Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Iraqi Election That is Not Being Covered By the Press

The Anchoress writes - Iraqis get the hang of voting!

I blame Bush! It's all Bush's fault!

(Hint: That is why this is not being covered in the national press)

Knowing the Gospel

"One of the signs that you may not grasp the unique, radical nature of the gospel is that you are certain that you do. ~ Tim Keller"

Hat Tip: Rick Ianniello: the gospel:

Friday, January 30, 2009

Casual Continuationist = Practical Cessationist (Part 2)

This is part 2 of some excerpts from a post I found at Christians in Context by Andrew Farris entitled An Exhortation for the Casual Continuationist / Practical Cessationist

And yet Christians don't pursue these gifts, and I'm just not sure why. Wait, actually, scratch that; I know of a few reasons why we do not do this:

1. We haven't been trained how to seek spiritual gifts. Like anything with following Christ, someone godly, mature, and experienced needs to help us along with the things in which we are not experienced. Folks like my Dad come into play here.

2. We don't think that we the gift of prophecy, tongues, or whatever other spiritual miraculous spiritual gift we shrug off. But then, if we conceive of these as ministries that God gives us (not the ability to do them), then this problem is gone. We all seek to edify the church however God leads, according to the Scriptures, according to wisdom, and according to the Spirit's subjective guidance.

3. We don't make space in our services for the Spirit to work extemporaneously. In the name of tightly run, nicely packaged services (or in the name of a million other excuses), we simply do not give space when we meet together for people to seek prophecy to edify the church with. Seriously- if I was sitting in your church and suddenly received a prophecy to share with the congregation, when would I be able to do it? For most churches, it would be nearly impossible.

4. Our churches are too big. This sort of thing would pretty easy in a house church. But when 2,000 people are sitting in the same room, it is difficult to manage any orderliness while particpating in these spiritual ministries.

5. We associate the the "charismatic" gifts with charismatic excesses that we've seen. This is a big one, and it's a shame- but an understandable shame. So few charismatic churches do this well, and I just don't get it. 1 Cor. 12-14 are clear as day: tongues and prophecy are meant for the building up of the body. So if everyone is going crazy with tongues at the same time with no semblance of congregational edification, it all looks wacky, pointless, and unbiblical. That's because at that point, it is. But the truth is, we can be biblical charismatics. At my Dad's Vineyard I only ever knew of two instances where someone spoke in a tongue publicly, and both times it was followed immediately by an interpretation. That is the biblical use of tongues.

6. Most importantly, the "charismatic" gifts are weird and messy. Western evangelicals act like materialistic atheists. Sure, we pray, but we don't expect that God will do anything right away. But if we are going to pursue these gifts, then we have to start recognizing that God does things that to us seem strange. Yes, it is weird when people speak in what sounds like jibber-jabber. Yes, it is weird that people sometimes are shaking and crying on the ground. But as my Dad always said, if it really is the Holy Spirit working, then the real wonder isn't that there is a physical response, but that the person receiving that work doesn't explode on the spot.

The bottom line on this point is this: Christianity is weird through and through. We follow a Lord who we claim died for all of our sins, then rose from the dead three days later, and we celebrate that by symbolically eating his flesh and blood. That's weird, but we're used to it.

It's time we puruse the gifts that the Bible says God wants to give us for our good. Get over the strangeness and listen to the Bible. It tells us to do it, and it tells us how and how not to do it. It's time we started taking God's Word seriously.
I agree with everything he said- and well said it was.

Plain Preaching - And the Right Response

Saw this question from Derek Thomas at Pure Church: Make It Plain Preacher!
Which of these two statements do preachers most like to hear: a) "I didn't understand much of what you said, but I love to hear you preach," or "You know, when I hear you preach I say to myself, 'I could have seen that in the text"?
I can answer the question - at least for me (as an amateur preacher).

When I get to preach, people often say "Oh, you are such a good teacher." I don't say that to brag. I know I have a gift in that area, but I also know my limitations and weaknesses. However, statements like that are nice for the ego.

But what I would really like to hear after preaching are statements like "You said ____________ and it impacted me tremendously." Or "I never saw that in the Bible before, now it is as plain as day." Or "I'm going to have to really think about what you said about _________." In other words, I would rather hear discussion of what I said than praise for how I said it.

Think about that the next time you greet someone after they have just preached the Word. I bet most preachers think the same way. Talk to them about what they said - agree or disagree- more than you talk about how well they said it.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Another Facebook Addict

Duke Lancaster writes here on the addictive nature of Facebook- and the importance on personal connections.

Amen, Brother. I'm becoming an addict also.

(BTW, enjoyed the lunch fellowship yesterday!)

Casual Continuationist = Practical Cessationist

I recommend this post by Andrew Farris at Christians in Context called An Exhortation for the Casual Continuationist/Practical Cessationist

His point is that even those who say they are "continuationists" or "continualists" (those who believe in the continuing availability of all the spiritual gifts) are mostly practical cessationists. We do not practice much of what we say we believe in; i.e. there ain't much prophecy and miracles going on.
1. Cessationism is dead wrong, and it's obvious.
2. If cessationism is dead wrong, the only Biblical option is full-fledged but non-Pentecostal charismaticism....

Yet it appears to me that many evangelicals affirm step 1 but don't bother with step 2, and it is not because they are all reading Robert Saucy's "Open But Cautious" essay in the counterpoints book (as an aside, what am I not "open but cautious" about in evangelical theology...other than cessationism anyway?). A small fraction might have thought through the issue and arrived with Saucy. But most, I am convinced, simply don't address it. "Sure," they think, "the Spirit still works in the 1 Cor. 12-14 ways today." But after that mental affirmation, nothing.

This troubles me, for at least the following reasons:

1. If the Holy Spirit (i.e. God Himself dwelling among His people for the sake of their sanctification and perseverance, in case you forgot) really does give us gifts, why would we not unwrap them, so to speak? Affirming the continuation of the so-called "miraculous" gifts but not pursuing them is about as logical as affirming that I will die if I don't eat but refusing to eat the food that is right in front of me. I need what the Holy Spirit has to offer. The Church needs what the Holy Spirit has to offer. Why not pursue it?

2. If spiritual gifts (no matter how we conceive of them, but think "ministries"), are given to the church for the sake of its edification, why would we not pursue them? This is the same as saying that we do not think we need to be edified the way that the Holy Spirit thinks that we need to be edified.

3. 1 Cor. 14:1 explicitly says that we should earnestly seek to prophesy. Simple enough.

4. Every Christian, not just the leadership, is supposed to serve the body of Christ. Few if any ministries that believers experience together actually expect every believer to actively participate like spending time seeking the miraculous gifts. Seriously, when has your church ever had the problem that too many people are speaking at the same time and thus making your service disorderly (you know, because they all have edifying hymsn, prophecies, and words from Scripture to share; cf. 1 Cor. 14:26ff )?
More excerpts tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Half-Step Ahead...

At Blogotional I found this post entitled Pastors and Personality I found these thoughts intriguing.
When it comes to spiritual transformation, I think the same can be true. It takes a lot of discipline for very little transformation. So what is a pastor - a person that is supposed to model the transformed life - to do?

May I suggest rather than modeling transformation, model the path to transformation. That is to say, be human, exercise discipline and be confessing.

Spiritual leadership is not about being at the destination and calling people to you, it is about being a half-step ahead on the journey.
Oh no, not that transparency stuff again! Next thing you know they will want me to share me feelings.

Christ’s Righteousness Triumphant

“Whatever comes in, when you go to God for acceptance, besides Christ, call it Antichrist; bid it be gone; make only Christ’s righteousness triumphant.”

- Thomas Wilcox, “Honey Out of the Rock

Hat Tip: Of First Importance

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Happy Anniversary

Happy Second Anniversary to Zane and Michelle Hartfield!

Colleen and I wish our lovely daughter and wonderful son-in-law a blessed day of celebration and remembrance.

Humility is the Beginning of Theologizing

Hat Tip to the JOLLYBLOGGER with prayers for his recovery from cancer.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Door Will Open

“The sense that in this universe we are treated as strangers, the longing to be acknowledged, to meet with some response, to bridge some chasm that yawns between us and reality, is part of our inconsolable secret. And surely, from this point of view, the promise of glory, in the sense described, becomes highly relevant to our deep desire. For glory means good report with God, acceptance by God, response, acknowledgment, and welcome into the heart of things. The door on which we have been knocking all our lives will open at last.”

- C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory (New York, NY: HarperOne, 2001), 40-41.

Hat Tip: Of First Importance

A Question

Barack Obama has been President of the United States for a week now. Has the world changed yet?

If so, I hadn't noticed.

(But I will keep praying for him).

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Spirit's Chief Work - And Ours

"It is the CHIEF office of the Holy Spirit to glorify Christ. He does many things, but this is what he aims at in all of them, to glorify Christ. Brethren, what the Holy Ghost does must be right for us to imitate: therefore, let us endeavour to glorify Christ. To what higher ends can we devote ourselves, than to something to which God the Holy Ghost devotes himself? Be this, then, your emotional prayer, "Blessed Spirit, help me ever to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ!"

-CH Spurgeon

CROSS-eyed: Spurgeon on the Chief Work of the Holy Spirit

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A New Tongue?

"Much to the delight of charismatics everywhere, Rick Warren appears to suddenly speak in tongues during his inauguration prayer."

Hat Tip: Name Dropping | The Sacred Sandwich

Friday, January 23, 2009

Six Years Ago Today

From a post at Red State comes this reminder of the threat we continue to face in this world. Six Years Ago Today…

Daniel Pearl was kidnapped, later to be brutally beheaded by his captors with the video proudly posted on the Internet for the world to see.

The terrorists who committed this act, were they to be captured today under the Obama Administration’s policies, would be brought to the mainland United States for trial in civilian courts, be granted the rights of habeas corpus and the right to remain silent, could not be subjected to any coercive interrogation practices, and would have the right to see all evidence against them, as well as cross examine their accusers.

Rest in peace, Daniel.

Eschew Obfuscation

Andrew Piper at 22 Words reminded me (us) about the danger of using too many big words.

It’s important to remember that enjoying obtuse vocabulary rarely translates into the ability to use it without seeming like a bloviating pontificator

No comments from the peanut gallery about the time I spoke on the existential and epistemological implications of the primitive kerygma for the modern ecclesiastical context.

A bloviator - me? Nah!

Evil transformed

“God did not abolish the fact of evil: He transformed it. He did not stop the Crucifixion: He rose from the dead.”

—Dorothy Sayers, Letters to a Diminished Church

(Nashville, TN: W Publishing Group, 2004), 122-23

Hat Tip: Of First Importance

Balanced Diets

Surveys estimate that around 8-percent of contemporary Christian sermons derive their origin from texts in the Old Testament. A good thought from the late OT scholar Gleason Archer:

“How can Christian pastors hope to feed their flock on a well-balanced spiritual diet if they completely neglect the 39 books of Holy Scripture on which Christ and all the New Testament authors received their own spiritual nourishment?”

- G. L. Archer, “A New Look at the Old Testament,” Decision, August 1972, page 5.

Hat Tip: (I Can’t Get No) O.T. Preaching « Miscellanies

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Roe No More

A video of the true story of Norma McCorvey, who was "Jane Roe" of the famous Roe v. Wade abortion rights case, is available at Between Two Worlds: Roe No More

Norma now is a pro-life activist. Do I need to tell you that fraud was involved in the underlying case for abortion rights? Who would have thought it!

Why Pro-Life?

During the week of the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, it is always a good thing to remind ourselves of why we are pro-life. Hey, it's a BABY not FETAL TISSUE.

Check out the tiny foot print. Is there any doubt?

Praying for the President

From Rev. Ligon Duncan at The First Presbyterian Church of Jackson Mississippi comes this Pastor's Perspective on praying for President Obama:

For those Christians who are more concerned than overjoyed about the prospects of an Obama presidency, there should be a remembrance that as our President, Barack Obama will have God-given authority to govern us, and that we should view him as a servant of God (Rom. 13:1, 4) to whom we should be subject (Rom. 13:1, 5; 1 Pet. 2:13-14). Thus, again, we are to pray for Barack Obama (1 Tim. 2:1-2). We are to thank God for Barack Obama (1 Tim. 2:1-2). We are to respect Barack Obama (Rom. 13:7). We are to honor Barack Obama (Rom. 13:7; 1 Pet. 2:17).

For those Christians who are more overjoyed than concerned about the prospects of an Obama presidency, there should be a remembrance of our ultimate allegiance: Jesus is Lord (and thus, He, not we, decides what is right and wrong), we serve God not man, and the Lord himself has promised to establish "the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him" (Malachi 3:18). Thus, where our new president opposes or undermines biblical moral standards in our society, fails to uphold justice for the unborn, undermines religious liberties or condones an ethos that is hostile to the Gospel, we will pray for God's purposes to triumph over our President's plans and policies.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

God Was Not Caught Off Guard

In the midst of the recent and current political paranoia of some Christians (believers aught to know better), here are some wise words from my friend Duke:
There are real concerns about what may be coming in the current administration... but there always is!!! The world is not coming to an end... God was not caught off guard... his end time plans were not set back... and God doesn't secretly love Republicans more than Democrats. The current state of our country and culture should not in any way affect what we do as Christians... we should get up every morning and ask, "What would you have me do today, Lord" Christians have been doing that for centuries... sometimes in much more pagan cultures than ours! The church has survived and often thrived under every type of governmental system... democracy, socialist, communist... don't blame the government for the church's woes.

Where sin abounds there grace much more abounds... we are sitting on a supernatural powder keg... God's grace is set to be poured out if we will have the faith to trust him in these times.

From: Thoughts and Musings by Duke Lancaster: January 2009

Why Is Theology Important?

Excerpts from Why Is Theology Important? by Bert Waggoner, National Director of Vineyard USA

Why is this discipline important? I could list many reasons, but here are my top ten reasons:

1. Theology provides us with the answers to life’s questions regarding meaning in life: "Who am I?", "What am I doing here?", and "Where am I going?”

2. Theology tells us not just what the Bible says, but also what it means....

3. Theology helps us recognize God not simply in life's boundary situations, but in the center of every situation.

4. Theology is vital to Spirituality...

5. Theology makes us more or less articulate our experience of God's multifaceted grace. God does not wait until we have knowledge before giving us grace. We learn to articulate His grace in theology.

6. Theology puts wonder in worship (Hebrews 12:28-29)

7. Theology plays a strategic prophetic role in the Church....

8. Theology makes all practical things really practical because its primary concern is not with theory or speculation....

9. Theology makes preaching as difficult as it ought to be....

10. Theology makes praying as easy as it ought to be.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Rick Warren's Inauguration Prayer

From Between Two Worlds here is the text of Rick Warren's Inauguration Prayer

Almighty God, our Father:

Everything we see, and everything we can’t see, exists because of you alone. It all comes from you, it all belongs to you, it all exists for your glory.

History is your story.

The Scripture tells us, "Hear, O Israel, the LORD is our God, the LORD is one." And you are the compassionate and merciful one. And you are loving to everyone you have made.

Now today we rejoice not only in America’s peaceful transfer of power for the 44th time, we celebrate a hinge point of history with the inauguration of our first African American president of the United States.

We are so grateful to live in this land, a land of unequaled possibility, where a son of an African immigrant can rise to the highest level of our leadership. And we know today that Dr. King and a great cloud of witnesses are shouting in heaven.

Give to our new president, Barack Obama, the wisdom to lead us with humility, the courage to lead us with integrity, the compassion to lead us with generosity.Bless and protect him, his family, Vice President Biden, the Cabinet, and every one of our freely elected leaders.

Help us, O God, to remember that we are Americans--united not by race or religion or blood, but to our commitment to freedom and justice for all.

When we focus on ourselves, when we fight each other, when we forget you--forgive us. When we presume that our greatness and our prosperity is ours alone--forgive us. When we fail to treat our fellow human beings and all the earth with the respect that they deserve--forgive us.

And as we face these difficult days ahead, may we have a new birth of clarity in our aims, responsibility in our actions, humility in our approaches, and civility in our attitudes—even when we differ.

Help us to share, to serve, and to seek the common good of all. May all people of good will today join together to work for a more just, a more healthy, and a more prosperous nation and a peaceful planet.

And may we never forget that one day, all nations--and all people--will stand accountable before you.

We now commit our new president and his wife, Michelle, and his daughters, Malia and Sasha, into your loving care.

I humbly ask this in the name of the one who changed my life—Yeshua, Esa, Jesus, Jesus—who taught us to pray:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name.
Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,
for Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.

Prayer for Our New President

Today at 12 noon Barack Obama becomes our new president. I did not vote for him, and do not support many of his professed political positions. Be that as it may, today he becomes my president.
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:1-4
I commit myself to pray for President Obama regularly according to 1 Timothy 2. I will also pray for his family , his vice-president, his cabinet leaders and his advisers.

I will always speak respectfully even if I must criticize him. This is the right thing to do out of respect for the office he holds. It is also right because it is just right. No one should treat President Obama with the same kind of disrespect that President Bush has so often been subjected to.

Let us pray for our new leader. God be with him, protect him, strengthen him, and give him great wisdom.

Thank You, President Bush

I remember watching the second plane hit the tower on September 11, 2001, and thinking "We are at war." Who could of believed that over seven years later we would not have been successfully attacked again on our home soil.

Thank you, President Bush, for protecting us. Whatever, your faults, you done good on this task, and I appreciate it! God bless you and your family during your retirement from public life. I hope that someday the whole country and the world acknowledge what you accomplished.

Goodbye, Sir, and God Bless!

Monday, January 19, 2009

I Shock Angels

I must confess that I frequently shock the angels. How do I do this? The Blazing Center quotes Jeremiah as follows:

Be appalled, O heavens [angels], at this;be shocked, be utterly desolate,declares the Lord,for my people have committed two evils:they have forsaken me,the fountain of living waters,and hewed out cisterns for themselves,broken cisterns that can hold no water. JE 2.12-13

Thus every time I (or you) seek fulfillment in anything other than Jesus, the watching angels are appalled and astounded. Sorry fellows, but you should already know that I am a sinner who needs his Savior every single day.

The above referenced post goes on to quote these amazing but true words from C.S. Lewis:
We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” - C.S. Lewis

May the Lord deliver me from being too easily pleased.

Bush the Healer

Thinking about President Bush as he leaves office this week, I saw this at The Thinklings

Former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist opines on why Bush will be remembered as a healer. Here's a taste:

"A legacy of President George W. Bush will be that he saved 10 million lives around the world.

His critics ignore it, but name another president about whom one can say that with such certainty. It is what historians will say a decade from now looking back. Not bad for a president who leaves office with the lowest approval rating in recent memory.

The bottom line is: George Bush is a healer."

The Anchoress also quotes Frist. I agree with his assessment, and think that, once enough time has passed, the verdict of history will also agree.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Self-inflicted Snoozer

In an ominous sign for his congregation, Pastor Thaddeus Mumford accidentally puts himself asleep while practicing his upcoming sermon.

Humor break provided by: The Sacred Sandwich

Jesus At The Door?

Rick Ianniello wonders where we got the concept of asking "jesus into my heart"

It is not in the Bible. There is not a single verse that even hints we should say a prayer inviting Jesus into our hearts. Some use Rev. 3:20 to tell us that Jesus is standing at the door of our hearts begging to come in. There are two reasons that interpretation is wrong. The context tells us that the door Jesus is knocking on is the door of the church, not the human heart. Jesus is not knocking to enter someone’s heart but to have fellowship with His church. Even if the context didn’t tell us this, we would be forcing a meaning into the text (eisegesis). How do we know it is our heart he is knocking at? Why not our car door? How do we know he isn’t knocking on our foot? To suggest that he is knocking on the door of our heart is superimposing a meaning on the text that simply does not exist.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Facebook Crime Stoppers

Here's a new use for Facebook - New Zealand police use Facebook to stop crime -

(CNN) -- Police in southern New Zealand nabbed a would-be burglar after they posted security camera images of him trying to break into a safe on the popular social networking site, Facebook.

Having removed his balaclava after his efforts made him hot, the would-be burglar looks up at a security camera.

Having removed his balaclava after his efforts made him hot, the would-be burglar looks up at a security camera.

The Queenstown police are calling it their first Facebook arrest. The police department created its online presence on the site just two onths ago, said Constable Sean Drader.

"It's pretty popular, isn't it, this site?" Drader told CNN Wednesday, surprised at the quick success.

Hat Tip: Vitamin Z

Try Writing Prayers

Saw this post on Writing Prayers at The Blazing Center:
Want to add a new dimension to your prayer life? Want to be able to concentrate better and daydream less when praying? Consider writing out prayers as part of your devotional life....

I have found that writing prayers has a number of benefits: Writing helps me concentrate, focus and keep my mind from wandering. Writing slows me down and helps me quiet my heart before God. Writing also helps me keep from praying the same things every day.

When I write out prayers, then I have them to use again in the future. Often, reading a prayer I’ve written before helps me jumpstart my prayer time.

Also, writing out prayers helps me better remember specific things I want to thank God for or ask him for.

I think I'm going to try this. More to come (sample prayers) later.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Fuller Theological Seminary To Offer Course In Tap Dancing | The Sacred Sandwich

Here's some interesting news: Fuller Theological Seminary To Offer Course In Tap Dancing

Fuller Theological Seminary announced today that a course in tap dancing will be added to the curriculum of their Master of Divinity program this spring. Don Ohlson, a spokesperson for Fuller, explained the reason behind the new addition: “We believe that in this postmodern climate of tolerance and political civility it is important to train our future pastors to be able to dance around biblical issues when necessary.”...
After a little discussion about Rick Warren's need for this training, the article goes on to say:
The new Fuller class, Pastoral Tap Dance, will be held off-campus at Little Miss Starlet Dance Academy and Tanning Salon, with instruction by former Rockette,
Tammi Lynn Marple. Marple, who has taught the academy’s “Beginning Tap for our
Year Olds and Up” class for twenty years, suggests that the Fuller seminary students who enroll should bring a juice box for break time and have their mommies or daddies drop them off five minutes early so they have time to warm up.
It's a joke, people. Lighten Up!
(Love that Sacred Sandwich)

Getting Theologically Humiliated

C. Michael Patton wrote an interestiong piece this week on the beneifts of Getting Theologically Humiliated
In just about every discipline of thought, you have accountability. If you are a doctor, you cannot just develop and prescribe a new medicine because your mother told you all your life that it worked. If you do, you will go to jail. As a scientist, your works will be scrutinized by your peers in published journals. As a physicist, you cannot invent a new law of nature based upon a dream or vision. As a judge, you cannot judge people based upon subjective opinions or a deep inner peace. The constitution prevents this. If you are a soldier, you cannot disregard your superior and come up with a new battle plan because you were enlightened by a new book you read on fighting techniques. In all these areas there is an accountability structure that provides discipline and guards against novelty and abuse. Within each exists a system of checks and balances that, for the most part, provides integrity. In other words, you cannot just do or believe anything. If you violate these constraints, you will be humiliated and humbled.

Sadly we have an epidemic of theological discipline in the church today. People think that they can believe and teach anything based upon a subjective experience or a provision of hope. This epidemic is caused due to lack of theological accountability. We don’t think we need people to tell us we are wrong. We don’t have any system of checks and balances; in fact, we often avoid them. We think that if we have the Bible and the Holy Spirit, we have license. There is no way to be humiliated so that we can be humbled.

Because of this lack of discipline we have people out there believing and teaching based upon wild hairs. They are prescribing spiritual medicine that they invented. Sadly the average person is the spiritual test rat. I wonder what the “faith-is-a-force” people did when they first got the idea that faith was a force that we could control. Did they consult anyone about this? Did they have theological advisers? Did they have someone who would tell them that they was wrong? Did they consult church history or biblical exegetes? Did they even have a method for validating their beliefs?

He's asking some good questions.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Testimony by Tim Tebow

Tim Tebow on Preaching at Prison

“Because of my faith, I receive a lot of requests to speak to different organizations. I like to do as many as I can. During the summer of 2007, I had the opportunity to speak at the state prison in Union County. I got to get up and preach.

The people there don’t have a lot to look forward to, and they don’t have a positive outlook on things. I told them that everyone looks at them like they are nothing, and I told them that they are no different than I am, except they made a bad choice. That doesn’t make them any worse of a person, and God doesn’t love them any less. I let them know that because of their actions, there are consequences, but God wants them to go to heaven.

There were people in there for all sorts of things. There were murderers and drug lords. I saw these guys break down and cry. I gave them an invitation to accept Jesus Christ and change the way they were living.

In the two prisons I spoke at, 195 guys came forward. I held their hands and prayed with them. The security guys told them they weren’t allowed to get close to me, but I wasn’t worried about it. I felt like I was doing what God wanted me to do, so it was safe.”

By Tim Tebow
Quarterback, University of Florida

Hat Tip: A Testimony by Tim Tebow CHARISMATICA

The Central Event

"Christianity is the only major religion to have as its central event the humility of its God."

- Bruce Shelley, Church History in Plain Language, p. 3
Quoted at: Take Your Vitamin Z:

The Future Has Arrived

Optimism is not foolishness for the believer, because hope has invaded history. The future has apocalyptically erupted in the present in the death and resurrection of the Messiah. The new creation has been propelled forward, as a man has been raised from the dead. Furthermore, a community of people have been incorporated into this risen man, and share in his future-present life. The church is thus the signpost of new creation; the gathering of people whose existence points to the way things will be.

And this city, corrupt and broken, is not as it one day will be. God will make all things new, including the created order. Justice will prevail, Jesus will be king, and all will kneel to him as Lord. Reconciliation will be universal and eternal.

The future will not be an endless repetition of the present. The future has already arrived in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and in the constitution of his church. And these events remind us that all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.

I want to view the present through the grid of God's future. If I know that God's righteousness will ultimately and inevitably be demonstrated, then despair is needless and foolish.
Quoted from Christians in Context: from orthodoxy to orthopraxy.: Viewing the Present in Light of the Future

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Eschatological Community

Indeed, the church is an eschatological community not only because it witnesses to God's future victory but because its mission is to display the life of the eschatological Kingdom in the present evil age. The very existence of the church is designed to be a witness to the world of the triumph of God's kingdom accomplished in Jesus.
- George E. Ladd, The Presence of the Future: The Eschatology of Biblical Realism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974); 337-338.

Quoted at : Christians in Context

Love Letters

Christianity Today has published a review of Mark Driscoll's Death by Love, See Love Letters | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

Driscoll and Breshears don't cover new ground in today's so-called Atonement wars. Indeed, Driscoll writes that "theological innovation is inevitably the road to heresy." Yet Driscoll covers many facets of this many-splendored doctrine. His letters touch on themes such as Christus Victor, expiation, ransom, Christus Exemplar, and reconciliation.

Driscoll explains: "Most poor teaching about the cross results from someone's denying one of these facets, ignoring one of these facets, or overemphasizing one of these facets at the expense of others, often due to an overreaction to someone else's overreaction."

My book review is here.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Confess Your Righteousness

“Before you can ever make a clean and unamended confession of your sin, you have to first begin by confessing your righteousness. It’s not just your sin that separates you from God, your righteousness does as well. Because, when you are convinced you are righteous, you don’t seek the forgiving, rescuing, and restoring mercy that can only be found in Jesus Christ.”

- John Tripp

Hat Tip: Gospel Reminders

God Acting = Kingdom Come

As regards the kingdom of God? Theologians such as Ladd say that the kingdom is both present and absent, but this basically means we focus on the absent! But I didn’t come to understand the kingdom through theologians. I came to the understanding when I was a young Baptist Minister. I noticed that I spent a lot of my time trying to get people to come and hear me, and other ministers did the same. But when I looked at Jesus his problem was getting away from people! So I said there has to be something different here. So I found what every scholar will tell you, that Jesus’ message was the kingdom of God. He proclaimed it, he manifested it and he taught it. When he sent out his disciples, he didn’t send them out to teach (that’s the hard part), but to proclaim and manifest (the easy part!) It was very powerful. …

When you look at the Bible you see that the kingdom of God is God acting. It is the range of God’s effective will. When I pray ‘thy kingdom come, thy will be done’ I am praying first that God’s will may be done in my own life and then around me. This is the open door for his teachings, for it is his effective will that I bless and don’t curse, that I let my yes be yes and my no be no, that I not be motivated by anger and contempt etc … (as outlined in the Sermon on the Mount). So as someone who is living in the kingdom, I am praying that this may become a true expression of who I am by inner transformation. Discipleship is learning how to do that.

Dallas Willard, Quoted at Dallas Willard on the kingdom and church growth « City of God

Monday, January 12, 2009

Convicted by His Mercy

“Repentance out of mere fear is really sorrow for the consequences of sin, sorrow over the danger of sin — it bends the will away from sin, but the heart still clings. But repentance out of conviction over mercy is really sorrow over sin, sorrow over the grievousness of sin — it melts the heart away from sin. It makes the sin itself disgusting to us, so it loses its attractive power over us. We say, ‘this disgusting thing is an affront to the one who died for me. I’m continuing to stab him with it!’”

- Timothy Keller, Church Planter Manual

Hat Tip: Of First Importance

Police Warning

Officer Thompkins pulled Ted over to inform him that his brake lights weren’t working and his Christian fish emblem was a tad cliché.
Hat Tip: The Sacred Sandwich

BTW: I Love "The Sacred Sandwich"!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Beware the Grim Preacher!

Hat Tip: nakedpastor

Gratitude for Grace

From the author of the hymn Amazing Grace, quoted at Gospel Reminders:

“I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am.”

- John Newton"

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Who Would Jesus Smack Down? -NY Times on Mark Driscoll

Here's a link to the recent NY Times article about Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church -

Who Would Jesus Smack Down? - Mark Driscoll, a Pastor with a Macho Conception of Christ

BTW, is Driscoll going to start wearing suits while preaching? Apparently the answer is temporarily yes.
" may not recognize me on Sunday because I will be wearing suits for this series, in keeping with the old-school black-and-white court imagery of Trial. Occasionally, though, I will wear a suit with Chuck Taylors to ensure the look is Mars Hilled."

The Thursday Night Miracle Worker

After the national championship game Thursday, it does seem like Tim Tebow can do anything! Nice to see a faithful believer staying true while in the world spotlight.

Hat Tip: Take Your Vitamin Z: A Good Reflection On The Game Last Night

Other Comments:

Tebow is a winner
The Tebow Bump
Tebow's John 3:!6 reference shows Nation's Biblical Illiteracy

Preaching Christ Crucified

We do not preach “the atonement” as such, or “salvation,” “redemption,” or “justification” as such, but Jesus Christ and him crucified. These blessings were accomplished by Christ and are available only in Christ, never abstracted from him. We must learn to avoid the contemporary plague of preaching the benefits of the gospel without proclaiming Christ himself as the Benefactor in the gospel.

We do not offer people abstract blessings (peace, forgiveness, new life) as commodities. Rather we preach and offer Christ crucified and risen, in whom the blessings become ours and not otherwise. We preach the person in the work, never the work and its blessings apart from the Saviour himself.

“Preaching the Atonement” in The Glory of the Atonement (Hill & James, eds), p. 4

Hat Tip: Peter Cockrell at Already Not Yet

Friday, January 9, 2009

A Pilgrim Lacking in Progress

Checking out of the Wicket Gate Hotel to continue his pilgrim’s progress, Christian soon realized that taking the little soaps and a bath towel only added to his burden.

Hat Tip: The Sacred Sandwich

Jim Elliot Quotes

In follow up to yesterday's post on the anniversay of the Aucu martyrrs, here's some gret Jim Elliot quotes from Already Not Yet.

"God, I pray Thee, light these idle sticks of my life and may I burn for Thee. Consume my life, my God, for it is Thine. I seek not a long life, but a full one, like you, Lord Jesus.”

“Father, let me be weak that I might loose my clutch on everything temporal. My life, my reputation, my possessions, Lord, let me loose the tension of the grasping hand.”

“I covenanted with the Father that He would do either of two things: either glorify Himself to the utmost in me or slay me. By His grace I shall not have His second best.”

“O Christ, let me know Thee–let me catch glimpses of Thyself, seated and expectant in glory, let me rest there despite all wrong surging round me. Lead me in the right path, I pray.”

“Father, take my life, yea, my blood if Thou wilt, and consume it with Thine enveloping fire. I would not save it, for it is not mine to save. Have it Lord, have it all. Pour out my life as an oblation for that world. Blood is only of value as it flows before Thine altar.”

“God deliver me from the dread asbestos of ‘other things.’ Saturate me with the oil of the Spirit that I may be a flame for you.”

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Go To Jesus

Here's some very good writing from Michael Spencer:

If you are going to think about God, go to Jesus and start there, stay there and end there.

This simple rule is too simple for the religious, the worldly wise, the power seeking and the proud.

It is infuriating to those who want to manipulate for money or distract for some personal agenda.

Jesus will break our idols, complicate our assumptions, overturn our tables and put himself squarely in the center of every question. He is the way, the truth, the life. He is the answer. He is the one way we think about, know, love, worship and relate to God.

When you think about God, go to Jesus.

From: The Question is God; The Answer is Jesus « Jesus Shaped Spirituality

A Most Common Idol

From Steve Murrell at the reluctant leader, some words on fasting, or Dethroning the Stomach God.

Food is a powerful force. What, when and how much we eat can be a deadly and spiritual decision.

The first commandment was about food.
The first temptation was about food.
The first sin was about food.

Food and appetite – what we do with this is kinda important, sometimes.

I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.
(Phil 3:19, 20)

Could this god is their stomach comment somehow be connected to the enemy of the cross idea? I’m afraid so.....

How do I keep him off the throne? Maybe the cross is the key. Gotta kill that false stomach god, before he gets too big.

I HATE fasting. Maybe that means I have an idol that needs dethroning.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Remembering Jim Elliot

53 years ago today (Jan. 8), Jim Elliot and four other missionaries were killed in Ecuador seeking to meet and evangelize the Waodani people. Their is a video about their mission at Between Two Worlds: Jim Elliot

I was born almost exactly nine months after their martyrdom. Ever since I first read their story I've often wondered about the significance of that fact.

The Devil Trembles

"The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, he mocks our wisdom but he trembles when we pray.”

- Samuel Chadwick

Hat Tip: Gospel Reminders

A Good Text is Hard to Find

Hat Tip: A Good Text is Hard to Find Out of Ur Conversations for Ministry Leaders

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

More Fascinating Than Me (Or You)

Preach from the Bible, and from the Bible only. Again, does this need to be said? One thing's for sure. The Bible is fascinating, disturbing, offensive, sweet, alarming, comforting, stretching, shocking, controversial, caressing, strengthening. No way are you and I that interesting. Let's put the Bible front and center and let it be itself and do its thing, whatever the impact. Submerging the Bible for the sake of our cool personas isn't really cool at all. It's a way of avoiding risk, chickening out.

Ray Ortland, Quoted by Jared Wilson at The Thinklings.

3D Renderings of the Temple

Check out these way too cool 3D Renderings of the Temple in Jerusalem in Jesus' Time

Bible Reading Plans

Here's a great list of daily Bible reading plans - Between Two Worlds: Bible Reading Plans. January is always a good time to start!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

I Found It? He Found Me!

“Amiable agnostics will talk cheerfully about man’s search for God. For me, they might as well talk about the mouse’s search for a cat…God closed in on me.”

Clive Staples (C.S.) Lewis

Hat Tip: Gospel Reminders

Tip for the New Year

I’m a sucker for tips. I love reading articles with titles like “50 Ways to Make Your Life Better Without Even Getting Off the Couch”. If you write a blog post entitled “7 Secrets For a Successful Garden”, I’m all over it. And I hate gardening.

I can get sucked into “Christian Tips” as well. “Five Ways to Dive Deep In Prayer”, “Three Ways To Get Your Holiness on In 2K9″, etc. Some of these articles really are valuable. Some are fluff.

But here’s the thing: my spiritual growth in 2009 isn’t going to be the result of finding the right tip list. Growth is the result of prayerfully wielding the word of God
Hat Tip: The Problem With Spiritual Tips The Blazing Center

Crossing Jordan in 2009

J. Lee Grady from Charisma Magazine recently posted A Word of Encouragement: Cross Your Jordan in 2009

If you want to see big victories in your personal life, your family and your church in the coming year, consider the path that Joshua and Israel took:

1. Swallow your fears....
2. Put on your full armor....
3. Set ambitious goals....
4. Step in the water....
5. Consecrate yourself anew....
6. Expect new provision....
7. Expect a visitation....

Something to think about.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Dancing with the Politicial Stars

Check out this dancing with the politicians video!

No the picture to the right is not in the video - it was from another source. Some day I 'm going to learn or figure out how to post video on this blog.

(BTW, I think Sarah wins the contest by a landslide!)

Hat Tip: Rick Ianiello

The Ezra Call (Part Four)

One of my favorite Bible passages, and one I have long considered my “life verse,” is Ezra 7:10. Ezra dedicated his life "to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel." In this article I am putting forth a challenge to you, my reader, to accept an Ezra call on your life. Here are links to Parts One and Two and Three.


The third part of Ezra's call was to teach the Word.

In 1st Corinthians 12:9, Paul asked the rhetorical question “are all teachers?” In context, the obvious answer is no. Everyone does not have the spiritual gift of teaching or hold the office of teacher. If this is so, then of what relevance to those not called to be teachers is Ezra’s commitment to teach the Word?

I have found it helpful to draw a parallel to the ministry and office of evangelist. All believers are not called to the office of evangelist. All Christians do not have the ministry of and evangelist. Yet all are called to evangelize within the sphere of influence God has given us; our families, friends, neighbors and co-workers.

In a similar manner, we can see that all of us are called to teach. All believers are not called to the office of a teacher. All Christians do not have the ministry of teaching. Yet all of us are called to teach within the sphere of influence God has given us; our families, friends, neighbors and co-workers. Parents need to be able to teach their children (Deut. 6:4-9). Husbands need to be able to teach their wives (Eph. 5:26, 28). All of us must be ready to give an answer as to what and why we believe (1 Peter 3:15). There is someone who is looking to you for answers.

Every believer can and should be able to disciple a new believer, if only his or her own children, in the basics of the Christian faith and life. You need to know how to lead someone to salvation, to teach them about baptism, and to guide them into being filled with and walking in the power of the Spirit. You will never be able to do this for others unless you understand the Scriptures yourself (“To Know”) and have experienced these foundations for yourself (“To Do”). Only then can you convey these truths to others (“To Teach”). This is what the author of Hebrews was referring to when he complained to his readers that they should be ready to teach, but still needed the basic milk of the Word (Hebrews 5:11-14).

So my question to you is: Will you accept an Ezra call? Are you willing to pay any price to be a person who , knows, does and teaches the Bible with both accuracy and passion? I think that is a calling He is wanting all of us to seek.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Ezra Call (Part Three)

One of my favorite Bible passages, and one I have long considered my “life verse,” is Ezra 7:10. Ezra dedicated his life "to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel." In this article I am putting forth a challenge to you, my reader, to accept an Ezra call on your life. Here are links to Parts One and Two.


The second part of Ezra;s call was to not just know but also do the Word. Ezra determined from the beginning to obey every command of God he found in the Scriptures. He was on guard against the greatest temptation of a Bible teacher: the tendency to look for words to teach others, while never hearing the word for yourself.

James used the illustration of someone who looks at his reflection in a mirror, sees all his grooming deficiencies, but then walks away without combing his hair or washing his face (James 1:22-25). This foolish person learns the truth about himself, but does nothing, and forgets the truth he has learned. In the same way, if we learn truth about our condition from the Scriptures, but take no action, we will fall back from the level of truth to which we have risen. He who is not faithful in little, will lose the little he has gained. Is it any wonder that James also says that not many should be teachers, because those who teach will be held to a higher standard (James 3:1)?

Knowledge of the Scriptures can never be an end in itself. It is a necessary prerequisite, but not sufficient alone. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for thinking that memorization and study of the Law sufficed and substituted for personal knowledge of God. “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” (John 5:39-40 ESV). Knowledge of the Word is a means to greater ends: obedience to God and the knowledge of the Holy One.

Always remember that belief and obedience are inseparable, and that we are called to the “obedience that comes from faith” (Romans 1:5, 16:26). The good soil in Jesus’ parable of the Sower represented the listeners who “hear the message and retain it in a good and obedient heart, and they persist until they bear fruit” (Luke 8:15 GNB).

(Part Four will post tomorrow)

Sarah Palin Speaks Out on the Birth of Her Grandson Tripp, Teen Pregnancy

From, Sarah Palin Speaks Out on the Birth of Her Grandson Tripp, Teen Pregnancy

Washington, DC ( -- Former vice-presidential candidate and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is speaking out for the first time on the birth of her new grandson. Palin's daughter Bristol disclosed her pregnancy shortly after she was named as John McCain's running mate and it sparked a national debate on abortion and teen pregnancy.

Palin says she welcomes her first grandchild, Tripp Easton Mitchell Johnston, born to Bristol and her fiance' Levi Johnston on December 27.

“We are over the moon with the arrival of this healthy, beautiful baby,” Governor Palin said. “The road ahead for this young couple will not be easy, but nothing worthwhile is ever easy."

"Bristol and Levi are committed to accomplish what millions of other young parents have accomplished, to provide a loving and secure environment for their child. They are both hard workers, they're very strong, and have faith they've made the right decision in setting aside their own interests to make this child their highest priority," the governor said in a statement obtained.

Palin also responded to criticism that somehow she or her daughter failed because of Bristol's teen pregnancy.

Instead of getting an abortion, Bristol and Levi decided to keep the baby and have been supported by Palin and her family.

“When Bristol and Levi first told us the shocking news that she was pregnant, to be honest, we all at first looked at the situation with some fear and a bit of despair. Isn't it just like God to turn those circumstances into such an amazing, joyful blessing when you ask Him to help you through?”

Bristol Palin also commented and said she “obviously discourages” teen pregnancy and knows that plans she previously made for herself will now forever be changed.

“Teenagers need to prevent pregnancy to begin with – this isn't ideal. But I'm fortunate to have a supportive family which is dealing with this together. Tripp is so perfectly precious; we love him with all our hearts. I can't imagine life without him now," the young Palin said.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Year of Trek Arrives!

Have I mentioned lately how much I am looking forward to this movie? Four months and one week to go!

Star Trek - May 8, 2009

Massages During Church

Prodigal John at Stuff Christians Like asks a probing question: Any members of PAMIC out there, or are you in favor of Massages During Church?

Confused? Click the links.

The Ezra Call (Part Two)

One of my favorite Bible passages, and one I have long considered my “life verse,” is Ezra 7:10. Ezra dedicated his life "to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel." In this article I am putting forth a challenge to you, my reader, to accept an Ezra call on your life.

For Part One look here.

The first part of Ezra's life call was a commitment to know the Bible.

From the very beginning, the necessity to learn and know the Law of God had been held before the people of Israel. “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart” (Deut. 6:9 ESV). Joshua know it to be the key to his success and to the prosperity of his life’s work. “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” (Joshua 1:8 ESV) The Psalmist knew that hiding the Word in his heart was the way to wisdom (Ps. 119:99-100) and right living (Ps. 119:9-11, 105), and he found great joy in God’s Word (Ps. 119:92,111).

As Paul neared the end of his life, facing a perhaps imminent martyrdom, he felt it necessary and urgent to remind his younger protege, Timothy, of this same truth (2 Tim. 2:15, 3:15-17). Timothy had come to salvation through the knowledge of the Bible, and could only be equipped for success in his life by growing in that knowledge. Paul encouraged him to learn the Word so as to be fully equipped and prepared for life and service.

When Eve was tempted in the garden, Satan began by asking her “has God really said...?” The Devil began by questioning the Word of God. When Jesus was tempted, he responded by standing on the Word; “It is written....” Jesus succeeded where Adam and Eve had failed. But what if he had not known the Scriptures?

In every city where he founded a church, Paul was committed to proclaim “the whole counsel of God.” (Acts 20:27). We need to be equally as dedicated that we each as individuals become grounded in God’s whole counsel, the Holy Scriptures.

(Part Three will post tomorrow)

Friday, January 2, 2009

For All You Pre-Trib Rapture Folks

For all you pre-trib rapture folks...

Hat Tip: Rick Ianniello

The Ezra Call (Part One)

One of my favorite Bible passages, and one I have long considered my “life verse,” is Ezra 7:10. Ezra dedicated his life "o study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel." In this article I am putting forth a challenge to you, my reader, to accept an Ezra call on your life. First, some historical background.

The story of Ezra occurs about eighty years after the first return of Jewish refuges from Babylon under Zerubbabel in 536 BC. Between that time and Ezra’s ministry, Haggai and Zechariah had led in the rebuilding of the temple, and Esther had saved her people in Babylon from massacre. All of the Jews had not yet returned to Jerusalem, and many never would. In 458 BC, Ezra the Scribe led a group of Jews back to the land of Israel. This was the same general time period as Nehemiah’s rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. Ezra’s story can be found in the Book of Ezra, Chapters 7-19 and Nehemiah 7:73-9:37.

Nehemiah and Ezra found a discouraged and spiritually lax community in Jerusalem. They needed a social reconstruction and a rebuilding of confidence (Nehemiah’s ministry) but even more they needed the knowledge of the Law of God, the Scriptures, to rebuild their lives and their society (Ezra’s ministry). Just as Nehemiah rebuilt the physical walls of Jerusalem, Ezra rebuilt their spiritual walls.

Ezra gathered the people of Jerusalem and read to them the Law of God. Together with his disciples, he taught them the meaning of the Scriptures being read (Neh. 8:104, 7-8). By doing so he called them to repentance and a return to their national roots. The people of Jerusalem responded to Ezra’s ministry (Neh. 9:1-3). For a fragile community, vulnerable to backsliding and assimilation, God’s word became their salvation. Through the work of Ezra, they became forever a “people of the Book.” This, and only this, could ensure their national survival.

What made Ezra’s ministry successful? What enabled him to lead a national reformation, and to see a great revival? Only one thing was sufficient. Ezra had prepared himself beforehand for the work God had given him. “For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.” (Ezra 7:10 ESV). He had prepared his heart in three ways. First, he sought with all his heart to know the Scriptures; to be thoroughly acquainted with their content and message. Second, he sought to be obedient to what he learned, to be both a hearer and a doer. Third, he sought to be effective in communicating what he had learned within the sphere of influence given him by God.

In many ways American Christians today are like Israel in Ezra’s day. We too have been morally lax. We also face the temptation to sink to the lowest levels of the society surrounding us. We need our inner walls rebuilt, as surely as Jerusalem needed its physical walls restored. If we want to see perhaps we would do well to heed the example of Ezra, and to make the same threefold commitment he made. This is what I mean by the “Ezra Call;” a challenge to the church to be knowers, doers and teachers of the Word of God.

(Part Two will post tomorrow)

High Places

I've been reading 1st and 2nd Chronicles recently and noticed a pattern. Over and over a king will be described as doing or not doing "right in the eyes of the LORD." However, most of the good kings are also criticised for not tearing down the "high places."

High places were hill tops, literal "high places," where sacrifices were made to gods or to God. The location of the Tabernacle of Moses at Gibeon (prior to the dedication of the temple) is called a great high place (2 Kings 3:4, 2 Chronicles 1:3-5), proving that the term can be used for places where the Lord was sought and worshipped. I'm assuming that a king who allowed the worship of idols at the high places around Jerusalem would not be called a good king. So what is being referred to in the passages referenced above would be the worship of Yahweh at locations other than the temple in Jerusalem. The Books of Chronicles were written after the rediscovery of the Book of the Law (Deuteronomy?) and Josiah's reforms, focusing on centralized worship at a purified temple, and that perspective controlled the writer's interpretation of their national past.

So, for present day application, what would be our equivalent of a high place? Obviously, any idolatry would be covered. Even though we don't tend to worship statues or pillars, any thing, person or object put ahead of God in our priorities becomes an idol. As Luther said, the human heart is an idol factory.

However, a more prevalent problem today, and for many people then, would be worshipping God in an unapproved way.

I've been thinking a lot about the two forms of religion; or I should say the contrast between religion and Gospel spirituality. Religion says "If I, then God." In other words I control, or try to control, my gods (God) by what I do or do not do. The Gospel says "God has, therefore I." All Gospel based spirituality is a response to what He has done and is doing. He has the initiative. We respond to Him. Religion says I live right to get God's blessing and approval. The Gospel says that God the Father has acted in Christ to save me, the Spirit is drawing me now, and I respond to the Triune God's initiative.

Maybe a high place in my life would be any way I worship God not in accord with the Gospel? What if any time I fall into the "if I then God" form of religion instead of "God has therefore I" faith, I am only creating a high place. I may be worshipping the God of the Bible, but doing so in an unapproved way.

What do you think?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year and New Beginnings

I used to find people who spouted what I considered to be trite phrases like "Today is the first day of the rest of your life" to be very irritating - on the same level with those who plastered smiley faces on everything they owned. However, I have since had to repent of that opinion and attitude, because: (a) I realized I was sinfully proud, and (b) I realized that they were right.

For Christians, every day is New Years Day.

How else can you explain the Scripture in Lamentations 3:22-23: "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning;great is your faithfulness." If God's mercies to us are new each morning, then every day is the first day of the rest of my life; every day is new years day. Christ is the God of new creations, new births and new beginnings.

Here's how songwriter Carolyn Arends once put it.

New Year's Day
by Carolyn Arends

I buy a lot of diaries
Fill them full of good intentions
Each and every New Year's Eve
I make myself a list
All the things I'm gonna change
Until January 2nd
So this time I'm making one promise

This will be my resolution
Every day is New Year's Day
This will be my resolution
Every day is New Year's Day

I believe it's possible
I believe in new beginnings
'Cause I believe in Christmas Day
And Easter morning too
And I'm convinced it's doable
'Cause I believe in second chances
Just the way that I believe in you

Last week I wrote that for Christians it is always Christmas. Now I am writing that it is always New Years Day. I'm sorry if this seems trite - but sometimes trite sayings really are true.

Happy New Year to you all- and may each day in it be filled with new beginnings, new possibilities, new joys and new mercies.

All Things New

“There are children of God who need this text, ‘Behold, I make all things new,’ whose sigh is that they so soon grow dull and weary in the ways of God, and therefore they need daily renewing. After a few months a vigorous young Christian will begin to cool down; and those who have been long in the ways of God find that final perseverance must be a miracle if ever it is to be accomplished, for naturally they tire and faint.

Well, now, dear friends, why do you and I ever get stale and flat? Why, it is because we get away from him who says, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’ The straight way to a perpetual newness and freshness of holy youth is to go to Christ again, just as we did at the first. A better thing still is never to leave him, but to stand for ever at the cross-foot delighting yourself in his all-sufficient sacrifice.

They that are full of the joy of the Lord never find life grow weary. Getting near to Christ, you will partake in his joy, and that joy shall be your strength, your freshness, the newness of your life. God grant us to drink of the eternal founts, that we may for ever overflow.”

—Charles Spurgeon, “Sermon for New Year’s Day”

Hat Tip: Of First Importance