Friday, August 21, 2009

Times of Testing

What constitutes a time/season of testing in a Christian's life? Is it always a matter of great sacrifice which calls for painful endurance of such a nature that someone will eventually write a moving story about a super-saint who passed the test of sickness,adversity, persecution, or martyrdom? I think not. I think our American sense of exaggeration and extremism has led us to believe that a test is only a test if the probability of some kind of major harm comes into a person's life. The 'no blood - no foul' mentality has become the measure of a whether something is a test or not.

Throughout my school years (public schools, college, & seminary) I took many, many, many tests. Most of them were not do-or-die. As a matter of fact, I would hazard a guess that the number of tests which would make/break my grade were few in number. By the time I got to seminary, I did have several classes which only gave a mid-term & final so those were certainly major tests. Then again, by the time I got to seminary I had years of experience in taking tests large and small. I was prepared to face the challenge of the mid-term & final. Regardless of whether it was the weekly spelling test of 2nd grade or the Baptist History mid-term that "ate my lunch" the tests were always over materials I knew or should have known.

I wonder how many pop-quizzes and tests God sends our way every single day? How many opportunities has the Spirit given us to strengthen our faith in preparation for the big test that is out there in our future? Perhaps I ought to 'count it pure joy' when I face the daily tests of turning away from that website -- of encouraging instead of gossiping -- of looking the other way when a scantily dressed woman passes by -- of setting aside my routine to help out a neighbor I don't particularly care for in a time of need -- of praying for the person who mocks my faith instead of unleashing a sharp, biting retort -- of singing instead of griping; encouraging instead of cutting; or thanking instead of criticizing. If I were to count it pure joy that God allowed me to do these things, surely I would be better prepared to face the big test that lies before me. I would be better equipped to face trials of many kinds because I know that the testing of my faith will develop perseverance which will finish the work so that I can become mature and complete in Christ? (James 1:2-4)

What constitutes a test, any test in a Christian's life? Is it not fundamentally any situation which calls for us to live by faith in the leadership of our Lord Jesus Christ? Every day is a test. Every day is a day to live by faith. Every day is a day to count it pure joy that through his righteousness in us we can pass the test.

Massive Linkage (Part Two)

Interesting and sad videos on North Korea:

NK:PUSH from Acts1v8 on Vimeo.

North Korea from Acts1v8 on Vimeo. (HT: John)

Here is more to motivate for missions:

(HT: Z)

This is quite impressive:

(HT: Z

Massive Linkage (Part One)

Since I have been so busy lately my links have piled up.  I will give you part one now with all of the regular links and then do a part two in a few moments linking you to several videos.  I intend to get back to regular blogging next week.  I am getting adapted to my new life schedule.  So without further ado here is what I have intended to link to for the past three weeks:

Ray Ortlund gives 6 reasons why he is Acts29.

Piper considers Lewis’ and Edwards’ comments on pride and reflects on humility. 

For Whom Did Christ Die?  Three Views

I always love me some John Newton: Ministry on my Mind.

Tony Reinke offers 5 great Spurgeon quotes.  One of which I love: “preach Christ or go home”

I continue getting FWDs that proclaim Obama as the Antichrist along with several other outlandish claims.  Dan Wallace should be heeded as he tackles a seemingly scholarly video.  Here is the video:

Be sure to check out Wallace’s response.

Dan Phillips provides some helpful thoughts on altar calls (I love how he not only provides rebuke to the Finneyites but also to Calvinists)

An interesting Narrated Bibliography with David Powlison

Ministers print this out and give it for premarital counseling.  All my single folks check it out as well.  Piper gives some great questions to ask when preparing for marriage

Young and old alike should find this helpful: Calvin’s Deathbed charge

Thabiti discusses Pride and Preaching

What is a bloggersation?  Tom Ascol and Alvin Reid have had one…get the details here

This would be a great piece to interact with. Kevin DeYoung tells why he baptizes babies.

Jared Wilson offers 25 Evangelical Myths

I leave you with this…not sure it is meant to be funny…but it is:

(HT: JT…actually Andy Naselli)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Do You Agree?

I am reading through Graeme Goldsworthy’s book Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics for my Hermeneutics class.  I am wondering whether or not you agree with this paragraph.  If so, why?  If not, why not?

It cannot be stressed too much that to confuse the gospel with certain important things that go hand in hand with it is to invite theological, hermeneutical and spiritual confusion.  Such ingredients of preaching and teaching that we might want to link with the gospel would include the need for hte gospel (sin and judgment), the means of receiving the benefits of the gospel (faith and repentance), the results or fruit of the gospel (regeneration, conversion, sanctification, glorification) and the results of rejecting it (wrath, judgment, hell).  These, however we define and proclaim them, are not in themselves the gospel.  If something is not what God did in and through the historical Jesus two thousand years ago, it is not the gospel. Thus Christians cannot ‘live the gospel’, as they are often exhorted to do.  They can only believe it, proclaim it and seek to live consistently with it.  Only Jesus lived (and died) the gospel.  It is a once-for-all finished and perfect event done for us by another.  (Goldsworthy, 59)

Friday, August 14, 2009

Preparing to Pray

In considering my regular prayer time with God, I must confess that I do not spend the time I ought preparing my heart, my mind, and my spirit to go before Heaven's Throne and commune with him. All too often, my prayers are more akin to a Drive-Thru Order rather than a Sit-down Supper with the One who loves me so.

I've challenged myself to either listen to or read through some hymns or songs to help me settle still my prepare myself to spend time with my Lord. One hymn that I've started using was not originally at the top of my 'get ready to pray' list. It is the old, evangelistic standard, "Just As I Am."

Read through these words again. This confessional stance of this familiar hymn really speaks to the condition of our lives when we come to him in prayer.

Just as I am, without one plea, But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidd'st me come to Thee, O Lamb of God, I come. I come

Just as I am, and waiting not, To rid my soul of one dark blot,
To Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot, O Lamb of God, I come. I come.

Just as I am, tho' tossed about, With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings within and fears without, O Lamb of God, I come. I come.

Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind, Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea, all I need in Thee to find, O Lamb of God, I come. I come.

Just as I am, Thou wilt receive, Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve,
Because Thy promise I believe, O Lamb of God, I come. I come.

Just as I am, Thy love unknown, Has broken every barrier down,
Now to be Thine, yea, Thine alone, O Lamb of God, I come. I come.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Our Father

In the midst of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus takes time to instruct his followers how to pray (Matthew 6:5-13). Through this prayer, Jesus gives a model on our approach, attitude, and priorities we having in rightly communing with the Father. Its interesting to note that Jesus begins with the address, “Our Father....” Have you ever noticed that the first person singular is absent from the Model Prayer? We do not pray, “My Father.....give me this day my daily bread....forgive me my debts.....lead me not into temptation.”

In this Jesus reminds us that our approach to God, our obedience to God, even our relationship with God is never solely about "me". It is never separated from “we.” When I sin, we sin. When I grow as a believer, we grow as believers. I cannot rightly seek God’s provision for my life is I’m not seeking it for others.

We live in a wonderful nation that has been blessed by God in so many ways. We ought always express our gratitude for God’s provision and wealth that we so readily enjoy. Yet we need to be aware of our American cultural mythology that elevates rugged individualism to the point that we think we can live isolated from everyone else. Unfortunately, the idea that "I" can be okay with God apart from my relationships with others has crept into the church. This is not the faith God has given his people. We must always keep in mind that throughout the Scripture we see God saving persons to make a people for himself.

As Christians our concern begins with our own relationship with God and personal responsibility before God. However, if we follow the teaching and example of our Savior, we quickly move to a deep regard for the body of Christ and to the world who needs Jesus so desperately. I cannot pray rightly for me unless I pray for us. I cannot pray effectively for my family unless I pray fervently for God’s family. I cannot seek a full and proper relationship with Christ unless I seek to share him with others who live around me. I cannot pray, “My Father....,” and follow the instruction of Jesus in prayer. I must always pray, “Our Father.....” Excuse me, we must always pray "Our Father....."

I Want Jesus THIS Much

35 As he drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36 And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant. 37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” 38 And he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 39 And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 40 And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. And when he came near, he asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” 42 And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” 43 And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.
The water in the shower is cold.  My son is whining.  The car will not start.  I get stuck in traffic.  I have a bad day at work.  The weight of the world is on my shoulders.  I receive sad news about a former student.  News from home is troubling.  News around the globe is even more troubling.  My day is horrible.  “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by”. 
How often have I focused on my “suffering” or my bad day instead of the fact that Jesus of Nazareth is passing by?  It takes the eyes of faith to see the face of Jesus in a bed-ridden grandmother; the wheel-chair bound teenager; the autistic child.  Yet in the midst of heartache and brokenness is often where Jesus is found. 
I think we assume that where Jesus is it must be neat and tidy.  There must be sunshine and rays of light, not clouds and storms.  Trumpets are playing instead of the moans of suffering.  Pleasant odors abound, not body odor that smells like moldy French cheese.  We forget that Nazareth was the moldy French cheese capital of the world.  “Nothing good can come from Nazareth…can it…?”  SacredHeartJesus3
Yet it is Jesus the Nazarene that is passing by.  Perhaps this is why the blind guy has such confidence.  He not only believes that Jesus has the power to dispense mercy, He also has the gumption to think that He will. 
And this is where we show up with our American cynicism and lack of faith.  The blind guy has no qualms about shouting out the name of Jesus and begging for healing.  He is not ashamed.  He is not afraid to tell Jesus what He wants and needs.  That annoys us.  We want people that are neatly put together and make their quietly make their requests on tiny little index cards.  We don’t like shouting.  We certainly don’t like desperation.  When faced with such desperation we respond with rebuke and a big fat shhhhh…!!!  “Jesus is trying to speak, idiot, shut up with all your suffering and just listen you might learn something”. 
The blind man is not deterred.  He MUST have Jesus.  He is ridiculously desperate and he is not ashamed of that fact.  He is screaming for the help of Jesus. 
I wonder what Jesus was like at this moment.  What did his face look like?  What was in His heart?  Was He reluctantly healing the guy so that he would shut up and let Him get back to teaching?  Is He annoyed by his request?  Is Jesus uncomfortable with such desperate emotion? 
Be honest do you really expect this to be His answer:  “What do you want me to do for you”? 
I want to see Jesus like this blind man saw Him.  TDirtyHandshe blind man was not “blinded” by his inability to see.  He was not lost in the midst of his suffering.  The blind man saw Jesus.  Jesus was passing by and the blind man caught a glimpse.  He was so desperate and filled with unabashed hope that he could not shut up. 
I want to be that guy.  I am not that guy but I want to be him.  I am not yet fully convinced of my desperation.  I would wait until the crowd settled down and try to ask Jesus at a better time.  I would mail in a prayer card.  I would never risk being annoying in my asking of Jesus.  But that is precisely what Jesus wants—annoying, desperate, persistent prayers that expect healing.  It’s not wrong to expect Jesus to meet your needs—it’s wrong NOT to. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Q & A with Jared Wilson Author of “Your Jesus is Too Safe”

I am stoked that Jared asked me to review his book as well be a part of his blog tour.  You can check out the rest of the blog tour.  There are some great blogs that are part of this tour; and from what I have seen thus far there are great questions and answers.  Recently I had the opportunity to interview Jared.

1. In chapter 3, Jesus the Forgiver, you say that it’s not true “that you can’t forgive an unrepentant person”.  You then helpfully explain the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. Would you say that God forgives everyone but is only reconciled to those that trust in Christ through faith and repentance?

No, I don't believe God forgives everyone. I am an old school Calvinist when it comes to the extent of the atonement, so I do affirm the "L" in TULIP. I believe Christ's work on the cross accomplished salvation for the elect. This has less to do with God forgiving all but only being reconciled with some as it does with God's forgiveness being a work begun that he himself is faithful to finish in reconciliation. I guess you could say that when it comes to the elect, I am a universalist. :-) God gets them all.
The logical question from this, of course, is "If God doesn't forgive everyone, why should we?" And there are several answers but the most important one is this: We are not God. We are not perfectly holy and perfectly just. We don't have the right, as God does, to love Jacob and hate Esau. It is our duty to love others as God has loved us: in spite of anything we've done, in the face of constant rebellion, and on the condition of Jesus Christ.

2. Is it possible that your book is the only one in print which contains the word “waaaaambulance”?

Quite possible. Also, I guarantee it's the only Christian book that employs the phrase "burninate the peasants" and suggests one listen to heavy metal when reading the minor prophets.

3. Your book is obviously written for those that are “hip” more so than those that need a “hip replacement”.  How do you speak the language of the culture without being guilty of creating a fad Jesus of your own?  Or to ask that another way: how do I as a youth pastor speak the language of teenagers without creating a Jesus that is merely "safe" for teenagers?

I think there is a line where context becomes content -- the medium becomes the message -- and we just do our darndest not to cross it. I was conscious throughout the book of the danger in the different profiles of Jesus in the chapters of crafting an array of different Jesuses myself, ironically undercutting the point of the book. I address this in the Conclusion. I think what I tried to do is make sure the humor, the sarcasm, the pop cultural references were part of the window dressing, not the furniture in the room. Someone else recently asked me if I was nervous about receiving some of the same criticism Mark Driscoll got from "Vintage Jesus" for being too humorous with Jesus, and while I don't think Mark crossed any lines, I do think my humor steers clear of pushing Jesus buttons.
So to make a long answer short, I think the way we do this is by consciously and conscientiously making sure our language does not obscure or replace our message. And the way you measure this is if your hearers/readers walk way with an unsafe Jesus. If they think Jesus is so cool he doesn't change them, it's cause for concern and evaluation. 

4. What was your favorite chapter to write and why?

My favorite chapters were "Jesus the Redeemer" because I am a storyteller at heart, and I got to play with narratives and the biblical narrative in that chapter, and "Jesus the King" because I got to present some material I have studied a long time and that reflects a paradigm shift in my own understanding of Jesus and the Gospels over the last ten years. I think it's stuff that the Church has neglected for a long time too, so I felt like that one was a really important chapter. (I have since heard that "Jesus the King" is a lot of people's favorite chapter, as well.)

5. The stated goal of your book is to “remove layers of dirt and grime” from twelve different aspects of who Jesus is.  What particular aspect of Jesus do you feel is the most need of “dusting off”?

There's two, and they represent the two extremes the Church vacillates between. Driscoll has been great at speaking against this false dichotomy too, and I quote him from the Piper/Taylor edited collection "The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World" in my book on this subject. It's basically that we either so dwell on Jesus' incarnation -- Jesus' manhood -- that we suffer for lack of enjoying his exaltation, or we so dwell on his exaltation that we lose the joy of the incarnation. I think many churches favor one or the other and lose real pleasure and profit in who Jesus fully is.

I will provide a complete review of the book in late August/early September.  For now, let me encourage you to buy the book.  Thanks for the interview Jared!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Why I am Filled with Joy and Sadness, Tears and Gladness

clinging%20to%20the%20cross I will warn you in advance; you may get no benefit from reading this.  The truth is, I am so flooded with conflicting emotions right now that I thought it may be helpful to write.  I figure that around the 1st of September I will look back and wonder what just happened.  Much of what I know and love will be finished by the end of this week. 

I take great comfort in the fact that I will continue to be with my lovely wife, I will still have the presence of my amazing son, and more than anything I will still have Christ as the center of my life.  Saying it that way really puts it in perspective.  (Yeah, that picture to the right just about sums it up).

At the same time I feel a great loss.  I absolutely love the people that God has placed in our life.  It was all I could do to choke back tears and a dark depression as I peeled quotes off my walls, packed up pictures, and thought about all the amazing memories I have of the students here in New London.  I love my pastor.  I love our staff.  I love our deacons.  I love our church body.  Of course FBC New London is not perfect, but she is part of the Bride of Christ that is married to Jesus and this makes her beautiful.  A big part of my life has now changed.  As of Friday August 7th, 2009 I will no longer be the youth pastor at FBC New London.  That makes me sad.

Yesterday, I was ordained into the gospel ministry.  My good friend Terry preached the ordination service (yes, the same Terry that blogs here).  It was very convicting.  He reminded me that no matter how much education, training, experience, etc. that I have it will be inadequate.  My only hope and my only weapon is the Word of God.  I have known all of this in my head.  Yesterday, I felt the weight of it.  I have been chosen by God to do what a small percentage of people are called to do.  Indeed I am equipped.  But at the same time I am totally inadequate for such a task.  I sense my deep need for Christ and pray that I am continually reminded of my helplessness.  I am but a child, and will be until the day that I die.

Not only am I sad about what we are leaving, I am very nervous about what we are moving to.  I am very thankful that God has supplied a job at Chick-Fil-A.  But I have to be honest and say that it also makes me sad.  I love being a youth pastor.  I am not nearly as passionate about selling chicken sandwiches.  Yet, God will use me even here.  I wonder how stoked Jesus was about being a carpenter?

I am nervous that we will not be able to make it financially.  It will be tight for us to make it through the first year.  At this point it will be impossible for us to even attend a class the second year.  I am confident, however, that God will provide.  If He wants us in Louisville, Kentucky attending seminary the money will be provided.  No clue how.  No clue when.  But I know that God will provide.  Even if we are homeless God will provide abundant grace for us to be joyful in the midst of that.  Jesus knows what it is like to be homeless, He has more than enough grace to get us through.

I am sad to leave my parents and my wife’s parents.  I also am sad about taking Isaiah out of their life (and them out of Isaiah’s).  Granted it will not be permanent.  Granted many have it worse.  Nonetheless, I love both sets of parents.  I am blessed.  I have never been so far away from family.  It’s a new chapter…one I welcome, but still one that is an unknown.  Yet, in the midst I have confidence that Jesus knows what it is like to leave parents.  His grace is sufficient.  Not only for us but also for my parents and Nikki’s parents.

I am worried about how busy I will be.  I love my wife and I love my son.  I want to see them as much as I can.  I also enjoy relaxing with them.  Will this be possible having to work 40 hours a week at Chick-Fil-A, pulpit supplying, studying, going to classes, and maybe even having to pick up an extra job?  We will find the time.  We will plan the time.  Lord, give me the grace to remember that my wife and son come before school, work, etc. 

I get to study under Dr. Mohler and Dr. Schreiner.  Not to mention all the other professors that I am not as aware of that are probably equally amazing.  (Their light is also borrowed).  I hope I am good enough at writing papers to pass the classes.  I always stunk at writing in Turabian style in college.  Super excited about school, though. 

So that in a nutshell is my life and emotional state right now.  There is more I could mention but this will suffice.  I want to cry because I miss my friends, family, and students so much.  Yet I am joyous about the grace we will experience to fill this lack.  I want to wet my pants and run away in fear.  Yet again, I know that His grace is sufficient for my weakness.  I feel ripped to shreds but at the same time I feel more confident in the God of grace than I did this morning.  All in all I pray that I get to know Jesus more through all of this.  Furthermore, I pray that He is working the same grace in your life. 


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