Thursday, July 31, 2008

Haunting Quote

I am haunted by this quote from Phillips Brooks:
Do not pray for easy lives; pray to be stronger. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers; pray for powers equal to your tasks. Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle, but you yourself shall be a miracle. Every day you shall wonder at yourself, at the richness of life which has come to you by the grace of God.

I cannot remember where I got it, so I cannot give it the proper citation and credit it deserves. However, it hit me so hard when I saw it that I wrote it in the front of my Day Timer for constant reference. I read it and pray it almost daily.

Now I am at a place in my journey where new challenges are coming that make it harder to pray this prayer- asking for an easier time would be so much simpler! I chose instead to continue praying for a stronger faith and bigger soul, rather than an easier life. God help me!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Makeover Time

I'm experimenting on the look of my blog this week. Please excuse any confusion while I'm playing around with my appearance.

Best of Both Worlds

Steve Murrell at the reluctant leader raises an interesting question: What do you do when one side (in his case, his Reformed friends) says that you are too Charismatic, and the other side (his Charismatic friends) says you are too Presbyterian? The question arose for Steve due to some comments on a post he wrote regarding the Lakeland revival.

Steve shares his testimony of being saved in a Presbyterian church and filled with the Spirit at a Charismatic meeting. How do you live with a foot in two different camps? Steve apparently made the same non-choice as I have - he choose both!
here's how i do life and ministry...

Presbyterian or Pentecostal? BOTH!
Reformation or revival? BOTH!
Strategic or spiritual? BOTH!
Plan or pray? BOTH!
Wait on the Lord or work in the harvest field? BOTH!
My own personal story is very similar, if you substitute Baptist for Presbyterian, and complicate maters with both reformed influences and some bad charismatic experiences. Both church and society seem to constantly pull us into such dichotomies -forcing choices like this. But sometimes the best thing is to not chose between, but to embrace both streams and combine the best of both worlds. It is not easy experientially, socially, or intellectually. But I am convinced it is the right thing to do.

Monday, July 28, 2008

One Good Thing

The wise Anchoress had a thought provoking post Monday about the "theft" of the written prayer the Senator Obama left at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. See Obama’s prayer returned - humanity restored? During his visit to Jerusalem last week, the Senator left a written prayer at the Wall. The prayer was later "stolen," given to an Israeli paper and published worldwide. The Anchoress received criticism from "right-wing" commenters for accepting the story that the prayer had been stolen and for not seeing a conspiracy to manipulate public opinion. She stated that she wanted to believe the best, so as not to become like the haters.
We see it all the time, all over the blogosphere: repellent hate. It begins with calling someone a nasty name, which seems like nothing. But it is the beginning of the whole process of dehumanization, and it is why one of my rules about comments is that name-calling of presidents is off-limits. Bush becomes “Chimpy.” Obama becomes “O-Bambi.” Rosie O’ Donnell becomes “Rosie Oaf Donnell.” Cindy McCain becomes “the pill-addict Cheerleader,” (ah, the tolerant and compassionate!) and John McCain becomes “McShame,” and from there, it’s a very short walk onto the endless and descending pier of hate, which leads you to a place where we can no longer see anything good in “the other,” because you have made yourself willfully blind, and willfully hard-hearted.

When you reach that point, you are no better than the person you hate; you may be much worse.

I believed Obama’s prayer had been stolen and I would not give in to the easy suspicions of cynicism, because I realized that as long as I could name “one good thing,” about Obama - and in this case it would be that he left a real prayer, in real humility, at the wall - I could still see him as a real person and not an object of revilement.

And it would mean I hadn’t completely lost my humanity, either.
These are wise words! And what an improvement there would be in the Christian world if we all tried to find something, one thing, to praise in our theological opponents. What if the Todd Bentley haters took time to find points of commonality with him? What if Charismatics took time to really know some godly cessationists, and to celebrate their love for Jesus? What if Emergents and Reformed... Well, you get the idea.

The Anchoress later posted an update about further reports that the Obama camp may have released the prayer to the press and then kept silent when news reports said that it has been stolen. Perhaps all the facts are not yet in. Yet whatever the truth of this matter, her first instinct was still right. It is never good to dehumanize our "Enemies" - whether political, social or theological opponents.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Shark Week

Today is the start of the annual Shark Week at the Discovery Channel. The picture above (Hat Tip to Rick Ianniello) is just a little reminder that you can run into sharks at church too. Met any "sharky" Christians? Ever felt or acted a little "sharky"? Some churches are a little like the Jimmy Buffett song: "Fins to the left, fins to the right..."

But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. Gal. 5:15 (ESV)

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 1 John 4:7 (ESV)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Humor, Redemption and Second Chances

A look at the latest Saint elevated to a Bishopric.

There really is a second chance for anybody!

Roman Elvis

Elvis did not die- He just traveled back in time to teach civilization to the Romans.

Wouldn't that make him the true King of Rock (or stone, marble, whatever)?

Hat Tip: - New York Post; Country Music Blog

Friday, July 25, 2008

Evangelicals & the Supernatural

I've been meaning all week to highlight and comment on this post from Dan Edelen at Cerulean Sanctum from last Monday: Evangelicals and the Realm of the Supernatural

....Yet if one reads enough Reformed/Calvinist literature, it’s impossible to escape the reality that the devil doesn’t get much mention, with sin getting almost all the press. This, at least to me, seems a major oversight.

In many other Evangelical churches today, especially nondenominational, the devil gets a minor mention (as does sin), but the real enemy is made out to be negative thoughts patterns and practices. Again, this avoids the very real teaching that our foe is a being.

There’s a reason why these blinders exist.

The problem with these two viewpoints is they both avoid the truth that the enemy of the Christian is a supernatural entity that can’t be dealt with by human knowledge or through behavior modification. Yet this is how we deal with him in too many of our churches because to deal with him as a supernatural being necessitates holding a worldview that is consistently open to the daily intersection of the supernatural world with our own.

And the supernatural is…well, messy. It involves all sorts of nonrational thinking and practice, which scares the willies out of folks who like to be able to wrap their brains around everything they equate with the realm of God.

So I think that the reason you hear almost nothing about the prime foe of the Christian in large swaths of Evangelicalism is that acknowledging him as a supernatural being mandates believing that the supernatural is the “natural” state of the Christian life. By relegating the devil to a mere mention now and then some evangelicals think they can avoid dealing with the plane beyond this existence. In fact, I would say there’s a distinct inverse relationship: The more an evangelical places the opposition to the Christan in non-demonic sources, the less likely he or she will be to accept visions, charismata, and “mystical experiences” as part of the normal Christian life.

This argument may seem obvious to some of you, but it explains a great deal.

His argument here makes a lot of sense to me. I like his phrase "the supernatural is the 'natural' state of the Christian life." In Vineyard circles we call it being "naturally supernatural," as noted in my post from last Sunday.

We need to walk in a balance between spiritual warfare against the Devil and dealing with the flesh and temptations of worldliness. The Bible teaches that all three are enemies of our souls. As in so many other doctrines and practices, it all comes down to Biblical balance.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

WANTED - 1000 Reformed Charismatic Churches

Adrian Warnock wants to see 1,000 Reformed Charismatic Churches! See WANTED - 1000 Reformed Charismatic Churches
Do we need lots of reformed charismatic churches? I believe we do. Firstly, we need reformed charismatic churches to show Christians that there really is a third option between arid intellectualism and brainless experiential showmanship. It’s not that the caricatures we tend to make of both cessationists and charismatics are entirely accurate; it’s just that churches that are unashamedly both reformed and charismatic can give confidence to others to make that plunge, or at least ensure they do not meet the caricature defining their end of the spectrum. I believe that it is a good thing to have different churches in any given town that can provoke each other and learn from one another.

But I also believe that reformed charismatic churches are often uniquely placed to become genuinely missional churches that can reach out and grow largely by salvation. We live in a culture that has, for the most part, turned its back on traditional church. Why shouldn’t we offer the world a church whose methods, music, style, and experience are totally up-to-date, but where the message remains old-fashioned and traditional in the sense of being solidly biblical?
Sounds good to me.

Update: A helpful and timely reminder aboutthe priority of Evangelical identity before Reformed identity by Lee Irons at Between Two Worlds.

Rise of the New Living Translation

Our church has been using the New Living Translation (NLT) a lot for preaching and teaching for several years now. Here's some comments on the NLT's rising popularity and the possibility that it may become the most commonly used translation over the next decade:

Rise of the New Living Translation Faith & Reason THIS LAMP...and that's all I need

Better Bibles Blog

Note the comments above on the changes in the NLT from the first edition to the most recent, and the growing number of study aids tied to the NLT. I use the English Standard Version (ESV) for daily reading and study, but also have an NLT and certainly see a role for it. What do you think?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Ancient Bible Text to Be Available Online

Fox News reports that the complete photo-copied text of the 4th century Biblical Manuscript Codex Sinaiticus will soon be available on line. See - Ancient Bible to Be Reconstructed Online A codex is an early type of bound book, as opposed to a rolled scroll. This Codex is one of the only early complete copies of the Bible, although many early manuscripts of parts of the New Testament exist. Until now it has only been available through special request at the British Museum, which possesses the manuscript originally discovered at a monastery in the Sinai Desert in the 19th century.

What a boon for textual scholars, and won't it be fun for even us ordinary folk to look at?

Update: More coverage of the story at Between Two Worlds

I Want to Do the Stuff

Eric Jones wants to do the stuff! TRANSFORMED DAILY!: I want to do it all
Am I a disciple of Christ? What does a disciple look like? I think of two scriptures where Jesus told us what he wants His disciples to be doing.

As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.' Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. Matthew 10:7-8

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. - Matthew 28:19-20

God, I ask that you would send me just as you sent your original twelve disciples – preaching the kingdom of God, healing the sick, raising the dead, driving out demons, baptizing, and teaching others to obey all of your commands. You say that we have all the authority in you to do these things for your kingdom; may it be so in my life. I want to do it all and be used by you for your glory. May I get out of the way and let you do your full work in me and through me.
As a Vineyard guy, I love the story from John Wimber's testimony when he attended a church service for the first time. Coming from the world of pop music, he had been reading the Gospels but had no church background. Upon leaving his first church service, he said to the preacher "That was interesting, but when do you do the stuff?" The pastor was totally confused - what do you mean "stuff" he asked? John replied, " You know, the Jesus stuff; healing the sick, casting out demons. I read about it in the book." "Oh," said the preacher, "we don't do that stuff anymore!" John made it his life mission to do the stuff, and to teach others to do what Jesus did.

I agree with Wimber and with Eric Jones above - I want to do the Stuff! I want to be part of a church where doing the stuff is normal and expected. I want to take the stuff outside of the church walls and into the streets. Am I doing it yet? Sometimes, in some partial ways. Nope, can't say I've arrived yet. But I am seeking and seeing signs of hope. I know people who are doing it more than I am. God's Word, commission and promises are more important than my (so far) limited experience.

Anyone want to join us on this quest?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

How Many of Us Need This T-Shirt?

Lambeth Creed Changes - Where's the Filoque?

Here's an interesting item for you theology and church history buffs - At the Lambeth Conference the Anglican Church has dropped the "filoque" clause ("proceedeth from the Father and the Son" in Latin) from the Nicene Creed! This was done in an apparent effort to not offend Eastern Orthodox Christians, who use the original version of the creed before the filoque phrase was added by the Roman Catholic Church. This creedal addition has been a major stumbling block between the Eastern Orthodox and Western Christians since before the great schism. However, I think that the Anglicans' appointment of female bishops and homosexual clergy will also offend the Greek Orthodox churches -perhaps as much as the Filoque.

What do you think?

Hat Tip: Gentle Wisdom » Lambeth creed drops “and the Son”

Monday, July 21, 2008

If John Wesley Were Preaching Today

From CHARISMATICA What if John Wesley Could Preach Today?
1. Some would point out that the meetings weren’t sponsored or recognized by any authorized church.

2. Many of the parks he would try to preach in are now dominated by Muslim Imams and teachers, actual riots would follow for sure. After that, he would be excluded from certain Muslim dominated communities.

3. The Atheist organizations would be up in arms that he was using public land to spread his hate speech on. The officials need to do something about this religious fanatic.

4. Some would complain that the music by Charles Wesley was too popular and reminded them of songs usually sung in the pubs. (actually did happen)

5. The chief headhunter of Bible Answers Radio inc., would point out that Wesley’s Aldersgate experience–where he says: "I felt my heart strangely warmed", was similar to Mormons who claim to have felt ‘a burning in their bosom’.

6. Several very fine reform blogs would point out that John Wesley was an arminian heretic. Others would say–"Well, maybe not a heretic, but just plain wrong on many major theological issues." bottom line–his teaching is not to be trusted or supported.

7. 100+ blogs would report that John Wesley was unfit for the ministry; that he had an affair with a married woman or at the very least made improper advances, when he was on a mission and ministering in America, and then had to escape back to England before he was disciplined or defrocked (Actually true, though Wesley says that he really wasn’t a believer at the time).

8. The news media who cover the meetings would point out that Wesley is completely intolerant when he says that ‘everyone should repent’—including the homosexuals, I guess. Then he says that everyone should believe in Jesus like he does—even Muslims and news reporters presumably. Such bold intolerance should not be tolerated.

9. The Methodist Church would probably kick him out for being far too conservative and intolerant of others who disagreed with him, including many of the Bishops and Methodist seminary professors.

10. RelTV would cover the meetings and broadcast them 24/7, and Wesley would become a regular celebrity in the American colonies (USA and Canada).

11. His face would be on the cover of every one of the Grocery checkout Mags along with Paris, Jole, and Brad. There would be interviews with the married lady in question—the first one on 59 Minutes with Barbara Wawa.

12. Wesley would also have thousands of supporters who would point out that tens of thousands of people have come to Christ through his ministry…that he had an incredible God-given anointing for evangelism…that when he preached, the Holy Spirit would fall on the place and move the hearts of everyone there in a special way. Sometimes, even men who came to cause trouble and start a riot would end up being converted to Jesus instead. A Sovereign work of God indeed!


After the Vineyard conference we took 24 hours to relax at Stone Mountain Park near Atlanta. Stone Mountain is a large granite outcropping on the side of which a carving was made of southern heroes from the Civil War. Every evening there is a fantastic laser light show done against the side of the mountain. We also enjoyed the cable ride to the top of the mountain, the museum, and the train ride around the base of Stone Mountain. There are also camp grounds, hiking trails, a Hotel, musical shows, and many other attractions which we did not have time to experience.

If you are in Georgia and looking for a nice place to stop, consider Stone Mountain.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Being Naturally Supernatural

Tuesday through Thursday Colleen and I attended the SE Region Vineyard Pastors Conference at the Atlanta Vineyard in Norcross Georgia. Our pastor invited us to attend with him.

The featured speaker was Gary Best, the National Director for the Vineyard Churches in Canada. Gary is the author of Naturally Supernatural, one of the best (if not the best) books on moving in supernatural gifts of the Spirit that I have ever read. Our church uses a lot of Gary's material in our training class for our ministry/prayer teams. I highly recommend the book. Gary spoke at four conference sessions, and his presentations covered most of the material in his book - with the addition of clinic/practice time!

Gary's thesis is that God is already at work in people all around us; and that we should open our eyes and ears to see and hear what God is doing and then join Him in His work. He calls spiritual gifts "God's Toolbox" from which we can pull the tool appropriate to a given need or situation. The key to becoming a naturally supernatural person is to Listen (to God and to the people around us) and Obey (do what God tells us to do). Gifts of healings, prophecy and encouraging words can soften and open the hearts of people who have been closed to the Gospel, so that they can hear the story of Gods' love shown through the cross of Christ. Gary also talks about humility, avoidance of hype, and compassion in the use of spiritual gifts.

I'm praying for God to make me more naturally supernatural - how about you?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Travel Week

I've been travelling this week. Got to visit my sister in Atlanta, staying at her place while attending a conference for Vineyard pastors and leaders from the SE region of the USA. Also took some time to relax with my lovely bride at Stone Mountain Park outside of Atlanta. Will write more soon about the trip and other stuff - right now I'm tired! - and glad to be home.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Kingdom Based Spirituality

In the midst of an article about Frustrated “Certainty” Michael Spencer said some great things last week about Kingdom spirituality.
One of the primary differences between a spirituality of desperation and a spirituality of Kingdom living is that life in the Kingdom is a matter of experiencing the Holy Spirit in normal life, and there is not a constant need to create situations where God proves himself by interventions and messages or Christians constantly must assert their certainty about matters where certainty isn’t required or even possible.

Kingdom living doesn’t live in a desperate mindset, afraid that atheism, secularism or Islam will “win” while Christians lose. Kingdom living doesn’t try to create an alternative universe where every intellectual issue is dealt with by adopting a Christian alternative, i.e. Christian math, Christian biology, Christian experts, Christian everything. (And trust me, I’m not just talking about Protestants or Fundamentalists here.)......
I just want to make the point that the Holy Spirit shapes us like Jesus, that his Kingdom has his character and his character is one of Kingdom living that is expressed in the work of the Holy Spirit in normal life and normal callings. In Kingdom living, we don’t need to demand God prove himself or require others to buy into the various kind of props we’ve built and pills we’ve taken to keep our faith intact.

Listen: If you faith is falling apart in the world in which you live, the answer is Jesus and the Holy Spirit, not more Christian radio, more miracles and more people shouting at you and the rest of us. Find a community that leads you to live your life in the Kingdom and don’t fall into the ditches of this crisis or that crisis. Replace a spirituality of desperation with the peace, love and joy of the Holy Spirit in the here and now of your life.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

What A Team Of Friends We Have Through Jesus:

"I’m a great believer in the importance of trinitarian thinking in discipling. A lot of what has weakened discipling is the result of thinking of only one person of the godhead at any one time–think about the Holy Spirit and what he does; think about Jesus and his death on the cross for us; think of the Father and of his love and goodwill. But you’re not thinking, you see, of the three together: the divine team which works in the unity of a single program and plan, each person in the team fulfilling his part in our salvation, so that the gospel is much less “what a friend we have in Jesus”, but “what a team of friends we have through Jesus”–it’s the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Our discipling instruction will be infinitely strengthened if we present it that way. Sometimes people say, “I’ve never heard it put like that before.” People will be deistic unless they are taught the Trinity.”

- J. I. Packer

Hat Tip to Tullian Tchividjian at What A Team Of Friends We Have Through Jesus: J.I. Packer On Trinitarian Thinking

Monday, July 14, 2008

Can We Avoid a Charismatic Civil War?

J. Lee Grady from Charisma Magazine has stirred up a hornets nest this time with his article entitled Can We Avoid a Charismatic Civil War?

Here are just some of the responses:

Border State Report - Mark Byron
The Coming Charismatic Civil War - Dan Edelen
A Charismatic Civil War- Bob at In the Clearing
A Charismatic Civil War? Michael Davis At Charismatica

Grady describes a vision by prophet Rick Joyner, originally written in his book The Final Quest several years ago, describing a coming conflict among Charismatic Christians. You should follow the link above and read the article before continuing to read my post.
Other charismatic leaders have echoed this theme since Joyner’s book was published in 1996. They have predicted that our movement will be divided between “Blues” (those who constantly live in the supernatural realm of dreams, visions and miracles) and “Grays” (those who rely more on their intellect), and that the Blues will win and usher in true revival as champions of the Holy Spirit’s power.
If I had to choose, I would be more "gray" than "blue." But I do not believe that I have to choose! I believe in the continuing activity of the Spirit in visions, signs and wonders (blue) precisely because I believe the Bible teaches so (gray). However, I also believe that spiritual gifts operate most effectively and safely within boundaries and fences set by sound doctrine and expository Bible teaching.

As I have said earlier, some choices should not be made.
  • Some choose good theology and doctrine, some choose personal experience; I refuse to choose.
  • Some choose the Spirit, some choose truth; I refuse to choose.
  • Some choose individual spirituality, some choose community; I refuse to choose.
  • Some choose knowledge about God, some choose knowledge of God; I refuse to choose.
  • Some choose orthodoxy, some choose orthopraxy; I refuse to choose.
  • Some choose commitment to a church family, some choose openness to all believers; I refuse to choose.
  • Some choose ministry models open to all believers, some choose gifted and trained leadership; I refuse to choose.
  • Some choose catholicity, some choose evangelicalism; I refuse to choose.
  • Some choose charismatic gifts, some choose fruit in changed character; I refuse to choose.
  • Some choose loving God, some choose obeying God; I refuse to choose.
  • Some choose ministry within the church, some choose ministry to the world outside; I refuse to choose.
I refuse to make choices where God did not intend me to choose. I refuse to say yes to one and no to the other, when God says yes to both. I refuse to separate things God put together. I refuse to divide things God wants held in tension. What God has put together, let not man put asunder!

Grady concludes:
Thankfully a group of leaders from various charismatic camps (both “Blues” and “Grays”!) are discussing the contentious issues surrounding Lakeland—and biblical confrontation is occurring. I trust this process will result in correction where it’s needed, apologies when necessary and more humility on all sides of the debate.....

Please pray for Bentley—and for the leaders who are speaking into his life during this season. And pray that the church will not only experience genuine spiritual revival but also true unity. Let’s work out our differences, support one another’s ministries and focus all our efforts on one common goal: To tell a lost world about the love of Jesus.
Those are good words for all to heed!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Weekend Laughs

Healing Testimony

I keep forgetting to write about this - so I'd better do it before I forget.

Last Sunday (July 6) we heard a testimony from a lady in our church about a dramatic healing. Las year she was diagnosed with Hepatitis C and Stage 4 Cirrhosis of the Liver. That combination, I've been told, is not normally survivable long term. She was on a waiting list for a liver transplant. Our church prayed for her many times, with some intercessors praying constantly. Well, she recently had an examination by a liver specialist and was told that her liver was perfectly normal! The doctor said to her "your liver is in better shape than mine."

Hallelujah - And praise be to the Lord!

Mark Driscoll on the Missional Church

Adrian Warnock has had some really good posts this week. Check out his summary of Mark Driscoll on the Missional Church from the New Frontiers conference.

Here, then, is Driscoll’s eight-point definition of the Church. Some of these constitute the being, and others the well-being of the Church.

1. Regenerated Church Membership...
2. Qualified Church Leadership...
3. Gathering Regularly for Preaching and Worship...
4. Rightly Administered Sacraments...
5. Unity and Affection, which is evidence of the Holy Spirit...
6. Discipline for Holiness...
7. Obey the Great Commandment to Love—Church and Neighbor...
8. Obey the Great Commission to Evangelize and Make Disciples....

If definitions 1 through 7 are not present, you cannot do mission because unity isn't there. Prayer and worship and fellowship can be so much loved that we somehow just trust that the work will get done. Since we also believe God is sovereign, we tend to let him figure it out. Because we are charismatics, we tend to think the Spirit will figure it out. Truth is, we need a plan, and a more intentional one. We will see some growth without an intentional plan because we’re healthy, but if we are intentional about it we will grow faster.

These are only excerpts- I recommend reading the whole thing.

Friday, July 11, 2008

This Week's Great Bible Translation Contoversy

Tim Challies had a thought provoking post on Bible Translations earlier this week entitled Every Word of God. After providing several examples of the importance of exact wording in everyday speech, as well as Bible translation, he came to his main thesis as follows:
What I mean to show in these examples is that anything other than an essentially literal translation of the Bible may work to subtly undermine the Christian’s confidence in the Scriptures. This is a topic that I cannot adequately cover in only a small article and I do realize there are complexities I have not considered. But on the basis of these examples I would urge you to consider this matter on your own. As Christians, people of the Book, we need to have confidence in our text. What basis do we have for our faith if we cannot have confidence in the Bible? We cannot overestimate the importance of ensuring that what we study is the clearest, best, most accurate translation of God’s Words that we can possibly find.
Michael Spencer responded with this post, including this comment:
My own views on translations were deeply influenced by the experience of teaching a semester of Greek several years ago. I immediately realized that every translation- including the ESV- used some examples of dynamic equivalence. Some translations use more and others less, but all translations participate in the various less-than-perfect processes of word and idiom translation.
Tim Chailles usually has good things to say and I enjoy his blog. On this one, however, I'm torn. I think I'll have to disagree with Tim and come out in favor of both (all) kinds of translations.

I read and study from the ESV, one of the more "literal" translations. At our church our pastor often preaches from the NLT for ease of understanding. The NLT is a scholarly translation, unlike the 1970's Living Bible paraphrase, but is considered one of the more idiomatic and less literal translations. I think that there is room for both kinds.

Spencer pointed out that the list of translators of the NLT reads like a "Who's Who" of conservative Biblical scholarship, including D.A. Carson and F.F. Bruce . So how can users of the NLT be branded as harming confidence in the text of the Bible?

He concluded his thoughts with these words - "Stop labeling Christians by their translation." Good advice.

Work Gives God Glory

I love this quote from Victorian poet Gerard Manley Hopkins:
“It is not only prayer that gives God glory but work. Smiting on an anvil, sawing a beam, whitewashing a wall, driving horses, sweeping, scouring, everything gives God some glory if, being in his grace, you do it as your duty. To go to communion worthily gives God great glory, but a man with a dungfork in his hand, a woman with a sloppail, give him glory too. He is so great that all things give him glory if you mean they should.”

Hat Tip: On Earth as it is in Heaven » Blog Archive » Work Gives God Glory

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Mark Driscoll: Charismatic With A Seat Belt

Adrian Warnock posted a very interesting report on a message by Mark Driscoll on Doctrine of the Holy Spirit in Luke and Acts. The entire message summary is very worth reading - follow the link.

For anyone who doesn't know, Driscoll founded and pastors Mars Hill Church in Seattle, and heads the Acts 29 Church Planting Network. He is speaking this week in Great Britain (London) at a New Frontiers Network conference.

Mark Driscoll is well known as a leader in the Young Reformed movement. and known for his strong complementarian stand. He has often described himself as "Charismatic with a seat belt." I found his comments about Charismatics very insightful and interesting. Rick Ianniello summarized Driscoll's comments on Charismatics as follows:
Problems with Charismatics

* Sometimes charismatics focus on the wrong person
* Sometimes charismatics focus on the wrong event
* Some who love the Spirit have been corrupted by the view that it is all about prosperity
* Sometimes charismatics focus on the wrong person as the definition of what it is to be Spirit-filled and Spirit-led
* Sometimes charismatics are insufficiently missional

Roles of the Holy Spirit

* The Spirit fills people
* Spirit-filled ministry includes miracles
* Spirit-filled ministry includes prayer
* Spirit-filled ministry includes prophecy
* One of the ministries of Jesus is to baptize us with the Holy Spirit and fire for mission
* The Spirit leads us sometimes into hardship, testing, and temptation
* Spirit-anointed ministry includes preaching
* Spirit-anointed ministry includes justice for the poor
* Spirit-filled ministry includes joy in God
* The Spirit is given to us by the Father
* The Spirit teaches us what to say
* Spirit-filled ministry results in repentance
* Spirit-filled ministry brings conversion
* Spirit-filled ministry brings devotion to one another and awe towards God
There is nothing in the above that I can disagree with. Mark Driscoll's style is not mine, but I have enjoyed and benefited from his books and recorded messages. I certainly can't argue with the results of his work. Growing a 6,000 member church in the most non-churched region of the USA is some accomplishment.

Update: Driscoll blogs about his London visit.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Sin Slaying Power of the Cross

On June 29th I preached a message on the Doctrine of the Cross. The more I meditate on that expansive subject, the more these words from C.H. Spurgeon ring true.
...My sole hope for Heaven lies in the full atonement made upon Calvary’s cross for the ungodly. On that I firmly reply. I have not the shadow of a hope anywhere else. Personally, I could never have overcome my own sinfulness. I tried and failed. My evil propensities were too many for me, till, in the belief that Christ died for me, I cast my guilty soul on Him, and then I received a conquering principle by which I overcame my sinful self. The doctrine of the cross can be used to slay sin, even as the old warriors used their huge two-handed swords, and mowed down their foes at every stroke. There is nothing like faith in the sinners’ Friend: it overcomes all evil. If Christ has died for me, ungodly as I am, without strength as I am, then I cannot live in sin any longer, but must arouse myself to love and serve Him who hath redeemed me. I cannot trifle with the evil which slew my best Friend. I must be holy for His sake. How can I live in sin when He has died to save me from it?
- Charles Spurgeon
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Hat Tip : Already Not Yet

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Stone Tablet about Suffering Messiah and Resurrection

Last week it was announced that a stone tablet had been discovered in Israel that predicted a suffering Messiah who rises from the dead- written before the time of Jesus. The NY Times (of course) wondered if the faith of Christians would be shaken by the discovery. Shaken? How about confirmed! Scholars who have read N.T. Wright's The Resurrection of the Son of God will not be bothered by this. - and neither should anyone else.

Since this is a brand new discovery, it will take a while for scholarship to settle down to consensus conclusions. And after all the stories the past few years about the Gospel of Judas, the "Jesus Tomb," the James Ossuary, the DaVinci Code, etc., does anyone need any more proof that most religion reporters are totally ignorant on the subject they report on? The first stories are always hyped and sensationalized, and almost never turn out to be accurate.

Michael Spencer has some wise counsel: "Take this tablet, study it, and call me in the morning a year or so from now." (See link below)

For more background and commentary check out the following bloggers:

Ben Witherington
C. Michael Patton
Michael Spencer

10 Tips on Bible Interpretation

The Pure Church Blog has 10 Tips from Wayne Grudem on Biblical Interpretation for preachers. Nothing spectacular or new - just good and basic advice.
1. Spend your earliest and best time reading the text of the Bible itself.
Well, D'oh!
2. The interpretation of Scripture is not a magical or mysterious process, because Scripture was written in the ordinary language of the day.

3. Every interpreter has only four sources of information about the text: (a) The meanings of individual words and sentences; (b) the place of the statement in its context; (c) the overall teaching of Scripture; (d) some information about the historical and cultural background.

4. Look for reasons rather than mere opinions to give support to an interpretation, and use reasons rather than mere opinions to attempt to persuade others.

5. There is only one meaning for each text (though there are many applications).

6. Notice the kind of literature in which the verse is found.

7. Notice whether the text approves or disapproves or merely reports a person's actions.

8. Be careful not to generalize specific statements and apply them to fundamentally different situations.

9. It is possible to do a short or long study of any passage. Do what you can with the time you have, and don't be discouraged about all that you cannot do.

10. Pray regularly for the Holy Spirit's help in the whole process of interpreting the Bible.

Monday, July 7, 2008

What if "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" was Preached Today?

Here's more thought provoking hilarity from CHARISMATICA Blog - What if "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" was Preached Today?

What if [Jonathon] Edwards preached his famous sermon today? Probably a better question- could it be preached today?:

1. The board of Elders would meet to vote on whether Pastor Edwards should be retained.

2. The UCC denomination would distance themselves from Pastor Edwards ‘negative’ theology. Pastor Jeremiah Wright would probably be a spokesman at a press conference.

3. The Professors at Yale University where Edwards graduated from would condemn the ‘exclusive’ theology of the sermon and promise to censure any future books or publications.

3. One lady with an unbelieving husband, in the congregation that day, would be on the evening news condemning the Pastor for scaring them and saying that a loving God would send ‘good folks’ like them to an everlasting Hell.

4. On "55 Minutes" TV show over the next weekend, a psychologist from Harvard would explain how it was all a hoax, that Edwards obviously hypnotized the entire congregation with his ‘hellish’ imagery just to increase the size of his church and get larger offerings. After all, Edwards is a maniac with 10 children.

5. On Bible Radio, the Dr. Smiley the chief cult headhunter would explain that the ‘Hell experience’ was similar to what ‘mind control’ cults subject their members too.

6. Jewish rabbi Dr. Conn on the weekend ‘Religion Dialogue’ TV show would be offended that Edward’s implied that ‘righteous people’ who don’t believe in Christ would end up in Hell. The Right Rev. Dr. Bishop Wonderful of the Episcopal Church would agree and sympathize. Dr. Ali of the Islamic U. would find that it is the first time that he actually agreed with a Rabbi.

Dr. Donald, the famous atheist, would point out that it confirms what he said in his latest book about religion being a divisive force that needed to be controlled. Pastor Charlie of the 20,000 member Valley Community Church would explain that most Christians today preach about the ‘love’ of God and how preaching about Hell is not the norm and actually a bad idea if you want to grow a large effective community organization and church reaching out in today’s culture.

The panel would conclude by agreeing that ‘God’s love for all people’ needed to be stressed today in the face of radical fundamentalist religion.

7. Osama Muhammad the al Queda leader would come on Algazerra TV and lay out plans to send Edwards and his entire congregation to hell in the name of Allah. After all, a visiting Muslim student converted to Christ that day.

8. There would be at least 10 blog posts about how the service reminded them of the ’so-called’ Toronto revival. According to reports, there were all sorts of undefinable noises coming from the congregation. Some sounded like animals and many were flat on their faces just unintelligently moaning and groaning.

God could never be the author of such a confusing uproar. After all, show me in the Bible where anyone ever experienced the fires of Hell beneath their feet!

…If Edwards preached his famous sermon today!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Rocking the Schoolhouse Again

For the 4th of July weekend, Denny Burk posted links to the old Saturday morning cartoon "Schoolhouse Rocks" videos on Independence Day and the American Revolution - see Denny Burk » Schoolhouse Rocks the 4th of July I remember these from my childhood (or youth, whatever). They were great! Follow the link for some good memories ( and good history lessons).

Everything We Need

1 Peter 1:3-4 says:

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. (ESV).

Michael Spencer has a great meditation on this verse at Jesus Shaped Spirituality
It’s sad to see Christians acting as if God must be made to notice us; that he must be somehow motivated to give us all that help that we actually don’t have, and won’t have if we don’t find out the secret principles or the official secrets or the mysterious outpourings.

He has given us everything we need for life and godliness. Now, look around you at the Christians you know. Listen to the sermons you hear. Get the feel of the kind of God and message that are coming into your life from the Christians around here.

Do they believe and practice a kind of Christianity that says “We aren’t trying to get God to give us what we need to live the life. We have what we need. Now it’s time to LIVE THE LIFE?”
The Gospel is not about what we do for God, but about what He has already done for us! We seek God, not to motivate Him to act on our behalf, but in response to what He has already done in Christ.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Independence Day

Celebrating America's Freedom and Independence for 232 Years!

And 32 years ago, on the Bicentennial 4th, I sat on the steps of the Jefferson Memorial in DC watching the fireworks burst over the Tidal Basin. Twas the middle of a long summer for that 19 year old me, working at a moving and storage company hauling furniture 12 hours a day. I did not know then that my wife to be, whom I had yet to meet, was just across the Potomac River watching the same fireworks show.

Oh the memories - seems like yesterday. Time sure flies!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Donatists, GAFCON, and Bentley, Oh My!

This very interesting post by Peter Kirk at Gentle Wisdom just floored me! I have said before that I'm a church history nut. Well, Peter Kirk has drawn a connection between the Donatist controversy in the 4th century AD, the current divisions among Anglicans over Biblical authority as demonstrated by the GAFCON Conference in Jerusalem, and critics of Todd Bentley and the Lakeland renewal. Talk about connecting the dots!

The central question that ties the three situations together is this: Do sinful behaviors or false teachings of a minister prevent hearers or communicants from being truly touched by God through their ministry? Or, to use the Latin phrases well known in historical Theology, do sacramental actions (including preaching) act ex opere operantis or ex opere operato? (If those phrases are unfamiliar, don't worry; they are clearly explained in the article.)

For an interesting romp through church history, historical theology and current religious controversies, and a practical demonstration of the relevance of studying church history, read the article at The Donatists, GAFCON, and the Todd Bentley critics.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Best Book I Have Ever Read

Speaking of books (see previous post below), yesterday at Zach Nielsen's site Take Your Vitamin Z I saw this quote from one of the greatest (and most life-changing) books I have ever read- J.I. Packer's classic work Knowing God.
If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all.
Everyone should read this book at least once in their life, and I think it's about time for me to read it again. I cannot overemphasize how good this one is, or how much it can change your life if the truths written therein grip your heart. Or, perhaps I should say, if the God written about therein grips your heart!

So what are you waiting for - Get a copy!

My Continuing Surrender to Book Lust

Here's a couple of books I'm really looking forward to (lusting after?) reading:

The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith by Tim Keller. This is Keller's take on the Parable of the Prodigal Son. If it's as good as his Reason for God, which I read back in May, then I can't wait for it to be published this coming October.

Francis Schaeffer: An Authentic Life by Colin Duriez. This is the only biography of the great evangelist, thinker and apologist that I know of by a non-family member.

Now if anybody wants to buy me a present.....

You know what to do!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Family Visit

Had a very pleasant visit this weekend from our baby girl, Michelle, and her wonderful new husband, Zane. Her brother, our handsome son Jason, was also here. We went out for Greek food Saturday night. They all attended church with us on Sunday and got to hear me preach (more on that to come). God has blessed Colleen and I with amazing children who love the Lord and we are very grateful for his blessing!


Miscellaneous interesting links for today:

C. Michael Patton at "Parchment & Pen" has part three of his excellent series In Defense of Sola Scriptura Update: Part four is also up.

Ben Witherington has a devastating (in my opinion) rebuttal to Viola and Barna's Pagan Christianity. Part Two of critique is here. Dr. Witherington has politely but thoroughly refuted their scholarship and demolished their arguments.

Michael Spencer at "Jesus Based Spirituality" writes about his visit to the Splendors of the Vatican exhibit in Cleveland, OH.