Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Why Blog - The Blogging Journey

Thoughts by Zach Nielsen on benefits of blogging - Take Your Vitamin Z: Why Blog? Here's some quotes & highlights. I've used ellipses where I cut something out for brevity's sake -read the whole thing by following the link above.
1. Practice writing. Writing is a skill just like anything else. The more you do the better you get. The ability to formulate ideas and thoughts in a concise and understandable way is a foundational facet of our civilization that I seek to improve in. The truth is though I don't have that many great things to say (if ever), so I usually point to great things that others have said. But when I do choose write my own thoughts I find that this a valuable process to hone the skill of writing.

2. A place to document my thoughts. Oftentimes I don't know how I feel about an issue until I actually articulate it in a way that someone else could read and understand (as I am doing right now). It forces me to think specifically and concretely about something as opposed to just have this amorphous blob of thinking about an issue rolling around in my brain......

3. A place to document other people's thoughts that I want to share with others. This can be a form of indirect community encouragement as I communicate things that I deem valuable or insightful.

4. A place to document other people's thoughts that I can easily access to in the future..... The longer I blog, the more information I amass, but it doesn't take up massive amounts of shelf space in my office.

5. A context for community. Certainly this kind of "community" is limited and superficial, but it is community none the less.....

6. Entertainment. You have to admit that this is seriously funny. Come on. Entertainment should be low on the priority list, but it's still on the list.
Everything he said agrees with my experience - These are the exact same reasons I started this blogging journey! I do take to heart one other comment by Zach: "any other nut-job can get a blog."

12 Ways to Improve Your Blog by Serving Your Readers

I'm late getting to this, but it's still worth commenting on. Last week the Between Two Worlds blog had a guest post by Abraham Piper on how to blog better by putting readers ahead of yourself. Read the whole thing at Between Two Worlds: 12 Ways to Improve Your Blog by Serving Your Readers: What I Didn’t Say at Band of Bloggers (by Abraham Piper). His twelve points, minus the excellent commentary, are:
1. Blog uniquely.
2. Don’t let the importance of truth minimize the importance of presentation.
3. Be familiar with the blog genre and write for it.
4. Use interesting and informative titles.
5. Write to process your thoughts, but don't post to process.
6. Set yourself some kind of limit as you write.
7. Think nugget-sized posts.
8. Syndicate your whole feed.
9. Keep in mind that the blogosphere is not a boys club.
10. Let the general flavor of your blog be positive, not contentious.
11. Be both confident and reasonably open-minded.
12. Recognize that it’s OK to take blogging seriously and to try to succeed.
Hey, I'm working on it. Any comments, including constructive criticism, will be appreciated.

Blogotional: Real Change

John Schroeder writing at Blogotional: Real Change says that what the world needs to see is not churches that are structured differently, or are "cool," but simply churches that act like the church!
If there is a change we need to make in the church, perhaps it is to restore the wisdom of age. Real progress could be made if the hard learned lessons of one generation were made available to the next in a way that permitted progress instead of relearning. When I was in school I did not have to discover acid-base chemistry for myself, it was taught to me so that I could use it to advance science to the next level.

In the church sometimes it seems like all we ever do is teach people how to make the same mistakes we made.

A Thought for All Preachers

I don't want to leave the building in my car, get hit on the interstate and die, and have people be able to say, "His last message was on our inner potential to be awesome." Or whatever. I want to teach so that if any given message is my last, it can't be said that I went out failing to have preached the gospel, failing to have proclaimed the glory of God.
Quoted from "Preaching the Searchable Riches of Us" by Jared Wilson at "The Thinklings"

Proclaiming and Explaining -Missed Opportunities

More good stuff on discipleship from In the Clearing: Proclaiming and Explaining
Any teaching within the church that is not consciously aimed at explaining the consequences and ramifications of the gospel as it is walked out from day to day, however Biblical that teaching may be in other ways, is of secondary importance.

To put it another way, any preaching and teaching within the church that does not consciously aim at helping people to "work out" what God has "worked in," namely the truth of his grace toward us in Jesus Christ, is a missed opportunity.

Much has to do with how we understand ourselves now that we are believers. Do we understand that we are now disciples? Not merely members of a spiritual club, not merely receivers of blessings, but followers of Jesus.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

God Contacts

Well, if not face to face, I sure wish He used e-mail.

Hat tip: Rick Ianiello

Treasures Still Hidden in the Upper Room: Part 3

This is the final part of an essay by my wife, Colleen:

Many of us desire the call of leadership. That’s a good thing, but there is a high price tag for that privilege. Pastor, Teacher, Evangelist, Prophet and so on are synonymous with servant. The higher the call, the greater the servant hood. I was reading an article called “Guide for Elder Wannabe’s” on the internet. It’s interesting and worth reading. Here are a few excerpts from the article. 1) “Find the janitor in your church and offer to help him with his responsibilities.... Do the work he’d rather not do. 2)Ask yourself. Are you really sure you want to become and elder....? If the answer is yes you likely shouldn’t. Sounds unbelievable but true. Not to say you can’t, but spend time serving in your church instead of trying to “confirm” a call by asking every person you respect what.... they think God’s will is for you. Let the people of God lift you up at the right time. If you are truly called to ministry, it will happen in due time as God ordains......:”

Jesus washed his disciples feet to teach us humility, death to ourselves and to nurture a heart of servant hood. Over the years I’ve come to see three major stumbling blocks that can keep us from our full potential. 1) Self focus: I’ve got to much to do, someone else can do it. 2) Self importance: I’ve got a calling. I’m not meant to do it. 3) Self indulgence: I have to focus on what’s important and not burn myself out. We have to be careful not to fall into one of these traps. The remedy is simple. We are to follow Jesus’ example. We are to serve.

The hidden treasure is priceless and beyond compare. Through the scripture Jesus has reached out and washed our feet. By example he’s given us direction and even given us a blessing if we obey. The blessing is also in John 13 “....Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” Go likewise and be blessed.

Missional Disciples

The quote below is from Bob at the In the Clearing blog, on the subject of being missional. Click on In the Clearing: Back to Missional. Bob points out that , when reading stories of Jesus in the Gospels, perhaps we should be imagining ourselves less in the role of the needy crowds and more in the roles of the twelve disciples ("learners").
But here’s the point: that’s us. As believers, as Jesus followers, shouldn’t it be these fellows, the disciples, in whom we are encouraged to see ourselves? At some point, should we not be encouraged to understand ourselves by looking at them, by seeing ourselves in them? That, it seems to me, is one of the great uses of preaching. From Sunday to Sunday to re-issue the call of Jesus upon our lives.

We are the disciples of our day. We have been called–each one of us–to spread the knowledge of Jesus Christ and His Kingdom in our corner of the world? A great step in the "working out of our salvation" is when, by the graceful in-working of God, we move from me-centered pleading to Christ-centered following. Hallelujah!

Our preachers should be helping us along in this process, rather than seeming to enforce (by repetition) a communally-shared self-definition as helpless pleaders. This is the great need of the church today, in my opinion. A concerted, thoughtful, and continuing restatement and explanation of the call of God on every believer. Whatever associations the word "missional" may have for others, this is my understanding of a missional church, and a missional people.
Good reminder that we are all called to join Jesus in His mission and to learn how to do the Jesus Stuff in the Jesus way.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Treasures Still Hidden in the Upper Room: Part 2

This is Part 2 of an essay by my wife, Colleen. Part 1 was posted yesterday.


I began studying men with a servants heart in the Old Testament and they had three things in common. A heart of worship, death to self and a heart of service. They had failings, like the rest of us, but they were able to be used because of the three stated characteristics. Let’s take a look at a few of these men.

The first person I would like us to look at is Moses. He started out by killing a man and running for his life. (Exodus: 2-11-16). He even argued with God face to face and lived. (Ex. 3:4-17) God continued to talk to Moses thru the years and because of Moses servants heart, God entrusted him with the ten commandments. Moses was one of the biggest servants that I can think of in the Old Testament. He gave his life and served a rebellious people for over forty years. He acted as judge, councilor, guide, protector and teacher. He gave up his life for the Israelites.

The second person is David. He was known as a man after God’s own heart. (I Samuel 13:14). He was a man of contradictions: He was a servant yet demanding. Humble yet arrogant. Generous yet selfish. Protector yet murderer. How could this man be used by God? Because of his heart of worship, heart of repentance and heart of service. David knew that worship and service were key before God. David was a king for over forty years, wrote over half the psalms and was willing take responsibility after making massive mistakes.

Moses and David are a just few examples of men with a servants heart. They show us that a heart of service always wants others to exceed above self. Two of Jesus’ disciples, James and John Zebedee had to learn this lesson. In the upper room they were arguing about who was the best and could they both be seated by Jesus in heaven. Jesus gently rebuked them and told them that only the Father knows who will be where in heaven. Also, the cost of what they were asking for would be very high and he encouraged them to put others above themselves.

Gospel Relevance: Traditional, Seeker, or Emergent?

Darryl Dash has another interesting post on differences between the "Traditional," "Seeker" sensitive and "Emergent" church models. - link at Darryl's Blog: Traditional, seeker, or emergent?. In the post he referenced Dan McDonald from Grace Toronto Church in Toronto, Canada. I found this material very interesting.
If traditional, seeker, and emerging models aren't the answer, what is? The answer goes deeper than a model.

We have to assume, MacDonald says, that our culture - including our church culture - knows almost nothing about the gospel. Unlike seeker models, we can't assume that people want to come to church no matter how much we market, or how much we change our worship services.

Unlike traditional models, we must contextualize. We must learn how people around us think, reading the same books and discovering the cultural influences in their lives. We must also discover the alternate beliefs that rival Christianity, and learn how to winsomely deconstruct these defeater beliefs.

Those who follow Christ and those who don't have a lot in common, MacDonald says. We are all tempted to make someone or something other than God supreme in our lives. We all need to learn how this leads to disappointment and enslavement, and then look to Christ for our ultimate identity and true freedom. The gospel is relevant to both the Christian and the person who knows nothing about Christianity.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Treasures Still Hidden in the Upper Room: Part 1

This week I want to feature a guest blogger: my beautiful, multi-talented and wise wife, Colleen, with a multi-part essay entitled "Treasures Still Hidden in the Upper Room."

When I think about Jesus, the twelve disciples and the upper room I think of the last supper. Then I started searching the passage in John 13: 4-17 and realized that there was so much more for us to learn from it.

John’s version of scripture is the only place where it refers to Jesus washing his disciple’s feet. It states, “ he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” In order to grasp the complete impact of what Jesus did, we need to put some historical context in place. In Jesus’ culture and time, many homes would welcome a visitor by washing their feet. The person who did it was usually the lowest servant or slave in the household. It was considered a humiliating task. Why would Jesus, the Son of God, wash the disciples feet?

Jesus was teaching his disciples, through example, that a servant’s heart was a massive foundation stone in all that he taught. Let’s go back to John 13. Jesus gets into a debate with Peter concerning washing his feet and it states, “....’No’, Peter said, “ you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.....” Why was Jesus so adamant about this? Let’s continue, “...When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his cloths and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” He asked them. “You call me Teacher and Lord, and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.”

Jesus humbled himself before man so that we could see that we need to humble our selves before God. How do we bring this about? I believe it begins with the heart of worship. Worship is to honor our God. True worship brings in the presence of God and makes us realize it’s all about him and not about us. Which leads us to the next step, repentance. When we enter God’s presence, it produces a hunger for more of him. We need to get rid of anything that will hinder us , so we need to ask God to change the places with in heart’s that are blackened by sin.

The more we allow God into our heart’s the more of Jesus’ character dwells within us. If you look in all four gospels you will see that Jesus serving others recurs over and over again. When he worked a miracle, he served. When he healed someone, he served. When he taught, he served. Jesus set a pattern. He’s teaching us, by example, that by putting other’s above himself he’s serving and worshiping God.

Humor for Wounded Healers

Hat Tip: Blogotional

Tripod of the Gospel

Darryl Dash has a good post up referencing a Tim Keller piece in Leadership Journal on "The Gospel in All It's Forms." Read it at Darryl's Blog: Tripod of the Gospel
Keller argues that there is one gospel, a single body of gospel content. But this one gospel message can be expressed in many forms.

Keller offers a tripod, or three points contained within this one gospel:
  • Incarnation - Jesus, the promised Messianic King and Son of God, came to earth in human form.
  • Atonement - By his death and resurrection, Jesus atoned for our sin and secured our justification by grace, not by our works.
  • Restoration - At his return he will complete the renewal of the entire material creation and the resurrection of our bodies.
In the original article Keller says the Gospel can be summarized thus:
Through the person and work of Jesus Christ, God fully accomplishes salvation for us, rescuing us from judgment for sin into fellowship with him, and then restores his creation in which we can enjoy our new life together with him forever.
Dash concludes:
Keller's description makes sense to me. It emphasizes the unity of the gospel message, centers it on grace and not works, and is focused on the work of God in Christ. It encompasses kingdom and eternal life, and brings out the personal and cosmic implications of the gospel.
Makes sense to me also. I agree with Tim Keller and Darryl Dash.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Brainless Weekend

What are we going to do
this weekend, Brain?

The same thing we do
every weekend,

Try to take over the Blog-O- Sphere!

(If you do not get this, you may be culturally deprived!)

Revival Updates

Revival news from Lakeland Florida at the CHARISMATICA Blog site.
J. Lee Grady writes about the Lakeland revival in his Fire In My Bones article this week (Wed. 4-23-08). A must read! image

Also over at the Revival Blog , Carl has a documented account of a girl with a broken arm healed at the meetings.

Can’t help but wonder if this is the beginning of the ‘big one’ or only a ‘foreshock’. I live in earthquake country and every time a large earthquake hits (5.0 or above) we wonder if it is the main event or only a large foreshock of the ‘big one’ to come latter. What ever it is it is God and it is good. Lord, let it spread across the whole country from shore to shore. Amen.

Friday, April 25, 2008

God's Glory - C.S. Lewis

"A man can no more diminish God's glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, 'darkness' on the walls of his cell."

- C.S. Lewis

Interview with N.T. Wright on Surprised by Hope

At the Kingdom People blog, Teven Wax has published an in depth interview with Bishop N.T. Wright on his most recent book Surprised by Hope. A lot of blogs are linking to this interview- it really is interesting and well done. Read the whole thing at : Trevin Wax Interview with N.T. Wright on Surprised by Hope « Kingdom People

In the interview N.T. Wright made some very interesting comments on controversies between him and John Piper over the nature of Justification and the "New Perspective" understanding on Paul's epistles. The most immediately interesting parts of the interview to me, however, were Bishop Wright's comments on the frequent comparisons of his books to the works of C.S. Lewis, and his respectful comments on where he thought Lewis made apologetic and/or theological errors (and why those errors were made). Here's some of what Wright said:
First off, let me make it quite clear: I don’t think anyone is “the C.S. Lewis of this generation.” Lewis was inimitable. I take my hat off to him. He did an extraordinary job. Consider his range and the fact that he had a photographic memory for everything he read. He could recite poetry from way back. So I don’t aspire to that. But if I can be an apologist, somebody who explains the faith in ways that folk on the street can understand, so be it! That’s great.

Apologetics was Lewis’ great gift. He wasn’t a theologian. He was, obviously, wonderfully well-read. He knew literature rather than theology.

But Lewis made some rather simple, basic mistakes about the historical Jesus. For instance, in The Screwtape Letters, he says that you shouldn’t go looking for the historical Jesus because we all basically know who Jesus was, and any attempt to make that portrait better is just going to result in making him either a crank or somebody who’s just very strange. I know what he meant. He probably read Schweitzer and Bultmann and thought, If that’s where we’re going, let’s not bother.

His summary that Jesus must have been either mad or bad or God fails to take into account the subtleties and the nuances of first-century Judaism. Lewis’ views on the historical Jesus are odd because Lewis in his own professional work spent a great deal of time telling people (famously) in his studies on words that when you’re reading an old book, and you come to a word you don’t understand, you look it up in the dictionary. But the real danger is when you come a word you do understand in modern use, but it means something slightly different or completely different, and you don’t look it up, which will cause you to misread the passage. I wish he had taken that same lesson back into the first century and said, Hmm. Let’s actually find out what’s going on there. There’s nothing to be afraid of in doing that.

So, there are places where, as a New Testament scholar, I want to say, Lewis just didn’t get it. Deficiencies show up even in some of his basic arguments about Jesus. As I pointed out in an article last year, astonishingly in Mere Christianity, he doesn’t mention the resurrection (which considering he believed in it robustly is remarkable). I think he was doing those broadcast talks, and he did the next one and the next one, and I don’t think he stood back and said, “Wait a minute. Is this a full presentation or not?” So there are certain oddities about his work.
Criticising C.S. Lewis almost seems sacrilegious to many evangelicals (me included). But I must admit Wright has made some very good points.

Whether you agree with, disagree with, or are somewhere in the middle on the New Perspective on Paul, every student of theology and New Testament studies has to read N.T. Wright. He is that important, and that good a writer.

Southern Baptist Decline?

Is the Southern Baptist Convention a declining denomination? Lot's of people are talking about some new statistics - See here, here, here and here. The source of the discussion seems to be Ed Stetzer at Lifeway, who says:

Baptisms are at their lowest levels since 1970 with seven of the last eight years showing annual declines. Even though some might hope the decline in membership numbers is due to lack of reporting, the inescapable conclusion is that baptisms by individual churches is falling off. (LifeWay Research will provide more analysis in the next month.)

For now, Southern Baptists are a denomination in decline. Some of you were born into an SBC church; others of us chose it of our own accord. Either way, it is dear to us all. Our responsibility before God is, then, to urgently consider how we should respond. Yes, most of our response should be personal and lived out in our local churches—this is a local church issue. But if we are choosing to partner in this network of churches, and the network is faltering, it will also take some joint action.
He also says:
The Conservative Resurgence failed to produce a Great Commission Resurgence. It restored our denomination’s value of Scripture but application is often absent, at least in the area of evangelism.
I grew up in the SBC and attended a Baptist college. Although I haven't been a member of a Baptist church in 30 years (am I still on a role somewhere?), my parents, most of my family and many friend are Southern Baptists. I still care what happens in the denomination where I found Jesus, and where I was taught to follow Jesus by following the Bible and my conscience wherever they led me. I join my Baptist brothers and sisters in prayer for renewal and revival in their churches and convention.

UPDATE: More comments here.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

"Three Dollars Worth of God"

Ben Witherington has a thought provoking quote up from Wilbur Rees at Ben Witherington: Quote of the Day-- $3 dollars worth of God
"I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please - not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine. I don't want enough of him to make me love a foreigner or pick beets with a migrant worker. I want ecstasy, not transformation; I want the warmth of a womb, not a new birth. I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack. I'd like to buy $3 worth of God, please."
Then Witherington concludes:
This, I am afraid, is exactly what people want out of their worship and church experiences. Not something that demands them to pick up a cross, make major sacrifices and follow Jesus. Rather, they want something that makes them comfortable with who they already are and how they already are. They want acceptance as they are, not repentance so they can be who they ought to be. Think on these things.

Don't Touch that Mouse

Don't touch that mouse, Maggot!

Stay right here and read my blog!

(Don't you just love "Mail Call"?)

Pre-Sermon Questions

Joe Thorn has a set of questions for pastors (or other preachers) to ask themselves before preaching. Click the link for more at Pastor Joe Thorn » Blog Archive » Before You Preach Worthy questions to ask!
1. Does this message exalt the gospel of Jesus Christ? Will people walk away from this gathering encouraged to trust in law or grace? Can a person hear this message and know our only hope of redemption?
2. Will people know what to do after hearing the message? I never want my preaching to merely grant knowledge. Good theology always impacts the will. Does a man know what he should do in response to the truths unpacked in the message beyond the general call to repent, and believe? What will repentance and faith look like for my audience?
3. Am I saying anything that will distract from the point I am trying to make? Here I am thinking less of content and more of expression. Might the language I use, or the illustrations I choose, become the focus rather than the message I am trying to communicate?
4. Do I, at any point, make much of myself in this sermon? I have heard a number of people express frustration with how some preachers make much of themselves in their preaching and teaching. It is as if some men are ever the example of how to do things well. This will either lead men to think “That pastor is awesome!” or “That pastor sure thinks a lot of himself.” Either way I am getting in Jesus’ way during the sermon if I make much of myself.
5. Would I like this to be the last sermon I ever preach? It’s a good question to ask, because it just might be the case. Believing that this may be my last opportunity to preach Christ will clarify what really needs to be said. Am I okay with this message being the last thing my family and church hears from my lips? And more importantly, am I okay with this message potentially being the last thing a man, woman or child will hear about the gospel before they die? This too just might be the case.
Good reminder that, no matter what the text, Jesus and the Gospel are in ther somewhere and should both be brought out in the message. Remember, Jesus himself said so (Luke 24:27)


I like what Rick Ianniello says about "Orthodoxy." Click here for more- Rick Ianniello: orthodoxy
I've said before that we need orthodoxy, orthopraxy, and orthopathy (right doctrine, right practice, and right motive). John Wimber taught that leaders "need to remain congruent with orthodoxy and orthopraxy, to maintain our focus on the 'main and the plain' in Scripture." If we have right doctrine but it does not manifest itself in right love, it is for naught. On the other hand, we cannot have right love without right doctrine.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Book Review: The Faith

Trevin Wax reviews Chuck Colson's newest book The Faith. Read it at Book Review: The Faith « Kingdom People
Like Mere Christianity and Simply Christian, The Faith is ecumenical, celebrating the tenets of Christian orthodoxy affirmed in the ecumenical creeds of the early church and accepted by all Christians today.
I'm in process of reading the book now, and may comment more later once I'm finished.

Gordon Fee on Rejoicing in the Lord

Mark Roberts, head of Laity Lodge, reports on a speech there by well respected scholar (and one of my favorite authors) Dr. Gordon Fee. Dr. Fee was teaching on Paul's Epistle to the Philippians. You can read the whole thing at Gordon Fee on Rejoicing in the Lord |

I won’t summarize Gordon Fee’s teaching here. But I do want to mention something he said almost as an aside. He was dealing with Philippians 3:1, which says, “Finally, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord.” Gordon explained that this is not a command to feel happy feelings. Paul is not saying, “Rev yourself up and be joyful.” Rather, this is a command to praise the Lord, to worship God. It may well be that when we do this, we will feel joy. But that’s not the main point. Paul is repeating in Philippians what can be found throughout the Psalms: calls to praise God through joyful expression.

Gordon Fee has nothing against feeling happy, I’m quite sure. But his take on Philippians is a helpful one. Perhaps you have wondered how you’re supposed to make yourself feel joyful when your down in the dumps. It can almost seem as if Paul is telling us to do the impossible. But when we understand that he is calling us to praise God, then we’re released from the task of having to make ourselves feel a certain way, a task that often leads to denial and pretending.
Today, I will rejoice in the Lord. No matter what happens, or does not happen, may Jesus Christ be praised!

The Need to Major in the Minors

Jared Wilson at The Gospel Driven Church posted Tuesday on Worship as Turning to God's Agenda. The article itself is very good, and I especially liked the quote on worship from David Ruis. Click on the link above to read the whole post.

What I liked the most about Jared Wilson's post, however, was his use of the Book of Habakkuk. The Prophet Habakkuk Rocks! Wilson says:
God has an agenda and it is not only not ours, it frequently and constantly interferes with and opposes ours. We are used to thinking in terms of God helping us in our life, that our life is "our story" and we invite God to participate in it, and that is so bass ackwards. It is God's story, God's world, God's life, and we get to participate in it. This is never more vivid in Habakkuk than in the way God answers Habakkuk's complaints. He does so completely outside of Habakkuk's assumptions and preferences and expectations.
The so-called Minor Prophets (minor in length but not in importance) are probably the most ignored and little known portion of the Bible for evangelical Americans. The Hebrew Bible calls these books the "Book of the Twelve," which might be a better term than "Minor Prophets," not implying a less than major importance. There is so much important and very relevant stuff in those books! They can teach us so much about the sovereignty of God, the Lord's mercies,the nature of justice, and hope in the midst of pain and suffering. There is a great revelation of the suffering and risen Christ in these books.

We need more preaching and teaching from, and more study and listening to, the Book of the Twelve! It would do most churches good to have a season of majoring in the Minors.

Experience with God = Change

Blogger Daniel Chew has a great devotional piece on Isaiah Chapter 6 at Daniel's Place - (Reformata et semper reformanda): Weekly Meditations: Is. 6 (part 3) Excerpt below:
Isaiah after having seen the Living God and having his sin symbolically forgiven was then re-commissioned for service unto God. It must here be noted that an experience with God aways results in transformation of the person and especially for service unto God as in the case of Isaiah. Those who have had an experience with God cannot remain the same in their sins and apathy towards the needs of the world. Whosoever claims to have experienced God yet remain the same in their sin and apathy is a liar. Or as the Apostle John wrote, "Whoever says “I know him [Christ]” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him" (1 Jn. 2:4)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

"Do I Know God?"

ways a person might be deceived into thinking they know God when in fact they don’t.

Abstinence or Redemption

In follow up to the post below on the SBC, I also found a post by Drew Goodmanson from San Diego with this interesting comment on Christian viewpoints on alcohol consumption. I'm quoting part of it below, and you can click on the link below for the full post.

Alcohol, Acts 29 & the Gospel
Most Christians hold one of 3 common views of alcohol (see: Jesus Christ-King of the Brews):

a. Prohibitionist: The Bible teaches that alcohol consumption is totally forbidden by scripture.
b. Abstentionist: Although the Bible does not expressly forbid the drinking of alcoholic beverages, the consumption of alcohol in our society is reckless and should not be condoned.
c. Moderationist: Alcohol is permitted for Christians as long as consumed in moderation and in a careful manner.

All three of these positions begin in defeat. Are we willing to say anything is beyond redemption?

"The church, the bride, is a redemptive community. We live not only the experience of redemption (I'm redeemed/being redeemed) but also the works of redemption (I'm redeeming). That's why our mission is both words and works, speaking and doing redemption. And if we are working out our salvation through being redeemed and redeeming, then our response to cultural abuses is not to abstain but to redeem. That not only pushes us to maturity by teaching us how to eat, drink, and have sex to the glory of God (though it won't come easy), but it is also a witness to the world that God redeems.

* The pervert throws away the pornography (abuse) and learns to love sex with his wife (redemption).
* The glutton hittin’ up the all-you-can eat buffet 6-7 times (abuse) and learns to order a salad with light dressing instead (redemption).
* The alcohol abuser stops drinking until drunk (abuse) and learns to stop enjoy a beer or two as from God’s bounty (redemption).

As long as we make the issue "abstaining," or retracting from culture, we will miss expressing and embodying redemption. And I'm afraid the message we will send is that good things can be perverted beyond redemption." (Taken from Celebration According to the Gospel)
The last few sentences are priceless:
To move from a place of being a redemptive community to one governed by our own laws (not God's) produces a much more hidden and prevalent sin of self-righteousness and legalism. And sadly legalism is far more rampant in the church than alcoholism.

Christians and Alcohol

Denny Burk at Criswell College in Dallas reports on renewed controversy in the Southern Baptist convention on the use of alcohol by Christians. Denny Burk » Christians and Alcohol

Here's an 2007 post from the Acts 29 Church Planting Network on the Missouri Baptist convention refusing mission funds to Baptist churches that were also part of Act 29 - all over the issue of absolute teetotalism. Acts 29 Network statement on Alcohol can be found here.

Why does it seem that some believers want to drum C.S. Lewis and Martin Luther (notorious drinkers both) out of the Kingdom of God!

Monday, April 21, 2008

A Church Paradigm

Pastor Joe Thorn Full Paradigm for his church (Redeemer Fellowship, Chicago IL) entitled "The Table, The Pulpit and the Square."
The Table is the context in which our families practice hospitality. All families are encouraged to regularly welcome outsiders into their homes.

The Pulpit is the gathered church where the teaching of God’s word is central. This works itself out in three ways: 1) gathered worship, 2) small groups and 3) our discipleship system. 1 and 2 are clear enough. 3 (discipleship system) is the process by which we teach our people beyond the small groups and corporate worship. This will look different in every church. For us it is (and will develop to include) membership/gospel classes, periodic midweek classes (”Midweek Midrash?”) that will address specific issues, men and women ministries, etc. Outwardly the church is encouraging unbelievers to seek God with us, inwardly we are leading believers into maturity.

The Square is the church engaging the culture in four basic ways: 1) Participation, 2) Restoration, 3) Conversation and 4) Multiplcation.

Participation is our presence in the community we value and are a part of. We shop, eat and meet locally and are considered “regulars” in local establishments. This is the first and easiest level of entering the Square
I love his diagram - wish I could see a fuller treatment of his concept. Click on the link to review the whole thing.

Are You a Disciple?

"The disciple is one who, intent upon becoming Christ-like and so dwelling in his 'faith and practice,' systematically and progressively rearranges his affairs to that end."

- Dallas Willard, The Great Omission

Treasuring the Living Word of God

Interesting post at the "From Eden to Zion" blog on Treasuring the Living Word of God « From Eden to Zion - Here is an excerpt:
I make a distinction between the Word of God stored and the Word of God living. The difference is a word that really resonates but has no clear and present application in my life. I store those words through study and memorization so they can do their work in my life at another time.

But what about the Word of God that speaks to me in the present. Words that will change the way I think today. Words that perfectly match God’s agenda for my life now. These you must treasure above all things. When reading Scripture or when listening the Spirit or when present at the Gathering a word pierces my heart. What do you do at that moment? You MUST go into action to preserve that Word. I carry a tiny notebook with me everywhere I go so I can immediately protect and properly steward God’s living Word in my life.

In our community I’ve noticed how many people refuse to be separated from their journals or notebooks, making a practice out of protecting God’s Living Word for them. If right now, at this moment, as you’re reading this, you cannot turn to read and meditate on God’s Living Word for you then one of two things has occurred.

1. God is not speaking to you
2. You are treating God’s Living Word with contempt

Now the first option is highly unlikely. Man does not live by bread alone but we feast on God’s Word as often as we eat meals. God will speak through His Spirit to all of us if we study Scripture, listen, and live life in community with other radical disciples. We can all develop a lifestyle conducive to hearing God’s Living Word and this should be a constant part of our daily and weekly rhythm. But when God’s Word does come you NEED a strategy to protect it!
Lot's of spiritual directors and mentors encourage us to keep diaries and journals of the things we believe God is saying to us during Bible study, church services and private prayer. But the real test is, as always, what are we doing with what we hear- Are we (am I) hearers only or doers of the word?

The Pope's Prayer

God of peace, bring your peace to our violent world:
peace in the hearts of all men and women
and peace among the nations of the earth.
Turn to your way of love
those whose hearts and minds
are consumed with hatred.

God of understanding,
overwhelmed by the magnitude of this tragedy,
we seek your light and guidance
as we confront such terrible events.
Grant that those whose lives were spared
may live so that the lives lost here
may not have been lost in vain.
Comfort and console us,
strengthen us in hope,
and give us the wisdom and courage
to work tirelessly for a world
where true peace and love reign
among nations and in the hearts of all.
Benedict XVI at Ground Zero

Prayer of Pope Benedict Sunday at Ground Zero in New York - Hat Tip to The Anchoress

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Call the Lame and the Sick...

Luke 14:12 He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers [2] or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. 13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:12-13)

The Anchoress reports that Pope Benedict XVI acted out this verse during his New York visit. Click on the link for details.

The Necessity of Obedience

“The road to faith passes through obedience to the call of Jesus… Only he who believes is obedient, and only he who is obedient believes.”

- Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Hat Tip to Kingdom People: Bonhoeffer on the Necessity of Obedience « Kingdom People

Saturday, April 19, 2008

God the Iconoclast

"Images, I must suppose, have their use or they would not have been so popular. (It makes little difference whether they are pictures or statues outside the mind or imaginative constructions within it.) To me, however, their danger is more obvious. Images of the Holy easily become holy images – sacrosanct. My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it himself. He is the great iconoclast. Could we not almost say that this shattering is one of the marks of his presence? The incarnation is the supreme example; it leaves all previous ideas of the Messiah in ruins. And most are ‘offended’ by the iconoclasm; and blessed are those who are not."

- C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed.

Hat Tip to: The Boar’s Head Tavern » Iconoclasts, particular atheists, same thing…

The Election Season

Sometimes this election season feels like......

.... a Three Stooges production!

The Importance of a Comma

Over at the City of God Blog, "TheBrooks" posts a question on the exegesis of Ephesians 4:11-16. In particular he calls attention to the effect of including or excluding a comma between the phrases "equipping the saints" and "for the work of ministry." There are no punctuation marks in the Greek New Testament. Putting a comma there in English leads to a conclusion that Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists and Pastor/Teachers equip the saints and do the ministry. Leaving the comma out means that leaders equip Christians so that they do the work of ministry to each other and to the needy world around us.

This was the very first Scripture passage I ever preached from, way back in 1972 when I was all of 15 years old (I still have a tape - it was really bad). I still hold to the interpretation that all believers are called to the exercise of their spiritual giftings, to "ministry", and that the role of pastors and elders is to guide and equipment the saints so that the Body can grow by that which every joint supplies. After over 35 years I see no reason to change that conclusion.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Red Shirt Expendability

Joe Carter confirms what every Star Trek fan knows- It was dangerous to be a Red Shirt on Kirk's Enterprise! Well, D'oh!

5. As fans of Star Trek will tell you, anyone wearing a red shirt and beaming down to a planet with Captain Kirk is probably going to die. But Matt Bailey has actually done some in-depth analysis of the "Red Shirt Phenomenon":

* Yellow-shirt crewperson deaths: 6 (10%)
* Blue-Shirt crewperson deaths: 5 (8 %)
* Engineering smock crewperson deaths: 4
* Red-Shirt crewperson deaths: 43 (73%)

So, the basic segmentation of factors allows us to confirm that red-shirted crewmembers died more than any other crewmembers on the original Star Trek series.

(HT: Danger Room)
More comments at The Corner:

Fear the Red Shirt [Mark Krikorian]

Even Kathryn must know that crewman wearing the red shirt dies on Star Trek. But now there's detailed data analysis of the phenomenon, complete with a PowerPoint presentation featuring tables and graphs, showing that, indeed, 73 percent of crew deaths in Classic Trek were red-shirts. But there is hope for them

Besides not beaming down, another factor that showed to increase the survival rate of the red-shirts was the nature of the relationship between the alien life and captain Kirk. When Captain Kirk meets an alien woman and "makes contact" the survival rate of the red-shirted crewmen increases by 84%. In fact, out of Captain Kirks' 24 "relationships" there were only three instances of red-shirt vaporization.

(h/t Joe Carter)

"Friday Humor"

A little Friday humor from Blognotional:

An Irishman, a Mexican and a Blonde Guy were doing construction work on scaffolding on the 20th floor of a building.They were eating lunch and the Irishman said, "Corned beef and cabbage! If I get corned beef and cabbage one more time for lunch, I'm going to jump off this building."The Mexican opened his lunch box and exclaimed,"Burritos again! If I get burritos one more time I'm going to jump off, too."The blonde opened his lunch and said, " Bologna again! If I get a bologna sandwich one more time, I'm jumping too."

The next day, the Irishman opened his lunch box, saw corned beef and cabbage, and jumped to his death.The Mexican opened his lunch, saw a burrito, and jumped, too.The blonde guy opened his lunch, saw the bologna and jumped to his death as well.

At the joint funeral, the Irishman's wife was weeping. She said, "If I'd known how really tired he was of corned beef and cabbage, I never would have given it to him again!"The Mexican's wife also wept and said, "I could have given him tacos or enchiladas! I didn't realize he hated burritos so much."

Everyone turned and stared at the blonde's wife. The blonde's wife said,"Don't look at me. He makes his own lunch."

God is...

"God is more truly imagined than expressed, and He exists more truly than He is imagined."

- St. Augustine

Revival News

Charismatica blog is covering news of revivals in Alabama and Florida. May God move in our day as in in past in power for His purposes.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Go, 'Skins!'

The church attended by my daughter, Michelle, and her fine new husband Zane, hosts an annual "Quarterback Club" event where pro athletes speak on their Christian faith to the local high school athletes.

This year the featured speaker was Jason Campbell from the Washington Redskins. Here is the lovely Michelle with the Redskin Quarterback.

Hail to the Redskins!

The True Solid

"Divine Sonship is, so to speak, the solid of which biological sonship is merely a diagrammatic representation on the flat."

- C.S. Lewis, Miracles

"Legalism with a Smiling Face"

I found a blog yesterday called "In the Clearing" by Bob from Oregon. I think that the post linked below entitled "Legalism with a Smiling face" (referencing Jared Wilson's The New Legalism) is an important word of warning for all evangelical believers and preachers. I commend it to your consideration.

In the Clearing: Legalism with a Smiling Face

We Christians have gotten so used to routinely defining ourselves as anything but legalistic, that we have failed miserably to recognize the pervasive "soft legalism" (legalism with a smiling face) that we preach and hear preached from week to week. These are sermons that paint a picture of the kind of life/attitude/heart/marriage we should have, give numerous Biblical examples (one of which can even be Jesus, who was an exemplary fellow, don't you know), and then tell us that God is willing to help us achieve this model life/attitude/heart/marriage if we only ask.
There's more:
And why doesn't this kinder/gentler legalism (which, by the way, I hear in my church each and every week) actually fulfill its promises? "Because it doesn't address sin."

It does not take seriously the problem of sin and therefore it does not take seriously God's all-sufficient provision for that problem. Instead it suggests, inevitably, 3 steps, or 5 steps, or 7 steps, to achieving that for which you've always dreamed.
And he closes:
As I said before, we really need to examine ourselves carefully about this. I find that people are so used to the self-improvement style and values, and so prone to accord it respect, that they don't recognize that it is categorically at odds with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Focus on Greatness

"Instead of focusing on the great men of God, I prefer to focus on the great God of men."

- John Wimber

The Anchoress on the Pope's visit

The Anchoress is blogging some great stuff on the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the U.S. She covers the events and their significance, Benedict the person, and what our responses reveal about us.

Please Lord, if I could become half the writer she is I would be satisfied!

Theological Pride

Trevin Wax at Kingdom People is doing a chapter by chapter review of Collin Hansen's book Young, Restless and Reformed. Here he points out an interesting commonality and symmetry between the new Reformed resurgence and the Emerging Church movement:

A common thread that seems to unite both the Emerging Church movement and the “young, restless, Reformed” crowd is that both seem to be most attractive to young, disaffected evangelicals. In other words, the same angst (some may call it “young” or “restless”) that drives one from his theologically-light home church into an “emerging” church is often the same attitude that drives one from his theologically-light home church into the Reformed camp. I cannot help but wonder if pride and elitism forms the foundation for many of the people in both movements.

Some of those quoted in Hansen’s book seem to have adopted a kind of dismissive, condescending attitude toward their home church—churches in which they were loved, heard the gospel preached, were saved, and discipled. Ironically, many of today’s restless Reformed students came to faith in the “biblically illiterate” churches they so quickly criticize. Instead of showing a humble appreciation for the local churches that nurtured them into the faith, some Calvinists return to their churches, armed and ready to “reform” their theology.

I am all in favor of both stronger theology teaching and biblical literacy, and communicating the Gospel to post-modern culture. But maybe we all need to have and show a little more humility while seeking those goals. Over 30 years ago a wise friend once told me "There is no such thing as a humble young man" (and he was only 26 when he said it). God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

Doing Good

"Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, and in all the ways you can, and in all the places you can, and at all the times you can, and to all the people you can, as long as you ever can."

- John Wesley

Two-Armed Preaching

I have always seen preaching under the metaphor of a man with both hands outstretched; one arm reaching back to the Word of God and one reaching out to the audience, with the goal of bringing the two together. However, I spent most of my time and efforts on the arm and hand that reach back to the Word, and not as much on the other hand. I came to perceive that I had a major strength gap in my two arms and need to work on strengthening the weaker one, the one reaching out to people.

Others may have strength in the people arm, but relative weakness in Scriptural knowledge. It is great to be a good communicator, but you must also have something worthwhile and true to say.

What the world needs is more two armed preachers of the Gospel of Christ!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Hermenuetics Quiz

Have you taken the Hermeneutics Quiz? Check it out at the Building Church Leaders web site.

I scored 45 -conservative.

Easy Ministry .......Not!

"If you are a Christian looking for an easy ministry in a post-Christian culture where Christians are a minority, you are unrealistic in your outlook. It was not to be so in Jeremiah's day and it cannot be so in a day like our own."

-Francis Schaeffer, Death in the City

"How Rightly Approaching the Bible Shapes the Entire Christian Life."

The IMonk has recycled an old post from 2005 (an oldie but goodie) on reading and preaching the Bible as a book- and how this avoids "proof texting" passages out of context. » Blog Archive » Magic Books, Grocery Lists and Silent Messiahs: How rightly approaching the Bible shapes the entire Christian Life.

My passion is especially piqued when I hear the Bible used by contemporary preachers. In their confidence that the Bible is God’s inspired Word, many have yielded to ways of using the Bible that are deficient, even destructive of the Bible’s true message, power and glory. I want to suggest how we might approach the Bible in a sensible and rational manner that allows the book to speak its truth most clearly and deeply into our lives.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Feeding the Sheep

Jared Wilson writes on the question "Should Pastors be responsible to feed their congregations or are Christians responsible to feed themselves?" See posts here and here.

How about a little of both? How about both/and?
  • God calls elders and teachers to feed His flock (John 21:15-19, Acts 20:28)
  • God calls Christian to feed themselves on the milk and meat of Scripture (1 Tim 3:16-18. Hebrews 5:11-14, 1 Peter 2:1-3)
I answer the question "Yes to both!" However, I do agree with these points:
1) There are some lazy, consumerist, adultolescent Christians whose "I'm not being fed" is nothing more than a whiny excuse for growing bored with their church's programs and not serving.

2) There are some mature, self-sacrificing, wise Christians whose "I'm not being fed" is a sign a church has gone off the rails.

3) We need more pastors/preachers who can tell the difference.

How to Pick a Preacher

Joe Carter writes (with tongue firmly in cheek) on "How to Pick a Preacher." Funny stuff!
Ensure the pastor knows what he is talking about -- Like everyone else, preachers sometimes get lazy and don't properly prepare. Sometimes, if they think no one is paying attention, they often just start making stuff up like referring to so-called "books of the Bible" such as Nahum or Habbakuk or Haggai. Don't let them fool you. I've been reading the Bible my whole life and I can tell you that I've never seen any of those books before.
Read it all here.

How to Pick a Preacher - the evangelical outpost:

A "Heck" of a Message...

Dan Kimbell has been preaching and blogging about Hell. He ended this post with a quote from C.H. Spurgeon:

"If sinners be dammed, at least let them leap to Hell over our bodies. If they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees. Let no one go there unwarned and unprayed for."

- Charles Spurgeon

Over 30 years ago while I was taking Bible survey in college, the professor said something that has always stayed with me (probably the only thing from that particular class that I remember). He said "Preachers should never talk about hell with a smile on their face." Unfortunately, too many preachers have acted like they enjoyed the thought of some people going to hell, and as a result others are afraid to even mention the subject, a subject Jesus clearly believed in and taught.

God save us (save me) from the extremes of either ignoring this Biblical truth or not feeling the compassion of Christ when talking about it!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Loving and Using..

"Sin is the use of that which should be loved, and the love of that which should be used."

- St. Augustine

I Cling to Christ.....

“I am to cling to Christ alone; He has taught neither too much nor too little. He has taught me to know God the Father, has revealed Himself to me, and has also acquainted me with the Holy Spirit. He has also taught me how to live and how to die and has told me what to hope for. What more do I want?” - Martin Luther

(Hat Tip to The Boar's Head Tavern)

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Blogging Bible Translations

Did you know that there is an entire blog devoted to Bible Translations - comparing versions of Bible passages and theories of translation? Check out the Better Bibles Blog. Here's a sample on how translating participles affects the meaning of a passage. Better Bibles Blog: Participle Theology.

Speaking of Bible translations, I have been using the ESV (English Standard Version) for two years and really lie it. Mark Driscoll got an advance look at the soon to be published ESV Study Bible and writes about it here.

Blogging for God

C. Michael Patton is writing on blogging to the glory of God here.
Here are some principles that I aspire to live by while interacting online, especially in this blog:

1. Never say anything to someone online that you would not say in face to face. (2 Cor. 10:10-11)

2. Don’t take things too personally. Understand that many people are insecure and will interact with violent resolve to shield their insecurity. (Prov. 16:18)

3. Don’t take things too personally, but realize that some of the things we may need to hear. (Prov. 27:6)

4. Don’t respond immediately. Give yourself some time. Rash reactions are like drops of blood. Once the shark smells it, he will attack for the kill. (Prov. 12:18)

5. Interact with great humility. Go out of your way to recognize the right things that are said before you respond to the attacks. (Prov. 15:1)

6. Recognize that while you are separated from the other person by cyber space, there is no space that can separate you from God. (Ps. 139:7-9; Matt. 12:36)

7. Remember that virtual interactions have real people on the other end. These people are created in God’s image. Whether believers or not, they are like God. Who are we to curse someone created in the image of God? (Jam. 3:8-9)

8. Shower your response with biblical truth, but don’t shove the Bible down people’s throats. This can come across and arrogant and sloppy. Be tactful and sensitive to the context of the situation. Often, people do not avoid the Bible, they just avoid you with a Bible in your hands. (Eph. 4:29)

9. Don’t be a people pleaser. You will never satisfy everyone all the time. Speak what needs to be said without fear of reprisal from some particular group that you are trying to please. This is particularly hard for me. Sometimes when I write, I write to the donors of Reclaiming the Mind Ministries. Sometimes I shape it for the legacy of Dallas Theological Seminary. Sometimes there are particular people (other bloggers) that I am fond of that I don’t want to hurt or disappoint. There is a fine line between being sensitive to an audience and compromise to an agenda. (Gal. 1:10)

10. If you are going to take people to task, rarely do this in a public forum. Contact them personally and try to resolve the situation. Don’t use people as a public punching bag. (Matt. 18:15)

Friday, April 11, 2008

Weekend Fun stuff....

Coverage of comic book based movies and television at

More fan made Star Trek films at
Starship Farragut.

Great general news Star Trek site here.

(Have I mentioned that I'm really looking forward to the new Star Trek movie?)

Narniaweb- News on the Narnia movies, including the new Prince Caspian.

Need a great screencleaner? Try this!

Response to the Good News

Yesterday I linked to a Jared Wilson post by on "making Jesus Lord." I also linked below to an InternetMonk piece on heaven and presenting the Gospel. One of my passions right now is finding more Biblical ways to present the Good News of the Kingdom of God and call for a response to that message, while avoiding the simplistic and reductionist traps of "saying the sinner's prayer," "accepting Jesus into my heart", "accepting Christ as my Savior," etc. The Good News is not that I accept Jesus but that He accepts me!

Peter Cockrell says this quoting Thad Noyes at The Pulpit and the Pew:
I do not believe that the Scriptures teach, nor that we should lead people to believe, that sinners are saved by “asking Jesus into their hearts.” Yet in making this point it is easy to create a number of misconceptions. What follows are six points I shared with the church last night to put this issue in biblical perspective.

1. Throughout Scripture, the biblical response to the gospel is to repent and believe.
From the preaching of Jesus, to Peter, to Paul, our proper response to the gospel is always centered upon faith/repentance. Jesus said in Mark 1:15: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (cf. Matt 4:17; Acts 2:38, 16:30, 17:30; Rom 10:9).

2. The Bible never commands anyone to be saved by “asking Jesus into his heart.” On several occasions we see people called to respond to the gospel. In some instances, the hearers directly ask the question, “What must I do to be saved?” As Jesus and his apostles address this issue, we see people called to repent. We see people called to believe. We never see anyone told to “ask Jesus into his heart.” Never. Not even once.

3. Nevertheless, Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, does come to live within us. Although we are never commanded to ask Jesus into our hearts in order to be saved, it is true that Christ does come to dwell within us through his Spirit. Paul said in Galatians 4:6: “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” We would not want anyone to conclude that a caution against a formulaic prayer to “ask Jesus in” is in effect denying the reality of his presence in the life of a believer.

4. It is a good and right desire to long for the presence of Christ within us. Even more so, I would argue that the desire to commune with Christ and experience his work in us is a good and biblical thing. Paul commands us in Ephesians 5:18 to “be filled with the Spirit.” We should desire and seek his ongoing work in us through his Spirit.

5. However, the way in which Christ comes to dwell within us is through faith. I believe this is the key issue. The point is not to say that Jesus doesn’t give us his Spirit, or that we shouldn’t desire to have him in our life. The main issue at hand is how does this happen (not to mention the importance of stressing the objective nature of what Christ has done outside of us)? How is it that Christ comes into a person’s life? The answer: through faith. Paul prays in Ephesians 3:17: “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith…”

6. Therefore, our emphasis in calling people to respond to the gospel should be not on a particular prayer, but biblical faith. Believe me. I want Jesus in my people’s life. I want him to commandeer their hearts and set himself up on the throne of their thoughts and affections and actions. I want them to know the internal peace of Christ’s external work on their behalf through his life death and resurrection. I want them to love the Holy Spirit and the fruit he would produce. And for these reasons, I must do what the biblical writers do. Set forth Christ in all of his glory and grace, and urge everyone who has ears to hear to believe!

Well said! I agree wholeheartedly.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Miscellaneous Interesting Links

Some miscellaneous links:

Wall Street Journal article on Sex Education about college students regretting the "hook up" culture dominating so many campuses.

The Anchoress on news media double standards and superficiality.

Jared Wilson on the question "Do we make Jesus our Lord or just recognize that He already is Lord"? I vote for the second answer.

The Jollyblogger on Horton Hears a Who as Theology.

From Charismatica- Join the War on Terror by praying for a terrorist!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

"A Merry Heart Does Good... a medicine. My pastor frequently says: " We need to learn to take God more seriously and ourselves less seriously."

In the spirit of part two of that statement- check this out. If that one doesn't amuse you, try this. Go ahead, try and not snicker.

Visiting "The Shack"

I mentioned in an earlier post that I have been reading a book entitled The Shack by William P. Young. I started reading it with mixed feelings and expectations. On the one hand, the book came highly recommended by a theologian, pastor and author I have great respect for - Eugene Peterson, who wrote on the book jacket:
When the imagination of a writer and the passion of a theologian cross-fertilize the result is a novel on the order of "The Shack." This book has the potential to do for our generation what John Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress" did for his. It's that good! --Eugene Peterson, Professor Emeritus of Spiritual Theology, Regent College, Vancouver, B.C.
On the other hand I had read several reviews that warned of "heresy," or at least misleading concepts of the Doctrines of the Trinity, salvation, and the sovereignty of God.

I tried to set aside these preconceptions and read the book with an open mind. I was, to my surprise, emotionally and spiritually overwhelmed as I read it. So much so, that I was unable at first to objectively analyze the theology of the book. It is a very good read - knocked my socks of, as they say. And I felt very close to God when I finished it.

Tim Challies did a good review of The Shack back in January (see here). It's long, but if you have read or are interested in the book it is well worth the reading time. Here's how Challies summarized the plot:
The Shack revolves around Mack (Mackenzie) Philips. Four years before this story begins, Mack’s young daughter, Missy, was abducted during a family vacation. Though her body was never found, the police did find evidence in an abandoned shack to prove that she had been brutally murdered by a notorious serial killer who preyed on young girls. As the story begins, Mack, who has been living in the shadow of his Great Sadness, receives a strange note that is apparently from God. God invites Mack to return to this shack for a get together. Though uncertain, Mack visits the scene of the crime and there has a weekend-long encounter with God, or, more properly, with the godhead.
Near the end of his review, Challies wrote:
Eugene Peterson says this book is as good and as important as The Pilgrim’s Progress. Well, it really is not. It is neither as good nor as original a story and it lacks the theological precision of Bunyan’s work. But really, this is a bit of a facile comparison. The Pilgrim’s Progress, after all, is allegory—a story that has a second distinct meaning that is partially hidden behind its literal meaning. The Shack is not meant to be allegory. Nor can The Shack quite be equated with a story like The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe where C.S. Lewis simply asked (and answered) this kind of question: “What might Christ become like if there really were a world like Narnia, and He chose to be incarnate and die and rise again in that world as He actually has done in ours?” The Shack is in a different category than these more notable Christian works. It seeks to represent the members of the Trinity as they are (or as they could be) and to suggest through them what they might teach were they to appear to us in a similar situation. There is a sense of attempted or perceived reality in this story that is missing in the others. This story is meant to teach theology that Young really believes to be true. The story is a wrapper for the theology. In theory this is well and good; in practice the book is only as good as its theology. And in this case, the theology just is not good enough.
I think I can agree with most, if not all, of what Challies wrote in his review. After a week of reflection since completing the book, I can say that I would recommend the book for knowledgeable Christians who could use a closer emotional relationship with God, and an awakening of their imaginations. However, it is a only a novel, and no one should get their theology from The Shack. I agree that Peterson overstated his praise.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Decisions and Transactions

The IMonk hits one out of the park with Heaven and Evangelism.

Evangelicalism is a religion of decisions and transactions. Jesus proclaims the arrival of the reign of God. There are decisions to be made, but reducing the Gospel to a decision to accept “God’s plan for my life” or giving the right answer to the question of how to go to heaven seems to have moved well past what Jesus was doing in his earthly ministry.

The decisions most often presented to Jesus’ hearers were 1) the decision to recognize the reality of the Kingdom of God and 2) the decision to recognize Jesus as the messiah who is bringing that Kingdom into the world.

As useful as John 3:16 is as a summary of the Gospel, it is not an entirely useful summary of Jesus as we meet him in the synoptic Gospels. “Eternal life” is the life of God available in the present, It is John’s version of saying “The Kingdom of God is upon you.”
Amen! Good Stuff!

Power of Forgiveness

The Anchoress had a great post yesterday on the power of forgiveness. Read it! It will both break your heart and lift you up - at the same time.

More on Francis Schaeffer's Legacy

In follow up to my post last weekend on Francis Schaeffer and L'Abri, here's a post/article by Douglas Grothuis, "the Constructive Curmudgeon," on the Legacy of Schaeffer, with particular reference to his written works. Grothuis writes:
Having recently reread many of the works of Francis A. Schaeffer, I am compelled to list several lessons he can teach Bible-believing Christians (and others) today. Schaeffer was a pastor, prolific writer, prophetic generalist, apologist, and primarily an evangelist. That latter is how he typically described himself. Schaeffer inspired a generation of evangelicals--including me—to honor the Lordship of Christ over all of life and to reclaim the mind and culture for Kingdom causes.
Schaeffer was "a man of the Reformation," who, nevertheless, was not doctrinaire or haughty about his Calvinism. Schaeffer realized that the Reformation was necessary and that we must remain "a reformed church always reforming." The Reformers, while hardly perfect, brought the Scripture back to its rightful centrality and also opened up social and cultural wonders for the West, as Schaeffer pointed out in How Should We Then Live? and A Christian Manifesto......In a time when some, such as emergent author Brian McLaren, are calling us to be "post-Protestant," this means needs to be heard and headed.
In 1977, reading Schaeffer's How Should We Then Live? opened my mind to the implications of a Christian world view. That book made me pro-life. Everything he wrote is worth re-reading, and hopefully will continue to impact present and future generations.

Yes, I know what Dr. Schaeffer's son Frank has recently written about his parents and childhood experiences, painting his parents in a negative light, although I have not (yet) read his book Crazy for God. See John Whitehead's interview with Frank about the book here and Os Guinness' response to Frank here. However, even if all that Frank wrote is true, it only demonstrates the God used a fallible man to do and say great things, not that the message was wrong or that God was not active in Schaeffer's words, deeds and books and the ministry of L'Abri.

Read and judge for yourself.

Monday, April 7, 2008

So you want to be an elder...

At the Reformed Catholicism Blog (don't let the title throw you- they have good stuff!) there is a great article entitled "Guide for Elder Wannabes". The theme is suggestions for those wanting to enter the ministry or other forms of Christian leadership. It's a great, counter-intuitive list that contradicts so much of evangelical tradition. The whole list is great, but let m call you attention to a couple of the points.
1) Find the janitor in your church and offer to help him with his responsibilities–take the majority of them over if you can. Do the work he’d rather not do. If your church doesn’t have a janitor, volunteer to take over the work in addition to other gainful employment you may already (hopefully) have. Hopefully, you’ll be in a church where there is either a lot to vacuum or mop. Use this time to meditate on God’s Word and how you can work humbly for others. If you’re blessed enough to be the janitor of a church, don’t take any money that the church would like to give unless they insist. If they do pay you, give everything back on Sunday in the offering and don’t ever talk about it. Or, use a portion to buy good books or music for later study.
2) Do not go directly to seminary out of college or do not go to seminary at all. Spend two or three years working and saving money. Having a job while going to college doesn’t count and don’t pretend you work as hard as the average man just because you’re going to college on your own and paying for it by working in the meantime. Don’t quit this post-college job until you’ve gotten good enough at it to be promoted a couple of times. Realize that your job in the ministry is to deal with people who have to put up with everything you’d put up with in these couple of years and more–much more.

3) Remember that being ordained really doesn’t do anything except confirm what is already a reality in your ministry–that is, if you even have a ministry or a reality that encompasses real ministry. Understand that the men who ordain you are just men and you all together don’t add up to anything more than the one elderly lady in the back of the church who can’t always make it because of her health but the prayers she offers to God after a life of service make her among the most important in your church.

11) Live the lifestyle of a mendicant monk, but treat your wife like a queen. Don’t make her financially support you through school. Do it yourself even if it takes three years longer than it would otherwise. Christ gave Himself up for the church and ministers should do likewise in spades for their wives.

My wife liked the last one. I think a very wise man wrote this. Wish it could be more widely read. This blog describes itself as "A continued conversation about a catholicity that remains consistent with early Reformed theology and the creedal orthodoxy of ancient times." Interesting concept!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

"Blue Like Jazz" Movie?

Christianity Today reports that Steve Taylor is working on a movie version of Donald Miller's Blue like Jazz. Interesting book - but how do you convert a series of autobiographical essays and thought experiments into a movie script? Hope it works!