Preaching, and he founded and served Christ Community Church in Fairfield, CA, for 19 years.

While serving at Christ Community Church, Azurdia preached several book series, including my next audio adventure through the book of Revelation. While listening to the introductory sermon, from 1 Corinthians 13 of all places, I became convinced that I will not be disappointed with this series!

Azurdia argues that we should avoid falling into either of two very common categories: becoming one who is obsessed with John's Revelation and all the related charts and graphs, and becoming one who shuns this book because of all the wild and difficult to understand interpretations. We should not avoid this book, and he pleads with his congregation to embrace one another even when differences of opinion might arise (thus the 1 Corinthians text).

I look forward to sharing some of "Art's" thoughts as I listen through the series. Feel free to join me by downloading the sermons here. You can also obtain the free two-CD set of mp3s from monergism.com for the price of shipping.

May God bless the hearing of this particularly difficult and often mis-interpreted book!

~ Todd ~

Free Download of the Gospel of John by Max McLean

Get a free download of John's Gospel as narrated by Max McLean. This is the NIV from The Listener's Bible. Download it, listen to it, give it away for evangelism.

Check it out here.

~ Todd ~

Thursday, March 13, 2008

"He meant to pass by them..."

Photo by Brian - Progressive Spin
Sometimes the Bible says things that just make your head spin. I am convinced by Scripture that God "works all things according to the counsel of his will" (Ephesians 1:11). He is large and in charge.

And he became a man. He continued to rule over nature (Mark 4:35-41), to cast out demons (Mark 5:1-20), and to heal the sick (Mark 5:21-43), and yet he imposed some limits on his power and knowledge.

Mark 6:48 is a prime example of this. Jesus, having sent his disciples on across the Sea of Galilee, decided to walk to meet them. But he didn't want to walk around the lake, he just decided to walk across it. And he meant to pass by them. He was going to just walk on by during the storm and greet them on the other side.

Here's my question: if God (Jesus) intended to do something, but didn't, how do I reconcile this with the facts that I know about God from other passages in the Bible? Like the fact that God "does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth" (Daniel 4:35). If Jesus intended to pass by them, what prevented him from doing so?

If the Bible had simply said that Jesus intended to prove his deity (once again) to his disciples by walking on the water right up to the boat and joining his disciples, this passage would be much easier to understand. Or he could have passed by them without being seen and greeted them on the other side, and they would have been amazed by how he beat them across the sea.

I think this passage reveals a.) something about the relationship that Jesus, the God-man, had with God the Father, and b.) a behind the scenes picture about how God sometimes works. First, we see that Jesus intended to pass by them, but that was not in God the Father's ultimate plan. The God-man, who never sinned, planned one course of action, yet yielded to God the Father's sovereign providence without sin. Seriously, this is making my head hurt. So we, too, may be perfectly obedient while following one course of action, and God may redirect us.

Second, we see that Jesus used supernatural means to accomplish his purposes, even in mundane things like travel. This is not the first time someone traveled supernaturally. Elijah traveled for 40 days without food or water (1 Kings 19). Philip was carried supernaturally from the Ethiopian Eunuch to Azotus without knowing what had happened to him (Acts 8).

All we are left with is wonder and amazement at how God works in this world.

~ Todd ~

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Eight Years of Romans

Photo by Dan Kamminga
How long does it take to listen to eight years worth of sermons on Romans? For me, with a thirty-minute commute each way to work, it took about 2 1/2 years. Yesterday I finished listening to John Piper's 218 sermon series on "Romans: The Greatest Letter Ever Written." What a blessing! I have been helped and shaped in ways I might never understand. Piper has been the closest thing I have had to a mentor without my having ever met him.

I praise God for his work in the lives of men like John Piper and for using them to make disciples.

~ Todd ~

Monday, March 10, 2008

When Did Jesus Become Famous?


In Mark 6, Jesus sent out his disciples, two by two, into the surrounding cities and villages. They were commissioned to cast out demons, heal the sick, and call people to repentance. And so his disciples did. I wonder what they must have felt as they traveled and healed and exercised authority over the demonic powers. Strangely enough, this was the means by which God used to introduce the world to his Son. You mean he didn't just audition for "Palestinian Idol"?!?

Notice in verse 14, king Herod heard about all the things Jesus' disciples were doing. "King Herod heard of it, for Jesus' name had become known." Don't you see? Its the same today; God calls his followers to go out and heal and pray for and minister to people. By doing so, the name of Jesus becomes known. Doesn't this sound quite similar to the Great Commission?

So, how are you doing at making the name of Jesus famous? Are you even considering making the name of Jesus famous? Or are you actually causing damage to the name of Jesus by the way you act and speak and think and don't act? Imagine Jesus' disciples' reaction when Jesus told them to go without money or clothes. "Don't pack, just get out there and help people in my name."

I'm feeling convicted. How 'bout you?

~ Todd ~

Saturday, March 08, 2008

A State of Emergency


New Albany, Indiana, has received about 10-12 inches of snow, and it fell rapidly. Our county government has declared a state of emergency and asked that everyone stay off the roads. Our family ventured out this morning to play, and despite the cold, we thoroughly enjoyed it. Unfortunately, we will not be having church tomorrow, so we will miss meeting together with our church family.

“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool." -- Isaiah 1:18

~ Todd ~

Friday, March 07, 2008

Thunderstruck!


No, not the song by AC/DC. Thunderstruck by a thunder-snowstorm! It is bizarre. I hear the rumble and I think, "Hmm... lightning... rain... wind... hail?" Nope, snow! It is surreal. We're expecting 8 to 14 inches! More sovereignty meditations could flow, but not tonight. I'm working on Greek.

Greek... Even more reasons to ponder God's sovereignty!

~ Todd ~

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

More Valuable Than Many Sparrows


Every time I fly in a plane, I get a bit of a knot in my stomach. It's not that I'm afraid or even worried, it is just that I wonder if this will be my last flight. Every time the plane approaches the runway for a landing I recognize my utter helplessness; every breath I take is caused and sustained by the Sovereign King of Creation. I cannot cause my heart to beat or my brain to work or my eyes to see. I am completely dependent upon God for my every experience.

So, I close my eyes, and the Holy Spirit calls to my mind spectacular passages of Scripture like this one:

"29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. . . . 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows." -- Matthew 10:29, 31


I know the context of this passage refers to times of persecution, but it still applies to my situation. Because God is Sovereign, or he is not. It is simple. And we can trust him even when landings are tragic, or almost tragic:



"Thank you, Jesus, for speaking words of comfort and peace, and for preserving them for your servants so long ago!"

~ Todd ~

P.S. - Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love to fly; I was just reminded of the butterflies this past weekend.

Monday, March 03, 2008

God Moves in a Mysterious Way

Photo by mamjodh
I've been listening to Jeremy Riddle's Full Attention CD tonight, and one track has really grabbed my attention. It's based on William Cowper's song, God Moves in a Mysterious Way, and it is captivating. This song makes me think of Jonathan Edwards' famous quote:

"The Doctrine of God's Sovereignty has very often appeared an exceeding pleasant, bright and sweet Doctrine to me: and absolute Sovereignty is what I love to ascribe to God."


Here are the lyrics of Riddle's version:

God moves in a mysterious way
His Wonders to perform
He plants His Footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm
Deep in unsearchable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright Designs
And works His sovereign Will

And ye fearful saints fresh courage take
The clouds you so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break in blessings
Yeah (and) in blessings (yeah)
And in blessings on your head

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense
But trust Him for His Grace
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face
His Purposes will ripen fast
Unfolding ev'ry hour
The bud may have a bitter taste
But sweet will be the flow'r
Yeah

And ye fearful saints fresh courage take
The clouds you so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break in blessings
Yeah (and) in blessings (yeah)
And in blessings on your head

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His Work in vain
For God is His own interpreter
And He will make it plain
In His own time
In His own way yes
In His own time
In His own way


I bow my sinful heart before a holy and righteous God who wrote history and included me in his family.

And all I have to offer is worship.

~ Todd