Sunday, May 31, 2009

Do Not Fight Evil With Evil

It was reported today in the Kansas City Star and many other media outlets that infamous abortionist George Tiller was shot this morning at - of all places - a church service.

No matter what evil this man has done, his judge is God alone and nothing justifies doing evil against evil. This act was murder, nothing less than murder, and was evil.

I join myself to the statement put out by the National Right to Life Committee:

WASHINGTON – The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), the nation's largest pro-life group, today condemned the killing of Dr. George Tiller. The following statement may be attributed to NRLC Executive Director, David N. O'Steen, Ph.D.:

National Right to Life extends its sympathies to Dr. Tiller's family over this loss of life.

Further, the National Right to Life Committee unequivocally condemns any such acts of violence regardless of motivation. The pro-life movement works to protect the right to life and increase respect for human life. The unlawful use of violence is directly contrary to that goal.

The National Right to Life Committee has always been involved in peaceful, legal activities to protect human lives threatened by abortion, infanticide and euthanasia. We always have and will continue to oppose any form of violence to fight the violence of abortion. NRLC has had a policy of forbidding violence or illegal activity by its staff, directors, officers, affiliated state organizations and chapters. NRLC's sole purpose is to protect innocent human life.

NRLC will continue to work through educational and legislative activities to ensure the right to life for unborn children, people with disabilities and older people. NRLC will continue to work for peaceful solutions to aid pregnant women and their unborn children. These solutions involve helping women and their children and do not involve violence against anyone.

A Prayer on and For Pentecost

Almighty God,
on this day you opened the way of eternal life
to every race and nation
by the promised gift of your Holy Spirit:

Shed abroad this gift throughout the world
by the preaching of the Gospel,
that it may reach to the ends of the earth;

through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God,
for ever and ever. Amen.

From Trevin Wax at Pentecost Prayer « Kingdom People

And I say Amen, and Amen.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Birthday Wishes

Happy 24th birthday to my brilliant, handsome, godly son, Jason - My son who just graduated from engineering school summa cum laude and has a great full time job while working on his Masters.

Any inquiries from interested Christian girls gladly accepted and forwarded for consideration - ;)

What I'm Reading

Here's and updated list of what I've recently read, am reading, have started or various combinations thereof ( I juggle books like a clown does colored balls).

Luther's Progress to the Diet of Worms by Gordon Rupp- The development of Martin Luther's though up to the "Here I Stand" moment at Worms.

Martin Luther Selections From His Writings, Edited by John Dillenberger. Content self-explanatory ( I love Luther!)

Different But Equal: Going Beyond the Complementarian/Egalatarian Debate by Derek Morphew. This is Derek's attempt to apply an inaugurated Eschatology understanding of the Christian life to the gender debates. I'm very interested to see how it turns out.

Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God's Will by Kevin DeYoung. -popular treatise on getting past passivity in seeking Divine guidance.

Prophets and Poets by Randall Mooney. A brand new book by a business owner, entrepreneur, sometime preacher and a good friend of mine on dealing with life's pains and promises.

Star Trek (Movie Adaptation) by Alan Dean Foster. Okay, is there a single friend of mine that is surprised by this? I think not!

Friday, May 29, 2009

I Need The Gospel Beat Into My Head

“Here I must take counsel of the gospel. I must hearken to the gospel, which teacheth me, not what I ought to do, (for that is the proper office of the law,) but what Jesus Christ the Son of God hath done for me : to wit, that He suffered and died to deliver me from sin and death. The gospel willeth me to receive this, and to believe it. And this is the truth of the gospel. It is also the principal article of all Christian doctrine, wherein the knowledge of all godliness consisteth. Most necessary it is, therefore, that we should know this article well, teach it unto others, and beat it into their heads continually.” - Martin Luther

Pulled this great Luther quote on the Gospel from an article on a seemingly unrelated subject (choosing a church) at Part of the Story. I need all the help I can get to beat the Gospel into my head!

Unified Model of Gospel Ministry

(Conclusion of this week's blog series)

The message of new birth and freely given salvation by sovereign grace must be combined and held together with the message of the in-breaking future eschatolgical Kingdom that transforms our lives now.

I am convinced that the key to a unified model for Gospel ministry - one that brings together the message and model of Jesus in the four Gospels with the Apostolic epistolary teaching on justification and sanctification - can be and will be found in a combination of the inaugurated eschatology understanding of the Kingdom of God and the concept of Eternal Life in the Gospel of John.

I've been trying for a while to come up with a short, memorable statement of the model. Although I'm not satisfied with it yet, here is what I've come up with so far.

Jesus Christ lived and died on the Cross to birth a Kingdom people, who through faith would be reborn and thus see and enter the Kingdom of God and experience the life of the Age to Come, in a down payment form now and in its completeness in eternity. From these Kingdom people He now forms communities of Jesus' followers who embrace Jesus' Cross, speak Jesus' message, live Jesus' lifestyle, and do Jesus' works in Jesus' way, for Jesus' purpose and in Jesus' power, so that more people can enter the Kingdom and the Father will be glorified.

Comments and suggestions for improvement are very welcome.

Previous Posts (in reverse order):
To See The Kingdom See the Cross
Uniting the Message of Jesus and About Jesus
The Gospel / Epistle Disconnect

Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Correct Attitude

If Jesus really is the Alpha and Omega (as Revelation says he is), and if he really is the radiance of God's glory (as Hebrews says he is), if he really is before all things and holding all things together (as Colossians says), and if he really is the way, the truth, and the life (as he himself says), why on earth WOULDN'T we fall to our knees and wash his feet with our hair? After all, we are all prostitutes.

Jared Wilson Face Book comment quoted at Wilderness Fandango: Wisdom on Facebook

You have a Right to Know

I am scared. I am scared of the danger that "comes with the territory" of writing a blog focusing on the Bible, Theology and Ministry. It is the same danger that preachers and pastors face. It is the danger that readers and hearers will think that the one speaking is a "holy man" because of the subject matter being presented and discussed - and the far greater danger that the writer or speaker will believe it also! Succumbing to that greater danger is a potential disaster to my soul.

Guess what - I am not a holy man. This blogger is not what you may think he is. Yes, I believe everything I have written - but I do not claim to live it all as I should, as I want to.

The truth is I am a sinner; simply a repentant (mostly) rebel against God who now clings to the Cross.
I need a Savior - and by the grace of God have a great one. I am simply a man praying the Jesus prayer: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!"

You have a right to know.

To See the Kingdom, See the Cross

(Continuing the discussion from yesterday)

John Chapter 3 is a key Biblical passage in my understanding of the Gospel, uniting the themes of Cross and Kingdom. In the comments below I am assuming that you, the reader, know the text. Feel free to break away and read it before continuing.

All my life I have heard the story of Nicodemus preached as an call and invitation to be born again. Preachers and evangelists routinely treat the passage as if Jesus' goal for Nicodemus was that he be born again. However, deeper perusal of and meditation on the text indicated to me that new birth was the means, not the goal. Jesus' goal for Nicodemus was that he see and enter the Kingdom of God.

In verse 14 the bronze Serpent made by Moses in the wilderness (Numbers 21:4-9) is used as a type of Jesus being lifted up on the Cross. The Numbers story is the first time in the Bible where faith is directly connected to healing. Being "lifted up" in the Gospel of John is a synonym for the Cross. John saw the Cross not just as Jesus' humiliation, but as Jesus' exaltation. Those who look in faith at the crucified One as Israel looked in faith at the serpent are "healed" with eternal life.

Now we come to the famous "end zone" verse -John 3:16. The Greek phrase zoe aionios in verses 15 and 16, usually translated eternal life or everlasting life, literally means "life of the age." By implication, it means the quality of life of the Kingdom Age to Come. Many commentators believe that John used this phrase as a synonym for the common phrase used by Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark & Luke - Synoptic meaning "to see the same"). Thus, everything the Kingdom of God means in the Synoptics, Eternal Life means in John. Everything Eternal Life means in John, the Kingdom of God means in the Synoptics. This expands the meaning of both concepts, and brings them together as one.

To summarize the chapter: If we behold the Cross of Christ in faith as Israel looked upon the bronze serpent, we can be born again, and thus see and enter the Kingdom of God and experience the life of the Age to Come, in down payment form now and in completeness in eternity. This is the Gospel - the Cross and the Kingdom as one message.

More tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

This Husband Cries Ouch!

It is possible (but not right) for baptized believers to act in their lives as though the gospel were not true. How many conservative husbands are outraged if some liberal preacher says that Jesus did not rise from the dead, when their daily treatment of their wives makes the same statement? At least the liberal only states his heresy occasionally.

(Douglas Wilson, Reformed Is Not Enough, p. 168)

Quoted at : Desiring God

Ouch! You got me!

Uniting the Message of Jesus and About Jesus

(Continuing this discussion from yesterday.)

In searching for a unified model of Gospel ministry, I began with understanding the Kingdom. For more of my thinking on that subject look here, here, here and here.

Have you noticed how the term "Kingdom of God" keeps cropping up in the Book of Acts, packed with all the meaning Jesus that put into it.
  • 1:3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
  • 8:12 But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.
  • 14:22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.
  • 19:8 And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God.
  • 20:25 And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again.
  • 28:23 ...from morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets.
  • 28:31 ...proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.
The guys who wrote the epistles (including Paul) proclaimed the same Kingdom message Jesus did, and taught a two-fold combined Gospel of Jesus and the Kingdom. I said two-fold but it is really just one Gospel. Jesus and the Kingdom, the Kingdom and Jesus, the Cross and the Kingdom - all one message. In the last verse quoted above we see that the same guy who said he knew "nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified" (1 Cor. 2:2) also boldly proclaimed the Kingdom of God as part of his teaching about Jesus.

The apostles united the message of Jesus and the practice of Jesus with the message about Jesus. We've got to find a way to do the same. What God has put together, let not man put asunder. There is one Gospel message, but it includes what Jesus taught (the Kingdom) and what Jesus did (the Cross) and the life that comes to us from both. Ignore either, and you end up with a "Holey Bible!"

(More on this tomorrow).

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Cross Focused Theology

“No theology is genuinely Christian which does not arise from and focus on the cross.”
-Martin Luther

Quoted by Tim Chailles

The Gospel/Epistle Disconnect:

Been thinking about something Michael Spencer said a while back about The Jesus Disconnect:

Nothing has impressed me more in my last few years of writing, reading and discussion than the disconnect the average Christian believer feels from the ministry of Jesus, specifically his miracles, exorcisms, teachings, training of disciples and encounters with individuals as described in the first half of the Gospels.

For many Christians, their view of Jesus is much like the movie Passion of the Christ. The story of Jesus begins with the suffering of Jesus, with the ministry of Jesus fading anonymously into the background, appearing occasionally in a few moralistic or sentimentally devotional flashbacks.
Sometimes believers, denominations and theological traditions do seem to divide into two camps on the subject of Jesus and the Gospels.

On one side are the conservative evangelicals who center their teaching and evangelism on the New Testament epistles, especially Paul, and tend to put the four Gospels into the background. Jesus' actions during His ministry are seen as having limited application as a model for present ministry. Some Dispensationalists even put basically all of Jesus' teaching into the past or the future, with little or no relevance for today. And, of course, all the miraculous stuff can't apply to today.

There are two types of traditions that emphasize the Gospels over the epistles. First, there are the social justice types who emphasize Jesus' teaching on justice, the poor and social action, but relatively ignore the epistle's teachings on grace and justification, as well as the eschatological context for Jesus' words. Secondly, there are Pentecostal types who emphasize the miraculous aspects of Jesus' ministry and the disciples in the Book of Acts as the continuing model for today, with relatively limited teaching on the theology of the epistles - certainly not on anything that would limit signs and miracles.

How do we put the two sides together? Is there a unified model of theology and ministry that puts the Gospel model and epistolary teaching together in balance?

Some thoughts tomorrow.

Monday, May 25, 2009

We Remember...

American Revolution -4,435 battle deaths

War of 1812 -2,260 battle deaths

Indian Wars -1,000 battle deaths

Mexican War -1,733 battle deaths

Civil War -140,414 Union battle deaths, 74,524 Confederate battle deaths

Spanish-American War - 385 battle deaths

World War I -53,402 battle deaths

World War II -291,557 battle deaths

Korean War -33,741 battle deaths

Vietnam War -47,424 battle deaths

Desert Shield/Desert Storm -147 battle deaths

Afghanistan -463 battle deaths to present

Iraq War -3,760 battle deaths to present

Hat Tip: In Memoriam - Erick’s blog - RedState

Memorial Day Greetings

On Memorial Day Americans honor our veterans, especially those who died defending our freedom.

Thanks to all American veterans and to the families of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for us all.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Messy Criteria For Prayer

"Jesus does not say, ‘Come to me, all you who have learned how to concentrate in prayer, whose minds no longer wander, and I will give you rest.’ No, Jesus opens his arms to his needy children and says, ‘Come to me, all who are weary and heaven-laden, and I will give you rest.’

The criteria for coming to Jesus is messiness. Come overwhelmed with life. Come with your wandering mind. Come messy.”

—Paul Miller, A Praying Life (Colorado Springs, CO: Navpress 2009), 31-32"

Hat Tip: Of First Importance

I don't know how many times I have held back from prayer out of guilt and condemnation over my seeming inability to concentrate and be truly "spiritual" in prayer. If a messy mind and spirit is the criteria, I qualify!

I needed to hear this. The Gospel of grace is so cool!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Nicene Birthday

Saw a post at The Thinklings that the Nicene Creed was born this day in 325.
One of the oldest and most widely used confessions of the universal Christian faith, the Nicene Creed was formulated at a time when the heresy of Arianism threatened orthodox Christianity with the denial of Jesus' deity. Thus the strong Christology in the creed.

Thus, this is a good day to remember and rehearse these words:
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible; And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, begotten of his Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made; who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; he suffered and was buried; and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father; and he shall come again, with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end. And I believe in the Holy Ghost the Lord, and Giver of Life, who proceedeth from the Father [and the Son]; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spake by the Prophets. And I believe one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church; I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. AMEN.

Congratulations Nicene Creed! 1,684 years old and doesn't look a day over 1,000!

In the Sinners Place

“This is the paradox of grace. He who insists he is right will be pronounced wrong, while he who admits he is wrong will be declared right. The righteousness of God is only given to those who stand in the sinners place.”

- Stanley Voke, Personal Revival (Waynesboro, Ga.: OM Literature, nd), 24.

From: Of First Importance

Isn't this just the essential of the Gospel?

Okay Lord - I admit who I am. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner! This sinner clings to the Cross, and to Him who sits on the Mercy Seat.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Speaking of Christ

When we speak about wisdom, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about virtue, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about justice, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about peace, we are speaking of Christ. When we speak about truth and life and redemption, we are speaking of Christ.

--St. Ambrose of Milan

Hat Tip: Elysa at Musings from Graceland

True Spirituality = True Humanity

“True spirituality is not a superhuman religiosity; it is simply true humanity released from bondage to sin and renewed by the Holy Spirit. This is given to us as we grasp by faith the full content of Christ’s redemptive work: freedom from the guilt and power of sin, and newness of life through the indwelling and outpouring of his Spirit.”

- Richard Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1979), 19-20.

Hat Tip: Of First Importance

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Keep Yourself From Idols

I've mentioned that Tim Keller has a book on the subject of idolatry coming out in October. Peter at "Already Not Yet" has a post up on 3 questions with Tim Keller on the subject of idolatry and his new book.

Ever wondered why the First Epistle of John ends abruptly with the words "Little children, keep yourselves from idols" when there is no mention of idolatry elsewhere in the letter? Keller has a reason for this.

Read the post. I can't wait for this book!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Not Feeling the Love

From: eric smith: More Of Those Crazy Church Signs

As Eric said, someone needs to change their sign or they are not feeling the love!

The Word Did It All!

More Luther quotes:

"With the Word, the world was won, and by it the Church is preserved, and by it the Church will be restored."

"I simply taught , preached, wrote God's Word: otherwise I did nothing. And then, while I slept or drank Wittenberg Beer with my Philip and my Amsdorf, the Word so greatly weakened the Papacy that never a Prince or Emperor inflicted such damage upon it. I did nothing. The Word did it all."

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Only Thing Worth Talking About

This is from Peter Cockrell at Already Not Yet, quoting Jared Wilson:

The point should and must be Jesus. In all we say and do. Our churches can have the best quality presentations, the most dynamic speakers, the greatest lists of helpful tips for successful living (in convenient alliterative format), the most incredible music, the nicest greeters, the most enthusiastic congregations, and the best gourmet coffee in the fellowship hall — but if the point is anything other than Jesus, we've all missed the point.

Jesus cannot be peripheral. He cannot be merely included. He has to be at the forefront of our message and ministry.

Jesus is the point.

Because the gospel is Jesus + nothing.

This is the center of the Main and the Plain. Keep it on Jesus - His Cross, His Message, His Instructions, His Grace.

Nothing else worth talking about.

Christ's Wedding Ring

Still reading the works of Martin Luther. This is from The Freedom of a Christian, written in 1520 before the confrontation and testimony at the Diet of Worms.

For, since Christ is God and man, and is such a Person as neither has sinned, nor dies, nor is condemned, nay, cannot sin, die, or be condemned, and since His righteousness, life, and salvation are invincible, eternal, and almighty,--when I say, such a Person, by the wedding-ring of faith, takes a share in the sins, death, and hell of His wife, nay, makes them His own, and deals with them no otherwise than as if they were His, and as if He Himself had sinned; and when He suffers, dies, and descends to hell, that He may overcome all things, and since sin, death, and hell cannot swallow Him up, they must needs be swallowed up by Him in stupendous conflict. For His righteousness rises above the sins of all men; His life is more powerful than all death; His salvation is more unconquerable than all hell.

Thus the believing soul, by the pledge of its faith in Christ, becomes free from all sin, fearless of death, safe from hell, and endowed with the eternal righteousness, life, and salvation of its Husband Christ. Thus He presents to Himself a glorious bride, without spot or wrinkle, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word; that is, by faith in the word of life, righteousness, and salvation. Thus He betrothes her unto Himself "in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies" (Hosea ii. 19, 20).

Who then can value highly enough these royal nuptials? Who can comprehend the riches of the glory of this grace? Christ, that rich and pious Husband, takes as a wife a needy and impious harlot, redeeming her from all her evils and supplying her with all His good things. It is impossible now that her sins should destroy her, since they have been laid upon Christ and swallowed up in Him, and since she has in her Husband Christ a righteousness which she may claim as her own, and which she can set up with confidence against all her sins, against death and hell, saying, "If I have sinned, my Christ, in whom I believe, has not sinned; all mine is His, and all His is mine," as it is written, "My beloved is mine, and I am His" (Cant. ii. 16). This is what Paul says: "Thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ," victory over sin and death, as he says, "The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law" (1 Cor. xv. 56, 57).

This is good stuff! Why haven't I heard this before? Why isn't this preached more?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Crying Abba

“You cannot open the pages of the New testament without realizing that one of the things that makes it so ‘new’, in every way, is that here men and women call God ‘Father’. This conviction, that we can speak to the Maker of the universe in such intimate terms, lies at the heart of the Christian faith. Through Christ, says Paul, we have ‘access to the Father’ (Eph 2:18).”

- Sinclair Ferguson, Children of the Living God (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1989), xi.

From: Of First Importance

Gallup Poll: America More Pro-Life!

According to the Washington Times:

More Americans now say they are "pro-life" than "pro-choice," according to a Gallup poll released Friday.

A majority of respondents 51 percent are against the practice of abortion, while 42 percent classified themselves as being pro-choice.

"This is the first time a majority of U.S. adults have identified themselves as pro-life since Gallup began asking this question in 1995," said Gallup analyst Lydia Saad.

The findings represent "a significant shift from a year ago," when 50 percent of the respondents were pro-choice and 44 percent pro-life. The numbers of Republicans, Protestants, Catholics, conservatives, men and women who identify themselves as pro-life are all rising.

See also: Gallup: America is Now More Pro-Life! | CHARISMATICA (my source for the graph)

Friday, May 15, 2009


Religion vs. The Gospel

The quote below is from Tim Keller by way of Zach at Take Your Vitamin Z. There is nothing I could say that could add to this - This is the Truth.

RELIGION: I obey-therefore I’m accepted.

THE GOSPEL: I’m accepted-therefore I obey.

RELIGION: Motivation is based on fear and insecurity.

THE GOSPEL: Motivation is based on grateful joy.

RELIGION: I obey God in order to get things from God.

THE GOSPEL: I obey God to get to God-to delight and resemble Him.

RELIGION: When circumstances in my life go wrong, I am angry at God or my self, since I believe, like Job’s friends that anyone who is good deserves a comfortable life.

THE GOSPEL: When circumstances in my life go wrong, I struggle but I know all my punishment fell on Jesus and that while he may allow this for my training, he will exercise his Fatherly love within my trial.

RELIGION: When I am criticized I am furious or devastated because it is critical that I think of myself as a ‘good person’. Threats to that self-image must be destroyed at all costs.

THE GOSPEL: When I am criticized I struggle, but it is not critical for me to think of myself as a ‘good person.’ My identity is not built on my record or my performance but on God’s love for me in Christ. I can take criticism.

RELIGION: My prayer life consists largely of petition and it only heats up when I am in a time of need. My main purpose in prayer is control of the environment.

THE GOSPEL: My prayer life consists of generous stretches of praise and adoration. My main purpose is fellowship with Him.

RELIGION: My self-view swings between two poles. If and when I am living up to my standards, I feel confident, but then I am prone to be proud and unsympathetic to failing people. If and when I am not living up to standards, I feel insecure and inadequate. I’m not confident. I feel like a failure.

THE GOSPEL: My self-view is not based on a view of my self as a moral achiever. In Christ I am “simul iustus et peccator”—simultaneously sinful and yet accepted in Christ. I am so bad he had to die for me and I am so loved he was glad to die for me. This leads me to deeper and deeper humility and confidence at the same time. Neither swaggering nor sniveling.

RELIGION: My identity and self-worth are based mainly on how hard I work. Or how moral I am, and so I must look down on those I perceive as lazy or immoral. I disdain and feel superior to ‘the other.’

THE GOSPEL: My identity and self-worth are centered on the one who died for His enemies, who was excluded from the city for me. I am saved by sheer grace. So I can’t look down on those who believe or practice something different from me. Only by grace I am what I am. I’ve no inner need to win arguments.

RELIGION: Since I look to my own pedigree or performance for my spiritual acceptability, my heart manufactures idols. It may be my talents, my moral record, my personal discipline, my social status, etc. I absolutely have to have them so they serve as my main hope, meaning, happiness, security, and significance, whatever I may say I believe about God.

THE GOSPEL: I have many good things in my life—family, work, spiritual disciplines, etc. But none of these good things are ultimate things to me. None of them are things I absolutely have to have, so there is a limit to how much anxiety, bitterness, and despondency they can inflict on me when they are threatened and lost.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Gospel Obedience

This is from Zach Nielsen at Take Your Vitamin Z, , quoting Dan Cruver on the proper interpretation of James 1:27, which says:
"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world."
Cruver's comments were :
The world tells us that our fundamental identity is determined by our performance not by the performance of another (i.e., Jesus). It seduces us to believing (often unknowingly) that our main sense of significance is found in what we do or in what we’re involved in.

It might look like this: “God is pleased with me because I have given my life to caring for the least of these.” Now, does God smile at us when we care for orphans? Yes, but if the main way we sense his smile is by our efforts to care for orphans, then the chances are that we’ve become stained by the world.

If our primary sense of God’s smile upon us comes from our involvement in caring for the least of these, then it’s highly likely that to some extent our lives are performance-based rather than grace-based. In other words, it may be that my functional paradigm of Christian living is: “I share God’s heart for the orphans; therefore, God is pleased with me,” rather than “God is pleased with me because of Jesus; therefore, I am freed to care for the orphan.” There is a massive difference between these two ways of thinking. To think the first way is to be stained by the world. To think the second way is to be unstained by the world.
I found this to be a good exposition of what Gospel Obedience - Gospel Spirituality - is all about. As I have said before, Gospel Spirituality is always response to God's grace, never a human initiative to obtain Gods' favor or blessing. Cruver is right; these are two distinct ways of thinking and believing. Only the second one is fully compatible with the Gospel.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Timeless Wisdom from an Old Saint

Loved this story in a post Tuesday by the Anchoress:
"Once Macarius directed a young seeker to go to a cemetery and upbraid the dead. Then to go and flatter them. “What answer did they dead give you?” he asked. “None at all,” said the youth. “Then go and learn never to let abuse or flattery move you. If you die to the world and yourself, you will begin to live for Christ.”
– St. Macarius the Great (300?-390)"

From: Wisdom from the Saints - The Anchoress

Want to Ruin the Perfect Church? - Join It!

Grace at kingdom grace posted this list of truths about local churches:
  • No church is perfect.
  • We are all part of the body of Christ.
  • There are sincere believers in every congregation.
  • Many pastors are humble, devoted, and committed to serving their congregations.
  • Unity and fellowship are important, whatever that looks like for you.
  • Sunday morning attendance might not be “community”, but over a period of time, it can foster a sense of connection and history with a group of people.
  • While the institution may be flawed, typically the people gathered within it constitute the family of God.
  • God is at work both within and outside congregations.
  • The world desperately needs for the church to reflect the love of God.
  • Part of reflecting this love is the love we have for one another.
  • Love your tribe.
  • Hopefully you and your tribe can love the world together.

I tell visitors to our Sunday church services that the congregation used to be the perfect church until I joined it and ruined everything! There are no perfect churches because there are no perfect Christians - not this side of eternity. But there are good churches everywhere, and being in an imperfect community is better than having no community at all.

Here's hoping all my readers find a place to belong and be loved- and a place to give love too.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Book Recommendation - The Cross of Christ

Since I have been writing a lot about the Cross recently, thought I'd recommend this great book by John R. W. Stott - The Cross of Christ.

I had always heard this book described as a classic by authors I greatly respected, but I had not gotten around to actually reading it until last year. I am so glad I finally read it. it is a classic!

Stott's book covers all the basics in a thorough manner. He uses all the big words - justification, propitiation, substitution, redemption - but he explains and defines them. The book is accessible to both new believers and theological students.

If you really want to understand what Christ did for us on the Cross, read this book.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Gospel Motivation: Heart Before Behavior

“All change comes from deepening your understanding of the salvation of Christ and living out of the changes that understanding creates in your heart. Faith in the gospel re-structures our motivations, our self-understanding, our identity, and our view of the world. Behavioral compliance to rules without heart-change will be superficial and fleeting.”

- Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God (new York, NY: Dutton, 2008), 121.

Hat Tip: Of First Importance

Demand and Fulfill

"Thus the promises of God give what the commandments of God demand and fulfill what the law prescribes so that all things may be God's alone, both the commandments and the fulfilling of the commandments."
Martin Luther, Freedom of a Christian

Luther saw that the proper evangelical use of the Law is to drive us to desperation (Romans 3:19-20) so as to drive us to the Cross. At the cross we can get the revelation, as Luther himself did, that God's righteousness is not our condemnation, but our justification. This is true because by His grace He is both Just and our Justifier (Romans 3:26): i.e. He makes us righteous by taking our punishment (penal substitution) and giving us His righteousness.

Luther got the revelation that God's righteousness in Romans is not His justice in judging us, but His justice in making us just through the cross. When he realized this, Luther said..
"I felt myself to be born anew, and to enter through open gates into paradise itself. From here, the whole face of the Scriptures was altered. I ran through the Scriptures as memory served, and collected the same analogy in other words as opus dei, the work God works in us; virtus dei, that in which God makes us strong; sapienta dei, in which he makes us wise; fortitudo dei, salus dei, gloria dei."
What a revelation! What a Savior!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Pardon My Renovations

I'm experimenting today on new layouts for this blog, for the second time since I started this journey just over a year ago.

Although I appreciate the Blogger software folks - because without them HTML ignorant people like me couldn't have a blog - this platform does have its limitations. There are only so many preset formats available, and I' m just OCD enough that I may never be satisfied.

Please pardon any confusion while I'm under renovation.

Mother's Day

In the USA we are celebrating Mother's Day Today.

Here's wishing a blessed day to all the mothers among my readers. Which reminds me, I need to call my Mom!

The Fundamental Sin

I've been reading Martin Luther: Selections from His Writings by John Dillenberger. This is a great quote and insight from the author's introduction.
"For Luther, the joy and freedom of a Christian was that in faith he did not need to look to self but only to God for his destiny. From this it followed logically that the fundamental sin of man, that sin which is the foundation of all other sins, is man's attempt to justify himself, his unwillingness to accept that his future rests alone in the gratuitous act of God. it is man's unwillingness to let God be God for him."
This ties in so well with what I've been reading and hearing from Tim Keller and Mark Driscoll.

The default state of the human heart is idolatry: the search for false saviors whom we can control for our own selfish benefits. The essence of religion is "if I, then God." We want to be able to control nature, situations, destinies and fates by knowing the formulas, saying the magic mantras, making the right sacrifices or keeping the right rules. But most of all ,we want God to owe us due to our actions so we stay in control. There's plenty of idolatry in churches under the Christian label. All the "ten steps to a wonderful life" and "how to be a successful __________" books and sermons at least get close to the edge, if not over the precipice.

Gospel spirituality, on the other hand, is all about "God has, therefore I." the Gospel is about response, not initiation. The initiative is always with God; He stays in control. We respond to His gracious initiative. We do not control Him, we respond to his love. How humbling! God is neither male not female: but in a sense, He is so masculine that we are all female in response.

Gospel obedience is love responding to love. it is about pleasing Him, not about having success and a wonderful life. Those may be byproducts, but not the goal.

Thanks be to God for His unimaginable gift!

Saturday, May 9, 2009


Okay, I forgive them. I forgive the continuity changes. I forgive the character changes. I even forgive the ship design changes.


What a great movie. Best Trek in 40 years.


Jonah Goldberg complains about Nimoy's acting and the continuity flip flops, but what does he know. I liked it!

Synopsis of reviews at Trek Today.

The New Inquisition

Hat Tip:

Friday, May 8, 2009

Birthday Wishes

Wishing a Happy Birthday today and Blessed Mother's Day on Sunday to Colleen, my wife, lover and best friend, and mother to our two amazing kids.

Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
(Proverbs 31:30)

But it is so nice to get the charm and beauty also!

Dangers in Leading Small Group Bible Studies

There was an interesting discussion this week at Christians in Context on Steering the Right Course in Small Group Bible Studies

On the one hand, many (if not most) small group Bible studies become simply poolings of ignorance, with everyone, if they contribute at all, simply "sharing" what the passage "means to me." Both knowledge of and practice of sound hermeneutics are often notably absent. On the other hand, people in small groups who have theological training and knowledge can dominate and stifle discussion and interaction, and/or confuse everyone else with interjections of technical terminology and concepts foreign to the average Christian. I have often bitten my lips to keep from over-dominating a group while so wishing to correct obvious error.

How do we prevent this from happening, so that knowledgeable teachers can teach and everyone can join in discussion? A lot of prayer is needed of course - both in the group and before the meetings.

One important thing to remember is to stay focused on the Biblical text and what it says and keep the group so focused. To the text, to the text, always to the text. Use your theological knowledge to look at the text, use you life experience to look at the text, but do not stray from the text. If a leader can provide background information to the passage in question, and then ask questions that consistently call the participants back to the text and what it actually says in its context, as opposed to what they wish it said or various possible philosophical and emotional rabbit trails, perhaps the Word can do its work in us with as little human interference as possible.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Are You A Calvinist?

For Facebook users, C. Michael Patton has created a test to determine Are You A Calvinist?

Guess what - I am! Who'd a thunk it!

5 Tips to Great Blog Presence

John Saddington at Church Crunch has 5 Tips to Establishing A Great Blog Presence specifically oriented for Christian bloggers.

I can do the praying part just fine. Not sure about the rest.

Vineyard National Conference in Galveston

Bill Faris is blogging from the Vineyard Churches National Pastors Conference in Galveston, Texas -JUST MY TYPE: Greetings From Galveston.

My Pastor and my church planter friends from San Diego are also there. Wish I could have gone and am glad to hear such good reports.

How to Gripe in the Spirit

Here's an interesting lesson that no one has ever taught me in my early days with the Lord, but one I need/want to learn now: How to Gripe in the Spirit by using the "Psalms of Lament." Did you know there is a Biblical way to complain to God? Sandra Glahn says:

As a new Christian, I read guides that told me to pray using the acrostic “ACTS”: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. And years later when my husband and I experienced seven pregnancy losses and three failed adoptions, I found myself continually drawn to the psalms. New phrases such “How long, O Lord? (6:3) and “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (22:1) filled my prayers. And while echoing these spiritual gripes, I discovered to my surprise that the ACTS formula had left out the most common form of psalm in The Bible—the lament.

We find the psalms of lament in 6, 13, 22, 27, 44, 69, 70, 74, 102, and 142.

In these prayers of complaint I found some frequently recurring elements: (1) an introductory appeal (2) a description of what's wrong (the lament itself) and (3) a formal request. Sometimes I’d also see evidence that the psalmist received (4) an oracle from God in response. And finally, following such an oracle, the lament usually ended in (5) an expression of confidence or praise.

Four years ago I was out of work for six months through no fault of my own. I prayed a lot; usually in faith for God's provision and care. There were some times though, and two days in particular, when words extremely similar to the Psalms of Lament were just about the only kind of prayer I could do. I remember one night when I sat alone in an empty room reading some of those psalms to the Lord, crying in frustration and pain. I ultimately came out of that night with comfort and increased faith.

Glahn concludes:
Before a friend directed me to the psalms of lament, I had thought it wrong to express displeasure about my circumstances. But afterward, with new courage to express the pain I felt, I found greater respect for the Lord’s greatness, amazed that He not only allows us to talk this way to Him, but has even provided examples of how.
She's right. I've been there and have the T-shirt. I expect to be there again someday. When that happens, I know what part of the Bible to turn to.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Giving Honor

My lovely wife, blogging at "A Hearing Ear," has written a great series honoring our military veterans entitled "Give Honor Where Honor is Due." Click the links for part one, part two, part three, part four and part five. She even talked about my Dad's military career ,along with her brother and nephew.

Good job, honey! You've come a long way as a blogger in a very short time. I'm so proud of you.

Believe the Gospel at All Levels

“We habitually and instinctively look to other things besides God and his grace as our justification, hope, significance, and security. We believe the gospel at one level, but at deeper levels we do not. Human approval, professional success, power and influence, family and clan identity- all of these things serve as our heart’s ‘functional trust’ rather than what Christ has done, and as a result we continue to be driven to a great degree by fear, anger, and a lack of self-control. You cannot change such things through mere willpower, through learning Biblical principles and trying to carry them out. We can only change permanently as we take the gospel more deeply into our understanding and into our hearts. We must feed on the gospel, as it were, digesting it and making it part of ourselves. That is how we grow.”

Tim Keller, The Prodigal God, p. 115

Hat Tip: Already Not Yet

Serving Christ in a Time of Plague

In these times of scares over Swine Flu, and before that Avian Flu, we should remember that Chrisitians in the past were known for serving the sick in times of plaque and disease, even at the risk of their lives. Ligonier Ministrieis had this quote about the ministry of John Calvin Serving Christ in a Time of Plague

During Calvin's ministry, Geneva was terrorized by the plague on five occasions. During the first outbreak, in 1542, Calvin personally led visitations into plague-infected homes. Knowing that this effort likely carried a death sentence, the city fathers intervened to stop him because of their conviction that his leadership was indispensable. The pastors continued this heroic effort under Calvin's guidance, and they recounted the joy of multiple conversions. Many pastors lost their lives in this cause. Unknown to many, Calvin privately continued his own pastoral care in Geneva and other cities where the plague raged. Calvin's pastoral heart, already evidenced by the provision of hospitals for both citizens and immigrants, was further revealed as he collected the necessary resources to establish a separate hospital for plague victims. When believers died, he preached poignant funeral homilies with passion and personal concern. (John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Discipleship, ed. Burk Parsons [Lake Mary, Fla.: Reformation Trust, 2008], 65)

In the days of the early church believers were known for caring for plaque victims.
When a devastating plague swept across the ancient world in the third century, Christians were the only ones who cared for the sick, which they did at the risk of contracting the plague themselves. Meanwhile, pagans were throwing infected members of their own families into the streets even before they died, in order to protect themselves from the disease.

How many Christians would be willing to act so now, if an epidemic occurred today? Would I? Would we hide in our homes afraid of the disease, or go forth to serve as Jesus would?

Something to think about.

Related item : The Greatest Pandemic in History at Between Two Worlds

Monday, May 4, 2009

Give Me the Whole Gospel

Here's some straight up words from Straight Up

Every single ounce of truth; give it to me straight just like it is in the Bible.

I want the whole gospel:Don’t dilute the living water—it might not quench my thirsty soul.

I want the whole gospel:Turn on the light of Jesus Christ and don’t shield my view—I need every beam of His radiant glory to dispel the darkness in me.

I want the whole gospel: Don’t block the door, or I might not get through.

I want the whole gospel:I need an accurate map to the narrow road, because only a few are finding it.

I want the whole gospel:Because I am wholly lost, God’s verdict is wholly just, and my damnation is wholly certain.My heart is wholly depraved and my sin is wholly mine.My efforts are wholly futile and my escapes are wholly hopeless. I need a whole Savior, whose whole suffering, wholly satisfies a holy God.

Please, please don’t cut the corners. It’s appointed unto man once to die and I have to be sure I get it right.

I have to have the whole gospel—give it to me straight. Nothing else will do!

Yes…God help us, let’s give the whole gospel.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Purpose Statement

“We are not called to build the kingdom of glory, but to carry a cross in the kingdom of grace. To forget the cause of missions is to forget the purpose of Christ in a world still spared from destruction. The purpose of your life must be the purpose of Christ’s death.”

- Edmund P. Clowney, Called to the Ministry

Hat Tip: Of First Importance

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Graduation Day

Today we are celebrating the graduation from Mississippi State University of our son, Jason Mark Simmons - B.S. in Engineering - Summa Cum Laude.

Jason was an Eagle Scout, 4th in his High School class, and a fine young Christian man. He starts grad school in the fall with a full ride scholarship and a job at the university's research center.

Way to go, Jason! We are so proud of you!

The Beatitudes of Suffering & Brokeness

The blog formerly known as "In the Clearing" is now called "Wilderness Fandango." Blogger Bob has been producing some great posts lately, for example Wilderness Fandango: Processing the kingdom 3: The Beatitudes of Lack. This is his conclusion of a meditation on the beatitudes.

And here's the final point. What belongs to Jesus, even to his very nature, in some sense through my unity with him in faith, belongs to me. But unity with Christ does not mean victorious living in any sense that we usually understand it. The apostle Paul knew that it would mean unity with him in brokeneness, mourning, meekness, and hunger and thirst for righteousness. Paul's goal was to know Christ, and he knew that the fullest and most intimate form of that knowing would have to include a sharing in his suffering, even "becoming like him in his death."

Is it all beginning to pierce your heart yet? Because that's what's intended. If your God-view does not leave a lot of room for God to work his blessings through suffering and brokenness, then your God-view needs a rehab. And you know what? I can't do that for you. I can only point the way.

There. Over there. On a hill far away. Three crosses. A murderer. A thief. And the Son of God. Go there once again, and be made well.

Good stuff. I need to think on this one for a while.

I recommend Bob's blog to all my readers.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Flying Past the Statue

A source (who will remain nameless) passed on to me this Top Secret Photo of the controversial Air Force One flyby of the Statue of Liberty last week. ;)

Martin Luther Reveals Our Idolatries

Here's Martin Luther on idolatry, from his commentary on the Ten Commandments.

Many a one thinks that he has God and everything in abundance when he has money and, possessions; he trusts in them and boasts of them with such firmness and assurance as to care for no one. Lo, such a man also has a god, Mammon by name, i.e., money and possessions, on which he sets all his heart, and which is also the most common idol on earth. He who has money and possessions feels secure, and is joyful and undismayed as though he were sitting in the midst of Paradise. On the other hand, he who has none doubts and is despondent, as though he knew of no God…

So, too, whoever trusts and boasts that he possesses great skill, prudence, power, favor, friendship, and honor has also a god, but not this true and only God. This appears again when you notice how presumptuous, secure, and proud people are because of such possessions, and how despondent when they no longer exist or are withdrawn. Therefore I repeat that the chief explanation of this point is that to have a god is to have something in which the heart entirely trusts…

Thus it is with all idolatry; for it consists not merely in erecting an image and worshiping it, but rather in the heart, which stands gaping at something else, and seeks help and consolation from creatures, saints, or devils, and neither cares for God, nor looks to Him for so much good as to believe that He is willing to help, neither believes that whatever good it experiences comes from God.

Ask and examine your heart diligently, and you will find whether it cleaves to God alone or not. If you have a heart that can expect of Him nothing but what is good, especially in want and distress, and that, moreover, renounces and forsakes everything that is not God, then you have the only true God. If, on the contrary, it cleaves to anything else, of which it expects more good and help than of God, and does not take refuge in Him, but in adversity flees from Him, then you have an idol, another god.

The Mars Hill Blog | Blog Archive » Martin Luther Explains Idolatry