Monday, August 30, 2010

What would you say to the Psalmist in Psalm 88?

Imagine that the Psalmist is a dear friend that comes to you with this “poem” that he has written.  It, he says, vividly portrays the way he is feeling.  How do you counsel him?
88:1 O Lord, God of my salvation;
I cry out day and night before you.
2 Let my prayer come before you;
incline your ear to my cry!
3 For my soul is full of troubles,
and my life draws near to Sheol.
4 I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
I am a man who has no strength,
5 like one set loose among the dead,
like the slain that lie in the grave,
like those whom you remember no more,
for they are cut off from your hand.
6 You have put me in the depths of the pit,
in the regions dark and deep.
7 Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
and you overwhelm me with all your waves. Selah
8 You have caused my companions to shun me;
you have made me a horror to them.
I am shut in so that I cannot escape;
9 my eye grows dim through sorrow.
Every day I call upon you, O Lord;
I spread out my hands to you.
10 Do you work wonders for the dead?
Do the departed rise up to praise you? Selah
11 Is your steadfast love declared in the grave,
or your faithfulness in Abaddon?
12 Are your wonders known in the darkness,
or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?
13 But I, O Lord, cry to you;
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
14 O Lord, why do you cast my soul away?
Why do you hide your face from me?
15 Afflicted and close to death from my youth up,
I suffer your terrors; I am helpless.
16 Your wrath has swept over me;
your dreadful assaults destroy me.
17 They surround me like a flood all day long;
they close in on me together.
18 You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me;
my companions have become darkness.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Seminary Wrongly Applied

There are a decent amount of articles popping up on dangers of seminary education.*  I want to offer something that I see as a student beginning my second year. 

A few things to get out of the way first.  First, I absolutely love Southern Seminary and the education I am receiving.  The professors that I have had so far are brilliant, humble, gospel-centered men.  Secondly, I attended a Christian college and received a degree in Christian Education and a minor in Youth Ministry.  Then I spent almost 6 years engaging in youth ministry in the local church while picking up theology in the trenches (though my “trenches” were nothing compared to what many brothers and sisters face).  I am also currently an associate pastor while attending seminary. 

Now that is out of the way, I will offer my suggestion of a danger to the seminary education.  Keep in mind this comes from a limited perspective that could be wrong.  Seminary students often get massacred in their first few churches because they are trained in mastering the Word but not in how to “pastor” in the midst of brokenness. 

I doubt I know the solution.  I think my school, SBTS, has seen this problem and they are doing many things to combat it.  There is much that is encouraging me that Southern will be used by God to assist churches in producing ministers that do not become a sad statistic.  But, my fear is that student naivety is winning the day and gems of pastoral wisdom that professors are passing along are lost in the midst of theological debates. 

We excel in fighting for truth but something is missing when it comes to fighting with truth.   In other words we are not excelling in applying the truth to broken souls.  We often fight the wrong battles. 

Most people in my congregation are trying to figure out the compatibility of a paltry paycheck with a rising mortgage payment.  Seldom do I hear them discussing the compatibility of divine sovereignty and human responsibility.  Please don’t misunderstand me.  I think such theological truths actually provide an anchor and solution to not bouncing checks.  But do we know how to make that connection? 

The professors and seminary leaders are doing everything they can to train us in ministering to brokenness.  They do this because many of them are pastors and they deal with broken people (like us students) all the time.  But I fear, from some of the questions I hear in class, that students are listening for how to win an argument with the Pretribulational 4 Point Calminian that lives next door and largely ignoring many pastoral helps. 

The assumption is that if we can just get our theology correct then everything will fall into place.  But there is a whole host of strongly orthodox believers whose shattered lives and families testify otherwise.  Not to mention the highly orthodox devil himself.  Right theology wrongly applied (or not applied at all) stinks. 

The other assumption is that if we can just figure out how to “do ministry” then everything will fall into place, our churches will thrive, and some day our picture will be on the latest edition of Christianity Today.  But mastering theological truths, and even the “how-to’s” of ministry will mean little if we refuse to apply the gospel to our own souls. 

If we are not deeply in tune with our need for grace and fighting for our own souls, we may still grace the cover of CT--but it will be as the latest in a string of moral failures that rocks Jesus’ precious church. 

I realize that many of the things that I have mentioned are really not supposed to be filled by the seminary but by the local church.  The seminary is to assist and partner with the local church.  And one way it can do that is by laboring to point out its radical inability to produce pastors by tests, papers, and reading books. 


*Rather than link to a ton of them, I’ll link to this one by Colin Hansen, encourage you to read the comments and follow some links there.  Also check out Between the Times, they have stuff pop up there a ton.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Apostles or Corinthians?

8 Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you! 9 For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. 10 We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. 11 To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, 12 and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; 13 when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.

1 Corinthians 4:8-13

If God answered my prayers would I look more like the apostles or the Corinthians?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Insane Love

Jesus loved loves William Cowper.  That thought brought me great encouragement this morning because Cowper wrote things like this:

Hatred and vengence -my eternal portion
Scarce can endure delay of execution -
Wait with impatient readiness to seize my
Soul in a moment.

Damned below Judas; more abhorred than he was,
Who for a few pence sold his holy Master!
Twice betrayed, Jesus me, the last delinquent,
Deems the profanest.

Man disavows, and Deity disowns me:
Hell might afford my miseries a shelter;
Therefore Hell keeps her ever-hungry mouths all
Bolted against me.

Hard lot! encompassed with a thousand dangers;
Weary, faint, trembling with a thousand terrors,
I'm called, if vanquished, to receive a sentence
Worse than Abiram's.

Him the vindictive rod of angry Justice
Sent quick and howling to the centre headlong;
I, fed with judgment, in a fleshy tomb am
Buried above ground.

Those words were written by Cowper during one of his many bouts with insanity.  You can read some of his story here.  During these periods of insanity Cowper was absolutely convinced that he was of the damned.  My fight against discouragement or feelings of worthlessness pale in comparison to the battle that warred within Cowper’s soul.  That is why contemplating the truth that Jesus loves William Cowper was so freeing to me this morning. 

Of course it is possible that Cowper was right and that he was damned.  But he certainly showed numerous evidences of grace.  John Newton, who proved himself perceptive in caring for souls, was convinced of Cowper’s regenerate state.  More than likely William Cowper is now dancing with Jesus—though he died in a fit of insanity that convinced him that he would soon be tormented along with other damned souls. 

Why is that encouraging?  It is encouraging because my feelings of discouragement do not have the power to damn me.  Neither does my battle with bitterness or cynicism.  Nor does it even matter if I fall into Cowper-like insanity, that drives me to the conclusion that I am damned.  As John Bunyan once said, “I saw that it is not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor yet my bad frame that made my righteousness worse, for my righteousness IS Christ.”   

What held Cowper, what held Bunyan, and what continues to hold me is the surety of the work of Jesus Christ on my behalf.  In other words, Romans 8:31-39 is true in the life of the believer whether we grasp it or not:

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Even insanity which falsely damns you cannot separate you from the truth of complete redemption that is found in Jesus Christ. 


Cowper poem

Bunyan quote

Cowper photo

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Fantasy Football

Football season is upon us.  That means that fantasy football season is also here.  Since, I am a Browns fan I typically am relegated to following my fantasy teams after about week 2.  If you love Fantasy Football I have two opportunities for you to join a fun league. 

The first league will be the Borrowed Light League.  I hope to have 20 teams that sign up for this.  If you are interested just leave a comment with access to an email and I will send you a link.

The second league will be the FB Jasper League.  If you come to FB Jasper or even if you do not you can join this league by also leaving a comment with access to an email. 

You can sign up for both leagues, but slots are filling up fast so be certain to respond quickly.  If you only want an invite to one of the leagues be certain to put which league you desire to join.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Church Destruction 101: The Key

Yesterday I shared my evil plot on how to destroy a church.  I promised that it had a point—I was not being devious for the sake of being devious.  That entire story was just one expression of the key to church destruction: taking the focus off of Christ and His gospel.

I can even do that through “holy” things.  Moralism will destroy a church because it takes its eyes off of Jesus.  Liberals can destroy a church and so can conservatives.  Good theology (wrong applied of course) can close the doors just as easy as rank heresy.  Even something as holy as a plea for unity can destroy a church if it leads people to take their eyes off of Jesus. 

So if you desire to destroy a church be sure to not keep Jesus the main thing.  That’s the key.   Make something or someone else the head of the church and it crumbles.  It only takes a matter of time before a body severed from its head loses its life.  It happened in Corinth and it happens in many churches today.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Review of William Wilberforce by Kevin Belmonte

Author: Kevin Belmonte 

Pages: 128pgs

Publisher: New Leaf Publishing

Price: 11.10

Genre: Church History/Biography

Quick Summary:

I received this book from New Leaf Publishing to review.

Kevin Belmonte is one of the foremost scholars on the life of William Wilberforce. Belmonte’s knowledge of Wilberforce is so respected that he was a leading consultant on the recent Hollywood movie Amazing Grace. This book is touted as a “comprehensive historical overview”. As described on the back cover it is great for middle aged and high school students but I am a seminary student and I was thoroughly engaged.

In case you are unaware of William Wilberforce, he was an abolitionist that was the leading figure in ending the slave trade and even slavery in England. He was also a man that was passionate about God. In fact his passion for Jesus is what drove his passion to end slavery. This book is the story of the man and his consuming passion to end slavery.

What I Liked:

If you appreciate John Newton (as do I) then you will enjoy the amount of face time that Newton gets in this work. It is amazing the influence that Newton had upon his generation. As you would expect, there is also much to learn in this book about Newton. Belmonte writes in a compelling fashion that highlights the key points of Wilberforce’s life. The pictures throughout this book are phenomenal. I greatly enjoyed the read and I am certain this would be a great resource for getting a middle school or high school student interested in the topic at hand.

What I Disliked:

I really enjoyed reading this book so there is not much to say negatively. I think it serves its purpose well as an introduction to Wilberforce. The only critique I have is that at times it seemed that the chapters were a little disconnected from the larger story. But nothing that is overly distracting. It still greatly serves its purpose.

Should You Buy It?

If you are interested in Wilberforce then is a great place to look. I wanted it for the connection that Wilberforce has to John Newton. I thought the pictures would be really interested and that it would be a fun read. I was not disappointed. If you have a teenager that likes history or is studying something in this genre this would be a good pick up .

Rating 4.5 out of 5 stars

Church Destruction 101

If you desired to destroy a local church how would you go about doing it? 
Obviously I am not talking about the building itself, nor do I mean destroy it as an outsider.  If you recently joined a relatively healthy local church, with the intention of destroying it within 3-5 years, what steps would you take to accomplish this task?

I asked this question on Facebook yesterday and received a healthy dose of response.  Which I think speaks volumes for the truth that there are numerous ways that a church could be destroyed.  As I have thought through this I have decided how I would go about destroying a local church.

I would spend the first year or so building good relationships with a diverse number of people.  It would be my goal to discover the things that drive this church.  I would become all things to all people so that by any means I may destroy the whole lot.  Their passions would become my passions.  Slowly but surely I would move my way into leadership positions such as teaching a Sunday school class. 

As I begin my new Sunday school class I will be certain to dig into some really tough topics to see what the Bible says about them. I will focus on minor things as if they were major things.  At this stage I will be certain to assume the gospel.  My goal here will be to get people’s eyes off of the gospel and the kingdom of God and on to certain “important issues”.
There are natural differences within every local expression of the body of Christ.  I would devote my time to exploiting these differences as if they were expressions of unfaithfulness rather than simply differences of opinion and personality.  When I spend one on one time with people I will do everything I can to convince them I am on their side in these “important issues”.  Hopefully this will begin to breed factionalism. 

After I sense that people are falling into certain camps (even if one of the camps is to be disinterested in the “issues”) I would become “really grieved” by the disunity in this church.  We would make a major issue about the disunity within our body, thus taking peoples eyes off Christ and firmly fixing them on one another.  Prayer meetings would be set up to pray for unity.  The teaching would be geared around unity.  At business meetings I would suggest solutions to solving our unity problem. 

After being there for about 3 years I should be a respected leader in the church.  My brokenness over the disunity would make it obvious that I care deeply about the church and the people.  At this point I could move into the final stage of my plan. 

I will donate a large amount of money anonymously and I will be certain not to designate it.  Now every opposing suggestion for using the money will be thought as “furthering disunity” and the church should split into several different groups. 

Hopefully, each faction will think themselves the godly ones.  This means that anyone that opposes them are the ungodly ones.  The decision has to be made on where to spend the money, and one group has to win this decision.  But, regardless of the decision one group will consider it ungodly.  Who wants to stay in an ungodly church anyways?

I’ll probably try to stay neutral and “godly” in this whole discussion.  I will make it known how broken hearted I am by this disunity.  When the decision comes down on where to spend the money, I will lead the charge of leaving this ungodly place.  Not even because of the decision but because of the way that everything was handled.  That should successfully take all of my “godly” followers with me and those on the losing side should leave too.  That which the winning side spent the money on will now become their makeshift savior and they will slowly fade away into idolatry.

That’s my rather long answer.  What is yours?

Oh, and by the way this does have a point…

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

How Long Until Drew Brees is Sidelined?

Since 2001 those on the cover of Madden games have been under a curse. 

  • 2001 Eddie George—horrible season, never returned to his Super Bowl form
  • 2002 Daunte Culpepper—horrible season, blows out both knees never the same
  • 2003 Marshall Faulk—injured ankle, Faulk never again rushed for over 1,000 yards
  • 2004 Michael Vick—fractured fibula one day after release, then that whole dog thing
  • 2005 Ray Lewis—poor season, injured the next, but returned to form
  • 2006 Donovan McNabb—injury plagued season w/sports hernia, missed final 7 games
  • 2007 Shaun Alexander—broke his foot, never the same
  • 2008 Vince Young—first time in his career injured, spiraled out of control
  • 2009 Brett Favre—continues to retire and unretire (chalk it up to brain contusions)
  • 2010 Troy Polamalu/Larry Fitzgerald—Fitzgerald may have broken the curse, but Polamalu missed most of the season with injury

This leads us to our original question.  How long until the jinx strikes Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees?  My prediction he breaks his coccyx in week 7 against the Browns. 

Monday, August 9, 2010

Underwear and Tubesocks

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,  -Eph. 4:11-12

According to the Bible pastors (among the other office mentioned) are gifts to the church.  But I think that most pastors are probably more like underpants and tube socks to a 7 year old boy rather than a shiny new bicycle.  They are necessary but not all that shiny. 

Monday’s Ministry Musing: Video Teaching?

If you attend a traditional church there is a pretty decent chance that at least on of your current Sunday school classes is using a video curriculum of some sort.  I know that smaller churches especially use these quite frequently.  I also understand why churches use these.  Who wouldn’t want to have Louie Giglio teaching your pupils instead of Joe the trucker with no theological training? 

In my past life as a youth pastor I received numerous pleas from companies to try their product for our teaching time.  I never did because one of my great passions is preaching and teaching.  However, I am now an associate pastor and my responsibility in some areas is less “hands-on”.  Rather than teaching myself I am responsible for filling certain areas with people to teach.

Yet, I still would rather have Joe the trucker teaching instead of pre-packaged teaching from some of the best teachers in the world.  Why? 

First of all, God has placed Joe the trucker in our local church and not Louie Giglio.  Therefore, assuming that Joe the trucker has a passion and a certain giftedness for teaching, he is meant to fill that teaching role even if he is less polished. 

Secondly, my job as a pastor is to train the people in our local church for the works of ministry.  I am not certain that I am faithfully doing that if I pop in a video rather than spending the hard work of training an unpolished trucker how to teach the Bible.

There are also other practical reasons that I prefer not to use pre-packaged videos.  And I am not saying that in every instance using videos is wrong for a teaching session.  They can be very helpful if used in moderation and accompanied with more personal teaching.  But as for me I prefer training instead of polished. 


P.S. I really love the Louie Giglio videos and have used them on occasion myself.  I used the passion teaching series simply as an example.  In my opinion those are actually a great resource to use to compliment the regular teaching of an unpolished Joe the trucker.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Concerns with House Church

Aaron Menikoff has voiced some of my concerns with the house church movement. 

My desire is that these house churches be, in fact, churches. Whether the pastor is seminary-educated is not the point. Is the "church" led by a man or men who meet the biblical qualifications of an elder? Is the Word of God clearly taught week in and week out? Are the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's Supper regularly celebrated? Is there a careful accounting of who is "in" the church by virtue of repentance and faith and who is "outside" the church by virtue of unbelief.

If you do comment, I encourage you not to necessarily comment on the “led by a man” section.  If this is a discussion I would prefer this to be about the ecclessiology itself and not the gender debates.

Friday, August 6, 2010

FLAME on Christian Rap being an oxymoron

I thoroughly enjoyed this interview with Isaiah’s favorite rapper (Isaiah is my two year old), Marcus Gray (aka FLAME).  Particularly insightful was his response to this question: “One person had asked what you would say to someone who said that Christian hip-hop, or Christian rap, is an oxymoron.”

FLAME: First of all, I would understand that school of thought because if you look at secular hip-hop, it’s definitely, I believe, demonically influenced with an anti-Christ message. A lot of times people are anti-Christian even. They promote worldliness, debauchery, so I definitely understand that school of thought. But I would like for them to think through, number one, if Satan has the power to create? Number two, I would just hope that they would see that Satan doesn’t create anything—he’s a creature himself. Yes, he can influence people to start a movement, but I think hip-hop—rap—in and of itself can be redeemed just like anything else. God isn’t a wasteful God. He didn’t create us to say, “Oh, they’re sinners now because of Adam, I’m just going to cast them all to hell and start over.” He’s not a wasteful God; he chose to redeem people from sin.

And I think in that same light, the Lord is allowing people that came from the hip-hop culture, who have been redeemed and changed by Christ and now are seeking to go back into that culture, to minister the gospel to them. So it’s a mission field. It’s what any missionary would do—they would learn the language, they would learn the culture, what things are taboo to say, to do. I think it’s just a platform to do that, and I hope that people would see that and see hip-hop as a people group. It’s a people group that thinks a certain way, they act a certain way, they respond to the ills of society in one way. Every person is a responder and is responding in one way or the other. And there’s a culture of people called “hip-hop” that have responded one particular way, and that’s all I think it is.

I was also really happy to hear that FLAME will be putting out his fifth album around December 28th on his new record label Clear Sight Music.  I encourage you to read the entire interview.

When the Mission of God becomes our heartbeat

In the epilogue to his lengthy but stellar book, The Mission of God, Christopher J.H. Wright posits what happens when we come to see “the mission of God as the very heartbeat of all reality, all creation, all history and all that yet lies ahead of us”:

  • We ask, “Where does God fit into the story of my life?” when the real question is where does my little life fit into this great story of God’s mission.
  • We want to be driven by a purpose that has been tailored just right for our own individual lives (which is of course infinitely preferable to living aimlessly), when we should be seeing the purpose of all life, including our own, wrapped up in the great mission of God for the whole of creation.
  • We talk about the problems of “applying the Bible to our lives,” which often means modifying the Bible somewhat adjectivally to fit into the assumed “reality” of the life we live “in the real world.”  What would it mean to apply our lives to the Bible instead, assuming the Bible to be the reality—the real story—to which we are called to conform ourselves.
  • We wrestle with the question of how we can “make the gospel relevant to the world” (again, at least that is clearly preferable to treating it as irrelevant).  But in this Story, God is about the business of transforming the world to fit the shape of the gospel.
  • We wonder whether and how the care of creation, for example, might fit into our concept and practice of mission, when this Story challenges us to ask whether our lives, lived on God’s earth and under God’s gaze, are aligned with, or horrendously misaligned with, God’s mission that stretches from creation to cosmic transformation and the arrival of a new heaven and new earth. 
  • We argue about what can legitimately be included in the mission God expects from the church, when we should ask what kind of church God expects for his mission in all its comprehensive fullness. 
  • I may wonder what kind of mission God has for me, when I should ask what kind of me God wants for his mission.

I hope you read through and thought about all of those.  If you just skimmed through make sure you at least read the last two. 

I also would hope that you would consider purchasing this book and plodding through it.  Of all that I have read within the past year this book may have shaped my worldview more than any other that I have read.  It is 28.00 and a little over 500 pages long but it is a very fun read even still.  There is a shorter book (that I have not read) that you can buy for 10.88.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

What Gospel and Community Centered Might Look Like…

In their groundbreaking work Total Church authors Steve Timmis and Tim Chester outline what “being gospel-centered and community-centered might mean”:

  • seeing church as an identity instead of a responsibility to be juggled alongside other commitments
  • celebrating ordinary life as the context in which the word of God is proclaimed with “God-talk” as a normal feature of everyday conversation
  • running fewer evangelistic events, youth clubs, and social projects and spending more time sharing our lives with unbelievers
  • starting new congregations instead of growing existing ones
  • preparing Bible talks with other people instead of just studying alone at a desk
  • adopting a 24-7 approach to mission and pastoral care instead of starting ministry programs
  • switching the emphasis from Bible teaching to Bible learning and action
  • spending more time with people on the margins of society
  • learning to disciple one another—and to be discipled—day by day
  • having churches that are messy instead of churches that pretend

If these get your attention you may want to dig a little further by buying this excellent book for just a little over 10 bucks.

More Light, Less Warmth (May It Not Be So!)

I read this a little over a week ago and it is still rocking me.  John Newton is writing about those things in life that are not necessarily clear in Scripture.  He is considering the idea that “first religious impressions are usually mingled with much of a legal spirit”.  I certainly can relate to this as I once for the sake of holiness burned all of my secular CD’s.  I now think that may have been going a bit too far and some of those burned are probably more true to the gospel than what is sometimes found on Christian radio.  But these words from Newton really shook me up:

And I believe the over-doings of a young convert, proceeding from an honest simplicity of heart, and a desire of pleasing the Lord, are more acceptable in his sight, than a certain coolness of conduct which frequently takes place afterward, when we are apt to look back with pity upon our former weakness, and secretly applaud ourselves for our present greater attainments in knowledge, though perhaps (alas that it should ever be so!) we may have lost as much in warmth, as we have gained in light. 

That last sentence is what really got to me.  I absolutely despise that there are areas in my life where I have increased in knowledge (light) but I have lost just as much in warmth.  I’m going to be vulnerable enough to display some of my early ridiculous beliefs—you can laugh if you desire.

I once had so much “faith” after watching a televangelist that I thought about driving 45 miles without my contacts so that God would heal me, thinking that perhaps God was calling me to exercise faith and then he would heal my deplorable eyesight.  Stupid.  I am much wiser now.  But I have lost a certain warmth and simplicity to my faith.  I sometimes catch myself thinking that quotes like this one are a tad silly, “expect great things from God, attempt great things for God”.  More light, less warmth.

I once was a passionate anxiously awaiting the rapture firm pretribulationalist.  In fact one of my first attempts at writing a book was about the end times mixed with various conspiracy theories.  We’re talking similar to the It’s Prophesied song.  Stupid.  I am much wiser now.  But I have lost a certain warmth and expectancy of Christ’s coming.  I do not believe I will be raptured (in the pre-tribulation since).  But I have also cultivated a lack of eager expectation as regards Christ’s second coming.  More light, less warmth.  (Although some would argue, less light led to less warmth).

I once prayed passionately during services that people would walk the aisle, get saved, and pray the prayer.  Of course I no longer subscribe to Decisional Regeneration, or even really am all that stoked about altar calls.  My theology of those things has changed—and I think rightly so.  But something wrongly changed in my heart as well.  I now find myself much less passionate about praying for lost people in our services.  I find less joy when somebody “makes a decision”.  I am more skeptical.  More light, less warmth. 

I could give many more stories, and that fact alone bothers me.  I am often convicted by the thought of being like the church at Ephesus—“forsaking their first love”.  Or perhaps the Corinthians that had “much knowledge” but not enough love.  Perhaps I’m only a clanging cymbal.

So, I want to pray that the Lord will continue to do a work of grace in my heart.  Rather than just light, I want light that leads to warmth.  I pray for a warm faith, a joyous expectancy of Christ’s return, and a vibrant passion for seeing the lost come to faith in Jesus.  I am reminded of something I once heard Keith Green pray—“I want my heart to have baby skin, Lord.  I want my heart to have skin like a baby”.  Then he sang this song:


Only a vision of Jesus will cure my withering heart. 

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Spirit Needed To Persuade Us of Our Justification

Richard Sibbes speaking of the necessity of the Spirit to convince us of our justification:

And unless the Spirit did it, it would never be done, for the soul of man is so full of terrors and fears and jealousies, that unless the Spirit of God witnessed to my spirit that God is reconciled to Christ and that Christ’s righteousness is mine, I could never be persuaded of it.  For the soul always thinks, God is holiness itself and I am a mass of sin; what reason have I to think that God will be so favorable to such a wretch…Unless the Spirit should tell me that God the Son has satisfied (and the Father accepts the Son’s satisfaction), I should never believe it.



Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Prophecy by the Lake


I apologize for this one.  I cannot resist posting this gem.  I’m not laughing at this simply because I do not believe in a pretribulation rapture.  I’m laughing at the lyrics and the way the guy sings things like “burn in hell” in a high almost happy voice.  Furthermore, calling Obama the leopard-king and other amazing lines that you’ll have to see for yourself.  But perhaps what makes me laugh more than anything is the setting.  Seriously?!?!  A dude playing a piano by a lake and switching the camera angle with every stanza. 

Examples in Gospel Neutering

Yesterday I made this statement:

The Corinthians attempted to blend the gospel with the thriving, competitive, and self-sufficient Corinthian culture.  As a result they were in danger of losing the gospel.  Rather than unleashing the power of the gospel they were neutering it.  And we do the exact same thing when we try to be “somebodies” to show that Christianity is a “somebody” type of faith.  A crucified king is “foolish” lets just admit that. 

I thought it may be beneficial to give a few examples of how we do this in our day:

Whenever we try really hard to show unbelievers that Christians can be cool.  The entire reason why we hang out with unbelievers, watch certain television programs, and listen to certain music is to prove to a watching world that Christians aren’t boring.  We can be fun too.  That’s all well and good until our “coolness” morphs into worldliness.  You do not win people to the gospel by being worldly.  You might convince them that you are cool, but I am not certain you will convince them that Christ is mighty to save. 

I have heard stories of televangelists soaking up air conditioning in luxury hotels in the third world countries as a display of the power of God in blessing people.  Whenever we think that we have to look glamorous to make Christ look beautiful we have missed the gospel entirely. 

If we are convinced that what the world really needs is a cogent and fine-sounding argument for the validity of Christianity, the existence of  God, the historicity of the resurrection, etc. then I think we are moving away from Paul’s primary means of apologetics.  This is not to say that Christianity is based upon blind faith devoid of reason.  This is to say that Christianity is founded upon claims that the unregenerate finds foolish.  So while you are studying how to tackle the logic of Epicurus, pray that the Lord may tackle the depravity of heart. 

What are your suggestions????

Monday, August 2, 2010

When Nobodies Become Somebodies

On Sunday evenings I am preaching through 1 Corinthians.  As I have been studying the letter itself and other references concerning the culture at Corinth I have a theory as to why the church had so many problems with arrogant division.  In sum:

In a culture of somebodies, a group of nobodies got saved and thought they were now somebodies that could fit in with all the other somebodies. 

If you desire to study Corinthian culture you will find plenty of sources.  And preachers love to talk about the city of Corinth (probably because it is so much like our culture) more than they do many of the other cultures in the Scriptures.  Ben Witherington, I think sums up the Corinthian mindset quite nicely when he says, “In Paul’s time many in Corinth were already suffering from a self-made-person-escapes-humble-origins syndrome…”  Corinth was a culture of “somebodies”. 

However, in every culture there are also a group of “nobodies”.  These are the unwise, the weak, the poor, the outcasts of society.  A culture of “somebodies”always has a much larger amount of “nobodies” that want to be “somebodies”.  Corinth was no different. 

That all changed when the gospel came to Corinth.  These nobodies received the foolish message of the cross and found “righteousness, sanctification, and redemption” in Christ Jesus.  These nobodies became somebodies. 

Those that were once lowly in society now saw became rich.  The ignoble became kings.  The poor became strong.  The fools of the world became wise.  Those in disrepute were now held in honor.  Those that once were the scum of the earth have now became somebody. 

Now they could fit in with the culture.  In fact they had the answers that the culture did not have.  Rather than being equal with their culture they were able to see through it—they were now above even their own culture.  The Corinthians are now the new somebodies.  So to reach the wise they had to prove that Christianity is wiser.  To reach the powerful the Corinthians had to prove that Christianity is where real power lies.  Whatever the culture had to offer Christianity could top it.

The Corinthians attempted to blend the gospel with the thriving, competitive, and self-sufficient Corinthian culture.  As a result they were in danger of losing the gospel.  Rather than unleashing the power of the gospel they were neutering it.  And we do the exact same thing when we try to be “somebodies” to show that Christianity is a “somebody” type of faith.  A crucified king is “foolish” lets just admit that. 

Luxury and Preaching

Richard Baxter speaking to pastors, encouraging them to model self-sacrificial living:
Think not of being rich; do not seek great things for yourselves or your [descendants]…If you believe that God is the safest [keeper of goods] and that to [be spent] in his service [yields the best interest], show them that you do believe it. [I know that flesh and blood will complain against this] but mark this, that man who has any thing in the world so dear to him, that he cannot spare it for Christ, if [Christ] calls for it, is no true Christian.  (The Reformed Pastor, 66-67, modernized by me)
A few points to consider:

What does my lifestyle display that I believe about the value of God?  When you see the things that I spend my time and money on does it show that I believe heaven is the greatest treasure—or am I building a personal kingdom for myself and my descendants?  I think the American dream has taught us that God is actually cool with both…in fact he is quite happy to “bless us” with luxuries so long as we thank him for it.  I’m simply not convinced that many of my “luxuries” are not more the result of sin than they are a result of “
"God’s blessing”. 

Is there anything in my life that Christ is calling me to expend for His kingdom?  If I am not careful I will quickly dismiss this question.  Because I do not hear a “still small voice” telling me to buy a smaller refrigerator I may assume that He is not calling.  But perhaps He is calling!  Perhaps if my eyes are open to the reality of world hunger, the darkness of nations without the gospel, and my brothers and sisters without adequate provisions I will hear the thunderous voice of Jesus asking for water, dying children asking for food, and blind men begging for the light of the gospel.  The better question may be, “what will it take”, rather than “what can I do without”. 

If we are not careful topics like this can lead to deep feelings of guilt (sometimes false—sometimes real).  There is one statement I have been saying to myself as I consider these things: “Let us not stop until we are obedient”.  That is what I think Richard Baxter is calling for—scratch that—that is what Christ is calling for.  I do not want to stop changing things in my life until I am obedient.  Baxter said it this way, "we must have nothing but what we have for God".


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