Thursday, May 31, 2012

Why I'm Opposed to "New Calvinism"

This morning "A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God's Plan of Salvation" hit the internet. The discussion that stems from this should be really interesting--to say the least. In the Preamble the motivation behind this document is set forth. It begins:
Every generation of Southern Baptists has the duty to articulate the truths of its faith with particular attention to the issues that are impacting contemporary mission and ministry. The precipitating issue for this statement is the rise of a movement called “New Calvinism” among Southern Baptists. This movement is committed to advancing in the churches an exclusively Calvinistic understanding of salvation, characterized by an aggressive insistence on the “Doctrines of Grace” (“TULIP”), and to the goal of making Calvinism the central Southern Baptist position on God’s plan of salvation.
I, yes even as a Calvinist, firmly stand with these men in opposing this "New Calvinism".  Though I adhere to what could be described as Calvinist soteriology, I firmly reject a commitment to make churches exclusively Calvinistic in their understanding of salvation.  Of course I would be quite happy if we all embraced what I believe the Bible teaches on how we become Christians.  Yet, I also understand that in the Lord's goodness and sovereignty He seems content with allowing some mystery here and room for disagreement.  Perhaps it is to show a watching world that believers are able to have deep and lasting fellowship around Christ and His gospel even when disagreeing on very significant (though not ultimate) issues.  So, though I'm a young Calvinist (30 is still young right?) I firmly reject those in the new Calvinism camp that are committed to only advancing a Calvinistic understanding of salvation.  This would include those that "seem to be pushing for a radical alteration of the long-standing arrangement" of cooperation around the Baptist Faith and Message.

I am especially opposed to those that "are characterized by an aggressive insistence on the 'Doctrines of Grace' (TULIP).  I'm opposed to that because aggressive insistence goes against "teaching with gentleness and respect".  Furthermore, I do not support an aggressive insistence that others be Calvinists because it denies the very sovereignty and power of God that it claims to uphold.  So again count me with these brothers opposing this "New Calvinism".

I even oppose those that are "making Calvinism the central Southern Baptist position on God's plan of salvation".  Of course I believe that a Calvinistic understanding of how we are saved is biblical.  I firmly believe that because of the fall, man is unable to choose that which is good.  A heart change must first take place.  When that happens then people respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that I am not 100% sure of what God's plan of salvation is referring to.  If it is referring to God's plan to work in the world to root out of his kingdom all sin and unbelief and replace it with passionate worshipers then I must confess I'm not sure what that has to do with Calvinism.  Though I think that being a Calvinist influences the way I share and present the gospel I am not sure what bearing it has on the content of the gospel itself.  So, if there are these "new Calvinists" making predestination and such part of their content of the gospel message then count me out.

So, count me in, fellas.  I have to confess right out front, though, that I do not affirm many of your articles.  I'm not sure that you'll really count me as part of your team.  I do affirm the Baptist Faith and Message.  And I do stand with you opposing these aggressive new Calvinists.  I just have one more question...

What's Our Next Step?

If I'm pressed really hard I may be able to think of a handful of these "new" Calvinists.  I've often called them hyper-Calvinists (sometimes hyper because of too much sugar and sometimes too much systematic theology) and sometimes just not very good Calvinists.  So, what do we do to find these angry and divisive Calvinists? And what do we do once we find them?

Do we love them and try to steer them to the gospel and address the heart issues that is leading to their anger?  Do we try to change their theology?  Do we encourage them to become Presbyterians?

I'll be on the look out for these new Calvinists--you guys just let me know what I'm supposed to do when I find one.  I'm sure they're out there (and that part sadly, isn't tongue in cheek).   Until I hear from you this will be my strategy: How to Help an Angry and Divisive Calvinist.

TweetNotes for Stephen Altrogge’s Create: Stop Making Excuses and Start Making Stuff

You can purchase this engaging and inspiring book for only $2.99 at Amazon.  If you are still on the fence I hope to encourage you to dole out the change tomorrow morning when I review the book. 

Yesterday I mentioned a new series here at Borrowed Light entitled TweetNotes.  Since this is project that needed a little creative boost to get off the ground it’s only fitting that Altrogge’s book would be the first.

1: Image-reflectors of the Joyous Creator are called 2 joyously create.

2: Those w/their identity rooted in God’s acceptance have no need to fear being creative.

3: Your sluggardly excuses for not getting started are lame.  #getstartedtoday

4: Babies produce more poop early on.  So will u.  #beokaywiththat

5: Spending time locked up in a cabin is 4 @unabombers.  Faithful, diligent plodding makes 4 creative work

6: Find a good routine. Make it a habit.  Otherwise you’ll watch TV.  #likeMatlock

7: If your project is honoring God, giving up is sin.  #dontgiveup

8: U need criticism; so don’t pout when God helps u through other people #likebloggers #peoplethatarenotyourmom

9: New ideas happen by living life.  So, live life.  #watchsunsets #holdhands #petpuppies #eatOreos

10: Stop waiting 4 people to reach out 2 u, serve others by actively sharing what God gives you 4 His glory.  #stophoarding

Today in Blogworld 5.31.12

A Graduation Message to a Digital Son From an Analog Dad

This one has been making the rounds the interwebs.  You've probably already read it but in case you haven't it is a fun read.  It really shows the difference between the generations.  Oddly enough I think I may have more in common with the analog dad.

Dear Selfaholic

David Murray writes a note to himself about being obsessed with himself.

20 Things Pastors Hear in Counseling

I've heard, in various forms, many of these.  Every pastor ought to read through this list and consider how to respond biblically.  Even those that are not pastors will probably be confronted with a good number of these (maybe even in your own heart).  I would encourage everyone to read through these while the lights are on so you are more prepared when the lights go out.

13 Gospel-Centered Catch Phrases and 29 Bible Verses that Support Them

There are many gospel-centered catch phrases floating around these days.  I'm still trying to figure out how to do my gospel-laundry and eat my gospel-cereal in the morning.  All kidding aside it is important that as we become more intentional about assuming the gospel that we at the same time not assume that adding the word gospel makes something the gospel.  Eric McKiddie looks at 13 of these gospel-centered catch phrases and consider them biblically.  

  (HT: 22 Words)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Introducing TweetNotes

I would wager that every college and high-school student in America is vaguely familiar with CliffsNotes—even if they erroneously call the Cliff Notes.  These little survey’s have helped confused students navigate through the confusing Old English language of books like The Canterbury Tales.  Though some use them as a means to not read the original work they can be very helpful to grasp the overall structure and thought of a work of literature. 

Tony Reinke, in his helpful book Lit!, encourages readers to write all over their books and make them their own.  In his twelfth chapter he gives ten reasons to mark up a book.  His fourth reason states I write in my books to trace the skeleton of the book.  He continues

The publisher often leaves the reader with spacious white margins.  I fill those margins with my own notes as I trace the author’s arguments.  Often, after I have completed a chapter, I return to the first page of the chapter to jot down a simple summary.  My goal is to make a skeletal structure of the chapter more clear and obvious as I progress, especially in nonfiction books.  (Reinke, Lit!)

I have been doing things like this sporadically for years, but Reinke’s words here not only motivated me to be more intentional but they also gave me an idea to benefit not only myself but my readers. 

Introducing TweetNotes

For a little while now I have been more intentional in following Reinke’s advice.  After every chapter I have attempted to summarize the chapter in the form of a tweet (140 characters or less) and compile these to organize the entire argument of the book. 

The first TweetNotes will be posted tomorrow as I review and interact with Stephen Altrogge’s latest book Create: Stop Making Excuses and Start Making Stuff.  I hope to also go through many of the books that I have already read and compile TweetNotes for your benefit and mine. 

I encourage you to pick up a similar practice.  It keeps you engaged in what you are reading and it forces you to really chew on a chapter to digest it into 140 characters or less.

Today in Blogworld 5.30.12

The Tale of the Bicycle and the Typewriter

I found this little slice of history quite entertaining.  Here Justin Taylor interacts a little with Alister McGrath’s new biography on J.I. Packer.  One can only imagine how our world would have been different had Packer’s parents given him a bicycle instead of a typewriter. 

William Still Sermons Online

I have never listened to a William Still sermon.  However, I did greatly enjoy his little book The Work of a Pastor.  If his preaching is anything like his admonishments to other preacher then I figure these will be quality sermons to listen through. 

Newest Journal of Biblical Counseling Now Online

Volume 26 | Number 2 is now online.  Inside is an article by Timothy Lane on Addictions, Winston Smith on What’s Right about Sex, David Powlison on How Does Scripture Change You?, and a couple helpful articles for those dealing with a counselee with suicidal desires as well as an article on helping a teenager in crisis.  As with most everything CCEF puts out this is worthy of a read. 

Connecting Theological Depth with Missional Passion

Our church plans on implementing The Gospel Project this fall—at least in our children and youth departments.  If you have yet to hear about it (regardless if you are SBC or not) you really ought to check out this curriculum.  Here Ed Stetzer and Trevin Wax discuss the theological mindset that undergirds this project. 

I have yet to watch this but I am really interested to view it.  Justin Taylor interviews John Piper and his successor, Jason Meyer:

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Is This Helpful or Needlessly Pessimistic?

As an aging man, and one who had been a Christian for over 30 years, John Newton had this to say about his experience:

At my first setting out, indeed, I thought to be better, and to feel myself better from year to year; I expected by degrees to attain everything which I then comprised in my idea of a godly Christian. I thought my grain of grace, by much diligence and careful improvement, would, in time, amount to a pound; that pound, in a farther space of time, to a talent; and then I hoped to increase from one talent to many; so that, supposing the Lord should spare me a number of years, I pleased myself with the thought of dying rich in grace.

In other words Newton expected to grow exponentially in his faith.  You can imagine that there were various sins of the heart that Newton figured he would have conquered within 30 years time.  Not only that but there were certainly a good number of graces that Newton had hoped to “improve upon” within this time.  Yet this was what he discovered:

But, alas! these my golden expectations have been like South-Sea dreams! I have lived hitherto a poor sinner, and I believe I shall die one! Have I then gained nothing by waiting upon the Lord? Yes, I have gained, that which I once would rather have been without, such accumulated proofs of the deceitfulness and desperate wickedness of my heart, as I hope, by the Lord's blessing, has, in some measure, taught me to know what I mean, when I say, "Behold I am vile!"

The core of what Newton learned was that he is more vile than he imagined.  If he stopped there this would be obviously depressing.  There is really no benefit in acknowledging our sinfulness and wretchedness if we don’t look to Christ the remedy.  Admitting human need is empty application unless God’s provision is simultaneously exalted.  And this is what Newton does:

And, in connection with this, I have gained such experience of the wisdom, power, and compassion of my Redeemer; the need, the worth, of his blood, righteousness, attention, and intercession; the glory that he displays in pardoning iniquity and sin and passing by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage—that my soul cannot but cry out, "Who is a God like unto you!"

Still, my question to use is this: Do you find Newton’s testimony here helpful or needlessly depressing?  Is he denying the image of God and work of the Spirit in his own life too much?  In his desire to exalt the work of Christ on the Cross is he at the same time casting a dark shadow on the work of the Spirit in the Christians life? 

I’m interested to read your comments…   (I’m hoping to get opinions from both sides). 

Proverbs for Christian Blogging: Avoiding the Temptation to Crush Heads

Enjoy this video:


This video proves that if you distance yourself just far enough from people and change your perspective just enough you can make yourself a giant and other people but tiny ants. 

I wish this poor chap was alone in his delusion.  But I fear we bloggers may give him a good bit of company.  It is no accident that bloggers have gotten a bad rap as those that don housecoats and live in their mothers basement and spend all their days straining gnats and swallowing camels.  Every blogger can be tempted to use lofty and dicing words to sit atop our throne and crush the heads of all those that aren't within close proximity of our theological camps.

It is to expected that the very tools of the trade—namely, words—can be used to either exalt Christ and build up other or to tear down and belittle.  Spend anytime in the world of blogs and especially comments and you will see numerous examples of belittling.  Spend a little time on a sports blog or political blog and you will see several “I’m crushing your head” type of statements. 

Yet Christian blogging must rise above this level.  After all Proverbs 11:12 reminds us that, "Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent."  Faithful bloggers will avoid "Crushing Your Head".  Faithful bloggers will view themselves accurately and those with whom they differ with respect and courtesy.  Faithful bloggers don't belittle.

What Must Be Present for Belittling to Occur

There are a couple of things that had to be present in order for the head crusher in the above video to accomplish his goal of belittling every passerby.  Those that desire to belittle will want to take note. 

First, you have to keep your distance from your opponent.  It's much harder to belittle someone that you have supper with.  Of course you still can belittle those that are close to you, but it is more difficult to do so without feeling the effects.  You can't squish your next door neighbor like a bug without getting your hands filthy with bug guts.  So if you want to be good at belittling others then by all means keep yourself a safe distance from those you wish to crush.

Secondly, in order to belittle someone you have to think of yourself as a giant and your opponent as an ant.  This directly rejects the admonition of Philippians 2:3 to "in humility count others more significant than yourselves."  When we belittle another person we are making them smaller than they actually are (often denying the work and image of God within them).  We also have to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to.  Both of these come from an inadequate view of God, as well as self.

Faithful blogging comes from acknowledging that the people we interact with are actually living, breathing, yard-mowing, teeth-brushing, water-drinking people just like ourselves.  They are no better than people.  But they are certainly not less. 

Faithful bloggers rub shoulders with their opponents and make every attempt to view them from up close and not hiding behind a bush so that they can fool themselves into thinking they are giants and their opponent and ant.  The only head-crushing that needs to go on in the Christian blogsophere is when believers stand behind Christ as he overturns the works of the devil and crushes the head of the serpent.  But he doesn’t do that as a delusional goon from behind a bush.  He gets close.  He looks death in the face.  And he crushes it for real.  Let’s follow suit. 

Today in Blogworld 5.29.12

Lessons from a Megachurch Pastor Who Killed a Man

Trevin Wax attempts to learn a few lessons from the life and ministry of J. Frank Norris.  With some help from The Shooting Salvationist, Wax gives 5 things we can learn from his life and ministry.  I found this really intriguing.  It makes me want to learn more about J. Frank Norris.  Helpful lessons too. 

Homosexuality and the Church: Walking the Tightrope! 

I appreciate Dave Miller’s tone and perspective in this piece.  He admits that the issue of homosexuality is a difficult one to navigate for the church of the 21st century.  He then gives 10 biblical principles that can assist us as we walk the tightrope. 

Create!  New E-Book by Stephen Altrogge

Stephen Altrogge is one of my favorite authors.  So it takes very little to motivate me to throw $2.99 at his latest project.  From Stephen, “I believe that God has given every person creative gifts, and that all of us are called to use our creative gifts for the glory of God. This book is intended to inspire and motivate Christians to start using the creative gifts that God has given them for the glory of God and the good of others. It’s a book for artists and homemakers, poets and plumbers, architects and accountants. In other words, this book is for you.”  Pick up a copy

Deeper Application

Daryl Dash offers 3 helpful things that are needed for preachers/teachers to make application in a sermon/lesson deeper.  One of his best lines in the article is this quip: “Good preaching shows how our need is met in God.”  The whole thing is worth a read.  (HT: Aaron Armstrong)

Here is a little D.A. Carson for your viewing pleasure:

(HT: Ed Stetzer)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Today in Blogworld 5.28.12

Six Ways of Minimizing Sin
With a little help from the Gospel-Centered Life booklet Tim Brister offers six ways of minimizing sin.

Today Was Supposed to Be My Wedding Day
M. Connor, writing for TGC, shares how God worked in her life to call off her engagement.  "As much as it would hurt to say goodbye, I knew this was not the relationship God intended for me. He promises much more, and I wasn't going to find it in a marriage with an unbeliever."

Fake Love, Fake War
Russell Moore has more reflection on the tendency of men to throw their lives away on pornography and video games.  Concluding that "the answer to both addictions is to fight arousal with arousal."

7 Keys to Preventing Pastoral Burnout
Rainer notes that "every pastor with whom I spoke had experienced some level of burnout." He then offers 7 keys to preventing burnout. I think even non-pastors could gain some insight from these.
I'm not sure why this is so entertaining but you just keep pulling for the little guy:

(HT: 22 Words)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Gospel or Leprosy?

The Gospel hurts worse than having a leprous heart.  I know that in the end it hurts far worse to have a heart deadened to God.  But this side of redemption having a heart sensitive to the Spirit and fighting sin hurts.  It hurts when the gospel rips idols out of my heart.  It hurts when I am fully exposed.  It hurts when the gospel will not allow me to hide (from God or neighbor).  It hurts when the gospel makes me face things I would rather not.  The gospel hurts.

Leprosy on the other hand—you don’t feel a thing.  Of course this means that you are also deadened to beauty.  You cannot really feel kisses.  You cannot really feel a warm embrace.  Sunsets are ignored.  Food tastes bland.  Life feels dull.  But leprosy doesn’t hurt; or at least it doesn’t appear to at the moment.

So do I believe Jesus enough to let the gospel hurt?  Or will I try to put on a leprous heart?


This one was from the archives.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Review of Wordsmithy by Douglas Wilson

No offense to the poor chap (though I’m about to give plenty to be offended by), but I had a history professor that probably would have been a better accountant than a man required to daily stand before the living.  If anyone could make the Kennedy Assasination seem like just another boring old November day in Dallas when something significant was said to have happened it was this chum. 

To contrast I have also had a professor that has made Greek participles and prepositions seem like something in which your life depended.  And perhaps it does.  Or perhaps he successfully brainwashed me with his charms.  Either way whenever I see a participle and even those little prepositions in Greek my heart starts to race, my bladder begins to loosen, and my antennae are raised.  I know that something significant is supposed to be happening.  I’m not sure what.  But I know that this professor got excited about participles and prepositions and his sick disease has somehow infected me. 

The same thing happens with books on writing.  People like me pick those books up because we like to think that we are writers.  Some of us have a true passion for writing.  Others have a passion for being published.  Regardless of your basic intentions you buy books like Wordsmithy with hopes of increasing your wordsmithering skills so that perhaps someday you can deposit your treasury of awesomeness into an unsuspecting victim like you yourself are at present. 

There are some books on writing that make it seem like sticking your toe to your face with a hot-glue gun may be more enjoyable than this thing we call writing.  You leave the book perhaps knowing—or at least hoping that you remembered—how to use capital letters in a title.  But your passion for writing is about as fresh as a mouse that decides to make his home in the electrical housing of your dryer.  Certainly, you and I need those books.  Otherwise you, put, commas in places wrong and no sense make you out of nothing.

If you want to have a passion for writing, though, you need books like Douglas Wilson’s Wordsmithy.  He writes with the passion of a writer.  And he writes in such a way that you will pick up how a good writer actually uses words and phrases.  After you put a book like Wordsmithy down you suddenly realize that what just happened is that Douglas Wilson not only told you how to write he also showed you how to write. 

The book is short.  120 pages to be exact.  At least if exact means 120 pages on my Kindle.  Wilson takes 7 key principles for writing and then expounds them into 7 chapters with 7 different sub-points.  Here are his 7 points:

  1. Know something about the world
  2. Read
  3. Read mechanical helps
  4. Stretch before your routines
  5. Be at peace with being lousy for a while
  6. Learn other languages
  7. Keep a commonplace book

Should You Buy It?

If you have no desire to be a writer then I doubt very seriously you would want to purchase this.  Although, it is such a fun read you may actually want to be a writer after reading it.  If you do want to be a writer (or already consider yourself a writer) you really ought to purchase this book.  It is a phenomenal help to any writer.  Just reading Wilson’s writing style will make you a better writer.  For as inexpensive as you can get this book you’re slightly crazy if you want to write but you can’t find the time to read through this book.

Buy it today!

Today in Blogworld 5.25.12

A Wife's Perspective on Seminary

Seminary is not only taxing on the seminary student, it can also be quite difficult for a seminary wife.  Katie Chappell offers four reflections on the life of a seminary wife.  (HT: Challies)

A Cure for Lame Table Prayers

With a little help from Douglas Wilson's book, Father Hunger, Tony Reinke offers a helpful perspective to rejuvenate our typical rote dinner prayers.

The Demise of Guys

It is always interesting when secular media begins to pick up what the church has been considering for years.  Here CNN looks at how pornography and video games are destroying guys.  (HT: David Murray)

5 Factors that Brought Life to a Dying Church

J.D. Greear has experienced church revitalization first hand.  Here he reflects on five things that he believes God used to bring life to his formerly dying church.

You have heard that it is dangerous to text and drive.  But it is also danger to text and walk--especially when bears are present.

   (HT: Trevin Wax)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Grace for the Little Things

It was an easy task.  At least it should have been.

Yet, if you ask my wife why our garbage disposal leaks she can quickly point the finger to the time that I took the whole thing apart, breaking the seals, and everything to “fix it”.  No need for a professional or an expert.  I’m a husband AND I’ve stayed at a Holiday Inn.   Even though I have no idea how a garbage disposal works I’m pretty certain that its not a big deal and I’ll figure it out as I go along.  After all how hard can it really be to get my garbage disposal to stop sounding like a pterodactyl giving birth? 

Had it been something huge I would have called a professional.  But this was something little that I was confident that through my own wisdom and strength I could fix.  No need to call in an expert. 

So I plugged away for a couple of hours.  Wasting an entire night.  Learning nothing.  Tearing up half the kitchen sink.  Sinking in my shame and inadequacy.  Even trying the ridiculous like taking off my belt and sagging my Levi’s hoping that maybe that will make me a better plumber.  Fail.

Grace for the Little Things

It’s not only garbage disposals that I do this with, though.  John Newton reminds me that it’s often in my prayer life that I “got” the little things:

…if the occasion seems small, we are too apt secretly to lean to our own wisdom and strength, as if in such slight matters we could make [due] without him.  Therefore in these we often fail. 

And so the Lord often treats us as a wise mother teaching a self-confident child how to walk.  “If there is no danger or harm from a fall, as if he is on plain carpet, the mother will let him alone to try how he can walk.”  Where mommy couldn’t convince him that he isn’t as strong and able as he thought a donk on the noggin will do the trick. 

Often times the Lord allows these “small things” to become “big things” to teach us the danger of self-dependence and the joy of trusting His infallible hand.  This is supremely loving.  The Lord consistently reminds us that “it requires the same grace to bear with a right spirit a cross word as a cross injury; or the breaking of a china plate, as the death of an only son.” 

We need grace for the little things just as much as we need grace for the big things. 


In case you were wondering after my failed efforts at fixing my garbage disposal my good friend Ryan came to our rescue.  He is somewhat of handyman and as opposed to me actually knows what he is doing.  Dude fixed it in three minutes.  “How”, you ask?  By sticking his hand down the drain and pulling out the screw that was rubbing up against the blades and causing the screeching of a birthing pterodactyl.   Little things don’t turn into “big things” when we get the right means of help. 

Why the Charles Worley’s of the World Make the Welton Gaddy’s Seem Plausible (2/2)

Yesterday I interacted with this video:

It’s a misnomer to call this guy a pastor.  Pastors feed their sheep.  Pastors protect their sheep from the wolves that are harming their sheep.  They don’t work to convince the sheep of strategies for taming goats.  Pastors stand before a hungry congregation and feed them with “thus saith the Lord”.  They don’t put their own opinion on an equal plain with God and His Word just because they sign their checks with Rev.

This guys rant is going viral on the internet.  And with every click and view, what the gospel says about homosexuality is muddied.  Hate filled garbage like this is what makes it almost impossible for Christians to actually engage the homosexual community and provide the light of Jesus.  This is what people hear and see whenever believers say, “homosexuality is wrong”.  And it is junk like this that gives rise to the Welton Gaddy’s of the world; who, rightly, do not want to be seen as this guy, but wrongly, also miss the gospel. 

Lost in all of this is the transforming gospel.  Worley misses the gospel on at least three fronts. 

He misses the problem

Worley’s solution is to get all the “gays, queers, and lesbians” together and put them in a plot of land surrounded by an electric fence, drop them some food, and watch them die out.  Why will they die out?  Because they cannot reproduce. 

One of the problems with Worley’s solution is that it wouldn’t work.  And that fact actually exposes his wrong-headed gospel-denying theology.  Homosexuality is a matter of the heart more than it is a matter of genetics.  It is not a matter of “them”.  It is a matter of “us”.  Folks like Worley deny that the same seed that sprouts homosexuality is present in his own heart and is probably what birthed this angry tirade. 

The problem with homosexuals is not fundamentally their sexual orientation.  The problem with homosexuals is the same problem with heterosexuals—idolatry.  When we make homosexuality the problem it’s like condemning an apple because it stopped growing when plucked away from the tree. 

I stand firmly with Scripture and say that engaging in homosexual activity is sin.  But I also stand firmly with Scripture and say that my bouts of anger, joylessness, apathy, pride, and a host of other things is sin.  I’m standing with God and His Word against my sin.  My sin problem isn’t a “them” problem, it’s a “me” problem. 

He misses the solution

The Christian’s ultimate goal for an angry man is not to get him to stop being angry.  It certainly isn’t to kill him off.  The Christian’s ultimate goal for an angry man is to help him find grace, forgiveness, and redemption in the precious blood of Jesus Christ. 

The Christian’s ultimate goal for a homosexual is not to make him heterosexual.  It certainly isn’t to section him off from society, drop food, and surround him with an electric fence.  The Christian’s ultimate goal for a homosexual is that he becomes a worshiper of Jesus.  Again, that he finds grace, forgiveness, and redemption in the precious blood of Jesus. 

Worley have very wrong-headed and hateful goal in this tirade.  “Get rid of the queers”.  That’s not the way of Jesus.  Of course neither is pretending that homosexuality is not sinful.  The way of Jesus is to actually acknowledge that we are guilty before God in far more than homosexuality.  It is to admit that homosexuality (or pride, or lust, or anger) is a fruit of a much deeper worship problem.  The only answer for worship problems is the gospel of Christ.  That’s the solution—not electric fences. 

He does both like a jerk

I imagine that Mr. Worley stepped down from the pulpit feeling rather good about his bold stance against homosexuality and President Obama.  He really stuck it to them.  The problem is that it inadequately reflects the posture of the prophets of old and more importantly of Jesus. 

Find the places in Scripture where Jesus is absolutely furious and engaging in something that may be construed from an uninitiated observer as a rant.  Notice his audience.  You will find that it is those that are “within the fold” and are hard as rock in their hearts that Jesus comes like a hammer against.  Seldom does he say, “Watch out for those dirty filthy Romans”.  In fact his aim is less about disagreeing with Rome and more about setting up His own Kingdom. 

Now find the places in Scripture where Jesus interacted with sinners.  Notice his posture.  Was he bold?  Yes.  Did he back down from what is sin and what is required of his kingdom?  Did he engage them like a self-righteous jerk?  Nope.  He stood boldly for the truth but engaged the broken and rebellious with compassion. 

And that is a significant problem because the Welton Gaddy’s of the world come behind the Charles Worleys’ and offer “peace, peace” when there really is no peace.  They offer a mock compassion that is easily swallowed up because everybody and their mom can identify a Worley-esque bludgeoning as “not the way of Jesus”.  But what is lost in all of this is the actual voice of Jesus which compassionately calls sinners (homosexuals, prideful pastors, angry daddy’s, and greedy Republicans) to faith and repentance.  He encourages loose Samaritan women to drop their water jug and drink deeply from the “spring of water welling up to eternal life”. 

Today in Blogworld 5.24.12

The Unteachables

Unfortunately, this article resonated with me.  As a Bible teacher one of the most frustrating things that plagues our society is that people are often unteachable.  I don't think it's coincidence that Jesus' disciples reflected a teachable spirit.  (HT: Challies)

An Open Letter to Post-Partisan Evangelicals

David French tells his story of transition from post-partisan evangelical to one firmly entrenched in the "religious-right".  He makes a few very helpful points for us to consider.  (HT: JT)

5 Inconvenient Truths for Writers

I found these humbling.

Guilt Gone Wild

John Ortberg is a tremendous writer.  We may not agree on every point theologically but I love reading what he has to say.  This article is really helpful.  (HT: Ed Stetzer)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Difference Between a Preacher and a Pulpiteer

A pulpiteer is one who speaks behind a pulpit but he/she does about as much to feed the sheep as Elmer Fudd does to benefit the NRA.  He may be using the same tools and hunting in the same woods but he does little for the true task set before him. 

What is the difference between a pulpiteer and a preacher?

Preachers preach because they are bursting with truths which cannot help but find expression.  The Word dwells with power in them, and it passes with power from them.  Pulpiteers preach style.  They may copy the form but they have little knowledge of its substance or its power. 

Most of those that wear the name tag “Preacher” can stand before a group of people and give their opinion about a text.  Some can even do it while being engaging.  Some can handle the congregations and play on their emotions, and can do about what they want with the bleating sheep before them.  These men are pulpiteers.  Only when a man is gripped by the text, awed by the Savior, and bursting forth can he truly be said to be preaching. 

The church needs preachers not pulpiteeers. 

Why the Charles Worley’s of the World Make the Welton Gaddy’s Seem Plausible (1/2)

If you haven’t already done so, watch this video:

Take a few deep breaths.  Try to calm down. 

There is much in Worley’s “sermon” that is detestable.  And I want to rightly denounce his “preaching” and his message here.  But for the full treatment of that you will have to wait until tomorrow.  Today I actually want to consider the response of Welton Gaddy.  I do that because I am claiming in this piece that Worley’s ridiculousness is what makes the non-sense spewing from Gaddy’s mouth actually seem plausible.  So, before we can rightly tackle the problem with Worley’s rant it needs to be shown that Gaddy’s response is just as anti-gospel.

Gaddy’s Response

I agree with Welton Gaddy that Charles Worley’s tirade is wrong and flat out dangerous.  In that much we agree.  But why I think it is wrong and dangerous is much different from why Gaddy believes it is so. 

Welton Gaddy, rightly, believes that Worley is simply cherry picking verses and then going on hateful rants against homosexuality.  He rightly says that Worley does not consider the whole sweep of Scripture.  I agree.  Then Gaddy defines the whole sweep of Scripture as a message of a loving God who wants us to love each other.  The message of the Bible is that we learn to get along and cooperate.  Which he is quick to mention is also what our government is about. At this point we diverge. 

What Gaddy says here sounds so good and so “like Jesus” when compared to a dude that wants to round up “queers” like you would a batch of mules that cannot reproduce.  “That’ll get rid of them and then we won’t have to have this problem anymore”.  Acceptance, tolerance, unity, and a message of love seems like a no-brainer compared to such ridiculousness. 

The Problem

One problem though.  The whole sweep of the Bible isn’t fundamentally about humanities quest to learn to love one another.  The message of the Bible is about the self-giving God drawing undeserving rebellious sinners into a relationship with Himself.  It is about him rooting out of his world all sin and belief and creating in its place passionate worshipers. 

Though Worley does cherry-pick verses and rip them out of context he is not wrong that God is “againt” (how do you spell that?) homosexuality. 

It takes some serious exegetical gymnastics and a complete mutilation of the text to make an argument that Romans 1 does not place the sin of homosexuality within the grand scope of Scripture’s message.  Homosexuality is a result of worshipping the creature instead of creation.  And Paul uses that particular sin not because it is worse than any of the others listed in Scripture but because it provides a helpful picture of worshipping and serving “like” instead of worshipping and serving “Other”. 

If it is true that homosexuality is image of God destroying then the most loving thing that we can do is not leave them in their sin.  Yes, Jesus “accepted” the loose Samaritan woman.  But he also told her “go and sin no more”.  There really is such a thing as sin in the world and it’s far more wide-reaching than just “lack of accepting one another”. 

Hate is a sin.  So is homosexuality.  Because both are sin doesn’t mean that both are now somehow acceptable and we just need to learn to love one another in the midst of our sin.  It means that we both need Christ and as we both grab hold of the Cross of Jesus we find unity.  That’s the story of the gospel. 

Unity is found when broken and rebellious sinners find grace and acceptance at the Cross of Christ.  It’s not found when broken and rebellious sinners put on fig leaves and then have a fashion show to encourage one another in their new rebellion-denying attire. 

But rebellion-denying seems so plausible when compared to the anti-gospel rants of the Charles Worley’s of the world…


By the way, I find it really telling that a man of such acceptance and love can label the group of people that were listening to this man as those having “sick minds”.  So it is perfectly acceptable, and tolerant, and together, to dismiss and insult those that aren’t deemed as acceptable, tolerant, and together?  Actually, I agree with Gaddy that those shouting “Amen” have sick minds.  But I can say that and not be a hypocrite because I’m not the dude trying to convince sinners (like myself) to hold hands and sing Kumbaya because we really aren’t so screwed up.  But it is quite hypocritical to preach tolerance for all belief—except of course to those that aren’t tolerant. 

Today in Blogworld 5.23.12

Normal Sermon Prep?  Really?

Yesterday I linked to Stephen Um’s article on sermon prep.  Today I want to point you to a helpful corrective from David Murray.  If you read Um’s piece be sure to read this from Murray, I think he makes a couple solid points. 

Congregationalists and Individualists

Thabiti Anyabwile makes a careful distinction between “pooled individualism” and congregationalism.  If the vast majority of a congregation desires to follow the leadership but four members are holding it hostage because they demand all the information the leaders have, is this a congregational expression of church polity?  Thabiti’s answer—and distinction between congregationalism and individualism—is very helpful. 

How to Sabotage and Introverted Pastor

In the spirit of The Screwtape Letters, Jared Wilson gives some demon counsel on sabotaging an introverted pastor.  As an introverted pastor myself, I found his counsel here quite fitting.  I have sensed some of these temptations myself and have been exhorted by the Spirit to do things that do not come “natural” to me. 

Compare, Contrast, and Caterwaul (2/2)

I really appreciated this post from Frank Turk.  He does a tremendous job of disagreeing with Tim Keller but also encouraging his readers to “do what was done here, and then do it better.” 

This is what Gospel Community should look like:

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

5 Truths An Attractional Church Denies

Yesterday I asked whether or not your church is Old Testament.  Today I want to look at a few pitfalls of embracing an “attractional” or Old Testament model of missions when we are living in the New Testament era.  I believe this is not merely a matter of opinion but a matter of being faithful to the Great Commission. 

As I begin this list I want to be fair and considerate to those that may have an attractional mindset.  I understand that most would probably say, “I do not believe these 5 things”.  And that is a good thing.  My point is that embracing an attractional model is inconsistent with these five truths. 

  1. The church is a people and not a building.  Most all of us give this one lip service.  We know deep down that the church is a people and not a building that we gather in.  Yet, when our fundamental concern is how to get people into a building we are betraying this belief. 
  2. God’s power to use you and not just the preacher.  Yes, God has set aside gifted men to proclaim His Word and His gospel.  But as Charles Spurgeon’s father once said, “he may be able to preach the gospel better but he cannot preach a better gospel.”  All believers are indwelled by the Holy Spirit and have the same promises that are given preachers when we open our mouths.  To think that people need to “come hear the preacher” in order to come to know Christ denies the Spirit’s power in your own life.
  3. The Holy Spirit’s ministry.  The Spirit of God works in jars of clay to proclaim the eternal truth of Christ.  Whenever the gospel is proclaimed—even from the lips of a donkey—He accompanies the proclamation with His power to accomplish His purposes.  To think that in the NT people still need to “come and see” denies that the Spirit now permanently indwells believers to accomplish His purposes no matter where they are located.
  4. The New Testament mandate to “Go”.  The Great Commission is to “Go” not to stay and hold up a sign that says “come here”.  After Christ has ascended into heaven and the Spirit comes at Pentecost you will be hard pressed to find examples of believers engaging in a “come and see” type of ministry.  They are almost always engaging in a “go and tell”. 
  5. That God owns every square inch of creation.  The veil was torn on the curtain of the temple for a reason.  Just as the Jerusalem temple was destroyed for a reason; namely, Immanuel.  Good luck finding a place in the NT after Jesus’ ascension and pre-New Heaven and New-Earth where a building is called holy.  Yet, you will find the glory of God spreading throughout every square inch of creation by people that are deemed “holy-ones”. 

Therefore, if we are to be a NT church we will be missional and not attractional.  There was a day when God said “Come and See” there may even yet be a day when He says the same.  But in the present era His mandate is “Go and Tell”. 

Today in Blogworld 5.22.12

Sermon Prep: A Week in One Life

Here Stephen Um describes his typical week of sermon preparation.  He also provides four lessons that we can learn.  I found the team approach particularly interesting. 

Four Ways to Fight Clean

Dustin Neeley provides us with four ways to fight clean over doctrine.  Neeley gives us a great reminder that if you fight dirty then neither player truly wins. 

Competitive Mothering

I don’t know of any challenge or opportunity or responsibility—however you want to classify motherhood—that lends itself more readily to guilt. Many mothers live in guilt from the day they first become pregnant (“I can’t believe I drank coffee! I need to take more vitamins!”) to the day they die (“So many opportunities missed!”).

That is from a solid article written by Tim Challies on the competitive world of mothering.  I’m going to be sure my wife reads this article—it will be an encouragement. 

What a Comedian Taught Me About Parenting

Some parents are permissive and lazy. Others are over-bearing kill-joys. Sadly, many of us manage to be both. I say: keep them safe, keep them away from sin, give them the gospel, and let the good times roll. Hey, I wouldn’t mind being five again. So why make the five year-old miserable because she likes being five too. Kids are kids. And we’d be better and happier parents with better and happier kids if we allowed that sometimes the joy in their silly, childlike hearts is worth more than the paint on our precious parent-like walls. 

This post from Kevin DeYoung is helpful and convicting to this daddy. 

I also found this video from D.A. Carson quite helpful:

(HT: Z)

10 Tips For Daily Blogging

I try to write something every day.  Some days this is impossible.  I have times where writing comes easy.  And sometimes writing is difficult.  Yesterday, I noted that you need to post something everyday but you also need to be able to do that without being a fool.  Here are 10 suggestions to help you post something every day even when you cannot necessarily write something every day. 

  1. Take advantage of good writing days.  When you have a day where your typewriter cannot seem to keep up with your massive brain and awesome writing powers don’t stop the flow.  Keep writing and save those posts for a later date.  Currently I have something in my queue for the next week. 
  2. Read and quote.  Read good books, find a few lengthy quotes, introduce the quote, publish.  Rinse and repeat. 
  3. Write a book review.  I tend to post my book reviews on Friday because those are lower traffic days for my writing genre.  But book reviews are those articles that always get traffic.  Once you finish book write a quick review.
  4. Link.  Aaron Armstrong and Trevin Wax are geniuses when it comes to using Twitter to get traffic to their blog.  They will post one article with 4-5 links and then throughout the day direct people back to their blog to check out those other articles.  I’m working on copying their wisdom here. 
  5. Have a schedule.  I try to write some sort of “Ministry Musing” on Monday.  Something interacting with John Newton on Tuesday.  A lengthy series like Proverbs for Christian Blogging on Thursday’s and Saturday’s.  People You Should Know on Wednesday’s, Book Reviews on Fridays.  Archives on Sunday.  And then I fill in the gaps with other things.  But these are anchors that I can work on whenever I have writer’s block and have several things queued up. 
  6. Break up posts.  Nobody likes to read lengthy articles anyways.  If you have an article that is longer than 800-1400 words why not break it up, try to lengthen it a little, and make a series out of it?   But don’t post them all the same day.  Keep your readers waiting a little.  I could have easily made this a 10 day series. (Part of me wants to give you the other 4 tomorrow but that would be just mean).
  7. Keep a journal of writing ideas.  I have a little blue book filled with quick reference ideas.  That way whenever I get stuck and I do not have much in the queue I can consult this and try to write through an idea I had in the past.
  8. Try to Write Everyday.  Sometimes you simply need to sit down at the computer and just start typing away.  If it stinks keep the draft, you may be able to make it salvageable some day.  Your queue will dry up quickly.  So write every day that you are able.  And even on most days when you are not able. 
  9. Archive.  If you have been blogging for awhile you pull things out of the archive.  You may want to update them a little to make them more relevant or to reflect your growing writing skills but you hopefully have a decent amount of quality stuff that your newer readers will have never read. 
  10. When in Doubt Make a List.  People like lists.  They are easy to read quickly and somewhat easy to write.  Get an idea and try to make a list.  If you are really strapped you could turn a list like this into 10 days worth of writing.  

Monday, May 21, 2012

Proverbs for Christian Blogging: How to Have Something to Say Without Being a Fool

In my years of blogging I have read a fair amount of articles on how to create a successful blog that receives a steady flow of traffic.  One piece of advice that is always present on these “How to Be an Awesome Blogger” lists is that you need to write frequently.  If you want to become a better writer and a successful blogger you need to at least post something daily. 

Yet there is another piece of advice that in some form or another is always present on these lists; namely, you need to have something to say.  Any schmuck could post something on a blog daily.  Just as an schmuck can post to Twitter of Facebook 12 times in 15 minutes.  Unfortunately for schmucks nobody really wants to know updates on various bowel movements, your opinion on foreign cheeses, or your minute by minute opinion of the happenings on C-Span.  If you want an audience you need to give them something worthy of reading. 

There really is more at stake here than just being able to gain traffic.  Not only did Jesus say we would be judged by every idle word spoken, but we also have a helpful Proverb that encourages the restraint of the lips (and probably tips of your fingers tapping away at your mobile device). 

    When words are many, transgression is not lacking,
        but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.
    The tongue of the righteous is choice silver;
        the heart of the wicked is of little worth.
    The lips of the righteous feed many,
        but fools die for lack of sense.
(Proverbs 10:19-21 ESV)

The Faithful Blogger’s Conundrum

You have to write every day.  But you cannot just write anything.  It needs to be seasoned with grace.  It needs to be edifying.  If we want to avoid talking as fools then we will avoid being ranked among those that “talk for ever upon nothing” (Bridges, 102). 

Some 150 years before Al Gore invented the internet, Charles Bridges speaks well to the blogger’s task:

…it is surely our wisdom to refrain our lips…not indeed to silence, but in caution; to weigh our words before uttering them; never speaking, except when we have something to say; speaking only just enough; considering the time, circumstances, and person; what is solid suitable, and profitable.

In other words we probably should only write when we have something to say.  And when we do write we should say “only just enough” and not labor on and on.  Yet, there is still that pressing dictum POST SOMETHING EVERYDAY.  What is a faithful blogger to do?

The Blogger’s Resource

There are two things that will help you to have something to say without being a fool.  First, be a Christian.  That means that you have the “indwelling Word” and because of this “the mouth of the righteous man is a fountain of life” (Proverbs 10:11).  The Spirit of God works in the life of the believer to make his tongue “choice silver” and to help “feed many”.  If you are a believer in Jesus you have something to say, every day, because His mercies are new every morning. 

Second, keep a notebook.  Proverbs 10:5 says, “He who gathers in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame”.  Also 10:14 says, “The wise lay up knowledge”.  Not every day will feel like summer.  Yes, you have the Spirit of God and yes, his mercies are new every morning.  But some days are wintery and blisteringly cold.  It’s hard to see and feel the sunshine on those days.  You need a notebook filled with July’s insights when life hands you December.  Work your tail off in July so that your December isn’t barren.

I want to give a few practical tips on that next time…

Is Your Church Old Testament?

Watch this video:

It occurs to me that the difference between an “attractional” church and a “missional” church is the same as the difference between an Old Testament view of mission and a New Testament view of mission.  This is not to say that one is wrong and the other is correct.  It is simply to say that one is past and the other is present. 

Before Christ the place to find the presence of God was found almost exclusively in the temple.  If you desired an experience with God then you had to “come and see”.  The primary mission of Israel was to draw people to Zion.  Micah 4:2 is a great description of the attractional hope of Israel:

and many nations shall come, and say: ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.”

In the New Testament, however, the presence of God is no longer mostly confined to a temple.  The Spirit of God indwells believers.  The church--the community of blood-bought redeemed sinners--is now the dwelling place of God.  Therefore, the missional imperative has changed.  It is no longer “come and see” as much as it is “go and tell”.  People do not need a building to experience the presence of God, they need Spirit-indwelt believers proclaiming the Spirit-empowered message of the Kingdom. 

Questions change

This is not to say that those who have a more attractional model do not care about souls.  Most churches would be nervously and excitedly welcoming to “them” coming to church.  In fact that is what most churches are aiming for:   they want to reach “them”, whoever “them” is. 

And so the questions that you ask with an Old Testament mindset are centered around what we can do to attract them.  When the church begins to decline or not grow as desired you begin asking questions of your programs, building, preachers, etc. under the framework of whether or not they are attracting and keeping members and reaching them.  Success is measured by whether or not people are coming to church because that is the means that we use for them to see God at work and hopefully come to a knowledge of Christ.

These questions change in the New Testament.  As your read through Acts and consider Paul’s missionary journeys you will be hard pressed to find examples of the early disciples trying to figure out how to get people to come to them.  They were mostly concerned with how to get the message to them.  And this is the fundamental difference between an OT “church” and a NT church:

OT: How do we get them to come to us?
NT: How do we get us to go to them?
       How do we go to them?

Changing that question will change the way that your church thinks about missions and reaching people that do not know Christ.  And it also identifies whether or not you fundamentally think like an OT “church” or a NT church. 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sometimes We Over-think Sin Problems

I’m going through some articles that I have written in the past and trying to bring a few of them out of the vault.  This one was posted back in 2009. 


Sometimes counseling teenagers can cause head-scratching and heartache. The same is true of counseling my own heart.  I have counseled numerous teenagers that were crying in my office because they could not conquer a particular sin. My wife and I have counseled girls that are struggling with "boy issues" (e.g., their immaturity, their jerkiness, and their selfishness). And I have counseled young men that are struggling with "boy issues" (lust, pornography, anger). One thing always astonishes me...and this astonishes me about my own heart as well; we wallow in sin and plead with God to stir our affections at the same time.

It seems to me that the wisest thing to do would be to flee from the sin. Usually when pressed young men can figure out the source of their lust. Unless your conscience is ridiculously seared (and that is possible) you know when you are "crossing the line". That is why if you are in union with Christ such sin is ridiculous. Please do not misunderstand me; I have a tremendous amount of compassion and empathy with young men that struggle with these issues (as well as young women that "like" guys that they shouldn't). However, there comes a time when we need to confront the ignorance behind such sin.

"I'm not sure why my girlfriend and I messed up. I mean I know we were both in our swimming suits. And I know that she probably should not have been sitting on my lap. And I guess it was silly for us to try to help out each other not get a sunburn. And yes I know the likelihood of getting a sunburn "there" is improbable. But I really prayed before we went swimming because I knew it might be tough. Do I need to read my Bible more, you think? Should I have prayed harder? I really tried not to fall into this sin, why did God not help me out more. Why did he not deliver me from evil?"

Well, you see he did. Jesus delivered you from evil when he disarmed the power of Satan on the Cross. He robbed sin of its power when he brought you out of the kingdom of darkness and transferred you into the kingdom of Jesus. The principle of death has died in your heart so you no longer have to be a slave to these passions; He has supplanted that principle of death by making you alive with Christ. He has conquered sin. The problem is you are going back to it. The problem is you run away from his kingdom and sit in the filth of the old one. And you wonder why you fall?

The prodigal son did not cry out from his pig slop "Father come save me". He remembered the steadfast love of the Father, got out of the pig slop and ran back to where he belonged. So, here is the solution: stop letting your girlfriend sit on your lap, stop rubbing her down with sun tan lotion, and stop swimming half-naked. Sin is serious and it is deceptive. But it has been defeated. Live like it.

The problem is that we sometimes secretly want the fleeting pleasures of sin. This is why we need to pray that the Lord might "stir our affections" and root out of our hearts sin and unbelief. But that prayer does not mean that you stay in the pig slop. If you are a believer the death of Christ has conquered the heart that longs for pig slop; just get out of it. And if you ever find yourself wandering back remember the love of the Father, repent, and get out of the pig slop and go read 1 John 1:9.

Friday, May 18, 2012

That Which Captivates Angels

It would not surprise you for me to point out that people are fascinated by angels. And I suppose they are quite fascinating.  But you want to know what is even more fascinating?  The gospel.

How crazy that angels long to “look into the gospel” (1 Pet. 1:12); we are bored with the gospel and long to look into angels.  What is even crazier is that this idiocy is probably part of what has the angels so baffled.  God redeems a humanity filled with idolaters, guilty of sin no less treasonous than the angels that he refuses to redeem.  The gospel indeed is precious.  If only we had the wisdom of angels to be enamored by all that Jesus Christ has done.

It’s no stretch to say that more people would probably attend a seminar on unlocking the mystery of the end times than they would one on unveiling the different facets of the gospel.  More people would probably take a class on angelology than they would on atonement.

Yet, this is really not surprising; angels are comfortable, the gospel isn’t.  You can talk to a stranger (even if he hates Christianity) about some angel named Gabriel.  Worse thing that will happen is that he will probably consider you a fruitcake and leave smiling.  But the gospel will get you killed.  I cannot remember reading of people getting persecuted to death for belief in angels.  And why would they?  Angels do not divide history.  Jesus does. 

Undoubtedly Satan, an angel himself, would be rather content with you spending your time concerned with angels instead of looking into what angels are concerned with; namely, the gospel of Jesus Christ.  What, then, is this thing that angels are concerned with?  “…that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures”.  This is what angels long to look into, and Satan longs to distract you from.


I wrote something very similar to this a couple of years ago but because I am preaching on 1 Peter 1:3-12 on Sunday evening I thought it might be beneficial to pull this one out of the archives

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Jarrod Dyson, Rollie Fingers, and How We View the World

“That’s what speed do”.

Jarrod Dyson is one of the fastest players in MLB.  He was a 50th Round Pick.  That’s around the time when baseball teams start picking the guy with a wooden leg who lost his real one in a freak combine accident.  Guys that get picked this late do not make an influence in the game of baseball.  Or at least they aren’t supposed to.  But Jarrod Dyson is really fast. 

As a Royals fan I absolutely love watching Dyson play.  It’s exciting to see him slap a ball to the shortstop and then watch the usually sure handed shortstop get a little jittery because he knows if he makes one little mistake Dyson is going to beat out his throw. 

I read an article earlier today where a guy was looking at various statistics and wondering how much of an impact Dyson could really make in the league.  He cited Dyson’s typically low .OBP (on base percentage) and his somewhat sketchy outfield play.  He makes a valid point.  We don’t get to watch him run like a deer if doesn’t get on base.  And it really doesn’t matter how freaky fast the guy is if he runs towards right field on a ball hit to left field.  But still it’s annoying because I just love to watch Jarrod Dyson, because “that’s what speed do!”. 

This made me realize there are two ways to watch baseball.  One way is to view Jarrod Dyson with numbers over top his head.  This is the kid that liked the back of the baseball card better than the front.  He could tell you that Rollie Fingers had 37 saves in 1978 but he never stopped to marvel at Rollie’s amazing handle-bar mustache. 

The other way to watch baseball is to simply sit back and marvel.  Instead of numbers over Dyson’s head you simply say, “Dude, can haul”.  (That is if you talk like a frat boy, otherwise you’ll say something white and lame like “Homey sure is fast”).  This is the kid that memorized the front of the baseball card and rarely looked at the back.  He marveled at every curve of Rollie’s beautiful masterpiece—this of course referring to both his mustache and his pitching greatness. 

Dropping the Gospel Bomb

As I think about how this relates to baseball it occurs to me that this way of viewing the world extends far beyond the diamond.  This applies especially to the gospel and theology.  There is a type of theologian that reads the Bible only in its original language, parses all the verbs correctly, masters systematic theology, debates unbelievers, places every thought within a deep knowledge of church history, and beats his wife and rages at his children.  Or it may not be that extreme.  He may have just lost his sense of wonder.  He knows the back of the card but has lost the wonder of the glossy front. 

There is a way of dissecting the gospel and asking questions about the nature of the gospel ad infinitum that does much to spark debate but little to induce worship.  God and His gospel make angels marvel not necessarily dissect.  If your theology doesn’t stir up doxology it is wrong-hearted and probably more akin to the theology of devils than the Savior. 

Of course we need the guy that notices Jarrod Dyson usually has a low .OBP.  It would make for a pretty bad team if the GM forced the coach to start a guy that batted .187 for 10 straight seasons just because he really liked to watch him swing.  We need the nerds that look at the back of cards as much as we need the kid that just marvels at Dyson running like a highly-caffeinated cheetah. 

If you’re a look-at-the-back-of-the-card type of guy know that about yourself.  Plead with God to also open up your heart to the wonder of the sweaty tilt-a-whirl that is the mustache of Rollie Fingers.  More than anything plead with him to enliven your heart with not only the truthfulness of the gospel but also it’s beauty. 

If you’re the marvel-at-the-front-of-the-card type of guy know that about yourself.  Plead with God to also drive you deeper into the back of the baseball card.  Knowing that Rollie Fingers also got 37 saves in 1978 can actually strengthen your admiration.  Plead with God to enrich your heart with not only the beauty of the gospel but also its absolute truthfulness. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Proverbs for Christian Blogging: How to Tell If I Really Desire Wisdom

    Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse,
        and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury.
    Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you;
        reprove a wise man, and he will love you.
    Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser;
        teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.
(Proverbs 9:7-9 ESV)

“You really shanked this article.  I’m surprised that the folks at your church aren’t gathering sticks as pyre for torching you for heresy”. 

“You know I’ve read through this article and either it is not making sense to me or I just cannot agree with it.  I think you are wrong and here are 74 reasons why…”

“Your comment is absolutely ignorant.  I can’t believe someone that calls himself a Christian and would say something so asinine” 

“Thanks for your comment.  I believe you have misrepresented my position and here are 5 reasons why.  Nonetheless, thanks for the comment.  I look forward to your response.  Grace”.

Regardless, of the level of truthfulness within or the tone underneath each of these statements how I respond to them has much to say about my desire for wisdom.  If I respond with intent to injure, hatred, and defensiveness then it is quite likely that I do not really desire wisdom.  I only want to be right.  I want to be worshipped not used as a humble servant of a King. 

Yet, if I respond (and not just pretend to respond because that’s what Proverbs says I’m to do but truly respond) with a desire to learn, grow, and a thankfulness for being sharpened there is a good chance that I really am pursuing wisdom. 

So, check your heart.  What does your response to other peoples response (whether a good rebuke or a jerky one) tell you about your desire to pursue wisdom? 

Now be nice in the comments…I couldn’t bear an insult. 

A Disciple, Husband, Daddy, Pastors Confession of Need for Gospel Joy

…how greatly would they prize the gospel, which alone can support us in the day of trouble, or even enable us to find satisfaction in a state of prosperity!  (John Newton in a Letter to the Rev. William Howell)

It takes the gospel to sustain you in a day of trouble.  You passed over that statement didn’t you?  It’s a duh.  It’s a sentence that you skim.  You may forget that at times, but for the most part in the midst of “trouble” you know that the only thing that will sustain you is the gospel. 

It takes the gospel to enable you to find satisfaction in a state of prosperity.  If you are like me, this statement causes you to pause.  Maybe I am extra sensitive to this statement because of something the Lord is doing in my life right now.  At present I am feeling some of the bitter fruit of a self-absorbed and cold heart. 

My legalism, techniques, and biblical principles only last for so long.  I’ve been exposed.  It is with great pain that I have had to confess something that has long bubbled in the darkness.  I do not love my wife and children, as I ought.  They know this.  They feel this.  I know this.  I feel this. 

Of course I do love my wife and children more than I do anyone else.  But they do not need me to love them more than grapefruit or some drunken uncle.  I am called to love my kids with a God the Father type love and to love my wife with a Jesus sacrificing type of love.  I’m called by God to delight in my family. 

And that is where I am broken.  I could do duty.  I can buy flowers.  I can follow the 10 steps to discipling your children.  I can tell them about Jesus.  I can read the Bible with my wife.  I can hang out and watch television.  I can, for the most part, fake it.  But what I cannot make myself do is truly delight in them the way the Lord calls me to.   

That stinks. It exposes my heart.  Part of the consequence of my rebellion is that I have a numb heart that seems to only be slowly growing in Jesus.  I have a really hard time enjoying sunsets.  You show me a rose and my eyes gravitate to the thorn.  I want this redeemed. 

All of this is why Newton’s words here stopped me dead in my tracks.  I’ve been battling this for a long time.  I cannot seem to make myself have joy and to treasure and enjoy the things that I ought.  I try to do stuff but I know in my heart that I’m not really being a joyful giver.  It’s empty. 

I daily feel these words of Augustine.  Not only as it relates to God but also to my family:

I was astonished that although I now loved you…I did not persist in enjoyment of my God.  Your beauty drew me to you, but soon I was dragged away from you by my own weight and in dismay I plunged again into the things of this world…as though I had sensed the fragrance of the fare but was not yet able to eat it.

And so I pray…

Lord, captivate my heart.  I want to enjoy Your roses.  I want to enjoy Your sunsets.  I want to enjoy the children that You have given me.  I want to enjoy the wife that You have given to me.  Not with some vague worldly love like a drunken guy with mustard stains on his wife-beater cheering for the Red Sox, but with a love that springs from your radiant love.  Make my love beautiful.  I know the gospel sustains me in darkness, open my eyes to the gospel provision of joy.  Awaken my dullness.


When this article posts I will be in TN with my wife celebrating our anniversary.  I realize the “irony” of posting this on my anniversary.  But it actually shows the value of marriage.  I doubt this would be a battle that I was fighting if I lived in my mom’s basement playing XBox 360 all day.  This is a battle because of love.  This is part of the reason God gave me my wife to enjoy.  He uses her for my holiness (and vice versa).  I am eternally grateful for her in my life.  God is using her to root out sin and unbelief and replace it with real God-honoring joy. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Where I Am Spending My Anniversary

Tomorrow morning my wife and I will be packing up the car and heading to the middle of nowhere in Tennessee.  It’s a 5 hour drive to a little place called the Whitestone Inn.  How awesome does this sound?

Discover the magic of refined country living at Whitestone! Located near Kingston, Tennessee on Watts Bar Lake with views of the Smoky Mountains, the 600-acre property includes a luxurious AAA 4-Diamond Bed and Breakfast, Restaurant, Wedding Chapel, and Conference Facilities…Luxurious B&B Inn accommodations feature large whirlpool, spa shower, fireplace and canopy bed. Dining options at Whitestone include breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as superb catering. Our guests can enjoy tennis, canoes, kayaks, paddleboats, lawn games and 8 miles of hiking and walking trails, or simply relaxing on a porch swing while taking in the view.

My wife and I will be staying at the Canada Goose room located in the Farmhouse.  We are very excited to have this time away to relax and celebrate our anniversary. 

I cannot believe that tomorrow we will have been married for 8 years.  My wife is more beautiful than the day that I met her.  The more I know her the more I love her.  If anybody wants to know how to be a helpmate to her husband they should spend some time with my wife.  She exemplifies everything that a wife and mother is to be.  She is captured by grace and the Lord continues to use her in my life to more fully capture me by the same grace that holds her. 

Not that I want to support your covetousness problem…but…

P.S. If you are a pastor there is a very sweet deal!  I forget exactly how sweet the deal is but it is something close to half price. 

Mustache Coaches and Pastoral Identity

100 stinking push ups. 

That’s what one of my coaches in High School made me do because I called him Kareem Abdul (insert his last name).  Apparently, I should have called him Kareem Abdul COACH (insert his last name).  He clearly derived his identity as “coach”, even down to his early 90’s coach mustache.  So, a mouthy freshman teasing him about his less-than-stellar hook shots must have insulted his identity a little too much.  So he figured making the scrawny kid do a hundred girly looking push-ups ought to teach me to respect not only his ‘stache and his hook shots but also his identity as COACH.  Actually it made me give him another title…but that was before I was rescued by Jesus.

It occurs to me that “Coach” isn’t the only one that struggles with these identity issues.  Pastors may be worse.  That is why what Paul Tripp’s article on Your Ministry Is Not Your Identity will prove to be so helpful to many ministers.  Consider this statement:

This is part of the reason for the huge disconnect between my public ministry life and private family life. Ministry had become my identity. I didn't think of myself as a child of God, in daily need of grace, in the middle of my own sanctification, still battling with sin, still in need of the body of Christ, and called to pastoral ministry. No, I thought of myself as a pastor. That's it, bottom line. The office of pastor was more than a calling and set of God-given gifts that had been recognized by the body of Christ. Pastor defined me.

What I take from this article is that there is something deadly that can happen to my soul if I sign things Pastor Mike or Reverend Mike instead of just Mike.  This is something that I have believed for awhile; actually since hearing a kilted Mel Gibson shout, “Men don’t follow titles, they follow courrrrrrraggge”. 

The funny thing about pastoral ministry though…

Nobody is tempted to call the guy who pours your coffee at Starbucks Barista Joe when you see him in Wal-Mart.  But I’m “Pastor Mike” when I’m preaching and when I’m getting faux chicken at the Wal-Mart deli.  And contemporary pastors are not alone in this either.  There is a reason why we identify Paul as the Apostle Paul, because he signed his letters that way.  Paul wasn’t just Paul he was “sent Paul”.  Just as it seems that John the Beloved Disciple was also known simply as “The Elder”. 

Yes, there is a very real sense in which this is part of our identity. 

“Pastor” can be deadly or life-giving depending on your view of pastor.  If you mean an utterly dependent jar of clay that is only shepherding people as he himself is being shepherded, then “pastor” is a constant reminder that you aren’t your own.  But if “pastor” is a badge you wear that means “dude in charge” you’ve crossed the line from life-giving to deadly.  You’re a disciple first and a pastor later on down the line.  Your identity isn’t defined principally by your role in the mission but by the One who sent you on the mission. 

If you are anything like me your root identity often shifts from disicple to pastor to a million other things.  It’s healing, though, to remember that I won’t be wearing a name tag in heaven that says Pastor or Reverend.  It will be my new name given to me by Jesus…which by the way I’m really pulling for Aragorn.  But I can be certain it won’t be “Shepherd” because there is only one of those in heaven and He ain’t me. 


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