Friday, December 31, 2010

Stuff to make you laugh for the rest of the year


These were on Sportsnation last night.  I almost woke my family up laughing at these—maybe I was just slap happy.

Goals for Borrowed Light in 2011

This blog began quite modestly in 2007 as a hopeful venue for the students of First Baptist New London to interact with devotionals.  Within a years time it morphed into something quite different.  I began interacting with other blogs and this blog turned into what it is now: Borrowed Light

From the beginning the goal has been to honor Christ and spread His glory and gospel to all who read.  The blog has continued a steady increase.  I have set goals for myself every year, but never really published them.  For some strange reason I just feel like posting my goals for 2011.
 
Right now according to Feedburner I have an average of 82 subscribers.  Google Reader accounts for 31 of those.  I want to see those numbers by July to be 125 for Feedburner and 50 for Google Reader.  By the end of 2011 I want to see 200 Feedburner subscribers and 100 for Google Reader.  I think it is possible.  That would be gaining a little over 1 subscriber per week. 

I currently get about 150 pageviews per day, which means that on average I get a little over 3,000 pageviews per month.  I want to see those explode as well.  By July I want to see 200 per day and over 5,000 per month.  By the end of the year I want to see 10,000 per month and 350 per day. 

My final goal is to read and review 100 books.  That means 2 per week.  That may seem stupid for a seminary student to attempt but I have to read around 30 books per year for seminary anyways.  It can be done.  Actually 100 is my Rocky goal.  I’ll settle for my Apollo Creed goal of 75 book reviews.

Why am I setting these goals?  One reason is because I want to be a gooder better writer.  And setting these goals will force me to write more, and to write better.  It will also force me to be intentional about getting that which I write into the hands of others.  That will only sharpen my skills as a writer/communicator.


The overarching purpose, though, is that I want to be a better writer/communicator because my mandate is still the same: “to so live, study, preach, and write that Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen God, be the only boast of this generation”. 

You can help me accomplish these goals.  Read what I write.  Link to what I write.  Interact with what I write.  Offer helpful criticism of my writing and this blog.  Spread the beauty of Christ, yourself!

Marching Bands and Suffering

That’s pretty cool, eh?  But I bet it looked pretty meaningless from the sideline.  Consider this by Randy Alcorn:

Ever been to a football game at half time when the band forms words or pictures in the middle of the field?  They look great from up in the stands.  But what if you’re on the sidelines when the band forms its symbols?  You can’t see them.  What the band’s doing appears pointless, confusing, apparently meaningless.  We see life from the sidelines.  God sees it from above, in the grandstands.  The Bible invites us to trust God that one day, when we can see from Heaven’s perspective, many things will make sense that don’t appear to when we’re on the sidelines.  (Alcorn, The Goodness of God: Assurance of Purpose in the Midst of Suffering , p53)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Review of God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment by James M. Hamilton Jr.

Perhaps the fastest growing discipline in Christian study is that of biblical theology.  There are numerous books, series, magazines, etc. that are rightly coming to understand the Bible as not just a book of facts but as a story.  This is a welcome movement.  But one thing that is often lacking in biblical theology is the belief that the Bible has a center, one single meta-narrative.  Jim Hamilton hopes to change that.  In this book Hamilton goes through every book of Scripture to prove his thesis:  The center of the Bible is that God is glorified in Salvation through judgment.

Essentially what Hamilton is expressing is that the glory of God is the center of the biblical narrative.  Of course that may be a tad broad so Hamilton narrows that to the glory of God is most clearly seen in his providing salvation through judgment.

I am actually shocked that this is “new” to the field of biblical theology.  Maybe Hamilton just did such a good job proving his case.  Perhaps the glory of God has just been assumed by many other authors on biblical theology and they have taken up other topics.  But Hamilton’s work will be prove to be foundational in this field.

It also will serve as a helpful biblical introduction.  I love that the reader is given a strategy for reading this book.  Hamilton is correct, many “long books sit unread in sad neglect”.  Therefore, he suggests that many should simply browse through the book, get a feel for the overall tenor of the book and then dip into sections as you work through sections of Scripture.  It is extremely wise of Hamilton to set up this massive book in such a way that it is more of a resource than anything else.

I followed his advice.  I got a feel of the book and read a good portion of it.  But I also have decided to use it as a resource.  (I hope in the future—in fact it will probably required—to read carefully from cover to cover).  I am preaching through the Gospel of Mark.  Reading through those section really did help me get a better grasp on the overall story that Mark is telling.  I also find in the Mark section (as well as all the others) helpful charts.

This book is an extremely helpful resource.  It will be one that I frequently consult as I preach through books of the Bible.  Every pastor and serious student of Scripture should buy this book.  Even if at the end of the day you disagree with Hamilton on something, this is an important enough work that you will need to interact with him to prove your own points.

As a book to sit down and read cover to cover I would rate it a 4 star.  But as a book that is used as a resource (and I believe it is) I would rate this as a 5 star book.  The only thing that would make this more helpful would be to tag the analytical outline with some page numbers.  This is a great book and worthy of your purchase.  You can actually buy it for only 7.99 in electronic format or buy the hardcover (which I would recommend) for under 30 bucks.  I was fortunate enough to receive a free copy of this book from Crossway in exchange for a review.

Rating 5 out of 5 stars

Also check out this video:

James Hamilton - God's Glory in Salvation Through Judgment from Crossway on Vimeo.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Today in Blogworld 12.29.10

One of the books that I am currently reading is God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment by Jim Hamilton.  It’s a good read so far.  Recently Dr. Hamilton responded to some interview questions given by Deepak Reju (from 9Marks).  This is a tremendous deal, you can buy Hamilton’s book in electronic form for only 7.99

Trevin Wax shares his Top 10 posts of 2010.

Justin Taylor points us to The History of Redemption and 100 People Network.  Interesting stuff.

This is well worth your 8 minutes.  Nate Larkin (the man who visited a prostitute just before leading a Christmas candlelight service) shares his story:

(HT: Dane)

Dan Barnes opines on what is holding the SBC back.  Thoughts?

Helpful new website for the new year.  Carson’s For the Love of God Blog (it’s not really a blog by DA Carson but one that shares selections from his devotional books). 

I leave you with this…

(HT: Biblical Christianity)

Willy Porter-Breathe

Wow.  I don’t know a ton about playing the guitar but I’m pretty sure that this is good:

Review of Slave by John MacArthur

Did you know that the Bible you own is more than likely involved in a cover-up of biblical proportions?  According to John MacArthur “centuries ago, English translators perpetrated a fraud in the New Testament, and it’s been purposely hidden and covered up ever since.  Your own Bible is probably included in the cover-up!” 

What is that cover up?  The use of the word servant instead of slave.  The slave/master relationship is the key to understanding a right relationship with God.  In fact, MacArthur believes that if this is understood many of his earlier works would have been moot (2).  Through thirteen chapters MacArthur explores the theme of the slave/master relationship in the hopes that our relationship with the Lord would be more fulfilling and correct.

I am conflicted at how to review this book.  I have learned a ton from John MacArthur.  He certainly loves the Lord and has an enduring ministry that is passionate about proclaiming the truth of God’s Word.  At times his tone will put many people off.  This same conflict is present in this book.  In my opinion, MacArthur is a very faithful expositor, but is often given to overstatement and his tone can be quite off-putting.

Take this as an example.  On the back cover it refers to this idea of being a slave as an “essential and clarifying revelation that may be keeping you from a fulfilling—and correct—relationship with God.”  Fair enough.  But check out what MacArthur says on page 1.  Referring to this concept of slave/master relationship he says it, “escaped me and almost everyone else”.  So, are we to conclude from this that until 2007 (when he discovered this) that his relationship with the Lord was incorrect and unfulfilling? 

Now granted, these are probably just sensationalistic comments on the back cover to try to sell a book.  MacArthur tends to tone down the “cover-up” language even in the beginning.  But these overstatements, in my opinion, make the book almost non-credible.  Honestly, if I had not been given this book for free from Thomas Nelson in exchange for a review, I would not have purchased this book because of this sensationalism. 

However, once I was able to get past the ridiculous overstatements on the back cover and beginning of the book it was actually pretty good.  The first couple of chapters may be worth the cost of the book.  What MacArthur says here is indeed true, the image of the believer as a slave is missing from much of our Christianity. 

I hope that this book gets the ball rolling on that discussion.  I hope that others pick up this work by MacArthur and add to it.  There is much that is commendable in this work but also a decent amount that is missing.  I was really intrigued in the beginning of the book and longing to see some application of what this looks like in the Christian life.  But honestly, it seems that the discussion only touched on the typical MacArthur polemics.  I’m convinced that MacArthur is right about the importance of this topic—and it’s more important than just serving as a polemic against those MacArthur disagrees with. 

This book is certainly worthy of buying.  In fact I hope many of you do buy this book so that you can read it, interact with it, and move this conversation along.  MacArthur’s name tagged onto this book will cause people to begin looking at and discussing this biblical metaphor.  This is a good place to start but it certainly is not the place you want to end. 

You can buy it for under 15 bucks at Amazon .

Rating 3 out 5 stars

Muggeridge: Nothing Compared to Christ

I may, I suppose, regard myself, or pass for being, a relatively successful man. People occasionally stare at me in the streets—that's fame. I can fairly easily earn enough to qualify for admission to the higher slopes of the Inland Revenue—that's success. Furnished with money and a little fame even the elderly, if they care to, may partake of trendy diversions—that's pleasure. It might happen once in a while that something I said or wrote was sufficiently heeded for me to persuade myself that it represented a serious impact on our time—that's fulfillment. Yet I say to you, and I beg you to believe me, multiply these tiny triumphs by a million, add them all together, and they are nothing—less than nothing, a positive impediment—measured against one draught of that living water Christ offers to the spiritually thirsty, irrespective of who or what they are. What, I ask myself, does life hold, what is there in the works of time, in the past, now and to come, which could possibly be put in the balance against the refreshment of drinking that water?  (Malcom Muggeridge, quoted from DA Carson, The God Who is There, p148-49, emphasis mine). 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas, Cross, Crown


Keep in mind this Christmas season that the incarnation leads to the cross.  But don’t forget that the cross also leads to the resurrection which in turn leads to glory.  The gospel story doesn’t end with Matthew 27.  This is only the foreword.  The story doesn’t really get going until we live out Revelation 21-22 for all eternity. 

Review of The God Who is There by D.A. Carson

There is a simple rule that I live by and try to impart to others:  If a book has the name D.A. Carson on it you probably should own it.  Carson is an absolutely brilliant bible scholar, but he is also very humble and engaging.  There are very few books written by seminary professors and bible scholars that will include words like “chap” or include whole paragraphs on the theory of nudist colonies. 

One of his latest books, The God Who is There, reinforces my rule, it has the name D.A. Carson on it and it is brilliant.  You need to own this book.  It is fourteen chapters of engaging systematic theology that also serves as an apologetic for Christianity.  It is written for unbelievers, new believers, or believers that have never realized the “big picture” of Scripture. 

Carson starts in Genesis and ends through Revelation.  It is a tad weak on a few sections of Scripture (minor prophets) and could maybe tie together the story of the Bible a little better.  It is obviously fourteen talks that are related but sometimes the book feels like a fourteen part series and not as much a unified whole.  But, honestly, this book is not really written with me in mind. 

If you are like me this book will not have a ton of new information.  But it is still very needful.  There are illustrations that are wonderful and my understanding of many aspects of Scripture is deepened.  More than anything I learned how to engage these topics. 

One of the best ways to disciple someone is to spend time with them.  If you want a new believer to grow in a passion for evangelism and help direct him in how to share the faith one of the best things to do is take him with you as you share the gospel with unbelievers.  D.A. Carson teaches us how to present the Bible’s story in a humble, articulate, truthful, and engaging fashion.  So even if you already feel that you know the Bible story you still will benefit greatly from this book.  And there is always more to the Bible story that I had never considered, a faithful expositor like Carson is a wonderful guide through the biblical story. 

If you know an unbeliever (probably one with a little bit of an intellectual bent) I would encourage you to have them read this book.  Perhaps discuss it with them.  This would also be a good small group material for new believers to go through.  There are numerous ways that this book could be a resource for you.  If you don’t believe me check it out for yourself.  

Also it is worth mentioning that you can go here and check out the video to all 14 chapters.  It will be well worth your time and I would encourage you to buy the book as well.  It’s definitely worth the 12 bucks.  I was fortunate enough to receive this for free from Baker books in exchange for a review, it did not have to be positive but I freely give it a positive review!

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Here is the video for the first chapter:

The God Who Is There - Part 1. The God Who Made Everything from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

Today in Blogworld 12.28.10

FLAME’s new CD is released today.  I hope to check it out on Rhapsody later. 

Bohemian Rhapsody on 4 Violins.  Pretty sweet:

(HT: 22 Words)

This is always a helpful corrective: God Uses Critics to Help Us

James Smith has responded to the Grinch Alert.

This is helpful for parents: Raising Children in an R-Rated World

I had no idea…200 synonyms for the word “drunk”.

Speaking of drunk…

Yesterday I lamented the lack of bible knowledge in church and mentioned the necessity of personal wrestling.  In a similar fashion Andrew Sherwood tell us How to Build Up Bible Knowledge in the Church

Justin Nale offers a flexible Bible reading plan.

What are you really saying when you say, “I need to give myself grace”? 

Agree of Disagree? Ragamuffin Evangelism

In his book A Ragamuffin Gospel Brennan Manning says this:

To evangelize a person is to say to him or her:  you too are loved by God and the Lord Jesus.  And not only to say it but to really think it, and relate it to them so they can sense it.  But that becomes possible only by offering the person your friendship, a friendship that is real, unselfish, without condescension, full of confidence and profound esteem.

Do you agree with his explanation of evangelism? 

As always the intention here is to spark thought and helpful discussion.  If you have an opinion but feel a little nervous, I urge you to still leave a comment (you can make it anonymous).  We need your input! 

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Necessity of Personal Wrestling

It is no secret that Bible-knowledge within the church is at an alarmingly low rate.  The obvious reason is that people are simply not reading their Bibles.  But what is ironic is that while Bible knowledge is decreasing Christian book sales are actually rising.

You would think that people’s Bible knowledge would be increasing if they are reading Christian books.  But it is not.  Perhaps, because many of the “Christian” books that they are reading are not grounded in Scripture but more self-help and worldly philosophy.  That is probably one of the main reasons. 

But I think there is another reason.  And it is one that pastors have to be certain not to foster, or be guilty of themselves.  What I am referring to is the danger of a second-hand faith.  Andrew Fuller saw the danger in this years ago when he said*:

“Truth learned only at second-hand will be to us what Saul’s armor was to David; we shall be at a loss how to use it in the day of trial.” 

This is why Fuller (and you can see the most any great expositor followed this pattern) soaked himself in the Scriptures before even consulting his commentaries.  Fuller knew the importance of owning the text himself.  He knew that he needed to wrestle with the text before he consulted “experts”. 

There are those in our day who would run with this and NEVER consult commentaries.  They face an equal danger of prideful self-sufficiency.  But there are also many that do not take up the text themselves and wrestle with it.  And hence, they are biblically ignorant, and they fight every day without the sword they have been given. 

So, read the Scriptures for yourself.  Wrestle with the text.  And THEN get some help in understanding…

-----

From (Paul Brewster; Andrew Fuller: Model Pastor-Theologian, p46)

Today in Blogworld 12.27.10

Some of these links will be from last week…

Driscoll is offering a free chapter of his new book On Church Leadership.  Also a free chapter of his book Death by Love.

Anthony Russo has a helpful guest post on SBC Voices: At Least 9 Ways to Stay Pure on the Internet

TGC asks a few pastors: when has a pastor crossed the line into plagiarism in his sermon?  The above link goes to Glenn Lucke’s response, but be certain to click on the links at the bottom of that page as well.

Joe Thorn recently looked at what it means to Pray Throughout the Day

This is creative: An Open Letter to Clarence the Angel.

This is hilarious: A message from the Chinese Restaurateurs Association to the Jewish People.

Must we believe the virgin birth?

If you have a sense of humor similar to mine (and for your sake I hope you don’t) you will enjoy this:

(HT: 22 Words)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Agree or Disagree? The Psalms and the Young

“…Not a lot of people know the book of Psalms well at twenty-five.  This is because the book of Psalms resonates with people who have had a lot of experiences.  You have to have quite a lot of different experiences under your belt before you resonate easily with a lot of the things that are said in the book of Psalms: lament, loss, shame, death, triumph, the exaltation of informed and godly God-centered praise, and prophecy anticipating what is still to come.”  If instead you have a  very limited experience, most of these things just sounda bit over the top or a bit extravagant or even alien to you.”  (Carson, The God Who Is There, 86)

What is your experience with the Psalms?  I am looking to hear from people in all age ranges.  Has your appreciate of the Psalms grown over the years?  Are there any under twenty five that would disagree with Carson? 

Talk to me…

Gardiner Spring on Preaching with Passion

What Gardiner Spring says here is true:



But be certain that you also heed this: The Necessity of Harnessing Excitement.

Posting Will Be Slow

There are a few articles that have already been written, so there will be some things going up this week on the blog.  But posting and responding to comments will be slow.  We are in Missouri visiting family for Christmas and will not be returning until Christmas Eve.  Look forward to regular posting to resume on Monday. 

Have a Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Monday’s Ministry Musing: The Necessity of Harnessing Excitement

A pastor will typically spend hours studying over a text to preach it on a Sunday morning.  He wrestles through the difficult parts of the text.  There is much sweat and labor that goes into preparing a message.  Often times God will preach the sermon to our own hearts before we preach it to others. 

I think the best sermons that I have preached have been the ones that have rocked my heart and soul before I even stand in the pulpit.  When I feel the weight of a text and see the beauty of the gospel therein it causes me to be very passionate about the sermon I am getting ready to preach.  I want others to have the same excitement for Jesus that this text/sermon has brought to my own heart.  But if I’m not careful I can come across like this guy:


You don’t have to watch the whole thing to get the picture.  Often times I think we preachers can come across this way.  We are so amped up about the text that has sparked our hearts that we do not give time for our hearers to feel the weight of the text. 

If you start out like this you’ll lose them.  Just like in Mario Kart you can’t floor it out the gate.  If you do you’ll end up burning rubber, creating a lot of smoke, and finding yourself distanced from the people you are trying to lead. 

So, pace yourself.  Allow your hearers to really feel the weight of the text themselves.  Be patient.  Heed these words by Zack Eswine:
…the problem is that the people have not had the preparation time given the preacher.  They do not yet see the truth that has ignited the preacher’s grand style, so they wonder what has the preacher so worked up.  but if the preacher will somewhat restrain while instructing so that all may see the light of the truth clearly, then when illustrating, the mixture of affection and explanation builds…Prophetic emotion describes what springs from a biblical truth rather than from the preacher’s energy, nervousness, or preferences.  Truth unfelt and truth overfelt betrays its meaning.  (Eswine, Preaching to a Post-Everything World, 129 emphasis mine)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Matthew 25, James 2, and the Homeless

I have been thinking a little recently about the church’s response to homelessness.  Inevitably a couple of “pretty clear” passages come up when discussing this topic.  One is Matthew 25:31-40 the other is James 2:14-17.  These make it obvious, or so it is thought, that the church is not being faithful to the gospel unless it is feeding the poor, clothing the naked, giving clean water to the thirsty.  But is that really what these texts are saying?

Consider Matthew 25:31-40:

[31] “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. [32] Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. [33] And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. [34] Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. [35] For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, [36] I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ [37] Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? [38] And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? [39] And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ [40] And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
(Matthew 25:31-40 ESV)

There you have it.  If I do not give food, water, and clothes, to my fellow man then it’s just like I rejected Jesus.  I can firmly place myself on the side of the unbelieving community.  But if you notice in verse 40 Jesus says, “one of the least of these my brothers”.  This is talking about how we respond to the needs of believers.  This is not a blanket statement that you can put over all of humanity that says, “if you don’t give money or your home to a homeless guy then you don’t know Jesus”, or its less bold variations. 

Now Consider James 2:14-17:

    [14] What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? [15] If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, [16] and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? [17] So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 2:14-17 ESV)

This verse is often thought to be saying that if you see somebody that is in need but you don’t meet that need then it is obvious that your faith is dead.  But is that really what this text is saying.  The key word here is, “So also” in verse 17.  This is an analogy.  A well-wish without action is not really a well-wish.  Just like faith without action is dead.  That is what this text is saying.  It may very well be that we can use this analogy and say that if we really want to care for the homeless of the world we will feed them and not simply pray for them.  But this is NOT giving an example of dead faith. 

So, as we continue to look at how we minister to the homeless and broken in our world let’s not do it with a faulty interpretation of these two verses…

The Church’s Response to Homelessness

Yesterday I reviewed Mike Yankoski’s excellent book Under the Overpass.  I promised a little more interaction today.  So, here you go…

Honestly, I have always had a heart for the homeless.  Perhaps it was because I too grew up in poverty.  Maybe it is because God is stirring in my heart to minister to the broken and needy.  But one thing that I have always struggled with is knowing exactly how to minister to the homeless.  What should be the churches response to homelessness? 

I know that Mark Dever has caused quite a stir by some of his statements on the church’s response to societal ills.  Just check out the comments on the Out of Ur videos between Dever and Jim Wallis, or here, and here.  But honestly I think I agree with Dever when he says in sum:

15. We, as a congregation, are not required to take responsibility for the physical needs in the unbelieving community around us. We do have a responsibility to care for the needs of those within our congregation (Matt. 25:34-40; Acts 6:1-6; Gal. 6:2, 10; James 2:15-16; I John 3:17-19) though even within the church, there were further qualifications (e.g., II Thess. 3:10; I Tim. 5:3-16). Paul’s counsel to Timothy (in I Tim. 5:3-16) about which widows to care for seems to indicate that the list was intended for Christian widows. One qualification seemed to be lack of alternative sources of support. Thus the instruction that family members should care for the needy first, if at all possible, shows the kind of prioritization of allowing for families—even of unbelievers—to provide support so that the church wouldn’t have to do it (I Tim. 5:16). We can extrapolate from this to conclude that support that could be provided from outside the church (for instance, from the state) should be preferred over using church funds, thus freeing church funds to be used elsewhere.

To get the full force of his argumentation check out this article by Kevin DeYoung.  I tend to agree with Dever that our primary responsibility as a church is not to end poverty.  Because the heart behind everything he said in that talk, I believe, is this statement: “We as pastors must make sure that matters of secondary importance should not absorb our attention and energy to the detriment of our primary charge to preach the Gospel.”

On the other hand I fear that such an attitude can lead to what happened to Mike Yankoski and Sam Purvis here:

Sam had an idea.  ‘I’m going to ask the pastor if he can help us out with some food.  My stomach is growling.’  He got up and walked away, but was back shortly, looking disgusted. 

‘You wouldn’t believe what just happened,’ he said.  ‘So, I went and asked for the pastor.  He was standing in the back, getting some coffee.  I asked him if he could help us out, if he could hook us up with someone who could feed us.  I told him we didn’t have any money, that panhandling here was bad.’

Sam paused and shook his head.  ‘You know what he said?’  He said, ‘That’s not what we do here.  We’re here to worship.  We can’t confuse our purpose’.  (Yankoski, Under the Overpass, 140-41)

Is it possible that our “preaching the Gospel” is not only with words or with a sermon but by actually loving people and feeding them as we proclaim the gospel?  I agree with Dever that there is a real danger with confusing the gospel with social action.  But I also think that if we are not careful Dever’s take on social justice can lead to a calloused and narrow view of what it actually means to apply the gospel. 

What do you think?  I’m still interacting with some of these things.  I could use your help…

Friday, December 17, 2010

Taking the Bed of a Homeless Guy

Yesterday, I reviewed Mike Yankoski’s book Under the Overpass.  I promised more interaction today.  One particular review that I read asked this question:
…was it right for Yankoski to take a bed, a meal and spare change day after day from people when he didn't really need it? Also, did this mean he was taking these things from another legitimately homeless person that might need it?
I am tempted to leave this for a couple of days to spark some interaction.  But instead I will just venture to give my answer to this question.  Was he wrong for taking change, meals, a bed, etc. from other homeless people?  Absolutely not.
 
The reason that Yankoski has put himself in this situation is because he wants the gospel to reach the homeless.  He wants to see believers live out their faith and actually attempt to heal the brokenness of many homeless people.  By taking this five month journey and writing about it Yankoski has (somewhat) put a face on homelessness.  Certainly, this book will be used by God to awaken hearts.
If his motive and purpose had been something else then that would have been wrong.  But he will help far more homeless people than he “hurt” by being homeless for five months.

Of course this may not be a very satisfying answer to the guy whose sitting out in the cold because Yankoski took his bed.  But is it possible that rather than looking at Yankoski for taking a bed in a homeless shelter we should be looking at ourselves?  Is it possible that some of the problem of homelessness is caused by our greed and desire to have more and more and more? 

Again, I plan to interact a little more tomorrow…

Review of Under the Overpass by Mike Yankoski

After I read this book I asked myself a question.  If Jesus treated me the way that I treat homeless people would I be saved?  In other words, do I reach out and rescue people in their brokenness the way Jesus did me? 

This book is phenomenal.  I found myself unable to put it down.  It was rebuking me, encouraging me, and doing it through telling a real life story.  What Francis Chan said in the introduction is certainly true; “Don’t read Mike’s book if you’re not willing to change your attitude and actions toward the homeless”. 

The book is a little over 200 pages but it reads really quickly.  It is a compelling story of two believers that felt called to live on the streets of 6 major cities for 5 months.  At the end (this is the updated and expanded version) there are tips for how we can take the truths in this book and apply them to ministering to the homeless.  Multnomah has also done us a great service in Christmas Under the Overpass Action Plan.

“Real punches aren’t as sharp and clean as Hollywood makes them out to be.”  That is how the book starts.  Of course it is talking about a fight between two homeless guys, but this story is a real punch to the gut of American Christianity.  Hearing stories of pastors, churches, and professing believers stare homelessness in the face and do nothing is like a swift punch to the gut that knocks your breath out, startles your emotions, and yet triggers your body to action. 

You will definitely have to stop and think when you read this book.  And I hope that your thinking leads to action as well. 

Rating 5 out of 5 Stars.  You can buy it for 10 Bucks, or search around and get it used for even less. 

I will be interacting with this book a little more tomorrow…

Today in Blogworld 12.17.10

I wish this post never had to be written.  But it’s very helpful.  Encouragement for Mothers Whose Husbands Don’t Attend Church. 

There are quite a few articles interacting with the Christmas season (typically much better than my rant on Wednesday):  CJ Mahaney discusses the disturbing aspect of Christmas; Dr. Whitney offers 10 Q’s to ask at a Christmas Gathering; Matt Redmond reminds us that Christmas is For Those Who Hate It Most.  And finally what would happen if Mary and Joseph had our technology:

  (HT: Z)

Find out what is it like inside the mind of despair.

I was not even aware that there were more than 50 blogs by theology professors.  But here are the Top 50 Blogs by Theology Professors.

Joe Thorn encourages us to Pray Spontaneously

Justin Buzzard offers his Top 20 List of Books in 2010.

On Tuesday I posted my review of Dr. Schreiner’s ZECNT Commentary on Galatians.  This was part of a blog tour, you check out some of the other reviews here and here.

One of my favorite things to read Isaiah is the Jesus Storybook Bible.  Check out it’s Christmas story:

Today in Blogworld 12.15.10

Just realized I forgot to post this on Wednesday.  The 12.17.10 TIB will be posted later this afternoon.

Mark Dever gives us many reflections on the life of Roger Nicole

Timely artice.  Geoff Ashley writes on suicide

I believe I first heard about this book from Dr. Schreiner.  Wesley Hill has written a wonderful book on Struggling with Same-Sex Desires.  Justin Taylor offers his thoughts on the book.

Many people get confused about the life of Constantine.  Thankfully there is a new music video that will help clear things up.  I’ve been waiting my whole life for this one:

(HT: Matt Crawford)

Agree or Disagree? 

Al Mohler spotlights a growing cultural debate: Why is Incest Wrong?

Best Dance Ever…:

The Doubt of Performance

Even when I was devout, I went as a doubter to the altar*, and as a doubter I came away again.  If I had made my confession, I was still in doubt; if, upon that I left off prayer, I was again in doubt; for we were wrapt in the conceit that we could not pray and should not be heard, unless we were wholly pure and without sin, like the saints in heaven.  -Martin Luther (Quoted from Sears, Life of Luther, 84)

Such is the turmoil of anyone that is not trusting in Christ as his sure foundation.  Until Christ is our surety and hope we will continue like Luther muddling through our religious exercises full of doubt.  Only in Christ do we begin to experience the substantial healing of being accepted. 

If you resonate with this post a helpful book is Jerry Bridges’ Transforming Grace.  Check it out.

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*Keep in mind that when Luther says “to the altar” he does not mean what we would today.  There is no such thing as “going forward” or an “invitation” in Luther’s day.  Luther here is referring to the Catholic Mass.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Rescuing Jesus’ Birthday

Earlier today I mentioned God admitting to hardening Pharoah’s heart.  I commented on this, that sometimes we rally to defend God when he does not seem too concerned about defending himself.  Here is another example:  The Grinch Alert

I’ll warn you early on.  This may turn into a rant.  This may even be offensive.  I’m rocking a sacred cow. 
I am so unbelievably sick of hearing people talk about this battle to save Christmas.  It is as if many people believe their entire mission on earth is to be certain that unbelievers celebrate the birth of Jesus.  I don’t get it.  Even if they somehow say, “Merry Christmas”, this does not ensure that they are preserving the “reason for the season”. 

I love Christmas.  I do not intend on not celebrating it.  But the truth is I find nothing in the New Testament where Jesus tells us to celebrate his birthday.  I do see places where Jesus encourages us to remember him through the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper.  I wonder what would happen if we were as passionate about preserving the true meaning of the gospel as we are about preserving the true meaning of our made up holiday. 

Yes, Christians should use the Advent season as a time to celebrate and marvel at the wonders of the Incarnation.  Yes, we should be passionate about exalting Christ above consumerism.  And yes, this is a wonderful time of the year where people are actually thinking about Jesus.  We should certainly take advantage of that. 

But this is not the time of year when we militantly encourage people to celebrate the birth of a Jesus they do not even know.  Perhaps, instead of making sure these darn liberals don’t take away our country we should model the Incarnation and sacrificially serve.  Maybe we should say Merry Christmas not only with our lips but with our life. 

Rant over.

You can enjoy a more thoughtful “rant” here.  Also, I should mention that I think Happy Birthday Jesus cakes are a fine idea—and the picture above is not meant to mock anyone that celebrates in that fashion. 

Defending God and The Hardening of Pharoah’s Heart

I am making my way through Dr. James Hamilton’s new book God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment.  It’s a great read so far, I look forward to finishing and reviewing it.  One thing that struck me is Hamilton’s treatment of Yahweh’s hardening of Pharoah’s heart. 

As I was reading through this it struck me.  If God is willing to say “I hardened Pharoah’s heart” why do we often shrink from saying that? 

[10:1] Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go in to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may show these signs of mine among them, [2] and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the LORD.”
(Exodus 10:1-2 ESV)

Sometimes I think we try to defend God when he doesn’t really seem too worried about defending himself. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Review of ZECNT Commentary on Galatians by Thomas Schreiner

Perhaps my favorite professor at SBTS is Dr. Tom Schreiner.  He is extremely wise but is also exceedingly humble.  In his classes I not only learn about the text that we are studying, I also learn what it means to be a gracious pastor, expositor, and writer.  Obviously, then, I was excited for the opportunity to review this book.  I received it free from Zondervan in exchange for a review. 

The particular copy that I received is the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: Galatians.  The ZECNT is a new commentary series designed with pastors and students in mind.  It is not bogged down by overly technical details, nor is it a simple running commentary.  The ZECNT is unique. 

Each Bible passage has addresses seven primary components: Literary context, main idea, translation and graphical layout, structure, exegetical outline, explanation of the text, and theology in application. 

Probably the most unique feature of the ZECNT is the translation and graphical outline section.  Dr. Schreiner has his students do something very similar in all of his classes.  These are helpful ways of seeing the flow of a passage and how all of the different propositions relate to one another.  It is encouraging to see these in commentaries.  This is probably the most helpful treatment of biblical passages that I have seen in a commentary. 

If you are looking for a really in-depth commentary the ZECNT is only going to scratch the surface.  But if you are looking for something to provide a “feel” for the passage, or if something to help place the text in its literary context, then the ZECNT will be the commentary for you. 

Specifically, this commentary on Galatians is wonderful.  I did not have time to read through all of it but what I did was phenomenal.  I also have the advantage of having sat through Dr. Schreiner’s classes and I know how trustworthy he is as an expositor.  You may not agree with all of his conclusions but you will certainly have a clear understanding of his position.  In my opinion Schreiner is definitely one of the top 5 bible commentators in our day (perhaps the best on Paul). You will richly benefit from this volume.

Who is this commentary for?  Schreiner writes in the preface that this is “especially for pastors and students who want some help with the Greek text”.  And he is certainly right.  Those with a knowledge of Greek and some seminary training will probably be the ones that benefit the most from these commentaries.  But I do not think those without formal education will be hopelessly lost.  There may be some things that are unfamiliar to those without training (like calling something a “gnomic aorist”), but these are not so prominent that you would get lost. 

I highly recommend these commentaries for any student of the Bible.  Especially this commentary on Galatians by Dr. Schreiner. 

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

You can buy the Galatians commentary for under 20 bucks at Amazon .  That is a GREAT price for a commentary like this!

Agree or Disagree? Bolton on Preaching

This will be the beginning of a new series.  My aim is not to stir up controversy but to provoke thought.  In each segment of Agree or Disagree I will provide a quote.  You tell me if you agree or disagree and why. 

All the men of God and master-builders, who have ever set themselves to serve God in their ministry, and to save souls, have followed the same course; to wit, First, to wound by the Law, and then to heal by the Gospel.  We must be humbled in the sight of the Lord; before he lift us up.  (Richard Bolton; Quoted from Iain Murray, The Old Evangelicalism, p25)

Do you agree with Bolton that this is THE way of preaching the gospel?  Do you agree or disagree that we must be humbled before lifted up? 

Today in Blogworld 12.14.10

Very helpful article from Colin Marshall (co-author of Trellis and the Vine): The Ministry of the Pew.  (HT: 9Marks)

Trevin Wax interviews Scot McKnight about the gospel. 

I forget who pointed me in the direction of this one but it’s excellent:  The Krusty Sage: Married People, Quit Being Ruled by Your Dumb Parents. Even If They're Not Dumb.

I probably shouldn’t be laughing at this, but…

(HT: Scotteriology)

I really appreciate Kevin DeYoung’s words here:  It’s Not About You (Even If Your a Student)

Now you can hear Richard Sibbes preach, sort of.  Mark Dever reads some of Sibbes’ sermons.  These are very gospel rich.

In case you are curious Piper’s return date has been announced.

With the recent Narnia films parents may find their children drawn to Aslan.  Tyler Kenney (with help from Lewis) explains why we should embrace that.

Watch what happens when the Kimyal people of Indonesia receive the Word:

(HT: Effectual Grace)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Our Super Adorable Children

Thought I’d post these.  Nikki decided to do a little photo shooting today:

isaiah.1

This is Isaiah’s “Oops, I ripped my pants pose”

isaiah.2

isaiah3 

The ones of Hannah did not turn out very good, we’ll try to get some better ones soon.  Here is one:

hannah.1

Was John Calvin Saved? And Other Things Not to Trust In.

Recently I wrote a paper on John Calvin’s view of the extent of the atonement in 1 John 2:2.  Perhaps, I will share some of that at some point (I’d like to get a grade first to see how much of a heretic I am).  While doing research on this topic I came across an interesting thread on the Baptist Board.  A guy named Plain Old Bill posed this question:

I'm not trying to be mean but you guys got me started reading all kinds of Calvin's writings and I can't find anything with his testimony of how he came to know Christ as his personal Lord and Savior. Does anybody have anything to help out here I guess that would also beg the question , was Calvin saved?

My response here is not meant to be directed towards Plain Old Bill.  In fact I doubt he will ever see this post, as the question was posted almost four years ago. 

First, I’ll just answer the question directly.  You will not find much of a testimony from John Calvin.  What you will find is this, “God by a sudden conversion subdued and brought my mind to a teachable frame.”  And you will also find a great amount of Christ-centeredness and trust in Calvin’s writing.  Even upon his deathbed Calvin spoke of trusting in Christ alone. 

What I really want to interact with is this idea that you have to have a “testimony” to be saved. 

Around the time of the Puritans there was a particular teaching going around similar to our SPOT (Specific Place or Time).  Iain Murray points refers to this in his book The Old Evangelicalism.  There he mentions Richard Baxter who:

…[spoke] of a meeting of eminent Christians and ministers where it was asked that everyone should give an account of the time and manner of his conversion, ‘and there was but one of them that could do it’.  To which Baxter added, ‘I aver from my heart that I neither know the day, nor the year, when I began to be sincere’.”  (Murray, The Old Evangelicalism, p20)

Now certainly there are those, like the Apostle Paul, that had an arresting conversion experience.  But there is a serious danger in forcing many true believers to fit this mold.  Furthermore, it is a potentially grave error to make “ a testimony” the mark of whether or not a person is saved. 

This is one reason why those like Spurgeon did not hop on board the “altar call” movement.  They had a great fear that people would eventually conflate things like a “testimony” and “going forward” with trusting in Christ.  If my personal experience is worth anything I would have to agree with them.  I have often heard people use “going forward” or “having a testimony” as synonyms for trusting in Christ. 

Granted this is often just a nuance of our Christianese.  But there is a real danger when the evidence of someone’s salvation is marked by something they did in the past rather than if they are trusting in Christ at the present.  There are numerous people that have testimonies, that went forward, and are still living in sin and not trusting Christ.  There are also numerous stories of people, like Calvin and Baxter, that evidently trust in Christ yet do not know the particular time or place when they were first converted. 

So, I ask.  What are you trusting in?  Are you trusting in an experience or are you trusting in Christ?  Your experience or “past decision” is a shaky foundation.  Only when your foundation is Christ will it be firm. 

Review of The Narnia Code by Michael Ward

C.S. Lewis’ classic work Chronicles of Narnia has enchanted children for years.  Many of these children are all grown up now and they have questions lingering from their childhood.  Michael Ward is one of these.  He is a lifelong reader of Lewis, and as such he always had questions about the lack of coherence in the series.  E.g., what in the world is Father Christmas doing in Narnia? 

Narnia Code is the “accessible adaptation” of his more scholarly work Planet Narnia.  In this work (and the larger one) Ward shares his literary theory as to what holds the series together.  It may sound “un-Christian” but Ward believes that Lewis’ understanding of the “seven Heavens” is the key to understanding Narnia. 

This book is well written and was a delight to read.  I am by no means a Lewis scholar or a guru of all things Narnia.  In fact I have not read all of the books.  So, I am not qualified to really test Ward’s theory, but I found this book extremely enjoyable and I think all Narnia fans will love interacting with his theory. 

Even without having read all of the Narnia books I was able to follow his argument and was intrigued enough to start reading the series again.  Ward also points the reader to Christ and is faithful to Lewis’ Christian center.  The second chapter on “The Beam of Light” is helpful for any reader. 

If you are totally unfamiliar with Narnia, this may not be the place to start.  Perhaps those that have watched some of the movies may be captivated enough to start discovering Lewis’ meaning.  I hope one place they turn is this excellent book by Michael Ward. 

This is a highly recommended read for all Narnia fans.  You can buy it for under 10 bucks at Amazon.

Rating 4.5 out of 5 stars

I received this book free from Tyndale in exchange for a review.  I did not have to give it a positive review but I certainly want to! 

Today in Blogworld 12.13.10

How do lost car keys, squirrels, and the gospel relate?  Tim Chester explains.

Dave Miller comments on the Battle for Christmas.  I appreciate much of what he says here.

Roger Nicole passed away over the weekend.  One day after his 95th birthday.  For those not familiar with Nicole, Justin Taylor provides a helpful obituary.  Also Carson, Dever, and Keller pay tribute.

I really love David Powlison.  This 7 minute video is well worth your time.  Here Powlison answers whether someone can be saved that is living in constant, secret sin:

(HT: Dane Ortlund)

Dr. Moore asks, “Did Jesus Ever Get a Stomach Virus?”

In case you were wondering here is a helpful chart to show how to become super.

I found this pretty funny:

(HT: 2 Cents)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Taking Off Our Fancy Dress

My God! how perfect are thy ways!

But mine polluted are;

Sin twines itself about my praise,

And slides into my prayer.

 

When I would speak what thou hast done

To save me from my sin;

I cannot make thy mercies known

But self–applause creeps in.

 

Divine desire, that holy flame

Thy grace creates in me;

Alas! impatience is its name,

When it returns to thee.

 

This heart, a fountain of vile thoughts,

How does it overflow?

While self upon the surface floats

Still bubbling from below.

 

Let others in the gaudy dress

Of fancied merit shine;

The LORD shall be my righteousness

The LORD for ever mine.

Olney Hymns, Hymn 67, from Jeremiah 23:6

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This is a great hymn (poem) from Newton.  The reason that Newton trust so deeply in “the Lord my righteousness” is because he has experienced so deeply his depravity. 

In that third stanza Newton is saying that God gives him a holy desire, but when Newton gets his hands on the thing it quickly turns into impatience.  Pastors especially should take this stanza to heart.  It is a holy desire to see our churches become enamored with Christ.  But so often this holy desire turns into impatience when people do not “get it” as quickly as we wished.  At the end of the day our only hope is in the Lord’s righteousness given to us. 

What a wonderfully horrendous picture is painted in the fifth stanza: “the gaudy dress of fancied merit”.  How often do we try to paint ourselves in such a wonderful light when in reality we have self “still bubbling from below”.  Newton would rather be stripped bare and only have the Lord’s righteousness. 

Let us today cast off this “gaudy dress of fancied merit” and trust in the Lord alone.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Most Important “Element” of a Worship Service

“What any people must have is the presence of the living God.  It is not enough in any church simply to have the right rituals and the right sermons and the right kind of music.  If God does not manifest himself in some way, if he is not present, then what is the point of the whole exercise?  Is religion merely some sort of structured ritual heritage?  Or is it bound up with being reconciled to the God who made us, who holds us to account?”  (D.A. Carson, The God Who is There, 67)

Yes.  Amen and Amen.  Makes me wonder why we have such a disproportionate amount of time spent in prayer.  

If God doesn’t “manifest himself in some way” it would have probably been better for our people to have stayed home and watched Hee-Haw.  May this encourage me, as a pastor, to have absolute dependence upon the Lord. 

Today in Blogworld 12.10.10

The real reason I have a beard: 5 Men Who Died from Shaving.  (HT: Trevin)

Tony Reinke shares the 30 best books he read in 2010

Whitefield’s letter to Wesley is now online.  Interesting tidbit of history.

These text to movie things are pretty hilarious.  Check out this one:

(HT: Z)

Fellow Office fans can check out The Adventures of Jimmy Halpert (the comic book from last night’s episode).

Time Magazine shares the Top 10 Everything.

I’m glad someone was finally led to produce this, Learn to Speak Christianese:

(HT: 22 Words)

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