Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Top 7 Reasons The Earth Will Be Here on October 22nd, 2011

During the whole rapture fiasco of May 21st I linked to my 7 reasons why I left behind a pre-tribulation rapture.  That, and the fact that Harold Camping is a false prophet and horrible exegete, left me with little expectation of a rapture on May 21.  Now we have this little gem from Camping:

"Five months from now from May 21, as we learn from the Bible is Oct. 21. We are not changing the dates at all. We are just learning that we have to look at all this a little more spiritual[ly]. But it won't be spiritual on Oct. 21 because the Bible clearly teaches that then the world will be destroyed altogether. But it will be very quick. It won't be a five-month difficulty as we have learned."

There are probably a good number of people that will share a bit of Camping’s eschatology but balk at his date giving.  I’m not one of them.  In fact I don’t think the earth is going to be destroyed.  Not on October 21st and not at the return of Christ. 

So I give you now my top 7 reasons that the earth isn’t going to be destroyed on October 21st or ever.  Renewed, yes.  Radically changed, yes.  Destroyed, no. 

  1. Revelation 21-22 helps us to see the end of the story.  The picture is not of us floating around in the sky as disembodied spirits playing harps on a cloud.  The picture here is of heaven coming down and transforming earth.  Notice in 21:2 that while the “first heaven and the first earth have passed away” this new city is “coming down out of heaven from God”.  It’s not the other way around.  Which is ironic because the place that we often turn to find out about the “end of the world” actually tells us about the “restoration of the world”.  We don’t ultimately “go up”, God “comes down”.
  2. The “obliteration passage” like 2 Peter 3:10 is probably, *gulp*, mistranslated in the KJV.  The ESV is probably closer to the original, “the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed”.  As Christopher Wright comments, “we should not see in this passage an obliteration of the universe, but a moral and redemptive purging of the universe, cleansing it of the presence and effects of all sin and evil.
  3. The meaning of kainos.  Drawing from 1 Corinthians 15, my trusty ESV Study Bible says the meaning of kainos here is probably “best understood in terms of something that has been qualitatively transformed in a fundamental way, rather than as an outright new creation ex nihilo as in the case of God’s original creation. 
  4. Jesus is better than Plato.  Yes, Jesus had a pretty sweet new body that could do some “other-worldly things”.  But he also ate a piece of fish.  Spiritual=good, material=bad isn’t from the mouth of Christ it’s from the teaching of Plato and the Gnostics.  Therefore, there is no need for the earth to be destroyed.  It’s not in rebellion—we are.  Which leads to my next reason…
  5. Creation longs for redemption not destruction.  Romans 8 doesn’t make much sense if when we receive our reward creation gets annihilated.  Paul says that creation was subjected to futility in hope that, “the creation itself will be set free from bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God”.  Sure doesn’t sound like a fireball blowing up the whole earth to me. 
  6. The Storyline of Scripture.  There are several threads of a beautiful story that are weaved all throughout Scripture.  One of these is the Garden/Temple as the Presence of God with man.  Again the picture in Revelation 21 is a restored Garden.  The theme of Scripture isn’t that God starts over completely with is covenant community and that his “new” is ex nihilo.  Even with Noah—God brought a sinner into the ark and it was a sinner from the same flesh as Adam that was brought out of the ark.  But Noah was a sinner now in covenant with the LORD.  God doesn’t start over He transforms. 
  7. It Simply Makes More Sense.  This isn’t the best argument and certainly should not stand alone, but this view makes more sense of my desires.  That’s dangerous isn’t it?  But this gets me excited, “Think of the prospect!  All human culture, language, literature, art, music, science, business, sport, technological achievement—actual and potential—all available to us.  All of it with the poison of evil and sin sucked out of it forever.  All of it glorifying God.  All of it under his loving and approving smile.  All of it for us to enjoy with God and indeed being enjoyed by God.  An all eternity for us to explore it, understand it, appreciate it, and expand it.”  (Christopher Wright, The God I Don’t Understand, 203).  The problem with creation isn’t creation—it’s sin.  God removes the curse and redeems.  How amazing will that be?

Maybe the earth will be completely destroyed and for a few short days we’ll be floating in space.  Perhaps God will then create a new (ex nihilo) that is nothing like what we could ever even imagine.  Maybe.  But maybe He’ll just show His awesome power by turning all evil, sin, death, etc. on its head and completely redeeming this very same earth that you and I are walking on.  Maybe the oxygen we breath will not be consumed by fires but rather redeemed. 

Maybe heaven will be more like picking strawberries without the chance of a rotten one and less like playing an spiritual harp on an spiritual cloud with my spiritual fingers. 

Monday, May 30, 2011

Review of The Corruptible by Mark Mynheir

I don’t typically read fiction books.  I like them but they seem to have an addictive quality that I try to shy away from.  I love a good story but sometimes I’m simply not disciplined enough to read one—I’d rather watch it on television.  One genre that I especially love to watch is Crime/Suspense films or shows.  So, when I was given the opportunity to read The Corruptible by Mark Mynheim I thought I’d give fiction a chance. 

The Corruptible is part of the Ray Quinn mystery series.  The first one, which I have not had the chance to read, was an award winning book called The Night Watchman which follows the story of Ray Quinn—an ex-homicide detective that is now working a private investigator. 

In this second offering Quinn finds himself involved in a financially lucrative gig.  His duty is to find an ex-cop that has stolen information from a wealthy—though secretive—financial giant.  Quinn, and his sidekick Crevis, will be heftily rewarded if they return the information. 

As they begin tracking down this corporate information the suspect turns up dead in a hotel.  The plot thickens.  Now he is working with the Orlando Police Department to solve a murder as well as attempt to track down this stolen information.  The story takes a few twists and turns as any good suspense/crime novel does.  As it is plugged on the back cover:

“Suddenly the line between the good guys and the bad guys isn’t so clear.  With a foot in both worlds and an illuminating look at an unhappy ending that could well be his own, which will Ray choose?” 


Almost as predictable as the show itself, after every episode of House I find myself asking the same question, “why do I continue to watch this show”.  The predictability of House has been humorously documented before.  But yet I keep coming back for me.  Ray Quinn shares much with Greg House: from his sarcastic attitude to his drug/alcohol abuse, out of control living, bad hip, and predictability.  But it shares one other thing—it keeps me hooked…for some reason. 

I think I “solved” the mystery about half-way through the novel.  But I kept going thinking that perhaps I was wrong.  Even though I figured I knew the ending it kept me going.  Mynheim is indeed an engaging writer and tells a good story, though perhaps predictable. 

So how does this relate to the gospel?  Actually not overtly.  And that is actually a very strong part of this novel.  I expect that as the Ray Quinn series comes to a close it may be a little more overtly Christian.  But for now Quinn is certainly not a hero for your children to emulate.  He is an alcoholic, he wouldn’t have a tough time with fornication, you get the idea he probably drops the F-bomb outside the pages of this book, and his attitude certainly doesn’t share that of Christ.  But just like House—there is something about his character that has you pulling for him. 

I have to confess one thing that keeps me from Christian fiction is that they all seem ridiculously cheesy and divorced from how the gospel is lived out in real life.  There is always the ubiquitous “praying to receive Jesus” scene that just feels so foreign to the film/book.  Thankfully Mynheir has Ray Quinn living as a real lost person in a real world.  Yes, his “secretary” Pam is a Christian.  But she’s not presented as a big-haired and heavy made-up nutjob either.  I appreciate that.  She seems real.  Her struggles are exposed.  It’s a faithful and realistic gospel witness thus far.

All in all I really enjoyed this book.  I may give the third book (whenever it comes out) a shot.  The only thing that may keep me from reading it is spending the time and effort on 340 pages when the ending was relatively predictable.  But if you like drama/suspense/crime novels you should enjoy this one—I know I did.  Buy it here.

I received this book free from Multnomah in exchange for a review.

Grace. It’s Not Being Right.

There is a verse in Acts 22 that is very humbling, and to be honest a tad scary, for us nerdy theologically minded type of people.  Paul says of the Jesus-rejecting, church-persecuting Jews:

“…being zealous for God as all of you are this day…”

It is possible to very passionately “defend God” and uphold really good theology but all the while completely miss the gospel.  That is what happened to this Jewish crowd.  It’s what happened to Paul.  And it’s what has happened to me before.  We are absolutely convinced of something, we passionately fight for it, we even use Scripture, but we are dead wrong. 

That is scary.  It’s especially scary in a postmodern world where many say that truth is relative.  The fact that you can be passionately wrong—and in fact often are—seems like ammunition in the gun of the relativistic argument.

But this really shouldn’t be scary.  After all it’s not necessarily my theology that saves me.  I can have really good theology—like the demons—and still go to hell.  As Russell Moore has wisely said:

“There are some, I fear, who will be able to diagram in Greek the last words they ever hear voiced: ‘Depart from me, you worker of iniquity.’ Such cognitive expertise is of little use in wrestling demons.”  (Moore, Tempted and Tried, 182-83)

Moore, I believe, is right because such cognitive expertise can cause some to vigorously argue theology (even being right) but in the end be just as much a son of hell as Judas Iscariot.  It certainly can even cause those that have been bought with the blood of Christ to argue and sling slander like heaps of excrement spewing from Satan’s mouth. 

We do this because as Dr. Moore elsewhere states, “We’d rather be right than rescued”.  And that is what matters. 


Not theological accuracy. 

Not passionate defense of “God’s truth”. 

Not stamping out heretics. 

Not being zealous for God. 


Luther on Falling and Rising

"Here it appears either Paul or Barnabas went too far. It must have been a violent disagreement to separate two associates who were so closely united. Indeed, the text indicates as much.

"Such examples are written for our consolation: for it is a great comfort to us to hear that great saints, who have the Spirit of God, also struggle. Those who say that saints do not sin would deprive us of this comfort.

"Samson, David, and many other celebrated men full of the Holy Spirit fell into grievous sins. Job and Jeremiah cursed the day of their birth; Elijah and Jonah were weary of life and desired death.

"No one has ever fallen so grievously that he may not rise again. Conversely, no one stands so firmly that he may not fall. If Peter (and Paul and Barnabas) fell, I too may fall. If they rose again, I too may rise again." 

Martin Luther

Friday, May 27, 2011

Review of Rediscovering the Church Fathers by Michael Haykin

In the spirit of Jeff Foxworthy with the lameness of Mike Leake:

  • If you think Basil is a only a name for a spice, then you might need to Rediscover the Church Fathers.
  • If you think St. Ignatius is only a high school, then you might need to Rediscover the Church Fathers.
  • If you think Diognetus is something you need to go to the doctor for, then you might need to Rediscover the Church Fathers
  • If you think Cyprian and Ambrose may be the name for a law firm, then you might need to Rediscover the Church Fathers.
  • If you think Origen is where you are from, then you might need to Rediscover the Church Fathers.
  • If you think St. Patrick is only about wearing green and getting drunk, then you might need to Rediscover the Church Fathers.

If you are guilty of a couple of these then I have great news for you:  Michael Haykin has written an excellent book, Rediscovering the Church Fathers, to help you fill in a few gaps.  Haykin is a professor of church history and biblical spirituality at SBTS.  And if my memory serves me correctly he actually teaches a class on the patristics (early church fathers). 

Some evangelicals may be a little turned off by the mention of Church Fathers.  As Haykin remarks, “far too many modern-day evangelicals are either ignorant of or quite uncomfortable with the church fathers” (13).  Because of this reluctance to study the Fathers, Dr. Haykin offers five key reasons why we need to study these early Christian witnesses:

  1. Reading of the Fathers liberates us from the present (17)
  2. Reading the Fathers helps us to understand the New Testament (19)
  3. Reading the Fathers assists us in engaging “bad press” about the Fathers (20)
  4. Reading the Fathers aids us in defending the faith (22)
  5. Reading the Fathers will nurture us spiritually (27)

Haykin “seeks to commend the reading and prayerful study of the church fathers” by looking at the lives of a few specific church fathers:  Ignatius of Antioch, the author of the Letter to Diognetus, Origen, Cyprian, Ambrose, Basil of Caesarea, and Patrick.  Each of these early witnesses are given a chapter of consideration. 

The eighth chapter closes out the book with Haykin telling his personal journey and interaction with the Fathers.  There is also a helpful Appendix on helping a beginner in reading the Church Fathers.  It is obvious throughout that the main purpose of this work is to encourage the reader to pick up the original sources and begin studying and enjoying these pillars of the Christian faith. 

Am I Hungrier for the Church Fathers?

So, does Haykin succeed?  Do I want to start reading more of the early Church Fathers after reading this work? 

In an effort to be fully honest you should know that I am a giant history nerd.  It doesn’t take much to stir up my heart to want to study some good history.  But there have been books that bored me to no end and inspired me to look at a different historical era.  I’m passionate about the era’s of history that I am because of works like Haykin’s. 

From my perspective Haykin accomplishes his goal.  He interacts with the sources just enough to whet your appetite.  He is neither incomplete nor exhaustive.  And because of this endearing quality I found myself downloading the works of some of these Early Church Fathers. 

This work serves as a wonderful introduction to studying the patristic era; but it is so much more.   At each turn the reader is given practical application from these early believers.  Haykin does an admirable job of showing by real example how each of his five reasons for studying the patristic era is true.  I found myself spiritual nurtured, inspired to read more, and even began to reconsider some long held theological assumptions. 

Whetting your Appetite

As a church leader I often find myself wondering, “where in the world did _____ come from”?  If you tend to ask those questions or are just a curious George you will find a good smattering of these questions answered and probably even more questions will be birthed in your mind through reading this work. 

Have you ever wondered about early Christian martyrs?  Why were martyrs eventually held in high esteem within the church?  The chapter on The Thought of Ignatius will iron out some of these questions. 

How did Christian go from being a small, and somewhat hated but often neglected sect, to having an audience with Rome?  How did the early Christians relate to their culture?  How did these early believers engage in apologetics?  The Letter to Diognetus may answer some of these questions.

Have people always interpreted the Bible the same way?  How did those in the early Church view and read Scripture?  For those within the first few centuries of Christianity what principles were used in interpretation?  Where did the idea that Scripture is an encoded text come from?  The Exegesis of Origen may assist in discovering these answers.

How did the early church celebrate the Lord’s Supper?  What was their view of the Supper?  Where did sacerdotalism come from? What in the world is sacerdotalism?  The Eucharistic Piety of Cyrpian and Ambrose may cause you to study your view of the Lord’s Supper a little more deeply.

How did our doctrine of the Holy Spirit develop?  What did it mean for early believers to be holy and to renounce the world?  What was the early Christian experience of the Spirit?  Haykin’s chapter on The Experience of Basil of Caesarea may begin to answer some of these questions. 

Finally, the chapter on The Mission of Patrick will certainly redeem your St. Patrick’s Day.  But it may also give you an appreciation for the way early believers engaged in mission.  Perhaps it will even inspire your own calling to “live-sent”. 

This certainly is a book worthy of being added to your collection.  If you are not interested in the Church Fathers and have little prior understanding this book is a great place to start.  You do not have to be an expert in theology or church history to enjoy this book.  Haykin writes in a very readable and helpful way. 

I encourage you to buy this book, but I will warn you—your purchasing probably won’t stop here.  After you read Haykin’s book you will probably be adding some of the Early Church Fathers to your collection of books as well.  But start out by reading this excellent work

I received this book free from Crossway in exchange for a review.

On Being a son of Sceva

I have always loved the story of the Sons of Sceva (Acts 19).  To me it’s pretty funny that these guys think they can exorcise a demon only to wind up naked, wounded, and running away.  I like to laugh at these goons. 

But I’m not really laughing as hard this morning.  It’s easier to laugh when I distance myself from them.  Today I don’t feel so different than these Sons of Sceva. 

I could easily seem myself trying the same thing as the Sceva kids.  Yeah, I don’t really try to exorcise demons.  But in a way I kind of do.  I preach in the hopes that people may turn from darkness to light.  I counsel people.  I teach.  I write.  I plan programs/ministries.  I do many things with the hopes of overturning darkness and healing those wounded by evil. 

And I sometimes undertake this “ministry” the same way Sceva’s boys did it:

“By my degree in Christian Education I adjure you…”  “By the Jesus I read about in a Piper book I command you…”  “By the name of Jesus that I learned about in Romans: Syntax and Exegesis be healed”  “By the wisdom and power of John Newton’s Jesus be gone Satan…”

The danger of second-hand faith

A second-hand faith doesn’t have any power.  Not because the degree of second-hand faith is deficient, but because that faith is misplaced.  A second-hand faith has its object as a person that has faith, or even faith itself.  But the only type of faith that matters is the faith that is placed in the person and work of Jesus Christ. 

Second-hand faith will only leave you wounded, naked, and running.  This goes for life and this goes for ministry.  It’s not enough to simply speak about Jesus, or know about Jesus, what is required for hell-jarring ministry and living is actually knowing and believing Jesus Himself. 

None of this is to discredit the importance of reading good Christian books.  I’m not at fault for admiring Newton.  In fact I’d be stupid not to.  I’m at fault whenever I stop there.  If reading John Newton doesn’t lead me to worship His Jesus then I’m wasting my time and not reading him rightly.  Same goes with my pursuit of a degree at SBTS.  This labor and sweat is meant to lead to more passionate worship.  If it doesn’t then I’m wasting my time and only training myself to be a better son of Sceva. 

The only source of power

This story isn’t primarily a call to not be like the sons of Sceva.  This story is primarily about the power of the word of God.  Notice in 19:20 that Luke sums up the story by saying, “so the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily”. 

Did you notice that?  Earlier we saw that the demons “overpowered” the sons of Sceva.  Why?  Because they only had a second-hand faith.  But look what the word actually does.  It overpowers or “prevails mightily” over the darkness. 

We see this illustrated in the bonfire.  These former magicians realized that Jesus is more powerful than silly magic or feeble Jewish exorcists.  They came to place their faith in Jesus and it caused some serious repentance.  Not only did these former magicians come together to confess their sin but they also burned their old books in the sight of all.  At this bonfire they burned some (in today's’ currency) 6 million dollars worth of goods.  That’s some serious repentance. 

What brings about this change?  The powerful name of Jesus displayed in His proclaimed Word. 

So, I’m convinced that if I want to see a massive bonfire of repentance then I probably have a few “magic books” that I need to throw in the fire myself.  I have some second-hand things that I am trusting in to be successful in ministry.  If I trust in these things I’ll wind up naked, wounded, and running.  But if I stake all my life and ministry on the power of Jesus and His Word then I might see a $6 million bonfire. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Rancid Sweet Tea and Gospel Ministry

I don’t want to be like the rancid half-empty glass of sweet tea sitting on my desk. 

It used to be refreshing.  It was cold, it was tasty, and it went well with my lunch.  On a hot day it was wonderful to have the cold ice crash into my parched mouth.  And the sugary sweetness of McDonalds tea, combined with the extra shot of caffeine gave an extra boost. 

It’s not refreshing any more.  The heat of my office got to it.  It’s invigorating chill has long sweat-out through the McDonalds cardboard it was housed in.  It’s hot tea that was once cold tea and now it is nauseating. 

You see, ice is only a temporary fix to a hot day. Eventually it loses and the heat overcomes it.  Then it turns into water.  Then it makes your tea disgusting.  Tea needs ice—not long ago melted ice—to make it awesome. 

Without grace I’ll be like that sweet tea.  Once refreshing but now rancid.  Like a hot day overcoming an ice cube ministry has a tendency to suck life out of you.  That’s nothing against ministry.  That is simply saying that we are weak vessels that need grace every day.  Sweet tea can’t withstand one entire day in my office with only its original dose of ice.  And I can’t withstand the heat of life and ministry with only yesterday’s grace.

I, and you, need grace today.  Without it you and I will be like the rancid sweet tea sitting on my desk.

Tornadoes, Death, and the Goodness of God

Tornadoes ripped through Joplin, MO this past weekend.  Over 100 hundred people died. 

My wife’s grandmother battled cancer for years and finally “lost” that battle on Tuesday. 

Those are only two of the events of suffering that happened in the last few days.  There were many more.  Somebody’s daughter was raped.  A little boy lost his father.  A child died of starvation.  A young man lost his job.  A little girl’s puppy ran away.  Suffering, suffering, suffering. 

Yet there was also sunshine.  Some little girls puppy came home.  A young man finally secured a job to support his family.  A child on the brink of starvation was rescued and adopted.  A little boy was reunited with his estranged father.  A dad joyously gave his daughter to away to a godly young man.  Joy, joy, joy. 

The truth is you never know which paragraph you will be in.  And furthermore, the paragraph break isn’t always so noticeable.  Sometimes you have joy in the midst of suffering.  Sometimes your joy is a tad bittersweet (like the father giving away his daughter in marriage). 

There is one thing that we all hold in common.  We’ll be in both paragraphs at some time or another.  In the good times it can be easy to forget that these are blessings and grace that come from a very good Father.  And in those really dark times it can be easy to forget that God is good and that the Judge of the earth ALWAYS does what is right. 

It seems to me that I always vacillate between believing God’s power to the exclusion of God’s love or I believe God’s love to the exclusion of God’s power.  But the biblical narrative is that God is not only powerful He is also loving and He is also good.  In other words God is powerful enough to accomplish His loving purposes. 

Good and Powerful in Genesis 18

At the beginning of Genesis 18 we see the Lord revealing His plan to Sarah.  Within one year Sarah, who is “advanced in years”—and according to her own proclamation “worn out”—will have a son.  Her response is a doubting type of laughter: “Seriously?!  It can’t happen.  I’m too old.”  Sarah will slowly be learning that God is powerful and can do what he wants. 

At the end of Genesis 18 we see the Lord revealing His plan to Abraham—concerning Sodom.  He is going to destroy them.  Abraham was a tad confused.  “How could God sweep away the righteous with the unrighteous”, Abraham thought.  So, he begins to barter a little with God.  He stops at “if there are ten righteous people” in Sodom.  Abraham is slowly learning that God is good—He’d never destroy Sodom if they were righteous. 

So, this (and numerous other places in Scripture) leaves me with this one conclusion.  The sovereign Judge of the universe will always do what is right and He is powerful enough to do that which is right. 

What does that mean for tornadoes and a dead grandmother? 

I’m only left with one option: trusting a good and powerful God that promises He will eventually work all things together so that we are more than conquerors through Christ Jesus.  It would be one thing to help us “get through” the suffering.  But God promises to do more.  He promises to turn those bad things on their head so that eventually somehow tornadoes and dead grandma’s are actually a GOOD thing because they brought us into conformity with Jesus—and this is our GREATEST good. 

Friday, May 20, 2011

Praying Expectantly

When Isaiah was only a few months old we had a little problem with him.  He couldn’t poop.  It had been something like 5 days since he had went potty and we were starting to get concerned. 

Isaiah made a good amount of trips to the doctor in his first few months because he had what is known as GIRD.  That’s the medical term for exorcist puking.  Seriously.  Somehow my little guy would drink four ounces and spew up six—or at least that is how it appeared.  Because his belly was like a trampoline we were frequently worried about dehydration.  One way to check how well a little guy is hydrated is to monitor how often they are peeing and pooping.  So, when little guy hasn’t pooped for 5 days mommy and daddy start to get a little worried. 

So, Nikki and I did the only thing we knew to do.  We prayed. 

It felt really weird praying for my son to poop.  I realized that I had entered into a new phase in my life when I was praying that another human would be able to go potty.  But we prayed, and we prayed pretty desperately. 

No sooner did I say, “Amen”, then my son let out a wild grunt and filled not only his diaper but a good portion of his back too.  God answered prayer.  Nikki and I were completely shocked.  Maybe not shocked that he had answered our prayer but that he had done it so speedily. 

But why is that?  Why are we so often shocked when God comes through and answers our prayers. 

Apparently we aren’t alone in that.  When we read the story in Acts 12 we see that these pillars of the church are praying fervently for Peter’s release*.  Peter has been arrested and now the other disciples are together, probably praying for Peter that the same fate as James will not befall him.  In verse 13 the story gets somewhat humorous:

13 And when he knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer. 14 Recognizing Peter's voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate. 15 They said to her, “You are out of your mind.” But she kept insisting that it was so, and they kept saying, “It is his angel!” 16 But Peter continued knocking, and when they opened, they saw him and were amazed.

First of all, it is hilarious that she didn’t let him in but shut the door in his face and left him outside.  Secondly, notice that the men can’t believe that God would have answered their prayers so quickly.  It’s not Peter—it must be his angel.  Certainly, he’s dead. 

Now, again, we do not know for certain what these men were praying.  But it is not a leap of imagination to believe that they were praying for Peter.  But maybe they weren’t praying with a ton of faith or at least they weren’t praying expectantly. 

I want to learn today to pray expectantly.  As for me, I don’t think it is God’s power that I doubt.  I have to humbly confess that it’s his love and care that I doubt.  I don’t want to do that.  So, would you pray for me today (expectantly even) that God would continue to convinced me of his absolute love and dedication to me.  I’m still growing in learning that.


*This connection is not original with me.  The first time I had heard this point made it was from one of my college professors, Dr. Morgan.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Faithfulness Under Fire Reviewed

Our story of what God is doing and has done in our life is vitally important.  Our children need to know our story.  We see what happens when children don’t know our story in Judges 2:

When Joshua dismissed the people, the people of Israel went each to his inheritance to take possession of the land. And the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great work that the LORD had done for Israel. And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died at the age of 110 years. And they buried him within the boundaries of his inheritance in Timnath-heres, in the hill country of Ephraim, north of the mountain of Gaash. And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD or the work that he had done for Israel.   (Judges 2:6-15, emphasis mine)

Wouldn’t you think that God parting a sea would be a story you’d want to tell?  Seriously.  Hollywood decided it was good enough to tell and they told it ala Prince of Egypt.  It is an awesome story.  Wouldn’t you think this would be one of those stories you would want to tell your children and their children?  Nope, not Israel.  They are living in the comfort of the promised land. 

But there are a million little stories that may actually be cooler than God parting the Red Sea.  These stories are the lives of believers that have been brought from death to life.  Those of us that are believers are actually resurrected from the dead.  Our children need to hear those stories.

They also need to hear the stories of other people.  They need to hear stories like Polycarp laying down his life in the early church.  They must hear that God left a remnant even in the dark middle ages.  Our children need to know Bernard of Clairvaux.  They need to know the Reformers.  They should be taught about Spurgeon, Whitefield, Wesley, Newton, Luther, Edwards, etc. at the same time they are learning of Washington, Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin. 

That is why I am very excited about the series of children’s book from Reformation Heritage Books.  The first one that I was able to get my hands on was Faithfulness Under Fire: The Story of Guido de Bres.  These books are geared towards being read to 2-5 year olds and 5-10 year olds reading them on their own. 


I had personally never heard of de Bres before getting this book from RHB for free in exchange for a review.  Little did I know that he was the author behind the famous Belgic Confession.  He was also a martyr for the cause of Christ.  He was hanged in May 1567. 

This little book of his life story isn’t much longer than twenty pages and is filled with illustrations.  It is compelling enough to keep the attention of my three year old and the pictures are flashy enough to keep him engaged as well.  They are not overtly flashy and they relate well to the story at hand. 

Guido’s story is very sad but it relates the gospel clearly.  The main emphasis of this children’s story seems to be that “strongly held convictions will produce conflict” but that the gospel is worth it.  It also helps little children to see that God is more important than even our own lives.  These are helpful lessons for children to learn.  And children need to hear the stories of how the gospel spreads through suffering. 


On the front cover is a picture of a man climbing a ladder with the threat of being torched.  One particular illustration portrays and angry mob burning a life-size figure of de Bres.  There are a few other pictures that may cause parents of very young children to dismiss this book.  However, I do think that the publishers make a valid case for using this book when they say:

…the reader should know that every reasonable attempt has been made to avoid gratuitous, unsavory detail.  It would be impossible, however, to tell the story of de Bres apart from the theme of suffering…secondly, we don’t believe it is necessary to shield even young children from the ugliness of life as long as we also provide a context in which this life can be lived victoriously.”

I tend to agree.  There is much to be learned from the life of de Bres.  But each parent hopefully knows their own child.  You may find this material a little too sensitive for your youngster.  If you do that is okay there are other books that will serve the same purpose.  However, this book is helpful and the story of Guido de Bres and others like him need to be told.  And eventually, they need to be told to your child. 

If you are interested in this book you can buy it for only $7.50 for your child. 

Our Tower of Babel

I absolutely love the irony of Genesis 11. 

Here you have a people that are at the height of human accomplishment.  They are motivated by spreading their name.  Of course this turns God’s creation mandate—to fill the earth with His glory—on its head.  These people aren’t concerned with populating the earth or enjoying God’s creation.  Their aim is to habitat one place and make it their personal shrine of awesomeness. 

Their strategy? 

They are going to build a mega city with a gigantic tower in the middle.  It will be a sign to everyone, “LOOK HOW AWESOME WE ARE”.  Surely everyone will see it and think, “This thing is freakin’ huge!!!  These guys must be amazing.” 

But check out verse 5, “And the LORD came down…”   Did you catch that.  It’s the tallest thing they could build but God has to come down to see it.  “Hmmm…nice little tower you boys got going there.  Have you guys seen Jupiter yet?  You cats will love it.  It’s huge.” 

This story serves as a reminder that no matter how awesome we get, it’s but a speck compared to the awesomeness of God.  It’s also a reminder that God isn’t content letting His creation rip themselves off by marveling at a tower at the expensive of the greater good; namely, enjoying God Himself. 

Therefore, he confounds mankind.  Because God knows that some other colony is going to come along and see that huge tower and think, “we can do better”.  And we’ll spend our lives trying to see who can build the biggest tower and all the while we miss out on what really matters—God Himself. 

By the way, you and I are in this story.  We can still have a “Babel heart” that has a tendency to build up a bunch of junk just to show the world how awesome we are.  I pray that God gives us the grace to scatter our plans and bring us down from these haughty places.  It is mighty grace for God to not let us be settled with lovers less wild. 

What is your tower of Babel?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Review of Tempted and Tried by Russell D. Moore

One morning as I was taking a shower this text came across my mind:  “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.”  I didn’t give it much thought until a few days later…

There I was sitting in the bath tub at a spiritual crossroad.  I felt as if all of hell was pulling at my soul.  Tempting me, sifting me…sifting me…wait, was God communicating something to me a few days ago.  I had no idea.  Everything was cloudy. 

Here I was a youth pastor.  I am supposed to be leading teenagers.  I was preaching about the glory of God and having satisfaction in Christ alone.  Yet inwardly, I was so screwed up.  I had thoughts that a believer should never have.  I had doubts that ravaged my soul.  And with that came dejection, depression, and deep feelings of condemnation.  I wanted to hide but knew there was no place to run.  There I was alone, cowering in the bath tub. 

This time in my life was perhaps the most intense period of temptation that I have faced.  I felt as if I were seconds away from turning my back on Christ and running in the other direction forever.  I’d have to quit as a youth pastor.  My marriage would be altered forever.  My relationships with others rocked.  I’m not sure if it was good or not but I kept going through the motions trying to hang on to what little faith I seemed to have left. 

Then the lights came on.  Suddenly I felt as if the sifting had subsided and I was able to see the beauty and sufficiency of Jesus.  Actually its not as if I had somehow returned to normal.  Actually, through this experience I was utterly transformed.  The gospel became so much sweeter.  I was slowly being stripped of every vestige of self-righteousness, and I saw Christ as the only home for my tattered and tempted soul. 

I would love to tell you that I have never had a doubt sense that moment.  I would love to tell you that temptation was not still sometimes really strong.  I still have really dark moments.  I used to think that I was a total nutjob and a poor excuse for a Christian minister.  But now I think I experience the normal Christian life.  And I also heed the part of that text that I didn’t remember in the shower that day, “and when you have turned again strengthen your brothers”.  I’m not alone in my fight and that is comforting. 

I’m Not Alone

It was with great excitement that I read through Russell Moore’s book Tempted and Tried.  Dr. Moore is one of those revered Christian men that walks through the halls of Southern Seminary every day.  He’s a guy that many of us younger guys look up to.  It was encouraging to know that this man of God struggles with some of the same crazy “disqualifying” temptations that I struggle with. 

Moore is refreshingly honest with his temptations in this book.  From the beginning, with his story of paying a little too much attention to the woman behind the counter, the reader is reminded of the subtlety of temptation.  And it is this very subtlety that leads us unaware to the slaughterhouse. 

As refreshing as it is to know that Dr. Moore struggles with temptation it is even more refreshing and encouraging to see how Jesus Christ dealt with temptation.  Central to this book is the belief that Jesus was tempted in every way as we are and yet he did not surrender to that temptation.  He was tempted, tried, and he ultimately triumphed.  And it is only through Him that us broken sinners will find redemption from not only the pull of sin but also forgiveness in the battles that we have lost. 

Book Summary

The book is 200 pages long but only seven chapters.  The first two chapters serve as a wake up call.  In these chapters Moore expounds why temptation matters as well as attempts to convince us that through the subtlety of sin “you are on the verge of wrecking your life” (58).  He can say this because we are all tempted, and we are all tempted in a number of ways.  As he further remarks, “The issue isn’t whether you’re tempted, but whether you’re aware of it and striking back” (59). 

In the third chapter Moore looks at the first temptation of Christ: the temptation to get need met outside the Father.  Here Moore tackles the consumerist temptation that faces American Christianity.  He doesn’t pull any punches, consider this quote:

Why do we speak endlessly about marital communication and “love languages” but never address the question of whether institutionalized day care is good for children or for their parents?  It’s because pastors know that couples would reply they could never afford to live on the provision of the husband alone.  And they’re almost always right—if living means living in the neighborhoods in which they now live with the technologies they now have.  Why do we never ask whether it might be better to live in a one-bedroom apartment or a trailer park than to outsource the rearing of one’s children?  It’s because the American way of life seems so normal to us that such things do not even seem to be options at all.  (89, emphasis mine)

Moore moves on to the next temptation: finding certainty and identity outside of the Father.  Few wonder how the temptation to jump off a tower could relate to anything that we would struggle with in our day.  But Moore hones in on the core of this temptation, and it is one that we all face.  We all want to be secure.  We all want to be right.  Christ is being tempted to prove to himself and Satan his identity as the Messiah.  But he is being tempted to do it apart from faith.  And that is where we too falter.

The fifth chapter is given to expounding the final temptation of Christ: the exchange of the end-time exaltation by our Father for the right now exaltation of a snake (131).  I have quoted this section at length before, so I will point you there to save some length to this review.  But it is worth noting that Moore’s exposition of this temptation is wonderfully helpful.  He not only tackles political Christianity but he also tackles the rising apolitical Christianity of our day.  It is a very helpful critique. 

The book closes with practical suggestions and a helpful theology of overcoming sin in the midst of temptation.  The final chapter is only a couple pages long but here Dr. Moore closes with his ultimate aim for the book:

That’s really what this book is about.  I want you to see how imperiled you are.  I want you to see how fought for you are.  And I want you to be prompted to drop the book and pray to the only One who knows how to “destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).  And I want to remember to do that too.  (196)

Closing Reflections

I absolutely love Crossway.  They have put out a myriad of excellent books.  I had heard from someone that had read this that it was one of the best books ever published by Crossway.  I thought that a pretty lofty statement.  But after reading this book I lean towards agreeing with them.  The writing is phenomenal.  The chapters are lengthy but reading them is never laborious.  In fact I will probably try to read through this book again soon. 

This book is very helpful and life reorienting.  It was helpful for a struggler like me to know that I’m not a total nut-job because I sometimes experience dark temptations.  In fact this strugglers faith was greatly strengthened.  I know that I’m being sifted quite frequently.  But I also know that Christ is standing with me through temptation—and he is doing so as one that has already been tempted, tried, and is ultimately triumphant.  My hope rests on nothing but Jesus Christ and in Him I am totally secure. 

I received this book free from Crossway in exchange for a review.  Don’t tell them this but I would have bought the copy myself had they not sent it.  I would strongly encourage you to buy this book as well.  You can get the e-book for only 7.99.  Or if you prefer the hard copy you can buy it for only 10.19.

This video is also a pretty solid plug for the book:

"Tempted and Tried" Trailer - Russell Moore from Crossway on Vimeo.

Reintroducing Borrowed Light Book Club

In April I had hopes of beginning something of a book club.  That sounds a little lame and a little too much like Oprah for my taste.  Through your voting we decided on going through John Piper’s God is the Gospel. 

I posted a couple of times hoping to generate some discussion. 

We took off like a herd of turtles.

And with the business of school and other more important commitments bearing down on me I decided to cut the program and hope for a restart.  But I honestly do not want to restart this unless people will find it helpful and will be interactive. 

So I offer a short poll and a question for you to discuss in the comments.

Mercy NOT Sacrifice

I have one particular quote on my bulletin board above my desk that frequently convicts me, it is from W.E. Sangster:

“I’m not interested to know if you can set the Thames on fire.  What I want to know is this: If I picked you up by the scruff of the neck and dropped you into the Thames, would it sizzle?”

I wrote about this awhile back and noted this: The folks in Matthew 7 set the world on fire (Lord, Lord, didn’t we…) but they didn’t sizzle (depart from me I never knew you).  Jesus wants sizzling servants not “successful” glory-stealers.  This serves as a constant reminder to a busy pastor and seminary student that what God desires more than anything from me is a steadfast love for Him.  God desires that my every affection be captivated by Him. 

But it’s really from the lips of Jesus that I am most convicted (and rightly so):

9 As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. 10 And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. 11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Here in Matthew 9 Jesus calls Matthew the…hold back the puke and revulsion…tax collector.  And Matthews only fitting response to following Jesus is to throw a party.  Not many people but fellow scum and sinners would attend.  So here we have Jesus and his disciples “reclining” with tax collectors and sinners. 

The religious leaders are indignant.  You don’t associate yourself with sinners.  To do such a thing can make you ritually unclean, or worse yet just like those sinners.  In the Pharisees mind, Jesus and his disciples are in serious danger of invoking the wrath of Yahweh. 

You can see where the Pharisees get this though.  Consider Ezra 9.  Here we see a strong rebuke from the Lord because the Israelites are intermarrying with sinful nations.  They are to be a people that are holy and distinct.  To intermarry is to mar that distinction and blur the lines between the people of Yahweh and the sinful nations. 

So the Pharisees aren’t just making this stuff up and hating on the tax collectors simply because they don’t sit at the cool kids table.  They loath these tax collectors and sinners because they are convinced that not only the Old Testament but Yahweh Himself teaches them to do such a thing.

Of course Jesus sees things differently.  Here he quotes Hosea 6:6 and says, “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice’”.  The problem that Ezra faced was not only that people were intermarrying.  The problem that Ezra faced is that people did not have strong affections for Yahweh and they were lusting after foreign women and their gods.  The problem wasn’t a law problem—it was a heart problem. 

And as He always does, Jesus cuts straight to the heart.  What the Lord desires is steadfast love and not simple rule following.  The Pharisees kept all the rules (they did their quiet times, they tithed their spice rack, they didn’t smoke, drink, chew, or go with girls that do).  But the Pharisees never learned what mercy meant.  Matthew did.  And that is why he threw a party for the only people he knew—sinners.

So, on this day I pray that the Lord teaches me anew what it means that He desires mercy and not sacrifice.  Jesus wants me to sizzle more than he wants me to “do” things. 

Teach me again today, dear Lord, what it means that you desire steadfast love and not rote rituals.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Why Your Heart May Not Be Satisfied

Statistically speaking, a good number of you will not read this entire quote.  And statistically you are ripping yourself off.  What Tripp identifies here is  an amazingly helpful diagnosis:

“…I am persuaded that the problem with the body of Christ is not that we are dissatisfied with what we do not have, but that we are all too satisfied with what we do have.  We are comfortable with a little bit of holiness, a little bit of ministry, a little bit of sacrifice, a little bit of wisdom, a little bit of satisfying glory that only the grace of Christ is able to give us.  I am deeply persuaded that we must resist with all of our might the kind of self-satisfied spirituality that marks the life of so many believers.  And I am further persuaded that this pseudo-spirituality is one of the cruel deceptions of a wily enemy.

What is the danger of this kind of spirituality?  It never results in truly Christ-centered, grace-driven, God-glorifying, heart-satisfying righteousness.  True righteousness only ever begins when you come to the end of yourself.  Only when God leads you to the place where you begin to abandon your own agenda and false righteousness, does true righteousness take hold.  And only then can a passion for selfless service and true worship grow in your heart.

But the battle is ever-present, and I am afraid that at the same moment we are nibbling at the table of the Lord, we are often stuffing ourselves at the buffet of the world.  No wonder our hearts are not satisfied; we are feasting on food that has no capacity to satisfy.  And no wonder we are addicted; as we feed on what cannot satisfy, we must go back again and again and again.

This is from Paul Tripp’s book Broken Down House.  I would encourage you to check out my review of this book and to buy yourself a copy

Taking the King’s Help?

21 Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our goods. 22 For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king, “The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him.” 23 So we fasted and implored our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty.

I am deeply humbled by Ezra and his companions here.  It was the desire of his heart to display the glory of God to the Persian king.  They wanted the king to know that God was powerful enough and loving enough to protect His people.  And in so doing they rejected the path of least resistance and decided to do the “risky” thing and trust God. 

In applying this I want to be careful not to make this more prescriptive than it actually is.  There are many places in Scripture that are simply descriptive (they describe things as they were, for a specific situation at a specific time).  If we are not careful we can try to make descriptive things as if they are prescriptive (every person in every place at every time should do them).  So, I want to avoid this. 

Having said that I believe there is much we can learn from Ezra here.  I fear that if I were in this particular situation I would have taken the path of least resistance and asked for the kings help.  The solution would seem so obvious:

We need protection + The king is offering protection = We use the king’s offered protection. 

Then I could even make it sound spiritual by saying God uses means to accomplish his purposes and He provided the kings protection against the enemies.  And that would actually be true, because you can find a host of other places in Scripture where God does protect the people of God by using means such as the protection of a foreign king. 

At the end of the day I am not certain that there is a formula for when you should take the kings help and when you should take the Ezra route and reject the kings help depending on God to provide apart from these means.  But what I do see from Ezra is that his chief aim was that God be glorified.  I also see that he pursued humility and absolute dependence before the Lord.  For Ezra the solution looked like this:

We want to display God’s glory + We already told the king God would do this + we do not want the king to take credit for God’s work = therefore we will refuse his help, humble ourselves and fast before the Lord, trusting in Him to provide safety. 

So, while there may not be a formula I am confident that when we are growing in our desire to display God’s glory above our own, and when we are growing in humble dependence upon the LORD, he will answer our questions Himself and not necessarily a formula. 

Remembering that God Remembers

For half a year Noah and his family have been holed up in a boat made of gopher wood.  Tense times we sure to be had.  Because Noah and his family took their sinful nature inside the boat with them, I’m certain that there were plenty of spats that would come from being stuck together in the same place for an extended period of time.  Or maybe not.  Regardless of the atmosphere inside the boat we read these redemptive words in Genesis 8:

But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark.

Now when you read the word “remembered” its not to be compared to you and I suddenly remembering that we have a pizza in the oven.  It’s not as if God was sitting at home watching the Evan Almighty and suddenly realized…”Oh, snap!  Noah!  I better go rescue him”.

No, when you see the word “remembered” typically in Scripture it means something more profound.  As my trust ESV Study Bible notes on Genesis 8, “When the Bible says that God ‘remembers’ someone or his covenant with someone, it indicates that he is about to take action for that person’s welfare”. 

When God “remembers” someone he is going to set himself to work on their behalf.  In this particular case God is going to take action to soak up all the water, rescue Noah and his family, and renew the earth. 

I need God to remember me today.  I need God to remember me every day.  I not only need him to “remember that I am but dust” I also need him to “remember when you come into your kingdom”.  I need God to work on my behalf today.  I need to remember that unless God remembers me I have no hope.  And I also need to remember that “at one time I was separated from Christ…but now I have been brought near”. 

Remember today that Christ in you is a sign that God remembers you.  And if you know God remembers you, then you know that He is steadily working on your behalf.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Two Versions of Peter

Last night I preached through Mark 14 and considered Peter’s denial of Jesus.  It is amazing that Peter was so cowardly, embarrassed, and ashamed of Jesus before a lowly servant girl.  One could understand Peter’s denial a little more had this been a ruler or someone that held his life in their hands.  But this is a question from a servant girl.  (Perhaps, he feared that she would tell her master and this would get him in trouble).  Regardless the reasons, Peter—though he thought himself bold—found it quite easy to keep his mouth shut about knowing Jesus, and then when exposed he flat out denied knowing Him. 

Contrast that with today’s reading in Acts 4.  Standing before perhaps the same people that he was afraid of less than a year ago, Peter says this:

18 So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge,20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”

So what’s the difference between these two experiences?  Pentecost. 

Peter now has the promised Spirit (yes the same Spirit that you and I have) that will embolden him to speak and preach the gospel…even in the face of death. 

So today I pray that through the power of the Spirit the Lord would cause me to be the Peter in Acts 4 and not the coward of Mark 14. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Snot Rockets Are Normal East of Eden

We’ve all had a booger moment.  Let me explain.

A booger moment is that moment when you realize that people weren’t laughing at your jokes they were laughing at the snot rocket projecting out of your nose.  Or it’s that moment when you realize that the students that you were preaching to were not uncharacteristically focused on the message because you had really good content.  No, they were focused because your pants were unzipped. 

I remember one particular occasion in High School when I was talking (that’s what the kids these days call flirting) to a girl that I liked as I was walking to my car.  It seemed to be going really well.  I was putting my super awesome moves on.  I was certain that I’d score a date at some point very soon.  As I was basking in my awesomeness I decided to check the mirror just so I could share my awesomeness with an agreeing face.  To my horror I had a lovely dangling booger hanging out my nose.  Not cool.  Suddenly I looked at the world much different.  I’d probably never talk to this girl again just out of the sheer horror that she might bring up the atrocious event that just occurred. 

Don’t pretend that you haven’t had a million moments like this.  This is why many of us have had that dream about being naked before History class.  There is something innate in humans to put up a facade and project an image that is better than reality.  Deep down we all know that it isn’t true and reality haunts us. 

This all stems from our first parents.  Up until Genesis 3:7 Adam and Eve were blissfully unaware of their nakedness.  Then sin entered in.  Their solution was the same solution that we have come up with in a million different ways—they decided to sew some fig leaf underpants.  They tried to hide their sin and shame.  They tried to pretend that they weren’t naked before the Lord. 

But it didn’t work.  It never does.  You an I may be able to hide our nakedness before other people but we cannot hide it before God.  Who you are isn’t the image that you project before people.  Who you really are is who you are alone before Almighty God.  And these little experiences of being exposed with a booger hanging out your nose are just little reminders that fig-leaf underpants don’t work. 

The only thing that really covers our nakedness is the garments that the LORD provides.  Notice in Genesis 3:21 that God provides garments for the man and woman.  This is a foreshadowing of the garments of righteousness that will be provided by the Lord Jesus.  In fact Christ Himself is that garment.  The blood that was shed to provide clothing for Adam and Eve is a prefiguring of the blood that will be shed milleniums later outside Jerusalem to finally and fully cover the nakedness of God’s people.

The question for us today is this, am I covered by Jesus or am I simply sewing fig-leaf underpants for myself.  This is more than a “have you been saved” type of question.  Because once we are saved that begins the process of trading in our tattered and weak attempts at covering for the precious garments provided by Christ.  So where are you hiding?  And how will you go about giving that shame to Jesus so that He can cover it with more than a pathetic band-aid of human pride and hiding?

For more check out this past post: Fig Leaf Underpants.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Death is Dead for a Dying Woman

“God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it” (Acts 2:24).

This past weekend my wife and I had the opportunity to spend time with her grandmother.  Her grandmother is dying of cancer.  The doctors say that she has a couple of months left to live.  Our son, Isaiah (3), understands that “grandma is sick”.  Knowing this Isaiah requested that we pray that Grandma gets feeling better. 

After praying I realized that I need to explain to Isaiah that God is probably going to answer his prayer in a way that is much different than he thinks.  I explained to him that sometimes people get so sick that in order to heal them and make them feel better God has to take them to heaven.  I then explained a little about heaven (intermediate heaven I guess you could say) and how God was eventually going to fix all of our brokenness. 

I am not certain how much of this Isaiah was able to grasp.  I am also not certain that I what I said was the best.  All I know is that at that moment what I said was the best that I could do.

As I read through Acts 2 I realize that the redemption that I was speaking of is only possible because God, through Jesus, has put death in its grave.  This is the meat of Peter’s Pentecost sermon.  Jesus has dealt a deathblow to death itself and because of this he has ushered in the new age of the Spirit. 

The conclusion from the resurrection of Christ is simply this, “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”  Every other religious leader is dead in a grave somewhere.  Abraham. Dead. Moses. Dead. David. Dead.  Only Jesus has been resurrected thus proving that he is indeed the sovereign Lord and he is the Rescuer.  Yes, the very same Jesus that was crucified as a criminal. 

John Mark McMillen captures this well:

Yes, unless Jesus comes back before, my wife’s precious grandmother will pass into eternity.  But we know that because of the resurrection of Christ it is not death to die.  So, what I said to Isaiah still stands.  God has simply decided that it is time to redeem her completely. 

We all get sick, we all die, but it is only through Christ that death is dead in your dying.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Only Kingdom Satan Fears

“Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 

This isn’t a stupid question.  After all Jesus has been raised from the dead and He was now promising the outpouring of the Spirit.  These were signs that the messianic era was upon them.  And as such they assumed that this would mean that Israel would be rescued from Roman power and would be restored as a national powerhouse.

This wasn’t merely selfish.  They probably believed that God’s righteousness would reign and that His glory would begin to fill the earth.  Actually they were asking for the same kingdom that was previously offered to Jesus (Matthew 4:8-10).  Russell Moore posits what this kingdom would look like when he says:

Jesus [would be directing] the kingdoms of the world however he wanted.  No more babies would be miscarried.  No more women would die in childbirth.  Ended immediately would be all human slavery, all genocide, all disease, all poverty, all torture, and all ecological catastrophes…There would be no world of divorce courts and abortion clinics and electric chairs and pornographic images.  Whatever is troubling you right now would be gone, centuries before you were ever conceived.  This sounds like paradise.  (Moore, Tempted and Tried , 152)

This is in part what the disciples were asking for.  But Jesus responds, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority”.  (In other words a kingdom like this is still coming).  Jesus continues, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth”. 

There is something that must necessarily precede that coming kingdom.  That “something” is the proclamation of the gospel: the centuries long proclamation of believers spilling their blood and proclaiming the gospel with their lives and their lips.  This proclamation must precede that coming kingdom because it is not the kingdom that matters as much as the King.  Satan isn’t worried about a “Christian” nation/kingdom or king.  Satan is worried about the King of kings and Lord of lords.  Russell Moore explains far better than I could:

“Satan…doesn’t fear Christianity.  He certainly doesn’t fear “Christian values.”  Satan fears Christ.  Remember that Satan holds power only through accusation and condemnation.  As long as there is no atoning sacrifice for sin, Satan is quite willing to allow conformity to external law, even to the law of Christ ruling visibly over nations from Jerusalem.  The accuser simply wants his opportunity to indict his human would-be supplanting powers before the judgment seat, with no shed blood to redeem them back”  (Moore, Tempted and Tried , 152)

The kingdom that Satan fears and is set out to destroy is not the one the disciples were longing for in Acts 1:6.  The kingdom that Satan fears is the Spirit-empowered, gospel-birthed, kingdom that comes from Acts 1:8.  The kingdom the disciples imagine (and any kingdom we could dream of) pales in comparison to this one. 

Yet, I find myself here 2,000 years later longing more for an Acts 1:6 kingdom than an Acts 1:8 kingdom.  I find myself striving for that “kingdom to Israel” more than the one that conquers God-belittling idolatry even to the ends of the earth. 

Lord, move in my heart to strive for the kingdom that Satan fears.  Help me to not settle for sacred substitutes.  Thank you that you have given your Spirit that conquers my wayward passions and redirects me to focus on the only kingdom that Satan fears. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

He Has Overcome!

One thing never ceases to amaze me:  I can spend hours studying Scripture, reading books about the Lord, writing papers about the gospel, preparing sermons exalting Jesus and yet my heart can slowly grow calloused.  I don’t drift into holiness and God-honoring affections.  Instead I slowly drift into God-belittling idolatry and complacency when I handle precious gospel truths. 

I am aware of this.  That helps.  But it is not enough to be aware.  I must also fight.  There is one thing that I do to fight for joy in Christ that I want to share with you.  I keep a mental file of “gospel awakeners”.  There are certain texts, certain videos, certain truths, that inevitably awaken me to the beauty of the gospel. 

Of course these could easily become golden calves that direct me away from worshipping Christ and instead cause me to worship the act of worship.  But I have found this practice very helpful in awakening my heart to the beauty of what Christ has done on my behalf. 

One particular truth that always seems to spark my affections is that Christ Jesus has overcome!  To this end I always find this video by The David Crowder* Band helpful:




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