Sunday, February 28, 2010

What Is Revival?

Via Justin Taylor's blog- Here's J.I. Packer's answer to the question What Is Revival?
Here is how J. I. Packer answers that question in his essay, “The Glory of God and the Reviving of Religion” in A God-Entranced Vision of All Things (pp. 100-104):

Revival is God touching minds and hearts in an arresting, devastating, exalting way, to draw them to himself through working from the inside out rather than from the outside in.

It is God accelerating, intensifying, and extending the work of grace that goes on in every Christian’s life, but is sometimes overshadowed and somewhat smothered by the impact of other forces.

It is the near presence of God giving new power to the gospel of sin and grace.

It is the Holy Spirit sensitizing souls to divine realities and so generating deep-level responses to God in the form of faith and repentance, praise and prayer, love and joy, works of benevolence and service and initiatives of outreach and sharing.

We need us some of that!

Arminianism and Calvinism for Beginners

For a little theological fun today, check out Arminianism and Calvinism for Beginners at Thinking Out Loud

(It's a joke, son, it's a joke).

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Philippe, The Postmodern Evangelist 

What if Phillip (Acts 8) had been an "emerging" evangelist? The Sacred Sandwich imagines the conversation:
"Once there was a man named Philippe. He was a spiritual guide in an emerging community. One day he decided to go on a journey. So, he did. As he was walking along the road, focusing on the journey and not the destination, he found himself alongside the chariot of an African official. The man in the chariot was reading from a parchment scroll. He was reading aloud, so Philippe was able to overhear what the man read.

“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,
and as a lamb before the shearer is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
Who can speak of his descendants?
For his life was taken from the earth.”

Philippe caught up to the chariot and said, “You read that text beautifully. It made me feel significant and connected to ancient traditions to hear you read it.”

“I just wish I could understand it,” the man replied.

“Understand it? You don’t need to understand it. Just to experience it. Read it again, more slowly this time. I want to hear the poetic forms and imagine myself in the context of the ancient tradition,” said Philippe.

“Who is he talking about?” the man persisted. “Is the prophet writing about himself or about someone else?”

“I think he is writing about all of us,” said Philippe. “I think we are all a part of the larger story.”

“But what story?” asked the official. “It seems to me that the writer is talking about something in particular, and I sense that it is important. I just wish I knew what it was. What exactly does this mean?”

“What do YOU think it means?” asked Philippe.

“I don’t know. That is why I am asking YOU.”

“Well, it is true that I am a Christ-follower, and my tradition does impose certain meanings on this text. But I would not want to force my truth claims on you. Your truth claims would be equally valid. As you see, we are both on a journey; and we both find ourselves on the same road. So, it follows that our destination is also the same. So, let’s just enjoy this time of community and not divide ourselves by discussing meanings and dogma,” said Philippe.

After awhile, they came to a pool of water by the side of the road. There was also a fork in the road at this point, and the official chose the road to the right. Philippe planned to take the road to the left, but first he sat down by the edge of the pool to journal his experiences of the day. He was delighted that he had had an unique opportunity to engage in a dialogue with a person of a culture so diverse from his own.

Meanwhile, the African official went on his way, still searching for the meaning of the text that could have brought him eternal life."

He is Grace

"There is no such ‘thing’ as grace! Grace is not some appendage to His being. Nor is it some substance that flows from us: ‘Let me give you grace.’ All there is is the Lord Jesus Himself. And so when Jesus speaks about us abiding in Him and He abiding in us–however mysterious it may be, mystical in that sense–it is a personal union. Do not let us fail to understand that, at the end of the day, actually Christianity is Christ because there isn’t anything else; there is no atonement that somehow can be detached from who the Lord Jesus is; there is no grace that can be attached to you transferred from Him. All there is is Christ and your soul.”

- Sinclair Ferguson, By Grace Alone: How the Grace of God Amazes Me.
Hat Tip: Miscellanies

Friday, February 26, 2010

Dobson Says Goodbye

Today was Dr. James Dobson's final broadcast as host of the Focus on the Family radio program. He will be missed. From Liveblog | Christianity Today

"After 33 years at Focus on the Family, James Dobson signs off today. This is the final stage of transition for the founder of the organization. Dobson had already stepped down as president of the organization in 2003 and as chairman of the board last year. Focus announced the decision for Dobson to step down last October. Today was his last day as host of the Focus on the Family program.

Speaking to the one million plus listeners, Dobson said, "I love you, and that will not change. And I'm going from here to another responsibility. And please continue to pray for us."

Many listeners returned the sentiment. Over the past two weeks, Focus collected over forty-thousand cards thanking Dobson for his years of service.

Dobson's final broadcast was a chance for him to say good-bye and to receive well-wishes from the Focus leadership. On Monday, Focus on the Family will air a special chapel service where Dobson will say farewell to the minstry's employees."

Goodbye, Dr. Dobson, and thanks for all that you have done for the Christian families of America and the world.

Zealous and Far Away

"There is a lot of zeal today for religion, spirituality, and moral crusades. Yet when we are ignorant of the righteousness that God demands in his law and the righteousness that he gives in the gospel, we are further from his kingdom than the prostitutes and tax collectors (Matt. 21:32). This is the message that the prophets brought and that Jesus proclaimed in his ministry."
- The Gospel-Driven Life, Michael Horton, page 49

Okay, my readers: Have you heard enough yet to get motivated to read this book?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Free Book! Free Book!

For a chance to win a copy of Trevin Waxs' new book Holy Subversion: Allegiance to Christ in an Age of Rivals, enter the drawing at Ex Libris: Review and Giveaway

One copy will be given by a drawing on March 5th. I'm in!

Supporting Actors

"The Bible is not a collection of timeless principles offering a gentile thought for the day. It is not a resource for our self-improvement. Rather, it is a dramatic story that unfolds from promise to fulfillment, with Christ at the center. Its focus is God and his action. Gos is not a supporting actor in our drama; it is the other way around. God does not exist to make sure that we are happy and fulfilled. Rather, we exist to glorify God and enjoy him forever."

- The Gospel Driven Life, Michael Horton, page 26

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

More Than Help

"..But the heart of Christianity is Good News. It comes not as a task for us to do, a mission for us to accomplish, a game plan for us to follow with the help of life coaches, but as a report that someone else has already fulfilled, accomplished, followed and achieved everything for us. Good advice may help us in daily direction, the Good News concerning Jesus Christ saves us from sin's guilt and tyranny over our lives and the fear of death. It is Good News because it does not depend on us. It is about God and his faithfulness to his own purposes and promises."

The Gospel Driven Life, Michael Horton, page 20

Hurt Deeply

“It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until he has hurt him deeply.”
-A. W. Tozer
, The Root of the Righteous

The Journeyman cries OUCH!

Hat Tip: » Must We Be Hurt Deeply to Be Used Significantly?

Leaders Must Be Open About Failure

Here's J. Lee Grady's take on the Benny Hinn divorce story - Private Pain, Public Trust: Why Leaders Must Be Open About Failure

I agree.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The External Word

"The Protestant Reformers comforted anxious believers with the assurance that the gospel lies entirely outside of them. It is an 'external word' spoken by another person to me in the name of Christ. The gospel doesn't depend on anything in me at all; is is an objective completed work. the gospel is entirely outside of you."
- The Gospel Driven Life, Michael Horton, page 26.

This book wasn't on my current reading list as published last week. However, I have wanted to read it for a long time and found it on sale last weekend. So now I am immersed in it and am overwhelmed by the insights into truth I am receiving. Expect more good quotes in coming days.

Why the Son Became a Man

“The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.”

- C.S. Lewis

Hat Tip: Of First Importance

Monday, February 22, 2010

Bible Boring?

Have you ever found the Bible boring?

Oh, come on, admit it. Everyone has a hard time in Leviticus or in one of the long genealogies.

If so, check out this post by Lisa Robinson at Parchment and Pen: Seven Possible Reasons We Find the Bible Boring

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Why People Try to Be Good

"The Christian is in a different position from other people who are trying to be good. They hope, by being good, to please God if there is one; or — if they think there is not — at least they hope to deserve approval from good men. But the Christian thinks any good he does comes from the Christ-life inside him. He does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us; just as the roof of a greenhouse does not attract the sun because it is bright, but becomes bright because the sun shines on it."

- C. S. Lewis

Hat Tip: Christians in Context: from orthodoxy to orthopraxy

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The More Things Change....

Check out the words to these old Methodist revival songs as reported on the Church History Blog.

In Stith Mead’s Methodist songbook, Hymns and Spiritual Songs of 1807, the initial impression of a convert is reported:

‘The Methodists were preaching like thunder all about.
At length I went amongst them, to hear them groan and shout.
I thought they were distracted, such fools I’d never seen.
They’d stamp and clap and tremble, and wail and cry and scream.’

Or how about:

A later Methodist songbook, The Hesperian Harp of 1848, has a dialogue song between a Methodist and a ‘Formalist’.

In this segment we hear the Formalist’s impression of the Christian meeting he attended:

Such groaning and shouting, it sets me to doubting.
I fear such religion is only a dream.

The preachers were stamping, the people were jumping,
And screaming so loud that I nothing could hear….

The men they were bawling, the women were squalling,
I know not for my part how any could pray….

Amid such a clatter who knows what’s the matter?
Or who can attend unto what is declared?

To see them behaving, like drunkards, all raving,
And lying and rolling prostrate on the ground.
I really felt awful, and sometimes felt fearful
That I’d be the next that would come tumbling down.

Maybe the "Toronto Blessing" Renewal wasn't as new a phenomena as most thought?

Guide for Confession in Lent

Worth meditation and regular usage (whether you observe Lent or not): The Litany of Penitence from the Book of Common Prayer.
"Litany of Penitence

Most holy and merciful Father:
We confess to you and to one another,
and to the whole communion of saints 
in heaven and on earth,
that we have sinned by our own fault 
in thought, word, and deed;
by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.

We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind, and
We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
have not forgiven others, as we have been forgiven.
Have mercy on us, Lord.

We have been deaf to your call to serve, as Christ served us.
We have not been true to the mind of Christ.
We have grieved
 your Holy Spirit.
Have mercy on us, Lord.

We confess to you, Lord, all our past unfaithfulness:
pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of our lives,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our self-indulgent appetites and ways,
and our exploitation 
of other people,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our anger at our own frustration,
and our envy of those
 more fortunate than ourselves,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts,
our dishonesty in daily life and work,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our negligence in prayer and worship,
and our failure to
 commend the faith that is in us,
We confess to you, Lord.

Accept our repentance, Lord, for the wrongs we have done:
for our blindness to human need and suffering,
and our 
indifference to injustice and cruelty,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

For all false judgments,
for uncharitable thoughts toward our neighbors,
and for our prejudice and contempt toward those 
who differ from us,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

For our waste and pollution of your creation,
and our lack of
 concern for those who come after us,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

Restore us, good Lord, and let your anger depart from us;
Favorably hear us, for your mercy is great.

Accomplish in us the work of your salvation,
That we may show forth your glory in the world.

By the cross and passion of your Son our Lord,
Bring us with all your saints to the joy of his resurrection."

Hat tip: Guide for Confession in Lent |

Friday, February 19, 2010

He Neither Snickers Nor Sighs

I needed to hear this today:
"When our heavenly Father looks upon the broken mess of our lives, he doesn’t snicker or sigh. He ministers to us a sweeter comfort than any temporary and worldly comfort we’d sought before. We are told by the prophet, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” God doesn’t despise us in our brokenness; he comforts us in it. The greater the brokenness, the greater the impulse to trust him. The greater the trust in him, the greater the joy of his salvation. So, then, the further to the end of ourselves we go, the more of Christ we will enjoy."
From Jared Wilson at The Gospel-Driven Church: Our Father Neither Snickers Nor Sighs

Receiving Grace = Receiving Jesus

Ever heard or used the term "Means of Grace"? Author Sinclair Ferguson said the following regarding the message of his new book, By Grace Alone.

"It is legitimate to speak of “receiving grace,” and sometimes (although I am somewhat cautious about the possibility of misusing language) we speak of the preaching of the Word, prayer, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper as “means of grace.” That is fine, so long as we remember that there isn’t a thing, a substance, or a “quasi-substance” called “grace.” All there is is the person of the Lord Jesus — “Christ clothed in the gospel,” as Calvin loved to put it. Grace is the grace of Jesus. If I can highlight the thought here: there is no “thing” that Jesus takes from Himself and then, as it were, hands over to me. There is only Jesus Himself.

Grasping that thought can make a significant difference to a Christian’s life. So while some people might think this is just splitting hairs about different ways of saying the same thing, it can make a vital difference. It is not a thing that was crucified to give us a thing called grace. It was the person of the Lord Jesus that was crucified in order that He might give Himself to us through the ministry of the Holy Spirit."
Hat tip: “Christ Clothed in the Gospel” « Already Not Yet

Complementarianism: Defining the Issue

I like the definitions offered in this article by Michael Patton at Parchment and Pen answering the question What Complementarianism is Really all About. This makes the issue clear, don't you think?
"Here is what Complementarianism is:

Complementarianism is the belief that men and women have God given differences that are essential to their person. Men and women are ontologically (in their essential nature) equal, but often, functionally, take subordinate roles (like the Trinity). These differences complete or “complement” each other. Due to these differences, there will be some things that women are predisposed and purposed to do more than men. As well, there will be some things that men are predisposed and purposed to do more than women. Therefore, there are ideal roles for both men and women that should be celebrated, exemplified, typified, and promoted in the church, family, and society. To deny these differences is to deny the design of God and thwart his purpose.

Here is what Egalitarianism is:

The belief that God has created men and women equal in all things. Men and women are ontologically and functionally equal. The way the sexes function in the church, society, and the family is determined by individual giftedness, not role distinctions according to the sexes. Therefore, each person should be judged individually when being placed in a particular position. We should exemplify this reality by overcoming the stereotypical placement that has traditionally been a part of societies in human history, thereby giving freedom to individuals to follow the path that God has uniquely created them for, whatever that may be. In doing so, we should no longer educate or indoctrinate according to any of the former stereotypes, including those of basic masculinity and femininity.

These, in my opinion, are the foundational tenants of each position without giving examples on how this plays out in the family, the church, or society."
The entire article is worth close reading. Good job, Michael!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Reading for Survival

Why do you read the Bible? I agree with J. Lee Grady as quoted below:
"What has carried me through this season of transition is the comfort I receive each day from reading my Bible. I don't read it just because Christians are supposed to have a nice devotional life. I read it for survival."
From: Charisma Magazine: The Lord Will Make a ‘Rehoboth' for You

Pastors Playing 21 Questions

Fro all my pastor friends - Do you ask yourself the same questions that Timmy Brister is asking? See -21 Questions I’ve Been Asking (Myself) Lately « Provocations & Pantings:
"1. If our church would cease to exist in our city, would it be noticed and missed?

2. If all the pastors were tragically killed in a car accident, would the church’s ministry cease or fall apart?

3. If the only possible means of connecting with unbelievers were through the missionary living of our church members, how much would we grow? (I ask this because the early church did not have signs, websites, ads, marketing, etc.)

4. What are the subcultures within the church? Do they attract or detract from the centrality of the gospel and mission of the church?

5. Is our church known more for what we are not/against than what we we/for?

6. What are we allowing to be our measuring stick of church health? (attendance vs. discipleship; seating capacity vs. sending capacity; gospel growth, training on mission, etc.)

7. Are the priorities of our church in line with the priorities of Christ’s kingdom?"
And that's only the first seven questions! The article is very thought provoking; read the whole thing at the link above.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Devastating Theological Takedown

Tim Challies' devastating take down of Brian McLaren's newest book A New Kind of Christianity (and the theology behind it) can be found here -A New Kind of Christianity :: books, emergent, reviews :: A Reformed, Christian Blog. His conclusion:

"Here, in A New Kind of Christianity it’s as if McLaren is screaming “I hate God!” at the top of his lungs. And swarms of Christians are looking at him with admiration and saying, “See how that guy loves God?” I don’t know what McLaren could do to make the situation more clear. In fact, his book is nearly indistinguishable from many of the de-conversion narratives that are all the rage today. Compare it with Bart Ehrman’s God’s Problem and you’ll see many of the same arguments and the same misgivings; you’ll find, though, that Ehrman is at least more honest. He at least has the integrity to walk away from faith altogether rather than reinventing God in his own image.

McLaren says he would prefer atheism over belief in the God so many of us see in Scripture. Well, he is not far off. This new kind of Extreme Makeover: God Edition Christianity is no Christianity at all. It is not a faith made in the image of Jesus Christ, but a faith made in the image of a man who despises God and who is hell-bent on dragging others along with him as he becomes his own god."

Well, I guess this is one book that I will not have to spend any time reading. Or, maybe I will read it just to see if it is as bad as Challies claims.

I read, enjoyed and benefited from McLaren's earliest books. They helped me understand postmodernism and our evolving culture, as well as how that changing cultural matrix colors transmission and reception of the message of the Bible. However, over more recent years and his later books (as well as articles and web based writings) I have noticed that McLaren appears to have gone off the deep end theologically, as described by Challies above.

Such a shame.

Update - Kevin DeYoung weighs in:

"Brian McLaren’s latest book, A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith, is two steps forward in terms of clarity and ten steps backward in terms of orthodoxy."

Update - Trevin Wax on Why McLaren's book is good for the "Emerging Church."

"This book will hopefully lead to soul-searching (and maybe even Scripture-searching!) for those who still claim the Emerging label. McLaren’s proposal makes people decide whether they view Christianity the way he does, or whether they stand with Nicea, Chalcedon, and the Reformation. You are either with him or against him."

Can Women Be Head Pastors?

For those of you who are interested in such matters, here's a good expression of the complementarian position on the issue Why Women Cannot Be Head Pastors? by C. Michael Patton.

For what is is worth, I agree with him.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Current Reading List

My Current Reading list:

Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional, by Jim Belcher, IVP Books, 2009

The Holy Wild: Trusting in the Character of God, by Mark Buchanan, Multnomah, 2003

Heresy: A History of Defending the Truth, by Alister McGrath, Harper One, 2009

Feeling The Tug of the Rope

This post by Nate Spencer is so good I am going to print it out, put it in my Bible, and meditate on it over and over - (from Wilderness Fandango: "A multi-thousand year long rope"):
"What Jesus is doing in Luke 22:4-20 is taking a multi-thousand year long rope, and tying it around his waist. Then he's taking the other end, tying a stone to it, and hurling that stone forward in time to the end of history, and he's saying to his church 'grab ahold.' If and when the church holds on to the rope, they are tugged around, shifted, influenced, by his movements. As he goes to the cross, those holding the rope feel the shivers and jerks in the rope as he is beaten relentlessly, dragged up a hill, and nailed to a piece of wood. They feel a series of slightly decreasing tensions and releases as he gasps for his final breaths. If they are holding tightly enough, and solemnly silent enough, they can hear him cry out that he is thirsty.

Have you ever watched someone die? I haven't, but I'm sure I would never be the same. And I'm sure this death, were I watching, would change me like no other. And by practicing the remembrance meal, that is what we do each time: together, we watch the Son of Man die. And each time we die with him. And then, on the third day as the mysterious Church Universal grieves what they have just seen, all of us throughout history will feel a gentle tug on the rope, first imperceptible. Then, unbelievably, we begin being dragged about, with forceful purpose and energy. He's alive, he's strong, and he's shoving the stone out of the way with his bare hands. Incredulous, the church feels the movement and intention of the Risen Glorified Christ as he exits the grave leaving death inside."
If you really grasp this, participating in the Lord's Supper will never be the same experience for you ever again.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Why the Cross Matters

It is always good to be reminded Why the Cross Matters:
"It is at the cross that we see God most clearly. If history were the vastness of space, the cross would be its brightest star. We see the fullness of God’s being most clearly at the cross. We see the fullness of His active purposes most clearly at the cross."

The God of the Dying

"'All the affirmations to God as creator and designer are fine, but it is as the God of the dying that the Christian has a testimony to give that absolutely no one else can give. There is little good news in 'My argument scored more points than your argument.' But the news that 'Christ is risen!' really is Good News for one kind of person: The person who is dying.'"
– Michael Spencer
Hat Tip: The Boar's Head Tavern

Everyone please pray for Michael Spencer (aka the Internet Monk), and for his wife Denise, as Michael continues his fight against cancer.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Apply the Gospel to Everything

“In order to grow in Christlikeness, we’ve got to intentionally apply the gospel to everything we are and everything we long to do. We’re not to sever our obedience from [Christ's] perfect sinlessness nor disconnect our mortal life from his resurrected life. We’ve got to understand ourselves in the light of our new identity, seeing ourselves as we truly are: sinful and flawed, loved and welcomed. Only these gospel realities have enough power to engender faith, kill idolatry, produce character change, and motivate faithful obedience.”
- Elyse Fitzpatrick, Because He Loves Me (Wheaton, Ill.; Crossway Books, 2008), 158."

Hat Tip: Of First Importance

Further Thoughts on Reading (Part 3)

How much and how often should a dedicated reader read? More from Further Thoughts on Reading: Going Deep AND Wide:

"3. Set reasonable goals based on where you are in your life.

My wife’s reading goal will look different than mine. My goal may be different from yours. I suspect that D.A. Carson, Al Mohler and John Piper have very different reading practices.But I still affirm my initial challenge to set a goal for reading. Why? Because you are more likely to read if you set a goal than if you don’t.

Set a reasonable goal and then go for it. If it’s a book a month, so be it! Goal-setting is simply a way of holding yourself accountable to a discipline.

Let’s say you set a goal of 25 books this year (roughly one book every two weeks). It’s possible that you might not make your goal, but I believe that you’ll get closer to that number having set a goal than if you forget the goal and read unintentionally all year long."


Here's some more insight on prayer and spiritual formation from Frederica Mathewes-Green's The Jesus Prayer:

" the Eastern Christian tradition, union with God is the goal for everyone. It is God's will for every Christian, and, through their preaching of the gospel, for every human being. The Purpose of this earthly life is to be saturated with the life of Christ. Everything flows from that, every theological insight, and every effort to help the poor. The idea is that God will fill people with his Son's life, and then they will accomplish his work in the world. It works better that way, actually. The other way round, when people set out to do things for God under their own steam, leads to disappointment, conflict, and wasted effort.

This process of assimilating the presence of God is called theosis (pronounced 'THEH-o-sis"). Theos means "God," and as a cloth soaks up water by osmosis, we are saturated with God through theosis. This indwelling presence heals, restores, and completes us, preparing each of us to take up the role in his kingdom that we alone can fill."

-The Jesus Prayer, page 12.
Oh Lord, I need some more Theosis!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Practicing the Jesus Prayer

I wrote last Saturday about reading the book The Jesus Prayer by Frederica Matthewes-Green.

The "Jesus Prayer" refers to the practice from the Eastern Orthodox tradition of repeating a specific short prayer over and over. The goal is to learn to pray without ceasing ( Eph. 6:18, 1 Thess. 5:16-18) It is used by not only monastics, but by ordinary believers also. The short version of the Jesus Prayer goes like this:

Lord Jesus Christ, Have mercy on me.

There is also a slightly longer version:

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, Have mercy on me, a sinner.

You may wonder how this squares with Jesus' words about "vain repetitions" (Matthew 6:7)? Practitioners would answer that the repetitions are not vain, but packed with meaning. The first three words addressing the Lord are packed with the full meaning of the humanity and divinity of Christ, and the triune nature of the Godhead. The cry for mercy is not just a request for forgiveness for sins, although it certainly is that, but also a cry for healing and deliverance, echoing the cries of those who sought His aid during His earthly ministry (Mt 15:22, Mt. 17:14-15, Mark 10:46-48,Luke 17:11-19).

Those of us from Western Christian spiritual traditions should not be afraid of learning from our eastern brethren, any more than they should be afraid of learning from us. And don't give me any claim that you have no traditions but just read and follow the Bible. Of course you have traditions, no matter how charismatic you are or how Baptist you are, or how non-denominational you are. The way to overcome the blinders of one tradition is not to deny tradition, not to pretend you have no tradition, but to be exposed to multiple traditions.

I have been practicing this prayer form (using the longer version) in my prayer and devotions, and have found it helpful. Anyone else out there having any success using this in your devotional life?

Calvin & Hobbes on Snowman Evolution

On this snowy day in Mississippi (where we rarely get any snow) I can appreciate a good Calvin & Hobbes snow cartoon.

Reading Deep and Wide (Part 2)

Can you read a book too fast, or too slow? Further comments form the excellent post by Trevin Wax Further Thoughts on Reading: Going Deep AND Wide :

"2. You cheat yourself when you read some books too slowly.

Having acknowledged that some books deserve reflection and time, I still believe that many books (if not most) can and should be read more quickly. Not every book is Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress or Bonhoeffer’s Cost of Discipleship.

In the case of many (if not most) books, the reader can quickly come to grips with the main point, consider the author’s perspective, and then move on. Some books deserve careful attention and reflection. But many are practical and easy-to-comprehend. Get what you need and go on.

If you are in a five-star restaurant with a five-course meal, you are foolish if you devour the meal in ten minutes. On the other hand, if you’re in a Steak and Shake, you don’t want to spend three hours on the Frisco Melt. A steak dinner is digested differently than mashed potatoes. You may find you enjoy both meals, but you (hopefully) enjoy them in different ways."

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Jerry Lets It All Hang Out

If you are a lover of rock music (or pop, or R&B, or Gospel) you will love the new book by my good friend Jerry Masters - Hanging From a Tree By My Knees.

Jerry toured and recorded with Ronny and the Daytonas and The Hombres back in the sixties. He worked as a sound engineer at the famous Muscle Shoals, Alabama, recording studio. He mixed music for Lynard Skynard, Bob Segar, Paul Simon, Jerry Lee Lewis, Boz Scaggs, Wilson Pickett, Rita Cooldidge and many of the greatest acts of rock, as well as Black Gospel. Along the way he was also a professional dirt bike racer.

And then one day, he also found Jesus Christ, who turned his life around.

Jerry's life story is fascinating reading. Like the title of his hit song with the Daytonas, he lets it all hang out in this book. I am pleased and proud to call Jerry my friend, and to highly recommend his book.

I should also mention that Jerry's publisher is Crossover Publications, founded by another friend of mine, Randall Mooney. I am blessed to have such friends.

Reading: Deep and Wide (Part 1)

Trevin Wax posted this interesting material on Further Thoughts on Reading: Going Deep AND Wide :
"1. You cheat yourself when you read some books too quickly.

On this point, I agree with the critic who thinks that setting a reading goal could cause you to pass over significant books that deserve much time and close attention.

Speed reading a devotional work, for example, might cause you to miss the purpose of the work. Obviously, the Bible deserves our time and attention. We should concentrate on spending significant time in meditation and reflection when reading God’s Word.

Other books deserve time too. John Owen’s The Mortification of Sin is a classic. Banner of Truth’s recent update makes the language easy to understand, and yet I still spent three months working through that book last fall. Three months well spent, I believe."
Being the reader I am, I couldn't resist this one. More from Trevin's post tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Subtle Bad Theology Worse Than Blatant Bad Theology

For those of you who like Christian radio, especially CCM of the "K-Love" variety, you might need to check this out -Smoking CCM Radio Unfiltered:
"....during a promo between songs, a chipper, female voice said "I like listening to K____ because I don't have to worry about what I'm going to hear". Now I try to give "Christian culture" the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the motives behind our entertainment and marketing, but I could not get this line out of my head. I try to give the benefit of the doubt, but all I hear is "When I turn this station on, I turn my brain off and just set to automatic intake". This flies in the face of the model we have in the Bereans who were commended in the book of Acts for "examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so".

I am making such a big stink for this reason (hear thesis statement): I would suggest that listening to mainstream radio with your guard up and your worldview filter on is safer than listening to Christian radio with your guard down. Subtle, bad theology is more dangerous to unsuspecting Christians than is blatant bad theology."

The Broken Heart of God

No one can break the heart of God like His own people.


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tebow Ad Exposed the Left For Who They Really Are

Well, the Tim Tebow commercial during the Super Bowl seemed rather understated, didn't it?

When I saw it, my first thought was that Focus on the Family and the Tebows had done a real number on the gang from NARAL and NOW. I wonder if it was deliberate?

Think about it. They announce in advance that there will be a pro-life commercial during the game, without much detail on the content. The usual suspects on the left go ballistic, calling the commercial "divisive" without even seeing it. Pam Tebow gets personal attacks and is called a liar. Numerous liberal organizations demand that CBS not air the ad.

Result, the ad ends up being such that no one could be offended. NARAL and NOW look like fools, and are revealed to be, not pro-woman or pro-choice, but pro-abortion (and anti-free speech). Of course, pro-life activists already knew that, but now it is totally obvious to everyone. Even after the ad airs, they are complaining that the play tackle in the spot promotes violence against women! Oh, come on! Score a big one for our side.

Jeff Emanuel at Red State Blog agreed with me that Focus on the Family and Pam Tebow Play the Pro-Abortion Left like a Stradivarius

Our side is winning, and the left knows it (and are very afraid).

What's the Rating On Your Bridge?

Love these profound words on communication and "speaking the truth in love" from Steve Murrell at the reluctant leader:
"Relationships are bridges. Truth is weighty.

The heaver the truth, the stronger the bridge (relationship) must be to transport the truth without a crash.

If the truth is heavy and the bridge is weak, we might need to spend some time strengthening the bridge before we try to transport some heavy truth across it.

Are your relational bridges strong enough to really speak the truth?
Are you building the kind of relationships that can handle the truth?"
Or, as someone once told me, you can't drive a 20 ton truck of truth over a relationship bridge rated for only 10 tons.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Rising Above the Flood

Luther's Prayer

"Behold, Lord, an empty vessel that needs to be filled. My Lord, fill it. I am weak in the faith; strengthen me.
I am cold in love; warm me and make me fervent, that my love may go out to my neighbor.
I do not have a strong and firm faith; at times I doubt and am unable to trust you altogether. O Lord, help me. Strengthen my faith and trust in you.
In you I have sealed the treasure of all I have.
I am poor; you are rich and came to be merciful to the poor.
I am a sinner; you are upright.
With me, there is an abundance of sin; in you is the fullness of righteousness.
Therefore I will will remain with you, of whom I can receive, but to whom I may not give.
And a hearty Amen from the Journeyman.

Hat Tip: Internet Monk

Sunday, February 7, 2010

An Important Day on the Church Calendar

This is an important day on the church least in the USA. Go Saints!

Hat Tip to Internet Monk for the cartoon.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


As is canvas to the artist, and to potter is the clay
I was made to please Another, and to learn to walk His way.
For in dying there is winning: I will lose my life this day
to be found in Him forever, faithful come what may.

For you are worthy, Lord of Glory to be worshipped and adored!
For your pleasure I am purposed, for your glory Sovereign Lord!


This is part of a song I wrote 20 years ago. I can't remember the rest of it, and I probably got some of the words wrong, or at least not as originally written. If anyone who knew me back in Maryland in the 80's has the words to this song, please let me know!

Expanding Horizons

It is a good thing to expand ones reading horizons beyond your usual and normal spiritual grazing grounds. Charismatics should also read conservative Evangelicals, Baptists should also read Lutherans, Reformed believers should read Catholic devotional authors, etc. And all of us from the western traditions need to be exposed to eastern Christianity.

I've recently been reading a book on Eastern Orthodox spirituality, The Jesus Prayer by Frederica Matthewes-Green. Here's an excerpt from the introduction.
"...the very fact that you want to know God's presence means you're already sensing something. Think about it. How many people never give God a second thought? How many people sleep in on Sunday morning, and never open up a Bible or send up a prayer? But you're not like that; you really want to be closer to the Lord. My hunch is that you are already sensing something of God's presence, or you wouldn't care.

Here's a homely analogy: picture yourself walking around a shopping mall, looking at people and the window displays. Suddenly, you get a whiff of cinnamon. You weren't even hungry, but now you really crave a cinnamon roll. This craving isn't something you made up. There you were, minding your own business, when some drifting molecules of sugar, butter, and spice collided with a susceptible patch inside your nose. You had a real encounter with cinnamon - not a mental delusion, not an emotional projection, but the real thing.

And what was the effect? You want more, now. And if you hunger to know the presence of God, it's because, I believe, you have already begun to scent its compelling delight."

(The Jesus Prayer, page xiv.)
I can certainly agree with everything written above. And now I am hungry (and not for cinnamon rolls!).

Friday, February 5, 2010

If Jack Bauer Was My Pastor

Here's a little Friday morning humor for all you "24" fans from The Blazing Center asking the provocative question - What If Jack Bauer Was My Pastor

What would his church be like? His counseling sessions? Here’s what I think it would be like…

  • Counseling sessions would be fast. Really fast. Because he only has two minutes, and you better tell him what’s going on or he’s going to mash your knee with his oversized Bible.
  • He would scream the word “now” a lot. As in, “Tell me why you were impatient with your wife. NOW!”
  • Every counseling session would end with a confession, because Pastor Jack can pull a confession out of anybody. Even if you didn’t do it.
  • In every elders meeting Jack would inform the elders that “he did what he had to”.
  • He would answer every theological question the same way: “It’s complicated…”
  • He would probably fake his death several times as sermon illustrations.
  • Scripture references in sermons would be called “backup”.
  • The church would meet in an abandoned warehouse. The ushers would also be snipers and would establish a perimeter around the building.
  • At least three times a week Jack would be misunderstood by his congregation and have to go “dark” until he could clear his name.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Radical Problem, Radical Solution

Below is more great stuff on Luther and his radical message of grace from Timothy Dalrymple's series at Parchment and Pen. (The picture to the right is entitled "Lord Save Me" based on the Gospel story of Peter and Jesus walking on the water. As the quote below shows, we really do need Jesus to save us!)

"Sin, as Luther came to understand it, is “radical,” and like a twisted root it perverts everything that flows from it. Sin is, at its heart, an attempt to establish our own righteousness before God. As Luther writes in his justification for this thesis, “To trust in works, which one ought to do in fear, is equivalent to giving oneself the honor and taking it from God, to whom fear is due in connection with every work. But this is completely wrong, namely to please oneself, to enjoy oneself in one’s works, and toadore oneself as an idol.”

The problem is not that we sin; it is that we are sinners, that we are corrupted through and through with selfishness and pride. Even when we do things that might be perceived by the world as ethical and right, we do them in sin, in a sinful bid to justify ourselves before God. The righteous can only act righteously by depending upon God and remaining constantly aware that their own actions do not make them righteous, but they are righteous solely through God’s grace in Christ.

Yet this will not be the end of the story. Although Luther came to a profound sense of sin, his sense of God’s grace, not coincidentally, was equally profound."

The Radical Luther

I've been enjoying and benefiting from the series of posts at Parchment and Pen by Timothy Dalrymple on the great Reformer Martin Luther's understanding of law and grace and the cross. (My previous posts based on this series are here and here)

Think on this:

The radicality of Luther’s claim may take some time to sink in. Consider what it means. Sometimes we might imagine that obedience and being “a good person” advance a person 80% of the way to righteousness, and faith in God’s grace spans the 20% gap. Or perhaps we imagine that our own efforts get us 20% of the way and God’s grace covers the remaining 80%. In either case, we believe that we are capable of fulfilling the law in part, and require divine grace only because we cannot perfectly or completely fulfill it.

Luther rejects this view, and goes further. Not only does the Law (not to mention an ethical system devised by men according to their own “natural precepts”) fail to deliver us all the way to righteousness—it fails to advance us at all. And not only does the Law fail to advance us to righteousness at all—it actually forms a hindrance!

Why should this be? We refrain from adultery and murder; we give to do the needy; we do what we believe God wants of us. Are we not, at least partly, fulfilling the Law?

The problem is this: even when we do the right things, we do them for the wrong reasons and in the wrong ways. As long as we are striving to be righteous before God according to our own terms, we are already rejecting God’s grace and insisting on our own self-sufficiency. Any attempt to fulfill the law as a means to righteousness before God, no matter how attractive the action itself might be, is a transgression against God. Only the person who has already humbled himself to receive God’s grace can use the law of God properly. For him, the law is a “salutary” or helpful guide to life, a “doctrine” for how he can express his love for God in the world.

Even if we do fulfill the Law in part, we are not advancing at all toward righteousness before God. We are falling further away, because we are only entrenching ourselves more deeply in the presumption that we can justify ourselves before God. For the unredeemed, then, the Law does not advance us toward righteousness but convicts us of sin and our need for grace.

Thinking the concepts presented above through until full understanding could keep me occupied for days!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

One Feminist Sees the Light

As many of you may know, a pro-life advertisement will be broadcast during the Super Bowl next Sunday, featuring University of Florida football star Tim Tebow and his mother, Pam. He's the Heisman Trophy winner who is famous for showing Scripture references in his under-eye face paint during nationally televised football games.

When Pam Tebow was pregnant with Tim, she was advised by her doctor to abort. She chose not to, and look what that then unborn child has become.

Much attention has been brought to the ad in advance of its airing due to the reaction of the gang from the National Organization for Women (NOW), who apparently think pro-life views should never be heard in America. They are demanding that CBS not show the ad during the game because it is too divisive!

Those kind of responses from the left have become routinely expected, unfortunately. Apparently the "ladies" at NOW just cannot see how silly and bigoted their actions look to normal people, even those who are not convinced pro-lifers. However, one pro-choice feminist, Sally Jenkins at the Washington Post (of all places), can see it. Here is what she said.
"I'll spit this out quick, before the armies of feminism try to gag me and strap electrodes to my forehead: Tim Tebow is one of the better things to happen to young women in some time. I realize this stance won't endear me to the "Dwindling Organizations of Ladies in Lockstep," otherwise known as DOLL, but I'll try to pick up the shards of my shattered feminist credentials and go on.

I'm pro-choice, and Tebow clearly is not. But based on what I've heard in the past week, I'll take his side against the group-think, elitism and condescension of the "National Organization of Fewer and Fewer Women All The Time." For one thing, Tebow seems smarter than they do.

Tebow's 30-second ad hasn't even run yet, but it already has provoked "The National Organization for Women Who Only Think Like Us" to reveal something important about themselves: They aren't actually "pro-choice" so much as they are pro-abortion. Pam Tebow has a genuine pro-choice story to tell. She got pregnant in 1987, post-Roe v. Wade, and while on a Christian mission in the Philippines, she contracted a tropical ailment. Doctors advised her the pregnancy could be dangerous, but she exercised her freedom of choice and now, 20-some years later, the outcome of that choice is her beauteous Heisman Trophy winner son, a chaste, proselytizing evangelical.

Pam Tebow and her son feel good enough about that choice to want to tell people about it. Only, NOW says they shouldn't be allowed to. Apparently NOW feels this commercial is an inappropriate message for America to see for 30 seconds, but women in bikinis selling beer is the right one. I would like to meet the genius at NOW who made that decision. On second thought, no, I wouldn't."

I tell you, folks, we are winning! More and more Americans are seeing the light.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Stay Outward Focused

From Ed Stetzer comes this challenge to all of us, whatever of the Christian tribe(s) we call home, to be more outward focused.
"So, my Reformed friends, let's not only read 1st, 2nd, and 3rd John (that is, John Calvin, John MacArthur, and John Piper), let's go plant some more churches. My emerging church friends, let's take a pause from the theological rethink and head into the neighborhood and to tell someone about Jesus. My missional friends, let's speak of justice, but always tell others how God can be both 'just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.' My house church friends, let's have community, but let's be sure it is focused on redemption. My Baptist friends, let's focus more on convincing pagans than Presbyterians. And, my charismatic friends, let's focus less on getting existing believers to speak in tongues and more on using our tongue to tell others about Jesus.

Now, I know the preceding paragraph will tick some of you off--and, I am trying to be a bit edgy while making a point. But, let me suggest you be less offended at my words and more focused on Jesus' words: Go therefore and make disciples of nations.

If you are passionate about what you believe you will naturally want others to 'get it' as you have. For example, you would not be a very good charismatic if you did not want me to be baptized in the Spirit. However, I think it is unhelpful that so many Reformed, emerging, missional, denominational, Baptist, house church, charismatic, and every other kind of Christian spends more energy persuading other believers than they do reaching non-believers."
Well, I haven't read any of the "Johns'" but do fall somewhat in the Reformed tribe. I also fit in the charismatic camp, and grew up and was educated in the Baptist denomination. I've even been in a house church, and I've read some of the emerging books. And I think he is right- Our true call is to bring people to Jesus, not to just shuffle people around among our tribes.

Hat Tip: Vitamin Z