Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Willard Quote

From a 2004 discussion of "discipleship" with Dallas Willard
The leading assumption in the American church is that you can be a Christian but not a disciple. That has placed a tremendous burden on a mass of Christians who are not disciples. We tell them to come to church, participate in our programs and give money. But we see a church that knows nothing of commitment. We have settled for the marginal, and so we carry this awful burden of trying to motivate people to do what they don't want to do. We can't think about church the way we have been.
We need to be clear in our heads about what discipleship is. My definition: A disciple is a person who has decided that the most important thing in their life is to learn how to do what Jesus said to do. A disciple is not a person who has things under control, or knows a lot of things. Disciples simply are people who are constantly revising their affairs to carry through on their decision to follow Jesus.
I think he frames the problem well in the first paragraph. How many people especially in the Midwest can tell you what church they "go to" with complete disregard for whether or not they actually attend?
However, his second paragraph has me raising a question. I do like his definition "the most important thing in their life is to learn how to do what Jesus said to do." Does this line up with Jesus discipleship denials in Luke 14? Let's see...

Luke 14:25-26 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple..."
Jesus in this passage talks about discipleship in terms of priorities. These days we say "values." Those days Jesus would've said "treasures." Oh wait, he did Luke 12:33-34 Willard would be saying the same thing when he refers to "constantly revising [your] affairs" and it would seem he is right on track with what Jesus is trying to communicate as well. Look at the second discipleship denial Jesus lists.

Luke 14:27 "Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple."
This process of putting Jesus above family, is expanded upon in Jesus' encouragement to deny our self through cross-bearing. Which, is also what Willard explains as the purpose of revising and reprioritizing our affairs: so that we can carry through on our decision to come after Jesus. The first mention of a "cross" in Luke also comes in the context of discipleship. If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23

Somehow we have got it into our heads that we can follow Christ with out moving our feet and Willard's definition of discipleship is challenging to our modern independent notion of a Christianity unlinked to practice. But I still have this nagging question. Is "discipleship" really all about us? Notice that if you change the word "Jesus" in Willard's definition to "Bill Gates" you still have discipleship, just not "Christian" discipleship. Duh... you think. "If you don't follow Jesus it's no longer "Christian" discipleship." But the issue is slightly deeper than just choosing who you follow. What Willard's definition, I think, lacks is a recognition that for discipleship to be Christian it must begin as a work that Christ does first of all in us before it becomes a work we do. It is all well and good to take Jesus' words seriously, as Willard always does, but he seems to gloss over Jesus' third discipleship denial:

Luke 14:33 "Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple."
Where Willard says a disciple is not one "under control" or one who "knows a lot of things" but one who "revises" their affairs, Jesus emphatically states that no one can be a disciple of Jesus Christ without the renunciation of all that they have. Jesus' disciples trust no one else, no other things, except Jesus and Jesus alone, not even themselves... Luke 9:23
In context this statement of Jesus follows his parables about being able to finish construction or making peace with the large army. In other words, it would be foolish to trust anyone else except Christ. But in a larger context Luke connects the idea of renunciation to the work of God in regeneration. (He may be doing that here as well by preceding and following the passage with parables about seeking out the lost.)

Remember Jesus' words to the rich young ruler? Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me. Luke 18:22 Can't you just hear the echoes of Luke 14 here? Discipleship being about denial, renunciation, revising. Obviously Jesus gave the ruler his instruction in a way that was meant to be heard by his disciples, just like he gave his instructions on discipleship to the "great crowds" that followed him in chapter 14. We know that his instructions were meant to be heard, because he comments on the instruction he gives. "How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God. For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God." Luke 18:24-25

The people who hear Jesus say this are shocked! "Who can be saved?" they ask, and Jesus answers them with a call. Not to repent and renounce but to be regenerated. He says, "What is impossible with men is possible with God." 18:27 and again in response to Peter's statement on renouncing ("We have left out homes and followed you." Jesus says this "Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life." 18:29-30 Again, if you should be able to get past the idea of "receiving many times more in this time" as referring to material wealth in the present age (this was a response to a rich young ruler remember?!) it is plain to see that Jesus is referring to the regenerative nature of the Spirit. Receiving often refers to the spirit... Acts 1:8 We must be reborn, regenerated, renewed by the Spirit before we can renounce, reject, revise our life and all that traps us in it. Leaving everything to follow Jesus is good, but in itself it is not enough to bring about salvation. We as Christians strive for holiness as disciples. Discipleship is repentance and following and cross-bearing, but discipleship is not complete in these things. It must include a recognition of and reliance upon the renewing work of the Spirit of Christ. On the one hand, how can you walk on water if you don't get out of the boat? But on the other hand only Christ can walk on water, no amount of trusting will complete the task unless he works it in us.

Learning Christ

When Paul switches gears in Ephesians moving from orthodoxy to orthopraxy (big words I know) it seems that he introduces the second half of his letter with a summary statement that melds and mingles the two; he connects thought to practice, theology to action in 4:1-20. In other words, instead of making a clean break and just starting into the "so this is how you are supposed to live" he connects the two. (He does a similar thing with Romans 11:30-12:2)
His summary idea, so to speak, in connecting theology to practice is found in 4:20 But that is not the way you learned Christ! For Paul, "learning Christ" is the action which leads the disciple towards sanctification. It is what Christians "do".
He first of all defines "learning Christ" in the negative. Learning Christ is not: walking as pagans with their futile-darkened-alienated-ignorant minds (v.17-18), it is not callousness, has nothing to do with sensuality, greed or impurity. So what is it? What does it mean to "learn Christ." How do we grow as Christians?

In beginning to explain Christian living Paul moves from generalities to specifics:
In general he states that those who have heard about Christ and were taught Christ (the truth is in Jesus), to them the Christian life consists of three things:
  1. Putting off the old self, which belongs to the former manner of life, corrupt through deceitful desires (4:22)
  2. Becoming renewed in the Spirit of the mind (4:23)
  3. Putting on the new self, after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (4:24)
Specifically, "putting off", "become renewed by the Spirit", "putting on" manifests itself in a variety of ways. It is a work of the Spirit after all.
  • "Put off" lying and falsehood (4:25)
  • When you are angry "put off" sin (4:26)
  • "Put off" the devil, don't give him opportunities (4:27)
  • "Put off" stealing; instead "put on" hard work and generosity (4:28)
  • "Put off" corrupt speech; instead "put on" gracious, encouraging speech (4:29)
  • "Become renewed by the Spirit" (4:30)
  • "Put off" bitterness, anger, malice, wrath, slander, clamor (4:31)
  • "Put on" kindness, tender-heartedness, and forgiveness (4:32)
The last encouragement comes with and continues with this caveat... remember that when you are kind, when you are tender-hearted, when you forgive you are imitating God in Christ Jesus and by implication (and v. 30) we accomplish this not on our own power but in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Paul summarizes before continuing on with encouragement toward right practice... Imitate God just as Christ did.
Be imitators of God, as beloved children, and walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. 5:1-2

It's not as simple as WWJD? to grow in grace and Learn Christ. In a real way we also have to turn our backs on or "put off" the sin that so easily entangles us. WWJND? (What would Jesus not do?). But, and praise God, that it's even simpler than that... because, in reality my soul has not inherent ability to answer either question. WWJD? WWJND? My soul is "dead in it's trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1) and by the accomplishment and the grace of this same Christ who I am "learning" His Spirit empowers, renews, regenerates, and brings to life in me a renewed mind that now wants to love what Jesus love and wants to hate what Jesus hates. My life is seeking his have his passion through His Spirit.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Curios Case of N.T. Wright

Some quotes from N.T. Wright's new book, in which one reviewer has said, "N.T. Wright has out-reformed the neo-Reformed."
"...It is because God will be true to that outward-facing generous, creative love that he must also curse those ways of life, particularly those ways of life within his covenant people, which embody and express the opposite. It isn't that God basically wants to condemn and then finds a way to rescue some from that disaster. It is that God longs to bless, to bless lavishly, and so to rescue and bless those in danger of tragedy--and therefore must curse everything that thwarts and destroys the blessing of his world and his people...

"...God made humans for a purpose: not simply for themselves, not simply so that they could be in relationship with him, but so that through them, as his image-bearers, he could bring his wise, glad, fruitful order to the world. And the closing verses of Scripture, in the book of Revelation, are not about human beings going off to heaven to be in a close and intimate relationship with God, but about heaven coming to earth...

"...Within the logic of love is the rich, theological logic of the work of the Holy Spirit. This brings us back to a point made much earlier. When, by clear implication, I am charged with encouraging believers to put their trust in someone or something 'other than the crucified and resurrected Savior,' I want to plead guilty - to this extent and this extent only: that I also say, every time I repeat one of the great historic creeds, that I trust in the Holy Spirit...N.T. Wright, Justification: God's Plan & Paul's Vision

Wright is has such an amazing talent to say things that sound so true and almost feel right. Look at quote two. What is the purpose of life? According to Wright, for humans to be used by God in order that He might change the world. Sounds as good as any Eric Clapton tune, especially when you put it into the context of Revelation 21. But it is simply not true, and not true to the passage. The wise, glad, fruitful order God brings to the world is a result of "the dwelling place of God is with man". We only become image-bearers as we are able to gaze upon and display the image which we bear. 2 Corinthians 4 And in Revelation 21 there is no indication that heaven comes to earth "through us" at all. Heaven arrives at earth by the power of the One sitting on the Throne at the end of chapter 20, to the glory of the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb (21:22-26). In fact, there is less of an indication that God comes down to earth to bring Himself to earth and more of an indication that God in the Heavenly Jerusalem descends upon the earth in order to be glorified by the kings of the earth and the nations.

Must Something Be Said?

Michael Jackson is dead. Just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, in the same way Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. Hebrews 9:27 I have always been a fan of Jackson's music. Seeing the look on Lincoln's face when he stumbled upon Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough on the radio the other day has been one the highlights of the last few weeks. Jackson's death was sudden, not having suffered long like Farrah Fawcett or Ed McMahon. This is how he is being remembered:
Mr. Jackson’s brand of pop knew no borders and needed no translation, linking listeners around the world through the accessible corridors of rhythm, beat, and dance. New York Times
How do you memorialize a man who was at the same time so obviously out of touch with the realities of life and death and wealth and power and fame and sin and obligation. Must something be said? Of course. Anyone who can cause this reaction among inmates at the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center, Cebu, Philippines must be memorialized.
Having Philippine prisoners do a choreographed dance to the music of an American Pop star could be classified as unusual punishment. Not cruel just a little unusual. Isn't this the response that Jackson and his music had on us all? Talent and dedication and the perfection of the crotch-grab. A scrambled egg for sure.
So, for me, I will not "always remember Michael Jackson" as anything. He is unclassifiable because he held on to the extremes of the human condition in a way that exposed himself to be, under all the pretense, to be a base, vile, sinful man. If Manson had more talent, a lot more people would have been sucked in. Where as Mason was megalomaniacal, Jackson's sins were more "private." We who are comparatively poor, ordinary, untalented and couldn't moonwalk ourselves across the floor of our kitchen in our socks, we love the possibility of a Jackson who can inspire people and are attracted to the boy who sings ABC with his brothers. But as we draw near and shrink back at discovering that it's Wacko Jacko who has produced such a following.
The guy is a freak, a Rick Jamesian superfreak and an elephant-man loving freak of neverland. Love the music. Afraid of the "man in the mirror". Why did he never change his ways? Must something be said or does the fact that his goodness and philanthropy was nothing more than a myth, created to hide a deep, original, all consuming pain convince us to leave well enough alone? Must something be said or do we live and let live, die and let die and move on to the next person of significance without considering the havoc that an unfocused, unprincipled, self-seeking life will cause to the soul? How can you say anything bad about the Bad One? How can you disrespect and discount We Are the World? Who else do you know that has his own videogame?
Opportunities abound if you ask the question. Was he basically good, but confused? Are we? Was he basically evil and unable to shake it? Are we evil but unable to shake it, and yet, scrambled as we are, do we yet eagerly awaiting the return of Christ. (I will avoid making a comparison between king of Pop and king of Kings here.) I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.
Must something be said?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Good Augustinian Coffee, Part Two

If God gave forth no oracles from His human temple, but communicated everything that He wished to be taught to men by voices from heaven, or through the ministration of angels... love itself, which binds men together in the bond of unity, would have no means of pouring soul into soul, and, as it were, mingling them one with another, if men never learnt anything from their fellow men.
The eunuch who was reading Isaiah the prophet, and did not understand what he read, he was not sent by the apostle to an angel. Nor was it an angel who explained to him what he did not understand. Nor was he inwardly illuminated by the grace of God without the interposition of man. On the contrary, at the suggestion of God, Philip, who did understand the prophet, came to him, and sat with him, in human words, with a human tongue, opened to him the Scriptures. Didn't God talk with Moses? And yet even he, with great wisdom and entire absence of jealous pride, accepted the plan of his father-in-law, a man of a foreign race, for ruling and administering the affairs of the great nation entrusted to him? Moses knew that a wise plan, in whatever mind it might originate, was to be ascribed not to the man who devised it, but to Him who is the Truth, the unchangeable God.-Augustine, On Christian Doctrine, Preface, parts 6-7

I like my coffee shared, savored with friends. Which is to say that we were created in and designed for community and our coffee should contribute to this. Now, the warning must be sounded because talk about "community" easily de-volves into something that God did not intend. A reminder:
You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. 1 Corinthians 10:21 (cf. 5:9-12)
The wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them. Ephesians 5:6-7
There is fellowship that we were created for and good coffee contributes to it. There is also a fellowship that we were not created for that good coffee obscures. Augustine would go as far as saying that God's love is shared by means of fellowship with one another, and so infer from scripture that only when our fellowship realizes (actuates?) Him who is the Truth, do we do what God intends for us. Anything else is a distraction: the weather, the NFL, quilting, talking about ministry, American Idol, farming... anything else that draws away from, the unchangeable God, yes even good coffee breaks commandments one and two. Probably all of them in a way. But, praise God, the Biblical example is that each of these things (except maybe Idol. I never was a fan) can, and should be used, utilized, and put under our dominion, in order that God, the God, the Truth might be glorified forever through its sharing. This is why we say grace out loud at meals. This is why I say "God bless you " when you sneeze. This is why we give produce from our garden, why we love, why we buy cars with good gas milage, frisbee golf with friends, paint the baby's room, do the dishes with the kids, and I pray, why we share good coffee at Black Sheep on 12th st.... I need to hear from God through His Word in you.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Source of "Idol Factories" in Calvin

A quick survey of the web reveals that the idea of our hearts being "[perpetual?] idol factories" has been extensively attributed to John Calvin. I just cannot find it anywhere in Calvin specifically. What follows are some (I think) relevant quotes from his Institutes with my own comments.
Every individual mind being a kind of labyrinth, it is no wonder, not only that each nation has adopted a variety of fictions, but that almost every man has had his own god. To the darkness of ignorance have been added presumption and wantonness, and hence there is scarcely an individual to be found without some idol or phantom as a substitute for Deity. Like water gushing forth from a large and copious spring, immense crowds of gods have issued from the human mind, every man giving himself full license, and devising some peculiar form of divinity, to meet his own views...
...If men are only naturally taught, instead of having any distinct, solid, or certain knowledge, they fasten only on contradictory principles, and, in consequence, worship an unknown God. Hence we must hold, that whosoever adulterates pure religion (and this must be the case with all who cling to their own views), make a departure from the one God. No doubt, they will allege that they have a different intention; but it is of little consequence what they intend or persuade themselves to believe, since the Holy Spirit pronounces all to be apostates, who, in the blindness of their minds, substitute demons in the place of God. For this reason Paul declares that the Ephesians were “without God,” (Epheisans 2:12), until they had learned from the Gospel what it is to worship the true God. John Calvin, Institutes Book I.V.10
Calvin speaks most clearly here about the human condition. Summarized often as "Total Depravity". (Great name for a [non-Christian?] ska band!) We, without God, have no idea how twisted our minds really are, and yet we show so much undue respect and pay so much undue honor to science, education, learning, business, talent, creativity, etc., etc., etc. Not that we should show disrespect or dishonor these fields, but that we should realize that at any point it is likely that human accomplishment may "worship an unknown God" and at the same time "make a departure from the One God."  
[Persons] have in their own persons a factory where innumerable operations of God are carried on, and a magazine stored with treasures of inestimable value—instead of bursting forth in his praise, as they are bound to do, they, on the contrary, are the more inflated and swelled with pride. They feel how wonderfully God is working in them, and their own experience tells them of the vast variety of gifts which they owe to his liberality. Whether they will or not, they cannot but know that these are proofs of his Godhead, and yet they inwardly suppress them. They have no occasion to go farther than themselves, provided they do not, by appropriating as their own that which has been given them from heaven, put out the light intended to exhibit God clearly to their minds. At this day, however, the earth sustains on her bosom many monster minds—minds which are not afraid to employ the seed of Deity deposited in human nature as a means of suppressing the name of God. Can any thing be more detestable than this madness in man, who, finding God a hundred times both in his body and his soul, makes his excellence in this respect a pretext for denying that there is a God?John Calvin, Institutes Book I.V.4
Total depravity is shown to be the totality that it is. Where we have been created in glory and majesty and honor (Psalm 8) we have traded that glory for ignorance of the One Creator Lord. "How majestic is Your name in all the earth." Instead of "living up to our potential" (or "living before our potentate") we live down to our "monster mind", which intently destroys and dis-recongizes God in all arenas of its life.

This, however, I the closest that Calvin comes to saying "idol factories." 
The human mind is, so to speak, a perpetual forge of idols. There was a kind of renewal of the world at the flood, but before many years elapse, men are forging gods at will... The human mind, stuffed as it is with presumptuous rashness, dares to imagine a god suited to its own capacity; as it labors under dullness, nay, is sunk in the grossest ignorance, it substitutes vanity and an empty phantom in the place of God. To these evils another is added. The god whom man has thus conceived inwardly he attempts to embody outwardly. The mind, in this way, conceives the idol, and the hand gives it birth. That idolatry has its origin in the idea which men have, that God is not present with them unless his presence is carnally exhibited, appears from the example of the Israelites: “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him." (Exodus 22:1). They knew, indeed, that there was a God whose mighty power they had experienced in so many miracles, but they had no confidence of his being near to them, if they did not with their eyes behold a corporeal symbol of his presence, as an attestation to his actual government. They desired, therefore, to be assured by the image which went before them, that they were journeying under Divine guidance. And daily experience shows, that the flesh is always restless until it has obtained some figment like itself, with which it may vainly solace itself as a representation of God... After such a figment is formed, adoration forthwith ensues: for when once men imagined that they beheld God in images, they also worshipped him as being there. At length their eyes and minds becoming wholly engrossed by them, they began to grow more and more brutish, gazing and wondering as if some divinity were actually before them. It hence appears that men do not fall away to the worship of images until they have imbibed some idea of a grosser description: not that they actually believe them to be gods, but that the power of divinity somehow or other resides in them.Institutes Book I.XI.8-9
Our hearts are not "perpetual idol factories" exactly. The idea is there, our desires, wants, and passions, always seeking after other gods. So, with Jonathan Edwards, we must be dilligent in forming our passions towards the One true God. However, Calvin seems to indicate that it is not passions that must be formed first but our perception of God in our thoughts first. A correct thinking about God, will result in a correction worship of God.
So where the idea of "idol factories" is sound, it would seem that its usage is incorrect. Calvin wants us to have a correct and pure view of God (a God who is Spirit, and cannot be served or fashioned by human hands). A corrected (opened?) mind will lead its heart towards the proper affections.
It think this is reflected in the first two commandments. We are to "worry about" worship second, only after we have a right view of God. "You shall have not other God's before me" or in the Hebrew "You will not have any other god in my face." God doesn't want us to even see any other god, but for us to see Him and him alone. Only then will we be able to properly worship (the second command).
Anything "worshipped in place of God" is sin. But I don't think this is Calvin's point. I think that Calvin is warning not to trust our hearts at all, depravity is total. He might even be leery of our evangelical talk about "putting God on the throne of our heart." He might even warn that because our hearts/minds are idol factories/forges, even this (well intentioned and seemingly innocuous) is dangerous. Or I might just be putting words in his mouth.

Our minds all too easily place something on our heart's throne and we call it "god." When in reality what we do is [commandment 2!] fashion and bow down to it.

Seeking the One God in scripture and prayer and (more scripture and prayer) will naturally reveal to our monster minds that power of the divine is not ours to randomly move about at will. Only God is God [commandment 1!]. The divine lies only in Him and is not something that our hearts can comprehend. He must rescue us from slavery... [commantment 0!]
Romans 7:24

Friday, June 12, 2009


Friday, June 05, 2009

Free D.A. Carson Books

Free D.A. Carson Books here.

Baptism upon Confession

We have had an ongoing debate/discussion at our pastor's fellowship coffee about the disconnect between confession and baptism in modern evangelicalism. In other words, why don't we baptize upon confession, as is normative for the early church. The debate has been centered around a few themes: practicallity, fear of false conversion, flashiness... Here is more testimony to add to the discussion.

Knowing and Enjoying God Part Five

You make known to me the path of life
in your presence there is fullness of joy
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
-Psalm 16:11
Why is it of utmost importance to focus on teaching our people to glorify God and enjoy God in all that we do as pastors? Here are five reasons:

Reason five.

God is the reason behind all the work we do as pastors. We do not celebrate preaching, worship, counseling, conversion, or any other pastoral duty because preaching, etc. is good in and of itself, we celebrate it because in these God is made known, and by these we learn to delight in God. It's no good for God to be enjoyed and delighted in if it is only to be done privately, but our calling is to do so publicly before all the nations.

Psalm 16 ends with joy in God's presence and pleasures at His right hand, but they are joys and pleasures that are "made known." This is key. It is not enough to just teach and preach and worship according to the scriptures. We have as Christians and Churches had enough of talking about and describing God. So often this is where our ministries begin and end—talk.

What God reveals and makes known to us, in his word, is not just to be seen and described, but what God reveals to us is to be enjoyed by and delighted in by his creatures. Brain and heart. Flesh and bone.

If we haven't desired, hungered for, thirsted for, relished in, treasured, been blown away by God's glory, then we will find it more and more difficult to make known that glory for others.

Knowing and Enjoying God Part Four

The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup

you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places

indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
I bless the LORD who gives me counsel

in the night also my heart instructs me.

I have set the LORD always before me

because he is at my right hand,
I shall not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices
my flesh also dwells secure.

For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,

or let your holy one see corruption.
-Psalm 16:5-10
Why is it of utmost importance to focus on teaching our people to glorify God and enjoy God in all that we do as pastors? Here are five reasons:

Reason Four.

When we make the Lord our portion and our cup-our chosen portion-our hearts are freed from the kind of circumstantial reactionary living that we have grown accustomed to. We are free from evil desires and lusts (1 John 2:16-17), yes, but in addition we are also free from all the fears of mortal man: abandonment, corruption, Sheol, insecurity, chaos. This freedom is not given for freedom's sake or even our own, but delight in the Lord gives a gladness and rejoicing that will endure the night, the shaking, the insecurity, and corruption of life.

Christ puts it this way:
Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.
-Mark 10:29-30

When we treasure God more than anything else it makes sense to sell everything for His sake, although it will look odd to the world. Abraham treasured God and God's promised inheritance more than his father's land and household. Hebrews 11:8-12
Abraham's sons treasured God and God's future blessing more than present pleasures. Hebrews 11:20-22
Moses treasured God, God's people, and God's promise more than the fleeting pleasures of sin. Hebrews 11:23-28

The "faith chapter" ends with the example of Christ, "...who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising(F) the shame, and(G) is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:2 Jesus goes to the cross for what joy? "The throne of God!" To be in God's presence, a lasting city, the treasure in the field, the arms of the prodigal's father, the glory of the Lord...

Enjoying God's glory and delighting in him is what frees us to cast aside everything that hinders us and to focus our eyes on Christ.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Knowing and Enjoying God Part Four (supplemental)

An extended quote from John Piper:
Knowing God and being satisfied in him above all earthly pleasures frees us for the kind of love that will suffer the loss of all things for the sake of every good deed and for the sake of finishing the great commission. The great commission will not be finished without martyrs (Revelation 6:11). And churches will not make God look like our all-sufficient, all-satisfying treasure if pastors and people have all the same values and priorities and lifestyle commitments that everybody around them has. Unless we become a lot more radical in the risks we take and the suffering we embrace, why should anyone believe that our treasure is in heaven - in God - and that he is more valuable than anything here?

The key is being utterly certain and utterly satisfied that "in his presence is fullness of joy and at his right hand are pleasures for evermore" (Psalm 16:11). Or as Paul said, that "to live is Christ and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21). This is the key to the sacrifices demanded by love. No sequence of texts in the Bible makes it plainer than Hebrews 10-13. Here is a portrait of the people we need in the pastorate and on the mission field today.

First, the case of the early Christians in Hebrews 10:34, "You had compassion on the prisoners, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one." They suffered the loss of their property with joy in order to show compassion to the prisoners. How? What released such love? - "Since you knew that you had a better possession and an abiding one." They treasured God more than anything.

Then the case of Moses in Hebrews 11:24-26, "By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to share ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered abuse suffered for the Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he looked to the reward." He suffered the loss of all that Egypt could offer in order to embrace suffering as a leader of the people of God. How? What released such love? - "For he looked to the reward." He treasured God more than anything in Egypt.

Then the case of Jesus Christ himself in Hebrews 12:2, " . . . who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." Jesus embraced the suffering of the cross and gave shame no sway in his life so that he might die for his people. How? What released such love? - "For the joy that was set before him."

Finally, the case of the readers - you and me - in Hebrews 13:12-14, "Jesus suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. Therefore let us go forth to him outside the camp and bear the abuse he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city which is to come." Here is a call to every Christian, but especially to every pastor and every missionary: Let us go to him outside the securities and comforts of the camp and bear abuse for the sake of his name. How? What will release such love? For "here we have no lasting city, but we seek a city which is to come." The city of this world is not our satisfaction, God is.

Where does the love come from that can suffer the loss of all things and make plain to the world that God is gloriously more to be desired than life itself? It comes from being certain and being satisfied that God is a better possession than all our goods, and that the reward of his presence is vastly better than the fleeting pleasures of Egypt, and that the suffering of our cross is not worth comparing to the joy set before us, and that the city which is to come will last forever and will be the habitation of God.

In other words, the lever that unstops the river of love for pastors and missionaries is knowing God better than you know anything and delighting in God more than you delight in anything. This is the greatest need in the next generation of pastors and missionaries, just as it has always been the greatest need of every generation of pastors and missionaries.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Knowing and Enjoying God Part Three

The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply;
their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out
or take their names on my lips.
-Psalm 16:4
Why is it of utmost importance to focus on teaching our people to glorify God and enjoy God in all that we do as pastors? Here are five reasons:

Reason three.

Traditionally, but not in a good way, this has been reason number one: We must teach our people a persistence for separating from everything that God hates. Love of God is never neutral to the things that are against him. Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 1 John 2:15. When we are loving God, glorifying God, enjoying God, He pressures and pushes out any love for the world. The two cannot co-exist. Luke 16

What gets scrambled, with church people and churches especially, is that we tend to take for granted a desire to glorify God in our people. We assume that just because they are showing up (and in many cases, showing up for years) that they have a love for God. What is more often than not the case, however, is that there will be many who do not find their souls satisfied and at rest in God but find more satisfaction in fellowship, prayer, worship, giving, missions, serving, teaching, or any of the 1,000 churchy things that we do. In reality anything that we do must be the result of glorious presence of a God-given, Spirit-driven desire to see Christ exalted in all things everywhere.

Preachers of the past (and present) spend a lot of energy preaching against. Against homosexuality, abortion, teen pregnancy, drinking and driving, blah, blah, blah... the reason these types of things get a lot of milage out of people who do not enjoy God first of all but fail to bring real change in the hearts of the lost, is that they do not exalt the One who is abundantly more satisfying than the Sin that we preachers preach against. Sin is not only wrong just because "it's bad for you." We swat a puppy's nose when something is bad for it. Sin is wrong because it draws us away from what is eternally good and soul-satisfying for us.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Knowing and Enjoying God Part Two

As for the saints in the land,
they are the excellent ones,
in whom is all my delight.
-Psalm 16:3
Why is it of utmost importance to focus on teaching our people to glorify God and enjoy God in all that we do as pastors? Here are five reasons:

Reason Two.

Delight in God goes hand in hand in hand with delighting in those and the things that He loves. Good pastors make it a practice show that every mission, spiritual gift, ministry need be sustained by what Piper describes as God-exalting motives, God-centered truth, and a God-saturated spiritual life. When this becomes our purpose all that we will desire, teach, and live will be primarily a reflection of God's desires, God's truth and God's life lived out and through the body of Christ. In speechifying we are good at saying these things, but in reality this is the crux (pun intended) of showing forth what we value above all else. It is easy to say that "it all starts with God" but to realize and live it, becomes a different matter. The people of Israel, rescued from slavery with pillar of fire and cloud before them, still did not treasure their God above all else, but instead valued security, bread, water, safety, and a host of other unmentioned things above their God. Even though he was right there.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Knowing and Enjoying God Part One

Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge.
I say to the LORD, "You are my Lord;
I have no good apart from you."
-Psalm 16:1
Why is it of utmost importance to focus on teaching our people to glorify God and enjoy God in all that we do as pastors? Here are five reasons:

Reason one.
The psalmist says that apart from God we have "no good." God does not look to be blessed by us but looks to be a blessing through us. Doing pastoring well means that in everything (hospitals, funerals, weddings, dedications, teaching, preaching, evanagelizing, hanging out playing ping-pong) we show the connection between the good of life and the good of God. That we cannot enjoy any good thing without first enjoying God. We cannot even bless a meal without first being blessed by God. We love (anything/anyone) because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19 We pastor well when more and more people in our congregation and world learn to love God above all things or love all things only as an expression of their love for their God, because they enjoy their God. 

We do that best when we show, by our lives, that at our core we have been transformed by God and are, now, fundamentally in love with God ourself and we enjoy God above all things and thereby enjoy him in all things.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Shaq Fu: Part One

I am fascinated by the Shack, but still wrestle with it's core theology that absolutely everything in our relationship with God is up to us. i.e. God has reconciled Himself to us, in Christ, and all that is left if for us to reconcile ourself to Him. Scripture (of which Young's book is lacking) seems to indicate the exact opposite [Romans 5:10; 2 Corinthians 5:18; Colossians 1:22].

I will not go so far as to say that it is a "bad" book, although there are other issues, but this core theology (which is very prevalent in Pop-evangelical Christianity) would imply that Christ and His Cross was not center of God's plan for creation, humanity, history, eternity, but that instead WE are.

I have to believe that God's plans and purposes are always for His own glory, not ours. Papa-as-God is nothing more than a divine Forest Gump who is influential but not ultimately and eternally significant.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Spiritual Gifts

Various Greek words are used in describing spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12 -

12:1 Now concerning spiritual gifts [πνευματικων], brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed.
pneumatikon: spiritual as opposed to the body/physical/natural talents and gifts

12:4 Now there are varieties of gifts [χαρισματων], but the same Spirit;
charismata: a Pauline technical term denoting extraordinary powers of the Spirit used by Christians to serve the church. They are "free" gifts of grace as opposed to being earned or learned

12:5 There are varieties of service [διακονιων], but the same Lord;
diakonian: functions or ministries used to serve the Church, the verb in English would be "to deacon"

12:6 There are varieties of activities [ενεργηματων], but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.
energematon: workings and operation for a specific purpose, rather than permanent possession

12:7 To each is given the manifestation [φανερωσις] of the Spirit for the common good.
phanerosis: an active display/exhibition/manifestation of (in this case) God’s power through the Spirit, cf. 2 Corinthians 4:2

Paul uses a variety of descriptors for the activities of the One Spirit in 1 Corinthians. He does not seem concerned with specifically and precisely defining how the Spirit works in all the various individual members of the church body. Because of the way he describes them his list of "spiritual gifts" (as they have come to be called), does not seem exhaustive. Instead he seems to be describing how the Spirit works in the life of the whole church body. In this the Spirit works in a multitude of various and expansive ways, so it is not healthy to speak of individual "gifts" granted to individual persons except as where this discussion is in relation to the church as a whole.

Here is the "complete" list of Spiritual Gifts, or the "complete" list of all the ways the Spirit works in our churches:

Service gifts:
Administration (1 Corinthians 12:28)
Helps (1 Corinthians 12:28)
Giving (Romans 12:8)
Mercy (Romans 12:8)
Service (Romans 12:7)
Faith (1 Corinthians 12:9)

Equipping gifts:
Exhortation (Romans 12:8)
Wisdom (1 Corinthians 12:8)
Knowledge (1 Corinthians 12:8)
Teaching (1 Corinthians 12:28)
Pastoring (Ephesians 4:11)
Apostleship (1 Corinthians 12:28)
Evangelism (Ephesians 4:11)
Leadership (Romans 12:8)

Prayer and worship gifts:
Prophecy (1 Corinthians 12:10)
Tongues (1 Corinthians 12:10)
Interpretation of tongues (1 Corinthians 12:10)
Healing (1 Corinthians 12:9)
Miracles (1 Corinthians 12:10)
Discernment of spirits (1 Corinthians 12:10)
Creative Communication

Friday, May 08, 2009

Destroyed the Template

Somehow, I destroyed any ability to utilize an RSS feed from this blog when I originally was messing with the template. So for the sake of an RSS feed I have destroyed my template.
I really liked the Lincoln pic in the old template though. Any idea how to have both?

Schedule for Leader Training

Northern Training Institute, through Porterbrook Network in Sheffield UK has some great ideas on how to train and mobilize men for ministry.
Some of their ideas include:

A schedule of
  • Yearly: two residential weeks with intensive lectures, seminars, and occasional guest lecturers
  • Monthly: one day of seminars with students presenting papers for discussion and critique
  • Ongoing: guided reading
Those participating in the Institute are expected to set aside 10-15 hours a week (one day and evening or two days) in addition to the residential weeks.

Institute students opt to study with the Institute for one, two or three years:
  • biblical study year
  • doctrine and church history year
  • mission and ministry year
Institute students must be graduates (of any discipline) or have significant experience of gospel ministry. All applicants must be commended by their local church.

The institute is Reformed and evangelical, believing in the sovereign grace of God in salvation, the inerrancy of Scripture and substitutionary atonement and subscribes to a doctrinal basis of Affinty

The institue emphasises participation in a local church, and the integration of theology and practice

Thanks Andy for turning me on to this.
Now if we can only get Ryan Franchuk to pioneer this ministry in South Dakota.

Narnia's Seven Sins

Rumor has it that C.S. Lewis wove the seven deadly sins into his Chronicles of Narnia series. If true, it would make them into an interesting teaching tool, but more than likely C.S. Lewis would respond to our speuclation:
Some people seem to think that I began by asking myself how I could say something about Christianity to children; then fixed on the fairy tale as an instrument, then collected information about child psychology and decided what age group I’d write for; then drew up a list of basic Christian truths and hammered out 'allegories' to embody them. This is all pure moonshine. I couldn’t write in that way. It all began with images; a faun carrying an umbrella, a queen on a sledge, a magnificent lion. At first there wasn't anything Christian about them; that element pushed itself in of its own accord... apart from that, I don’t know where the Lion came from or why He came.  But once He was there He pulled the whole story together, and soon He pulled the six other Narnian stories in after Him. -C.S. Lewis, Of Other Worlds
The classical-medieval seven deadly sins may have, then, pushed themselves in of their own accord and from Lewis' own Oxford training but here they are.
  1. Gluttony: The Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe - Edmund's taste for Turkish Delight leads him to betrays his siblings.
  2. Anger:  The Magician's Nephew - Digory and Polly's angry quarrels result in Digory waking Jadis the White Witch, whose own anger brings trouble to Narnia.
  3. Lust:  Prince Caspian - Lust is difficult for a children's book, however, King Miraz may portray lust for power and progeny.
  4. Greed:  The Voyage of the Dawn Treader - Eustace Scrubb's greed for gold gets him turned into a dragon.
  5. Sloth:  The Silver Chair - Jill and Eustace are told of four signs they must remember which through apathy and carelessness are forgotten during crucial moments.
  6. Pride:  The Horse and His Boy - The horse Bree, the girl Aravis and Prince Rabadash all must be humbled by Aslan.
  7. Envy:  The Last Battle - Shift the ape is envious of the respect given Aslan.

Ecclectia of the Seven Sins:
Whitestone Journal
Seven Deadly Sins Sampler
All Seven Deadly Sins Committed at a Church Bake Sale

Now, more on the Seven Sins in Narnia:
Dr. Don W. King
Martin LaBar

Narnia as the Seven Planets here

Thursday, May 07, 2009

The Good Work

The Off-Road Pastor makes this observation
What is the good work scripture is talking about [in 2 Timothy 3:17]? The work of God in and through us.
It is encouraging when someone ignores the secondary applications and gets to the point of a passage. Often, and sometimes to extremeism 2 Timothy 3:16-17 is used as justification for arguing that all scripture is inspired. Yet a clear reading of the passage in context indicates that inspiration without purpose is irrelevant. Scripture is inspired in order that the thoroughly/perfectly/adequately/competently/completely equipped man might be prepared for the good work of...
And here is where I think the Off-Road Pastor falls short. To the question What are the good works 2 Timothy 3:17 is talking about? He replies:
We cannot assume that we will become closer to God, understand His calling for us, or even do His calling for us if we are not looking into His word on a regular, daily basis for instruction and encouragement. We cannot be equipped or competent unless we go to the source of truth: God. And what better way to hear from God than through His Word which is right in front of our face.
An important statement, even foundational. However, I don't find anything which indicates, that "calling", "instruction", or "encouragement" are equivalent to the "good work" at the end of 2 Timothy 3:17. (The KJV translation of παιδεια as "instruction" not withstanding. παιδεια being better understood in English if it retains it's παιδιa "child" root, hence ESV/NIV's "training". The Bible in Basic English has "education in righteousness" which I find intriguing.) Not to belabor the issue but it is important to get a handle on what Paul means by the "good work" that he feels Timothy will be able to accomplish through the scriptures. Before we can understand calling, competence or even inspiration it must be clear what "good works" Paul is commissioning Timothy with.

What I do find is that Paul's charge to Timothy is couched in between two statements about apostasy:
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. -2 Timothy 3:12-13
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. -2 Timothy 4:3-4
In face of deceivers Paul reminds  Timothy of the truth of what he has learned. And, when Paul begins to give Timothy his core instructions about the scriptures he declares not that he is simply to "use" them towards secondary purpose or calling or for some other work, but, in no uncertain terms, he declares the scriptures themselves the "good work" you are to do. Notice that Paul follows 3:17 with this charge:
Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. -2 Timothy 4:1-2
Which sounds strangely like "profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training in righteousness." The scriptures which make us wise unto salvation, and which train us up into righteousness, become the God-breathed life-blood which flows in a Christian's veins and beats within his heart. They are the muscles, tendons and bones by which we walk and fight and work and stand.  In face of difficulty, persecution, godlessness and suffering what work could we possibly accomplish? What hope do we have on our own? Before a blinded and deceived world of liars and impostors our "good work" is to declare and reveal, rebuke and exhort, with the same life-giving God-breathed power of divine truth that burns like fire with in us. God calls all men to no less a task. What other work is there?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Words are better

Have you heard this one?

The Assissi quote is very popular and catchy and I do appreciate what it is trying to say... your life in all its actions should reflect Jesus in a way that as obvious as if you were speaking out loud. How very true, but please, use words. People need to hear that they are lost, they need to understand that they need a savior, they need to know that Jesus had paid the penalty already, they need to know that eternal life can be theirs and begin now by repenting and trusting in Christ alone by faith alone.
I am not sure how you can do that without WORDS.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Baptismal Motivation

The Procatechesis of Cyril of Jerusalem gives these thoughts on our motivation for baptism
Perhaps you have come for some other reason? A man may want to please a woman and may come for that reason. The same may be true of a woman. A slave may perhaps want to please his master, and a friend his friend. I take whatever is on the hook, I pull you in, you who came with an evil intention but will be saved by your hope of the good. Doubtless you did not know, did you, where you were going, and did not recognize the net in which you have been caught? You have been taught in the Church’s net!

When all is said and done it is the Lord's work even in our fumbling attempts at obedience.
The perfume of happiness is already being poured out on you,
O you who are receiving the light!
You are already gathering spiritual flowers
To plait celestial crowns
The Holy Spirit has already breathed his fragrance on you!
You have already reached the entrance hall of the royal palace!
May you soon be led in to the King!

Spiritual "Laws"

"Law" One: God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.

This comes via the All Things Church Planting blog.
Who got it from the Desiring God blog.
Who got it from the Contemporary Calvinist blog.

"Law" Two: Lots of other people thought this was "funny".
Behold! And here, here, here, and here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

"Sir, in my heart, I know I'm funny." -Lt. Hauk

Why are you clapping? I'm talking to you.

Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates? -2 Corinthians 13:5 , Authorized Version

"Law" Three: We should all use the word "reprobate" more often than we do.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Habakkuk's Revival

We used this text during our community Good Friday service:
O LORD, I have heard the report of you,
and your work, O LORD, do I fear.
In the midst of the years revive it;
in the midst of the years make it known;
in wrath remember mercy.
God came from Teman,
and the Holy One from Mount Paran.
His splendor covered the heavens,
and the earth was full of his praise.
Habakkuk 3
In the Old Testament manifestations of God and meditations upon God were physical: Moses on the mountain, "the word of the Lord," the Exodus, the festivals, the sacrifices, Abraham's three friends, and on and on and on. These were glorious and powerful but fading and a shadow of the reality. In contrast the New Testament speaks of a glory that does not fade away because it is a "ministry of the Spirit." 2 Corinthians 3
Lord, I need a miracle. I have heard the reports of your past works. Revive them again. Come down upon the mountains and cover the skies with glory so that we might praise you again.

Friday, April 10, 2009

John Owen on Good Friday

We might here look on Him as under the weight of the wrath of God and the curse of the law; taking on Himself, and on His whole soul, the utmost of evil that God had ever threatened to sin or sinners. We might look on Him in His agony and bloody sweat, in His strong cries and supplications, when He was sorrowful to the death, and began to be amazed, in apprehensions of the things that were coming on Him—of that dreadful trail which He was entering into. We might look on Him conflicting with all the powers of darkness, the rage and madness of men, suffering in His soul, His body, His name, His reputation, His goods, His life; some of these sufferings being immediate from God above, others from devils and wicked men acting according to the determinate counsel of God.
We might look on Him praying, weeping, crying out, bleeding, dying—in all things making His soul an offering for sin… But these things I shall not insist on in particular, but leave them under such a veil as may give us a prospect into them, so far as to fill our souls with holy admiration...
What shall we say to these things? That God spared not His only Son, but gave Him up unto death and all the evils included therein, for such poor, lost sinners as we were; that for our sakes the eternal Son of God should submit Himself to all the evils that our natures are liable to, and that our sins had deserved, that we might be delivered! How glorious is the Lord Christ on this account, in the eyes of believers!
from Mediations and Discourses on the Glory of Christ
John Owen (1616-1683))

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Warren on Cavuto

I saw Rick Warren on Fox Business tonight. Cavuto's intro went something like this
Who better to help with the purpose of life than the man who's Purpose Driven Life drove millions to change theirs... niether left nor right, sort of omnipresent.

In asking him what was wrong with American business, he gave all "normal" and "safe" answers. "Whispers to us in our pleasure but he shouts to us in our pain", "there's a lot of guilt being carried around", "we have been living beyond our means." But he stopped short of saying "sin." Now, I know as well as anyone that "sin" has become archaric and even quaint so using the term may have not gotten his point across, but it is at the root of all human guilt-pain-living. Isn't it?

First chapter of Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands by Paul David Tripp gives this insight:

Sin does three things to us.
  1. Rebellion: Sin causes us to do wrong.
  2. Foolishness: Sin causes us to think wrong
  3. Weakness: Sin removes our ability to do right
God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Romans 8:3-8
#3 Human beings are too weak to do right even when we want to, and not even God's law can prop it up enough to make right choices because #1 Our flesh and bones are corrupt and do not seek by action the things of God but the things of the flesh and #2 Our minds have been corrupted to the point that it is rebellious and unsubmissive and hostile to God. Warren is well intentioned, but a sinful human that lives with in their means is still going to hell. No-one outside of sin-condemning flesh of the Crucified One can ever be declared or do right.

As far as I can tell Paul David Tripp has never been on Cavuto but it seems he would cut through the fog and get right to point.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Selecting Elders

Here is a quick guide on resources for selecting elders as gleaned from the internet:

9marks articles (the first one from D.A. Carson no less!):
Defining Elders
Electing Elders
Pastors' and Theologians' Forum on Selecting Elders

Matt Proctor, Top Ten Questions for Potential Elders

Bethlehem Baptist Resource Packet Materials for Selecting Elders:

And finally one last insight from my new favorite 79 year old minister/blogger/historian/Isaac Asimov fan who in his post on selecting elders also reminds us that "cows [like churches] always need milking". I am not kidding, this guy posts irregularly but is full of wisdom: read Selecting Elders

Finally... The Criterion of St. Paul:
An overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. Titus 1:7-9

Why not just ask the potential elder questions based on the above?

Patterson and SWBTS

Here are Wade Burleson's orginal posts and a robust debate as you sort through the comments here
and here.

Brother John Barcanic also had some well said insights about forwarding of questionable info (which disappeared from my email no less), and I too wonder why CT would post/publish anything without direct confirmation or sources. For full(er) disclosure here is the relevant transcript from the cited February 2009 interview with Paige Patterson

Tim Rogers [pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Indian Trail, NC] - "Have economic challenges been used as an excuse to weed out certain professors at Southwestern who hold to a particular soteriolgical viewpoint to which you disagree? Is there any truth to that rumor?"

Patterson - "I certainly hope not. I've lived my entire life as life in a goldfish bowl, and as boldly as I know how to do it. We're not certain at all that we're going to have to eliminate any professors. We've been working very very hard to cut everything else in the world so we don't have to cut professors and we don't know yet what we're going to have to do, but we're hopeful that we don't have to cut any professors. If we do, I will not use a screen to do that with. Every decision I make with regard to faculty will be made with a view to assisting the school to be the best school it can possibly can be. We have every conceivable soteriological view on the campus in terms of 5 pointer Calvinism, or 1 pointers or 2 pointers or 3 pointers or 4 pointers or 5 pointers. I will say this, Southwestern will not build a school in the future around anybody who could not look anybody in world the eyes and say "Christ died for your sins". If there is a problem there then I believe there is a problem that Southern Baptists would not want to fund, and so if that would be the case I wouldn't be hiding behind a screen of economic matters if I had to deal with that. And, God willing, if He is gracious to us and God's people continue to give then we won't have to lay off anybody else. That's what we are praying for."

The "look you in the eye and say Christ died for your sins" quote is a pretty clear rejection of limited atonement. A deal breaker for professorship?

Friday, April 03, 2009

The Gospel and Children

Our mission statement is to "Share the Gospel of Jesus Christ." When most of us think of "sharing" the gospel our minds move toward a situation where a child has raised their hand, or an adult has "walked the aisle," coming forward at an evangelistic meeting. We tend to only think in terms of situations where sharing the gospel would push for a "conversion." The gospel is more than simply the words of John 3:16 and then asking a potential believer if they now "believe." The good news of the gospel includes all aspects of God's working in His world, to save sinners, and to welcome Him into His kingdom. I found this helpful summary from Jill Nelson, at the Children's Desiring God website:

First of all, Jill Nelson, reminds us that
1. GOD is the starting point of the gospel.
2. GOD is the vehicle of the gospel.
3. GOD is the goal of the gospel.

She then outlines the implications of a full understanding of the full gospel message.
  1. God is the sovereign Creator of all things

  2. God created people for His glory

  3. God is holy and righteous

  4. Human beings are sinful

  5. God is just and is right to punish sin

  6. God is merciful. He is kind to undeserving sinners

  7. Jesus is God's holy and righteous Son

  8. God put our punishment on Jesus

  9. God offers the free gift of salvation to those who repent and believe in Jesus

  10. Those who trust in Jesus will live to please him and will receive the promise of eternal life -- Enjoying God forever in heaven

While it's not TULIP it is simple enough and gives you enough starting points to explain the good news of God. It is he who is at work in us from beginning to end.

Thursday, April 02, 2009


Wired just published an article on the Settlers of Catan. Settlers is an amazingly unpredictable and intriguing strategy board game that our family and friends can't get enough of.

Fighter Verses to Memorize for your next contest:
Isaiah 8:10 Devise your strategy, but it will be thwarted; propose your plan, but it will not stand, for God is with us.

Isaiah 36:5You say you have strategy and military strength—but you speak only empty words. On whom are you depending, that you rebel against me?

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

I Love Maps

Found this, which brought back memories. I loved maps as a kid. Where others would put Magic Johnson and Rick Astley on there wall I chose to cover my walls with National Geographic maps.
Not sure what to make of that, but I thought I'd get it out there.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Jesus in the Power of the Spirit

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.2 Corinthians 13:14

In conversation with Paul Veal about the presence of the holy Spirit in the life of Christ. I have begun to maintain in my theology that, (in part?), to be "fully human" Jesus of Nazareth must have been perfectly dependent upon the Spirit in a way that perfectly models life in the Spirit for the followers of Jesus.

What follows basically outlines Sinclair Ferguson 's article on the Pneumatologia of John Owen.

John Owen reminds us that Jesus Christ, who is the One who gives the Spirit (John 20:21-22; Acts 1:8), is also, first of all, the Recipient and Bearer of the Spirit.
The Spirit is said to be communicated unto him, do plainly regard his incarnation; and the soul of Christ, from the first moment of its infusion, was a subject capable of a fullness of grace, as unto its habitual residence and in-being, though the actual exercise of it was suspended for a while, until the organs of the body were fitted for it. This, therefore, it received by this first unction of the Spirit.
Owen, Pneumatologia Book II, Chapter IV
Yes, Owen writes like that. But his point is that the Spirit was able to reside in the soul of Christ from its very incarnation.

Owen points essentially to four central divisions of Jesus' life: (1) Incarnation; (2) Ministry; (3) Passion; and (4) Exaltation, and outlines the Spirit's work in each.

Incarnation: Christ was conceived by/in and sanctified by the Spirit. The implication being that what the Spirit did in Jesus of Nazareth he seeks to do in us. Because Jesus is the cause, source, and pattern of the Spirit's ministry in the believer.

The only singular immediate act of the person of the Son on the human nature was the assumption of it into subsistence with himself... That the only necessary consequent of this assumption of the human nature, or the incarnation of the Son of God, is the personal union of Christ, or the inseparable subsistence of the assumed nature in the person of the Son... The Holy Ghost, as we have proved before, is the immediate, peculiar, efficient cause of all external divine operations: for God worketh by his Spirit
Owen, Pneumatologia Book II, Chapter III

Ministry: Just as Jesus grew in favor, wisdom... accomplishing personal perfect progress in grace
 (cf. "one who is taught" Isaiah 50:4 "grew up" Isaiah 53:2

The Lord Christ, as man, did and was to exercise all grace by the rational faculties and powers of his soul, his understanding, will, and affections; for he acted grace as a man, “made of a woman, made under the law.” His divine nature was not unto him in the place of a soul, nor did immediately operate the things which he performed, as some of old vainly imagined; but being a perfect man, his rational soul was in him the immediate principle of all his moral operations, even as ours are in us. Now, in the improvement and exercise of these faculties and powers of his soul, he had and made a progress after the manner of other men; for he was made like unto us “in all things,” yet without sin. In their increase, enlargement, and exercise, there was required a progression in grace also; and this he had continually by the Holy Ghost.
Pneumatologia Book II, Chapter IV

Passion: The writer of Hebrews links the passion of Christ with the work of the Spirit:
The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death,b so that we may serve the living God! Hebrews 9:13-14

Exaltation: In the Church age the Spirit can only be known in connection with Christ. The Holy Spirit is the "Spirit of Christ."

The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. The man who has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”John 3:31-36

Friday, March 20, 2009

John Hunt States the Obvious

Now Mr. Hunt has become the pioneer in a rejuvenated campaign for a way of cancelling baptisms given to children too young to decide for themselves whether they wanted this formal initiation into Christianity.

Surprising article found on the BBC. I never did meet an Atheist who didn't make some sense to start with. They tend to spin off in a random crazy direction, but they start with the truth. Babies, who are "too young to decide for themselves", cannot make a choice to surrender their lives to Christ. The article goes on to say:
I, John Geoffrey Hunt, having been subjected to the rite of Christian baptism in infancy... hereby publicly revoke any implications of that rite. I reject all its creeds and other such superstitions in particular the perfidious belief that any baby needs to be cleansed of original sin.

How much heresy spins off of a legitimate concern of the Church. We Baptists have a legitimate concern for assurance of salvation founded in the work of Christ, and therefore do not baptize wee children. So in the one sense we can agree with Mr. Hunt. But at the same time, to "publicly revoke" the implications of infant baptism in the Churches that we fellowship with is quite another matter.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Bringing New Life to Congregations

In response to a Sioux Falls Seminary Facebook group question.

To bring new life to congregations they must see Jesus lifted up... John 3:14-15 So how is that accomplished? Two ways.

1) Christ is/was lifted up without our doing anything. 2000 years ago... He accomplished everything needed for any congregation at the cross. [Lent drives us towards Good Friday does it not?] So in the first sense a congregation need to understand that, without any new mission statement, ministry, or service project, they already have anything and everything they need for mission, ministry, and service. cf. the words of Paul to the (really, really, messed up) congregation in Corinth:
"For in [Christ] you have been enriched in every way—in all your speaking and in all your knowledge—because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful." 1 Corinthians 1:5-9
Everything new in a congregation is a work of the Son.

2) The second way to bring new life to congregations is to orient them towards the One who provides life. A congregation must "see" Jesus lifted up. And nowadays we can only see Christ through the scripture (Old and New Testaments). [Good Friday leads to Easter's empty tomb and Easter to the Ascension's clouds]
No church can be transformed without the Gospel of the Glory of Christ. Again St. Paul to the Corinthians:
"We, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit... For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ" 2 Corinthians 3:18, 4:6
We are transformed by reflecting what we see of God's glory and that glory is most clearly seen in the face of Christ.
God won't speak to your church outside of Christ. Christ is not revealed outside of scripture.

(For another time maybe: If we understand congregation life to be the work of Christ through the Holy Spirit to the Glory of the Father does this mean that God the Father only works exclusively through Christ and the Spirit in the local church? i.e. Our talk about God's plan, God's guidance, God's mission, absolutely must include talk about Jesus Christ and Him crucified. )

Friday, March 13, 2009

Benedict XVI Quote

I have been told that consulting the information available on the Internet would have made it possible to perceive the problem early on. I have learned the lesson that in the future in the Holy See we will have to pay greater attention to that source of news.

Always consider the source... why verify when you can Google?

Other XVI's
Pope Gregory XVI abolished slavery as practiced or taught by the Catholic Church
Super Bowl XVI: 1982, San Francisco 49ers over Cincinnati Bengals, 26-21
Guillotined namesake of Louisville, Kentucky: Louis XVI of France
Title XVI of Social Security Law gives money to the States for assistance to the Aged, Blind, and Disabled
The 1956 Olympic Games or XVI Olympiad were held in Melbourne, Australia (the first held south of the equator).
The 1992 Winter Olympic Games or XVI Winter Olympiad were held in Albertville, France (the first held south of the equator).
Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden is the current king of Sweden
The Air Jordan XVI was released in 2001
Volume XVI of Calvin's Commentaries is "The Harmony of Matthew, Mark and Luke"

Anyone May Kill Us in the Street

Q: Where is the oldest and largest Christian community in the Middle East?
A: Egypt
Contrary to popular belief the BBC still has a religion section. Check out this article on a pair of
Egyptian Christians, and be encouraged by their faith and by the fact that there are still people in the secular world paying attention to religious persecution outside of Tibet.