Tuesday, September 30, 2008

While You are Reviewing your Portfolios...

Here's an update from Captain Obvious:

During the present time of economic uncertainty, many of us are reviewing the investment portfolios of our 401k's, college funds and other savings plans. Maybe we also need a spiritual portfolio review. Didn't Someone important once talk about treasures in heaven and where your treasure is is where your heart will also be?

Just asking?

Media in the Tank

The following is a direct quote from Jim Geraghty's column at The Campaign Spot on National Review Online

Speculating About Which Publication Refuses To Run Articles Critical of Obama...

A mainstream media reporter speaks to Instapundit, without identifying himself or herself: "Off the record, every suspicion you have about MSM being in the tank for O is true. We have a team of 4 people going thru dumpsters in Alaska and 4 in arizona. Not a single one looking into Acorn, Ayers or Freddiemae. Editor refuses to publish anything that would jeopardize election for O, and betting you dollars to donuts same is true at NYT, others. People cheer when CNN or NBC run another Palin-mocking but raising any reasonable inquiry into obama is derided or flat out ignored. The fix is in, and its working."

Hmm. They refer to the New York Times, so it's not that institution. Which media institution has "editors" and "publishes" (newspaper or magazine, presumably), that has four people in Alaska and four in Arizona right now? What publication has those kind of resources?

I have no idea.


Godly Dreams as Idols

More thoughts from my reading of 1st Kings.

In chapter 11 Ahijah the prophet goes to Jeroboam son of Nebat and prophesies to him that the kingdom will be divided with Jeroboam taking ten tribes from King Rehoboam to be his kingdom. The Lord through Abijah tells Jeroboam that, if he will follow God's law and serve Him only, that God will give him a house and kingdom as he did for David. Here God gives Jeroboam a dream: a divine destiny for his life.

In chapter 12 Jeroboam worries that the people will turn back to King Rehoboam and the House of David if they are allowed to go to the Temple in Jerusalem to worship Yahweh. To prevent this, he sets up golden calves in high places at Bethel and Dan, appoints priest who are not Levites to serve at those high places, and tells the people that these idols are the "gods" that brought them up out of Egypt.

Jeroboam took true vision and destiny that was from the Lord, and out of fear and insecurity in his calling he attempted to fulfill that dream in idolatrous ways rather than trusting God for its completion and fulfillment. Even Godly dreams can become idols. Lord, keep me from idolatrous ways of human efforts to fulfill your true dreams and visions for me.

Book Review - Death by Love

Tim Chailles has published his review of Mark Driscoll's new book Death by Love - see Book Review - Death by Love. I have written several times on this blog of my admiration for Driscoll, for his dedication to Reformed Theology and the message of the Cross while successfully ministering in the midst of post-modern culture in the most unchurched city in America (Seattle). I can't wait to get my hands on this book!

Here are some excerpts from Tim Chailles' review.

The book is written in quite a unique format. Following the model of the biblical epistles, Driscoll writes letters to his congregation--individuals who have come to him for pastoral counsel through the years of his ministry. He writes letters to address their issues in light of the gospel. "Our approach is an effort to show that there is no such thing as Christian community or Christian ministry apart from a rigorous theology of the cross that is practically applied to the lives of real people." ….

… The book is targeted at a general audience and is intended to share with these people a biblical theology of the cross. "We write this book not with the intention of pleasing all of the scholars who may find here various points about which to quibble. Rather, our hope is to make otherwise complicated truths understandable to regular folks so that their love for and worship of Jesus would increase as they pick up their cross to follow him. Additionally, we write in hopes of serving fellow pastors and other Christian leaders who bear the responsibility of teaching and leading people. We are heartbroken that the cross of Jesus Christ is under attack by some and dismissed by others. This book is our attempt to respond in a way that helps to ensure that the cross remains at the crux of all that it means to think and live like Jesus."

In most cases, Driscoll covers the topics well. He writes with a true pastor's heart and shares deep and important theology with the reader. He grounds all help, whether it is to overcome lust or doubt or marital infidelity, in the cross. He constantly turns the reader's gaze to the cross and to the gospel of Jesus Christ. The great strength of Death by Love is the "realness" of the book. This is no abstract theology torn from any genuine context. Instead, it is theology from the battlefield of pastoral ministry. It is a pastor's attempt to offer comfort or demand repentance from the people God has called him to lead.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


I've been reading 1st Kings this week, I noticed again the disparity in Solomon's time priorities in the following two verses.

In the fourth year the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid, in the month of Ziv. And in the eleventh year, in the month of Bul, which is the eighth month, the house was finished in all its parts, and according to all its specifications. He was seven years in building it. (1 Kings 6:37-38 ESV)

Compare that to:

Solomon was building his own house thirteen years, and he finished his entire house. (1 Kings 7:1 ESV)

Thirteen years on his house but only seven years on God's house? This shows clearly where King Solomon's priorities were. Is it any wonder that he turned away from the Lord?

Evangelical Obedience

From Timmy Brister at Provocations & Pantings a list of nine differences between legal obedience and evangelical obedience. He is quoting from Samuel Bolton, in The True Bounds of Christian Freedom.

1. Slavish spirit vs. Childlike spirit

“In one case the man does things in a legal spirit, either hoping to get rewards by it, or fearing punishments if he omits the duty. The godly man, on the other hand, goes about duty for the sake of obtaining communion with God, and knows it to be his reward and happiness to have that communion, while the lack of it is the greatest punishment he can endure.”

2. Burdensome vs. Delight

“To the man who has to do with nothing but duty while he is performing duty, to him duty is tedious; but to those who have to do with God, with Christ, in their duties, to them duty is a delight. . . . The godly man has to do with God. He labours, he breathes, his heart gapes for him. He it is who he has in his eyes, and whom he labours after in prayer, even if he cannot enjoy Him.”

3. Conviction of conscience vs. Necessity of nature

“With many, obedience is their precept, not their principle; holiness their law, not their nature. many have convictions who are not converted; many are convinced they ought to do this and that, for example, that they ought to pray, but they have not got the heart which desires and lays hold of the things they have convictions of, and know they ought to do. Conviction, without conversion, is a tyrant rather than a king; it constrains, but does not persuade; it forces, but does not move and incline the soul to obedience. It terrifies but does not reform; it puts a man in fear of sin and makes him fear the omission of duty, but it does not enable him either to hate sin or love duty. All that it does is out of conviction of conscience, not from the necessary act of a new nature. Conscience tells a man that he ought to do certain things, but gives him no strength to do them. It can show him the right way and tell him what he ought to do, but it does not enable the soul to do it. Like a milestone by the roadside, it shows the traveler the way, but does not give him strength to walk in the way. On the other hand, where there is the principle of the Gospel, where there is grace, it is in the soul as a pilot in a ship who not only points the way but steers the vessel in the way which he appoints.”

4. Satisfaction in duty vs. Satisfaction in Christ

“The one kind of man looks for his satisfaction in the duty by the performance of the duty, the other looks for satisfaction in the duty as he finds Christ thereby; it is not in the duty, but above the duty, that he finds his satisfaction.”

5. Shell vs. Substance

“The one kind of man contents himself with the shell, the other is not content without the substance. The godly man goes to duty as the means of communion with God; the other goes to duty merely to satisfy the grumblings and quarrels of his conscience.”

6. Performance as self-righteousness vs. Performance as Christ’s righteousness

“The one type of man performs duty in order to live but it. . . . But the believer prays and performs duty, yet he looks beyond them, and looks to live by Christ alone. . . . Even though he has done both these things in abundance, yet for his acceptance he looks up to Christ as if he himself had done nothing at all.”

7. Formality vs. Fervency

“The one man does things coldly and formally, the other fervently. . . A natural man may pray earnestly at times when in fear or horror, under pangs of conscience, but he does not cry believingly. There may be much affection in a prayer when there is but little faith; there may be fleshly affections, natural affections, affections heightened either from convictions or fears or horrors. Yet these are but the cries of nature, of sense, and of reason, the cries of flesh, not of faith. Affections based on true faith are not loud, yet they are strong; they may be still, yet they are deep; though they are not so violent, yet they are more sweet, more lasting.”

8. Duty only when pressured vs. Duty continually with happiness

“The formal man does duty with a view to it serving other ends, and especially when he finds himself in extreme difficulties. . . . But it is not so with the godly man. He closes with these duties as his heaven, as a part of his happiness, a piece of his glory. He does not close with them from a necessity of submission, but out of delight; these things are not his penance but his glory and his desire.”

9. Duty with reluctance vs. Duty with delight

“The one man engages in duty as it if were medicine, not food. He is reluctant to perform it; he has no pleasure in it; he is driven to it only because he conceives that his soul’s health demands it. But the godly man engages in duty as a healthful man sits down to meat; there is delight, desire, and pleasure in he exercise.”

The Apostle Paul said that the goal of his ministry was "to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, 6 including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ." (Romans 1:5-6 ESV). We Evangelicals need to remember that goal.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Time to Fly

Here's the Season 8 poster for Smallville. Come on guys- go ahead and turn him into Superman! Enough with the prep time already! Time to Fly!

Hat Tip: Krypton Site

Thoughts on the Debate

I like C. Michael Patton's comment on the debate last night:

Here is a good way to put it:

I would like to take a college class from Obama.

I would like to be discipled by McCain.

From Parchment and Pen » Thoughts on the Debate?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Moses Goes Fishing

Hat Tip: Moses Takes a Day Off to Go Fishing « Thinking Out Loud

A Bigger Miracle of Grace

One New Year, a large, affluent church invited some mission churches to join them for a Communion service. They came, mostly from the slums. One man who came was a thief who had served seven years in jail. By coincidence he ended up kneeling for Communion beside the judge who had sentenced him. Neither seemed to notice.

After the service, the judge asked the pastor, "Did you notice who was kneeling beside me?" "Yes," the pastor said, "but I didn't think you noticed."

"What a miracle of grace," the judge said. "An amazing miracle of grace." The pastor nodded.

"You think I'm talking about him, don't you?" said the judge. "I'm talking about me. He has a history of crime. It makes sense that a criminal would recognize his need for grace."

"But I went to private school. I have a good career. I've been going to church my entire life. I pray every night. I used to look down on people like that. It's only by grace that I've seen that I'm just as big a sinner as he is. In fact, I'm probably worse because I think I'm better."

"Kneeling beside him this morning I realized: I am a bigger miracle of grace."
(adapted from Kent Hughes, Ephesians: The Mystery of the Body of Christ)

Me too, sayeth the Journeyman- I am a BIG miracle of grace!

Hat Tip: A Bigger Miracle of Grace - Darryl's Blog

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Second Coming of Emergers?

I've noticed much discussion in the blog-o-sphere this week on the future of the Emerging Church movement, the utility of using the term "emerging," and distinctions between "emergent" and "emerging." On that subject, C. Michael Patton has another one of his fascinating diagrams up at Parchment and Pen » The Second Coming of Emergers. His post accompanying the chart gives a historical overview of the movement and projections on where things are going. If you are interested in or confused by the Emerging Church movement, I recommend Patton's post to you for a complete read.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Clinging to Her Religion

As long as we are on the subject of the election (see post immediately below), check out this excerpt from an article by Terry Eastland at The Weekly Standard on Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's religious background, experiences and beliefs-Clinging to Her Religion. If you are interested in the Republican candidate for Vice-President's beliefs, this is certainly a better source than just about anything in the "mainstream media."
Palin was baptized a Roman Catholic as an infant. When she was a teenager, she and her mother began attending the Wasilla Assembly of God. There she was "saved," as she has said, and also rebaptized, by full immersion, in Beaver Lake.

At Wasilla High School, Palin was known for her Christian faith. In an interview, John Bitney, who went to high school with her and later worked for her in the governor's office, recalls that she was "just a Christian girl" who was well regarded for her character. He adds that she "didn't preach" at anyone. A basketball star, she led a chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Palin, her husband Todd, and their growing family attended Wasilla Assembly of God until 2002, when they moved to Wasilla Bible Church. Palin also has worshipped at other churches, including the Church on the Rock in Wasilla. In Juneau, the state capital, she has gone to Juneau Christian Center.

Of these four churches, two--Wasilla Assembly of God and Juneau Christian Center--are members of the Assemblies of God. Founded in 1914, the Assemblies of God is the largest Pentecostal denomination in the country. Pentecostalism--which takes its name from the day of Pentecost when, according to the Book of Acts, the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles--is a movement that began in 1901 and is best known for its emphasis on the gifts of the Spirit, including speaking in tongues. The other two churches are freestanding congregations. The Church on the Rock is "charismatic," a term usually applied to more recent forms of Pentecostalism, while Wasilla Bible, the Palins' present church, is neither Pentecostal nor charismatic.

Reporters ask whether Palin has ever spoken in tongues. Her spokeswoman has said that Palin doesn't consider herself a Pentecostal. A friend of Palin's told the New York Times that her family left Wasilla Assembly of God for Wasilla Bible in part because the latter's ministry was "less extreme." Exactly what Palin may have found "extreme" at Wasilla Assembly of God is unclear. In any case, Palin retains an evident affection for Wasilla Assembly of God, as does the church for her.....
.....Finally, no discussion of Palin's religious biography would be complete without mention of her infant son, born after a test revealed his Down syndrome, and the child her 17-year-old daughter, unmarried but engaged, is carrying. In America today, some 90 percent of pregnancies where Down syndrome is diagnosed are ended by abortion, as are roughly half of all teenage pregnancies. The Palins' Christian convictions best explain their countercultural decisions in favor of nascent human life.

Voters are free, of course, to make what they will of Palin's religion. It is part of who she is. And together with her hunting and fishing and lifetime membership in the NRA, her Bible-believing faith reminds the country of the vast cultural differences between the two parties--which is part of why Palin continues to excite the Republican base.

Update: All You Need to Know About the Assemblies of God from Christianity Today

Senator Obama's Abortion Policy - In His Own Words

Zach Nielsen at "Take Your Vitamin Z" has the text of Senator Obama's Words On Abortion From The Floor of the Senate when speaking against the State of Illinois' Born Alive Protection bill. Senator Obama said:

There was some suggestion that we might be able to craft something that might meet constitutional muster with respect to caring for fetuses or children who were deliever in this fashion. Unfortunately, this bill goes a little bit further, and so I just want to suggest, not that I think it'll make too much difference with respect to how we vote, that this is probably not going to survive constitutional scrutiny. Number one, whenever we define a previable fetus as a person that is protected by the equal protection clause or the other elements in the Constitution, what we're really saying is, in fact, that they are persons that are entitled to the kinds of protections that would be provided to a - a child, a nine-month-old - child that was delievered to term. That determination then, essentially, if it was accepted by a court, would forbid abortions to take place. (Taken from the transcript of the Illinois 92nd Assembly, Mar. 30, 2001.)

Zach comments on this quote as follows:
Wow. Did you catch that? Since Roe vs. Wade is threatened, then we are allowed to commit murder? You would think it would be the other way around, right? We should not be allowed to kill babies that are born alive from survived abortions and if Roe vs. Wade is threatened, then so be it. Does that logic not follow? But Obama's stance is as follows: If we have to sacrifice some born alive infants to make sure "women have the right to choose" then that's what we'll have to do. How backwards is that?
Yep, backwards. And Sick. And Disgusting. Senator Obama said at the Saddleback Forum that the decision as to when life begins is "above my pay grade." Apparently he thinks the decision to protect Roe v. Wade at all costs falls within his job description. In my opinion, and in the opinion of so many others, there has never been a more committed pro-abortion candidate for the US Presidency- Never. And as someone said, if he is not pro-infanticide he is at least pro-choice on infanticide.

I'm the Journeyman, and I approved this message.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Preaching Solomon

Mark Driscoll at Mars Hill Church in Seattle is currently preaching a sermon series from The Song of Solomon entitled "The Peasant Princess." All of their messages are available for free viewing, listening or download at their website. I am really looking forward to listening to these messages. I don't think I've ever heard a single good sermon from The Song, much less a whole series. I will be very interested to hear how he navigates the shoals and rough water between the allegorical and erotic content of The Song. I expect this to be a learning experience for all of us who desire to preach the Word of God accurately and persuasively.

Apparently, Mark asked his wife, Grace, to help him this coming Sunday in answering questions from his congregation on marriage and sex in light of the teaching of this book. Leading up to that event, he published a really sweet tribute to his wife - 20 years of Grace. Grace Driscoll stays in the background - I don't think I've even seen a picture of her until now. But, as is true for most good preachers, she is a major source of inspiration for him and essential for his success.

Congratulations to the Driscolls. I look forward to listening to these messages.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Warning For us Bibliophiles

“Beware you be not swallowed up in books! An ounce of love is worth a pound of knowledge”

- John Wesley

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Truth & Comfort

If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.
C. S. Lewis

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Too Techno-Savvy?

Do you sometimes wonder if we are all getting just a little too techno-savvy?

Trekie News

Have I mentioned recently how much I am looking forward to the new Star Trek Movie? May 2009 cannot come fast enough for me. Meanwhile, here's some Trek news from this week:

Star Trek XI Trailer Tidbits
Two Movies in One
Trek Back on TV?
Trek- Not Galaxy Quest II
As Good as Dark Knight?

Beem me up, Scotty - Take us out of orbit Mr. Sulu - Warp 1. Did I mention I'm really looking forward to this movie?

Philosophy of Blogging

I think I agree with most of these comments by Halden at Inhabitatio Dei: My Philosophy of Blogging

My basic philosophy about blogging is something that I only came to be aware of after doing it for some time. The key thing that I think readers and commenter’s should understand about (what I take to be) all good blogging is its inherently fragmentary, exploratory, and unfinished nature. Blogging, including theology blogging is all about pressing issues, responding to recent discoveries, and engaging thoughts that one is only cursorily familiar with. Blogging is not like writing books and articles on theology. It is much less certain and more playful that those genres. All good theology bloggers will be eager to bend on most (but definitely not all) of the things they post on. Theology blogging, at least as far as I’m concerned, should not be a sounding board for one’s own certainties, but a space within which to rigorously explore one’s uncertainties. A good blog post is one which understands itself as merely the opening of a door to different vistas and discoveries in regard to the subject matter discussed. A good blog reader is one who understands this fundamentally tentative and exploratory nature of blogging.

Much like keeping a journal, theology blogging is something that is actually quite embarrassing half of the time. Try reading posts you wrote two years or more ago and you’ll see. That is what I love about this mode of theological conversation. It is inherently unfinished, exploratory, and playful. I always write with the knowledge that much of what I post I will eventually come to express and understand very differently as a result of the conversations that follow. This is what, to my mind, makes theology blogging such a potentially good form of theological conversation. It lacks the strictures and confines that attend the other venues of writing and discussion in academic circles. It is in some sense, a safe realm in which genuine change of mind can safely occur. This is, I think one of the most rewarding things about theology blogging, the chance to have one’s own mind changed and to witness the change of mind of others as we all seek to journey on in our pursuit of the gospel.

Friday, September 19, 2008

It's International Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Ahoy, Matey! I almost forgot the big celebration today. Arrgh!

Let's all sing the Veggie tales Pirates Song:

We are the pirates who don't do anything
We just stay at home, and lie around
And if you ask us, to do anything
We'll just tell you, we don't do anything!

Music Moves Us To Worship

We sing in worship to engage and express our affections. There is no other reason to sing. If we aren’t dealing with our affections in worship, we might as well just read the lines of the songs dryly together in paragraph form without any music. We worship with music to because God has created music with a certain nature where it tends to move our affections deeply.

- Jonathan Edwards, The Religious Affections (Modernized language)

Hat Tip : Take Your Vitamin Z

Kingdom Work Is War

A Christian who goes to work for the kingdom (that’s every Christian) simultaneously goes to war. What’s needed on God’s side are well-educated warriors (warriors who know what’s going on). We are now fallen creatures in a fallen world. The Christian gospel tells us that all hell has broken loose in this sad world and that, in Christ, all heaven has come to do battle. Christ has come to defeat the powers and principalities, to move the world over onto a new foundation, and to equip a people–informed, devout, determined people–to lead the way in righting what’s wrong, transforming what’s corrupted, in doing things that make for peace, expecting these things will travel across the border from this world to the new heaven and earth.
From Engaging God’s World by Cornelius Plantinga.

Quoted at On Earth as it is in Heaven » Kingdom Work Is War

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Stuff Christian Culture Likes

New Fun Web Page:
Stuff Christian Culture Likes

Go ahead- laugh at yourself. I did.

Hat Tip: Goodmanson.com

Update: Thinking Out Loud comments

Political Pharisess

Found this posted by Nate at The Jesus Paradigm:
How to be a pharisee in politics: At every moment display righteous indignation over the means(whether good or evil) which your opponent has used to attain the same corrupt end which you are trying to achieve. Point to the means he is using as evidence that you own purposes are righteous- even though they are the same as his. If the means he makes use of are successful, then show that his success itself is proof that he has used corrupt methods. But in your own case, success is proof of righteousness.
-Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

Something important to remember in this political season.

Christians and the Banking Crisis

I found this good post at Justin Taylor's "Between Two Worlds" entitled Thinking Biblically about the Banking Crisis

He provides a good, simple explanation of this week's banking and mortgage crises (quoting David Cotter from CBMW) for all you non-financial types, plus some very Christian advice.

For believers, this is just one more reason to "not love the world or the things in the world" which is "passing away along with its desires" (1 John 2:15, 16). In Louisville we have been without electricity since Sunday, and it makes me increasingly grateful that our God is independent and powerful enough to accomplish his good will every moment. Lighting candles each night reminds me that I am not!

Although it will be harder to obtain aggressive mortgages, Christians who are practicing prudent financial stewardship (modest houses, large down payments, monthly payments easily within their means, diligent participation in the work force) should not have much problem. Everyone will want to verify that their savings account is government insured, but believers with a generous "wartime mindset" should have no trouble keeping their bank accounts under $100,000 FDIC limit. Above all, don't be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor what you will wear. Remember that journalists, markets, and lemmings tend to move in herds. The media never reports on thousands of planes that land safely, but solely focuses on one that doesn't. In that light, if you are saving for retirement more than 10 years from now, this actually would be a good time to invest in the stock market. But don't let your IRA be a substitute god or distract you from treasuring Jesus Christ (Matthew 6:24-34)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Why "The Journeyman" and Whence Does He Journey?

Back in April when I started this blog, I wrote an explanation of the title "Journeyman." Since there are a few more people reading here than back then (I hope!) I'm going to repost the explanation. Thanks for reading!

Why did I choose the name "The Journeyman" and whither goest he?

When thinking about a nome de blog I considered several ideas, some of which were pretty cheesy. I choose this one for two primary reasons.

First, The call of the Lord Jesus to each Christian is not "Say a sinners prayer so that you can go to heaven when you die. Meanwhile sit still in church and do not get into trouble!" His call to us is "The Kingdom of God is at hand! Turn from your selfish ways, believe my good news and come, follow me. I will make you fishers of men. Together we will go to seek and save the lost. Together we will see and hear what my Father is doing and join his work and mission. Join my journey of obedience to the Father. Come walk with me!"

What I will write here are observations and disciple notes of one guy learning (and forgetting and re-learning) how to walk with Jesus on His journey and join in His mission. It's all about Him, not me.

Second, in the world of trades and guilds, a journeyman is the next step up from an apprentice. Someone with this status is considered to be a skilled and trained worker who no longer needs to be taught the basics and overseen in everything he does. However, he is not yet a master carpenter, plumber, electrician, or whatever- he needs to work with a Master who will judge and vouch for his work.

I hope that after years (decades now) of experience in Christian leadership and teaching ministries that I have learned to do somethings well and have proven trustworthy. I have had the privilege to work with and be trained by many wise men in the Lord. But I always know that I need close attention from The Master or I will go astray.

I'm only a Journeyman, not yet a master.

Keeping the Long View

During this political season The Anchoress offers us this wise and timely reminder of the need for perspective.
When I find myself descending into the madness of political minutiae, I can’t stand myself.

Those times are also the times I find myself most tempted to forget about the humanity of the politicians we write about, and that is where I try really hard not to go.

It is easy to not lie about candidates, and it is easy to not “call names.” Name-calling is not a habit I’ve gotten into. But when I find myself stewing and my brains leaking out of one ear, and I’m forgetting - usually thanks the the obnoxious unfairness of the press - that politicians I dislike are probably perfectly decent human beings with whom I simply disagree very strongly…then I know it’s time to pull back, open the breviary and chant. If I don’t, then it all starts to become much too weighty, and I lose sight of the long view, and forget that so much of what we see and fuss over every day is transient and illusory.

Amen, and amen.

Robust Doctrine and Robust Living

Theology exists in order to be applied to the day-to-day problems of the Christian church.

Every doctrine has its application. All scripture is profitable and all the doctrine is profitable. Similarly all the application must be based on doctrine. In both the Philippians example-passage and the Corinthian example-passage, Paul is dealing with what are surely comparative trivia, the problem of vain glory in a Christian congregation and the problem of failure of Christian liberality. As a Pastor one meets with these difficulties daily. They are standing problems. Yet Paul, as he wrestles with both of them, has recourse to the most massive theology. It’s not only that you have the emphasis on the unity between theology and practice but you have the emphasis on the applicability of the profoundest theology to the most mundane and most common-place problems. Who would ever imagine that the response to the glory of the incarnation might be to give to the collection for the poor? Who might imagine that the application of the glories of New Testament Christology might be to stop our quarreling and our divisiveness in the Christian ekklesia? That is what Paul is doing here. He is telling them: You have these practical problems; the answer is theological; remember your theology and place your behavior in the light of that theology. Place your little problems in the light of the most massive theology. We ourselves in our Christian callings are to be conscious of this. We must never leave our doctrine hanging in the air, nor hesitate to enforce the most elementary Christian obligations with the most sublime doctrines.
The quote is from Donald MacLeod's The Humiliated and Exalted Lord. This excerpt says so clearly a main reason I'm so big on the importance of Theological knowledge for the average Christian and the necessity of sound Theological frameworks in preaching and teaching -"the answer is theological; remember your theology and place your behavior in the light of that theology."

See also : Peter Cockrell's Already Not Yet

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Follow Me, Boys! (and Girls)

Back in the 60's Disney put out a movie about a Boy Scout leader starring Fred MacMurray and Kurt Russell entitled "Follow Me, Boys!"

Two weeks ago Blogger added a feature called "Followers" so that readers interested in a particular blog can register as followers of that blog. I've signed up as a Follower of several blogs. Yesterday someone signed up here - I have my first official follower! Thanks to Bob from In The Clearing. Glad to have you, brother!

If you read here often and wish to let my other readers know you do, you can click on the Followers gadget in the right hand column of my blog to join us on the Journey. You will find it just below my Shelfari Bookshelf. Being a follower of a blog does not necessarily mean you agree with that blogger on everything, but only that you enjoy the blog and check it out regularly.

So, now I can say "follow me, Boys and Girls!"

Update: Welcome to my second blog follower, Duke at SouthBay Vineyard!

We Must Clean Up Our Own Messes

Last week J. Lee Grady at Charisma Magazine wrote a good article on spiritual discernment that deserves a lot more attention. I recommend everyone read the whole thing, but here's an excerpt.
...in some charismatic churches, hunger for the supernatural is encouraged while leaders seem reluctant to put boundaries around it for fear of seeming intolerant. We stopped teaching discernment because it forces us to draw lines. We desperately need to return to what the Bible teaches us about this important subject:

1. We are commanded to discern. The apostle John instructed us to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). The word “test” means to “examine as metal”—the process a jeweler would use to prove authenticity. Metals may look the same; only when you apply heat will you find which ones are fake or of low quality. All that glitters, in such cases, is not gold.

We don’t like to test because it seems harsh. We don’t like confrontation. We want to be nice to everybody. But it is the Lord who tells us to test the spirits. Will we please people, or fear God?

2. Discernment is a sign of spiritual maturity. The author of Hebrews told his readers that they were immature babies who couldn’t handle eating spiritual meat. “Solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil” (Heb. 5:14). The implication here is that those who don’t learn to discern are spiritually stunted.

Is it possible that we in the American church have been so focused on satisfying our own material or emotional needs that we have gotten stuck in perpetual infancy? The Bible offers a remedy: Grow up! We will never come to full adulthood in a spiritual sense if we don’t develop discernment.

3. Discernment is damaged when leaders compromise. The prophet Ezekiel denounced the priests and governors of Israel because they didn’t teach the people to discern. “They have made no distinction between the holy and the profane, and they have not taught the difference between the unclean and the clean” (Ezek. 22:26). Discernment, according to this passage, is shaped by the choices leaders make.

When shepherds don’t build fences, sheep wander into wolves’ territory. That’s why God holds leaders to a stricter standard. In some cases today, leaders have brought their flocks to feed near toxic streams. The gospel has been polluted by false prophecies and poisonous doctrines and, in some tragic cases, by the direct impartation of immorality and greed from the pulpit.
After the tragic end to the Lakeland Revival meetings, all of us who believe in spiritual gifts and the continuing role of the supernatural in the life and ministry of today's churches need to pay a lot more attention to discernment, and to the proper pastoral oversight of renewal movements. Maybe then we can, as the dog in the picture is doing, learn to clean up our own messes.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Spiritual Types Test

Thanks to a link at Peter Kirk's Gentle Wisdom I discovered this Spiritual Types Test. The test identifies you as one of four spiritual types: Sages, Prophets, Lovers and Mystics. I tested as a "sage."

You are a Sage, characterized by a thinking or head spirituality. You value responsibility, logic, and order. Maybe that's why you were voted "Most Dependable" by your high school classmates. Structure and organization are important to you. What would the world be like without you? Chaos, that's what! Your favorite words include should, ought, and be prepared. What makes you feel warm and fuzzy? Like Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof it's tradition! tradition! tradition!

Because you love words, written or spoken, you enjoy a good lecture, serious discussions, and theological reflection. Prayer for you usually is verbal. You thrive on activity and gatherings of people, such as study groups. Sages on retreat likely would fill every day with planned activities, leaving little time for silence or solitude.

We need Sages for your clear thinking and orderly ways. You pay attention to details that others overlook. Sages make contributions to education, publishing, and theology. You often are the ones who feel a duty to serve, give, care, and share with the rest of us.

On the other hand, sometimes you seem unfeeling, too intellectual, or dry. Can you say "dogmatic"? You may need to experience the freedom of breaking a rule or two every now and then. God's grace covers Sages too, you know!

As in all such tests, sometimes none of the alternatives given fit me perfectly. I've always thought some of these spiritual gifts or personality type tests were nothing but Christianized astrology. But this one does sound pretty accurate to me, at least as based on my limited self-knowledge and what others say about me.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Weekend Sci-Fi Fun Stuff: 20 Greatest Sci-Fi TV Shows

Entertainment Weekly has published a list of the 20 Greatest Sci-Fi TV Shows.

18. THE JETSONS (1962-1963)
17. MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 (1989-1999)
16. ALIEN NATION (1989-1990)
15. THE PRISONER (1967)
14. OUTER LIMITS (1963-1965)
13. BABYLON 5 (1993-1998)
12. V: THE MINISERIES (1983-1984)
11. HEROES (2006-)
10. MAX HEADROOM (1987-1988)
9. DOCTOR WHO (1963-)
8. QUANTUM LEAP (1989-1993)
7. FIREFLY (2002)
6. LOST (2004-)
4. THE X-FILES (1993-2002)
2. STAR TREK (1966-1969)
1. TWILIGHT ZONE (1959-1964)

I agree with most of this list, except I would rank Star Trek #1, Babylon Five #2, and replace The Prisoner with The Time Tunnel. In my opinion Babylon Five is the greatest sci-fi TV show ever, but Star Trek had more industry and cultural influence.

What do you think!

Friday, September 12, 2008

We Don't Like Ike!

First Fay, then Gustav, now Ike!

Let's all offer many prayers for the people of Galveston and Houston tonight and tomorrow.

Evangelist to the Muslims

Over at the Point, Diane Singer writes about Father Zakaria Botros and asks if he is a Billy Graham to the Muslims?

Joel Rosenberg's latest report profiles Father Zakaria Botros, an Arab evangelist now in hiding in the United States because he has been targeted for assassination by al Qaeda, which put a $60 million price tag on his head. Here's why Muslims consider him so dangerous:

Using state-of-the-art satellite technology to bypass the efforts of Islamic governments to keep the gospel out of their countries, Botros is directly challenging the claims of Muhammad to be a prophet, and the claims of the Qu'ran to be God's word. He systematically deconstructs Muhammad's life, story by story, pointing out character flaws and sinful behavior. He carefully deconstructs the Qu'ran, verse by verse, citing contradictions and inconsistencies. And not only does he explain without apology what he believes is wrong with Islam, he goes on the teach Muslims from the Bible why Jesus loves them and why He is so ready to forgive them and adopt them into His family, no matter who they are or what they have done.

Sounds like someone we should all be praying for! Lord Jesus, protect this man and use him for your glory and the salvation of millions. We lift up our brothers and sisters in Muslim lands and ask for your grace, mercy and protection for them. Amen.

Saving Babies, Saving Mothers

At John Piper's Desiring God blog, they pointed out yesterday that Saving the Baby Can Save the Mother
When we help a young, unmarried mother in the midst of a pregnancy crisis save her baby, by God’s grace, the baby can save the mother.

* The baby saves the mother out of a sinful sexual habit that was hollowing out her soul and self-esteem.
* The baby saves her out of the entangling lies and stalking anxiety that attends premarital sex.
* The baby saves her from blood-guilt.
* The baby saves her out of a mechanized Christian walk and into a shaken-down and overflowing experience of biblical mercy.
* The baby saves her out of a shallow, undirected faith and drives her to trust God for the forgiveness of her sins and for her daily bread.

And all this can be true for young fathers, too.

When pregnancy is a crisis, it is a crisis of faith. When we are there to encourage faith by honoring life, it is amazing how often it turns out that Christ is formed in them.

God bless all of you who work at Crises Pregnancy Centers, do sidewalk counselling or other pro-life ministry.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Remembering 911

We Remember September 11, 2001.

May the Lord be with those who still mourn the loved ones lost that day, and may His grace be with those brave men and women who fight for our freedom and the freedom of other peoples and nations, and may God bless America.

Media News Flash-- Christians Believe in Hell

As reporters and political operatives surge all over Alaska looking for dirt on Gov. Sarah Palin, apparently some of them are amazed and shocked to learn that her church and pastor actually believe in hell! Oh no, maybe she does too! Dr. Albert Mohler has a news flash for the national media -read it at A Pastor Believes in Hell. Referring to a Newsweek article, Dr. Mohler comments:

“What this article in Newsweek represents is the absolute confidence that discovering people who believe that those who do not believe in Christ will go to hell is supposed to be shocking.

“So we find in Sarah Palin’s pastor an evangelical who believes in hell and preaches the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the only means of escaping hell. In other words, he is an evangelical preaching like an evangelical. Alert the media.”

Hat Tip: Denny Burk

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Tell the Devil "Kiss This!"

"It's the supreme art of the devil that he can make the law out of the gospel. If I can hold on to the distinction between law and gospel, I can say to him any and every time that should kiss my backside. . . . Once I debate about what I have done and left undone, I am finished. But if I reply on the basis of the gospel, 'The forgiveness of sins covers it all,' I have won."
- Martin Luther

Hat Tip: Take Your Vitamin Z and In the Clearing

Kingdom Only or Kingdom Apathy?

The Kingdom of God, though, is an explosively veiled inbreaking into the present world order of the reign of Jesus himself as emperor of the cosmos. It ought then to change the way we see ourselves, and our place in this age and in the one to come.

A Kingdom apathy leads to carnality, the very kind of carnality we see in so many of our listless, unevangelistic, divided churches. At the same time, a "Kingdom only" mentality can seek to transform the present order into the Kingdom of God through means other than the power of Christ. That leads, as it turns out, to carnality too. Ultimately, the Kingdom comes not by messianic zeal but by the zeal of the Messiah.

Dr. Russell D. Moore at The Henry Institute: Commentary

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Church Plant Update- Launch Time!

Praying this week for my friends Duke & Marie Lancaster as their new church plant in California has their public launch this coming Sunday. You Go, Guys!

Duke and Marie, their son, another couple (the Selfs) and a single young woman (miss ya La La) all moved from Mississippi to California earlier this year to plant this church. We miss them a lot, but rejoice in what God is doing in and through them.

You can read about SouthBay Vineyard at their website.

An Ultimate Loyalty Question

What would you say to a teenage girl from a Muslim country who has confessed Christ while studying in America, is about to return home for a visit, and asks what to say to her family when they ask her to attend Mosque? Michael Spencer confronted this exact situation and writes about it at God Have Mercy On the Messenger

It would be easy to give a flippant and easy answer until you stop to think about the price this young woman may have to pay. We are not talking about losing popularity or "cool" status- but about loss of family, and possibly life itself.

What would you say?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Testimony from "Miracle Boy"

Last month I wrote about a young man in our church who was healed of throat cancer. Last night at our baptism and communion service he spoke to the congregation for the first time since his healing. I want to emphasize that this is not one of those "I know someone who knows someone whose sister heard about" stories. I heard all of this first hand last night from the man it happened to.

A few months ago Dustin was diagnosed with cancer of the throat. He had a growing tumor that eventually closed his esophagus to the point where he could not swallow food or water. The presence of the tumor was confirmed by multiple x-rays and MRI scans. He was put on a feeding tube for nourishment. The treatment plan designed by his doctors included chemo-therapy to be followed by drastic surgery to remove the tumor along with his esophagus and larynx. The doctor planned to build a new esophagus out of tissue from his stomach. Needless to say, Dustin would never speak again.

Our church began praying for Dustin with great intensity. His situation and need were featured on our e-mail prayer chain for many weeks. He was in our second morning service the Sunday (August 24) before his scheduled surgery and received hands-on ministry and prayer for healing.

No specialists were available locally to do this procedure. Dustin went to a facility in a neighboring state for what he expected to be a totally life altering event. Well, it was, but not in the way he thought!

The specialist did final scans which showed the large tumor present in his throat. Nothing had changed. After he was put under anesthesia, Dustin's doctors decided to do one final check before cutting. A camera was inserted in his throat. The doctor could see nothing but some scar tissue. The tumor was gone! Further scans could find no trace of the tumor.

When Dustin woke up he could not feel any scars and thought "oh no, I've woken up before the surgery!" Then his father told him, "son, it's gone!" Dustin ate a steak dinner that night!

Our pastor asked Dustin: "When we prayed for you to be healed, did you believe it would happen?" He answered "Not really, but I believe now!"

I have tried to be restrained in my language and tone in writing this. However, I do not know any other words to describe this than miraculous. Dustin has referred to himself as "Miracle Boy."

I am glad for all the testimonies of healing in our church. Back in July I wrote about a women facing a liver transplant who was healed and told that her liver is now more healthy than that of her doctor. We have seen four people healed of Hepatitis C. But more important, and more miraculous, than those healing stories are the testimonies of those who have found salvation - we have baptized adults every month for about two years (plus a few children of members). We have baptized married couples who have found the Lord together. We also rejoice in the stories of those who have experienced renewal- feeling the presence and love of God for the first time. We rejoice in the marriages saved, the families restored, the lonely ones placed in a church family.

God is good, and it is good to be in a place and among a people where His activity is expected and seen.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Promoting Spiritual Formation

As long as I'm quoting from the wise I-Monk today (see post below) I'd like to draw attention to this one too: What Could Southern Baptists (and other evangelicals) do to promote Spiritual Formation? I'm not a Baptist anymore, but I think these recommendations would be good at almost any church that is serious about making disciples.- Plus, I love Dallas Willard!

Here’s my list of ideas for How Southern Baptists (and other Evangelicals) Can Promote Spiritual Formation.

1. Lifeway can ask Don Whitney, Avery Willis, and Dallas Willard- all Southern Baptists with credibiity in this area- to develop resources for Lifeway to promote, along with an annual conference on the subject.

2. The seminaries can pay more attention to spiritual formation in the Baptist, evangelical and Protestant tradition. (I’m happy for the Puritans to get in on the game as long as the game is in progress somewhere.)

3. Churches can begin looking for pastors who take personal and corporate spiritual formation seriously, and ask that spiritual formation be reflected as a legitimate concern in preaching, Christian education, women’s and men’s ministry, student ministry and retreat topics.

4. Baptists interested in spiritual formation can form small groups within churches to train, mentor and encourage each other.

5. Baptists can resurrect the concept of discipleship training, but examine how spiritual formation relates to the entirety of life in a vocation of discipleship, and not just to involvement in Church programs and evangelism.

6. Preachers and teachers within churches can raise questions related to sanctification and Christian growth, and suggest sound principles of spiritual formation as the answer to those questions. (Most Baptists are interested in the subject of post-conversion assurance.)

7. Advocates of spiritual formation can look for places in existing church ministries and program where spiritual formation resources and teaching can be introduced. Examples would be accountability groups, leadership teams, worship teams, DiscipleNow weekends and Promise Keepers groups.

8. Youth and student ministers can introduce the concept of spiritual formation, both individually and in community, to youth ministry and student events. Many youth ministry resource sources are already exploring spiritual formation in this settings and have developed resources.

9. At every opportunity, bring together the idea of discipleship with the processes that form a person into a follower of Christ. Seek to bring the subject of “encouraging the basics of discipleship through spiritual disciplines and community into any discussion of discipleship.

10. Take a group to a church, retreat or event where spiritual formation is being discussed in another tradition, then discuss how the same concepts can be practiced in a Southern Baptist/evangelical context.

The Shack: A Story of a Journey

Since yesterday I posted a review critical of The Shack, here's a more positive one from Michael Spencer: Difficult Concept Workshop: Repeat After Me…”The Shack Is A Story”

...I’m going to start and finish this post with the same encouragement: TELL YOUR STORY. WRITE YOUR STORIES. TELL THEM YOUR WAY. IN YOUR WORDS. Don’t be afraid or intimidated. The story matters. Some will NEVER see it, but it’s no less true. Keep putting your journey into a story. Keep writing. Be an artist. Be a creator. Mess up some lines. Mix up some colors. Offend some know it alls. Don’t stop until your story is out there.
.....It seems that a willingness to denounce The Shack has become the latest indicator of orthodoxy among those evangelicals who are keeping an eye on the rest of us. It’s a lot less trouble than checking out someone’s views on limited atonement, that’s for sure.

Hear me loud and clear: it’s every pastor and Christian’s duty to speak up if they feel The Shack is spiritually harmful. I’d only add one point: it’s equally the right of those who find The Shack helpful to say so.

Obviously, The Shack isn’t for everyone. Like a lot of Christian fiction, it has a certain amount of gawky awkwardness. No one will ever call William Young a skilled wordsmith. I wouldn’t teach The Shack in a theology class, even though I find Young’s willingness to explore the Trinity commendable and personally helpful.
It’s the presentation of God in The Shack that creates the controversy with the critics and the buzz with the fans, but the longer I’ve talked about this story with other Christians, I have to wonder if all the focus on Young’s “Trinity” isn’t missing the larger point of the book- a point that many theological watchblogs don’t seem to see at all.

The Shack is a pilgrimage. It’s an allegorical account of one person’s history with God; a history deeply affected by the theme of “The Great Sadness.” It’s a journey, and overlooking what’s going on in Mack’s journey is a certain prescription of seeing The Shack as a failed critique of Knowing God.

These are excerpts only - read the whole thing to see the I-Monk's full argument.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Core Beliefs and Political Philosophy

There is lots of discussion on the cable channels and in the blog-o-sphere the past two weeks on the relative power to move voters of the convention speeches by the candidates for President and Vice-President. In my humble opinion, if you do not know who you are going to vote for in a national election prior to this point in the cycle, it may be a sign that you do not know your own core beliefs.

Here's an exercise that everyone should go through at least once in their life - the younger the better.

1. Write down at least five statements of basic beliefs about the role of government. What does government exist to do? Are there areas of life governments should not touch?

2. Next think through your reasons for believing those statements. Why do you believe this? What brought you to this conclusion? Is this belief picked up by osmosis from family, friends or the media? Do you have evidence for your convictions? Are these beliefs compatible with your faith? Are you sure you believe this? Could you explain why, if asked?

3. Finally, think through the implications of those each belief statement. If this is true, what should government do or not do? Is it realistically possible to do these things?

Once you have done these three steps, you will know your core beliefs. After that, deciding who to vote for is a matter of identifying the party and candidates who most closely mirror your core beliefs. Wouldn't hurt to re-do this exercise at least once a decade to stay current and take into account new situations and the "hard knocks" lessons of life.

This sure beats voting for who looks good, promises the most goodies or is considered "cool" to support.

Hope this helps.

Po-Mo Conversions

Found a review at Discerning Reader of an interesting new book entitled I Once Was Lost by Don Everts. I may have to add this to my Amazon Wish List.

How can we effectively evangelize non-Christians in a postmodern age?

How are postmodern people coming to Christ?

What lessons can we learn from their spiritual journeys that might help us as we work to fulfill the Great Commission?

In I Once Was Lost: What Postmodern Skeptics Taughts us about Their Path to Jesus (IVP, 2008), Don Everts and Doug Schaupp draw on their many years of experience in ministry to postmoderns in order to help answer these questions and more. I Once Was Lost is a book born out of evangelistic efforts in a postmodern setting.

Subversive Shack?

Thinking Out Loud has a guest blog by Dr. David Fowler with a slightly different perspective on The Shack. He says it is not so much the book's approach to the Trinity that is a concern, but its subversive attitude toward the local church.

...There are several statements in the book that give the clear impression that “God is good”, “organized church……not necessary and not so good”. I said this to my wife the moment I was finished reading it. While we both enjoyed it and found it moving….we read it from a perspective of being in the church and understanding the short comings of the local church but still committed to work in the world of human limitations as we find it in the visible local church which is the visible body of Christ.

Many people will read The Shack and say to themselves,

* “I knew it….God is interested in my life and me personally”
* “I don’t need that organized, institutionalized, politicized, narrowly focused, guilt inducing association called the church”.
* “I can have all the rich relationship with God without any of the guilt, hassle, inconvenience, obligation, of that time and money demanding association.”
* “God is so much bigger than that so why grovel around in the lesser when I can ‘free myself’ to enjoy the joys of the more fuller relationship with Him.”

Why do I say this? Because my unchurched, unsaved neighbors who read it and loved it and who bought more copies to share with their friends….came to exactly this conclusion. So while I love the book….it will ultimately make the job of convincing anyone who is exploring Christianity by reading The Shack about the need to be in a local church and having a relationship with other believers — that they will actually spend eternity with — that much more difficult. In fact the book sort of makes it sound like Jesus wouldn’t want to be in a local church either. I guess if that gets them into the Kingdom….in some form….I can live with it….but somehow it leaves me with a little bit of “pain”. I guess I also have to ask myself if that is the case, then maybe I don’t want to share it with anyone and in fact, anything that bereft of some balancing ecclesiology is in fact really somewhat heretical. I mean we all struggle with local churches… and we know they are not perfect, or in some cases even good….but we simply don’t have anything better or different to replace them with that “works” in some way that is enduring.

In some ways I think The Shack has potential to do much more damage to the local church than did the Da Vinci Code. That was a frontal assault on the church which most Christians vigorously rejected. This is somewhat of an unintentional attack on the necessity of the church as an institution and basically gets an arguably theologically “sort of correct” version of God saying, “You don’t really need the church”. What is likely to happen the next time someone gets disappointed with a local church is that they will remember The Shack and say passionately to God…..”I love you”….. and then just skip going to church….and probably not come back.
My previous writings on The Shack are here.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Power of Compassion

Here's a great letter from a female voter to Jay Nordlinger at The Corner on National Review Online after watching Sarah Palin's speech Wednesday night.

Dear Jay,

I have an out-of-wedlock child. Unfortunately, the father of my son did not step up to the plate, as Levi seems to be doing. All but one member of my family were so ashamed of my situation that they ignored me for the entirety of my pregnancy and during the first few months of my son’s life.

I found acceptance and comfort where I never expected it. I’m not a particularly religious person, and at the time I attended a Baptist church only occasionally. But the members of this church took it upon themselves to take care of me. By “taking care of me,” I mean that they had a baby shower, called to check up on me, and, after my son was born, brought meals to my house. Stuff like that.

Not once did I feel I was being judged. I might not have the deep faith that those Christians do and sometimes am puzzled by some of the things they say they believe — but I become deeply uncomfortable any time I hear Christian-bashing. With them, there was (as you said) no shame, agony, or hiding under the couch.

Also, my son is high-functioning autistic. Boy, was Governor Palin right on when she said that special-needs children inspire a special kind of love! This son of mine did not fit into a perfect plan, but because he is, I have been so enriched — I have no doubt the same will be true for the Palins.
Compassion and acceptance are powerful things.

Wishes For These Times

Here's an interesting link to a story about country music artist Martina McBride by Alison Bonaguro at the CMT Blog: Did Martina McBride’s Fans’ Wishes Come True? Why am I linking to this? Because (a) I'm a country music fan, (b) I like Martina (a class act) and (c) I just found it interesting. So there!

God love Martina McBride. Instead of relying on the expected footage of the town she’s touring in (”Oh look! Wrigley Field! Buckingham Fountain! How totally clever!”), she went for something very different. At her show this weekend in Chicago, when she sang “For These Times,” she showed video of the fans outside the venue writing their one wish for the future on a dry erase board. Just like the video, only with more of a local angle.

The song paints a picture of a world with more compassion, more love, more grace, more hope. Everyone has their own vision of what will make the world a better place. Some were funny. Some were dead serious. Some were selfish. Some were more big-picture ideas. But watching these fans write them down for all to see gave you a feel for how diverse McBride’s fans are:

A cure for cancer
No more homework
Martina for President
An end to terrorism
For gas to cost less
For road construction on I-80 to be finished
For boys to get smarter
Lots of money
The Cubs win the World Series
The Sox win the World Series
Happiness for children
A boy to make out with
World peace

The whole thing felt a little bit like the general intercession part of mass when the priest says, “For all the intentions we hold in hearts, let us pray to the Lord.” I’m not saying that concert was weirdly liturgical, just that I felt a bond with those fans and really wanted good things to happen for them. What I wished for that night came true, so I just hope everyone there was as blessed as I was.

Going Back to Go Forward

Darryl Dash had an interesting post this week on thoughts about church renewal based on the writings and ministry of Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones. See Back to the gospel is the only way forward In Dr. Jones day three proposals were made that seem very familiar.

1. Doing church better

Some tried to "popularize the church and make it appeal to people," offering "special inducements and attractions." Lloyd-Jones once listened patiently as church members in London suggested "more music, livelier music, special musical numbers, shorter sermons, sermons not so deep, more variety in the services, etc." in order to increase attendance. Churches adopted "the methods of big business and advertising" in an attempt to stem the tide.

But even then, doing church better did not lead to greater overall attendance. Lloyd-Jones said, "Our attempts are hopeless failures...The world today is laughing at the church, laughing at her attempts to be nice and to make people feel at home."

Many today are also concluding that doing church better is not the answer. "You can build the perfect church - and they still won't come," observes one recent author.

2. Adapting theology

...Some today argue that theology needs to change. I understand the desire to rethink what we believe. We should never mindlessly accept dogma. But I've become increasingly uncomfortable with theological innovation. In changing the message, it's easy to lose it.

"The more the Church has accommodated her message to suit the palate of the people," said Lloyd-Jones, "the greater has been the decline in attendance at places of worship."

3. Renewed focus on the Gospel

...People found it hard to believe that Lloyd-Jones focused on preaching the Gospel and emphasizing the need for the Holy Spirit to empower the church. Many thought that this approach was hopelessly outdated. Yet the results of his ministry were profound, and its effects still continue to today.

....I'm beginning to see more people take the approach that Lloyd-Jones advocated, even - especially - among younger people. Influential pastors like Tim Keller are emphasizing Gospel-centered ministry. Blogs, books, and groups like The Gospel Coalition are being formed around a renewed focus on the Gospel.

"We need to come back to what Jeremiah called 'the ancient Paths,'" one pastor wrote to me recently. "I have discovered that what we really need is to get back to the Gospel and make that central to all that we do." The way forward to effective ministry in a new day, it turns out, looks an awful lot like the path back to the Gospel.

I've edited the above, so you should follow the link to read the whole thing. I like and agree with the Jeremiah reference. Sometimes the only way forward is to first go back to where you lost your way.

80% of New Preachers Will Leave The Ministry Within 5 Years

The Southern Baptist Seminary blog site "Said at Southern" reports 80% Will Leave The Ministry Within 5 Years
80% of seminary and Bible school graduates who enter the ministry will leave the ministry within the first five years.

People Skills = Godliness + Peacemaking

The failure point seem to be “people skills” and more specifically dealing with sinful people. So if you want to beat the odds, become a peacemaker.
Good advice; much easier said than done and much more often said than done. Let's all pray for our pastors and leaders; they need God's grace every day.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Home Run Speech

HOME RUN! A Star is Born.

"A small town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities"

Update: Did you know She winged part of that speech because the teleprompter broke?

Roundup of reactions from The Anchoress

Sarah Palin's Christian Faith

Here's a link to an interview with Gov. Sarah Palin's biographer Kaylene Johnson, author of the new book Sarah: How a Hockey Mom Turned Alaska's Political Establishment on Its Ear, regarding the Republican Nomiee for Vice President's Christian faith and it's role in her public life. See the ful article at God-o-Meter - A scientific measure of God-talk in the elections

Hat Tip: Between Two Worlds

See also Denny Burk- A Visit to Palin's Church

Celebrate the Great Exchange

A man distressed about sin wrote to Luther. The Reformer, who himself had suffered long agonies over his problem, replied: "Learn to know Christ and him crucified. Learn to sing to him and say - Lord Jesus, you are my righteousness, I am your sin. You took on you what was mine; you set on me what was yours. You became what you were not that I might become what I was not."

-J.I. Packer, Growing in Christ , p. 80

Hat Tip: Take Your Vitamin Z: Distressed About Your Sin?

Real People Soldiering On

From Allen Thornburgh at The Point: Team Palin Just Keeps Soldiering On

As knowledgeable as the screed merchants at the Daily Kos seems to be about Evangelical opinions <snicker- eyeroll combo>, I have to say that I haven't a clue why they think that Bristol Palin's pregnancy is some sort of show stopper for Evangelicals. For me, at least, it only makes me *more* enthusiastic.

Why? Because the Palins are Real People living a Real Life. That's simply rare for the celebrity politicos of our day. Barrack Obama, as likable as I find him as a person (not so much his political philosophy), typical of a D.C. politician, has lived a life nothing like the life that most of America leads, devoid of the normal challenges of a Real Life.

Immediately after law school, Obama began carefully crafting his political future as a "community organizer." More like "community agitator," as, in this role, his duty was to find groups in whom he could cultivate a sense of victimization and disenfranchisement, and then direct them toward government and business with demands for resources. Then more of the same, but with a more sophisticated flavor, as a state legislator and senator, and with the further pleasure of being seen as the up-and-coming Golden Child by his party. During that time, he and his wife became quite wealthy in their various power career positions.

I can't fault Obama for that. But it isn't the life that many Americans lead. Sarah Palin's life looks a lot more familiar to us: a middle-class life, building a small business, getting involved in kids' sports and the PTA, and dealing with difficult decisions. Decisions like "Wow, I'm going to be 44 when I have this child ... and he's got Downs ... do I keep him?" Decisions like "Wow, my 17-year-old daughter is pregnant ... what do I counsel her to do?"

Modern Western society dictates that Team Palin is supposed to view themselves as victims in these problems, hunker down, focus on themselves, and suck their thumbs. But they don't.

Team Palin keeps taking responsibility, fielding Real Life's toughest challenges and making the rare right decision.

I love that. To heck with the Entitlement Generation's victim mentality. America was built by those who eschewed such self-pity, fearlessly took responsibility for themselves, and soldiered ahead. Sarah Palin is clearly such a soldier, and I enthusiastically salute her.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Truth is Beautiful

Here's an excerpt from a great article by Trevin Wax at Kingdom People called Truth is Beautiful :

On Trinity Sunday this year, I prepared a lesson for my Sunday morning class of 20-somethings about why we believe in the Trinity. At first, my goal was to arm them with Scripture so that they could debate a Jehovah’s Witness or a Oneness Pentecostal into the corner with Bible verses proving the Trinity.

But as I came to the end of my preparation, I felt something was missing. I could present the biblical proofs for the doctrine of the Trinity, but I felt I also needed to show why God’s Triune nature is beautiful.

The Trinity is more than a bare doctrine we can prove with a few Scripture verses. The Trinity is beautiful truth about God. The Trinity satisfies the yearning that we have for knowing God personally. We believe that the three Persons of the Trinity continuously pour out love to one another and receive love in return. The only way that “God is love” can be true is if God existed as a perfect community of self-giving love long before God had a creation to shower his love upon.

My lesson on the Trinity did indeed focus on the Bible passages that inform the doctrine of God. But I packaged those Bible truths within the awe-inspiring picture of the three Persons of the Trinity pouring out continuous love from eternity past.

The knowledge of God’s truth makes me want to know more about the Trinity; the beauty of God’s truth causes me to want to know the Trinity more personally and more deeply.
Amen, and Amen!