Sunday, December 31, 2006

What Does Life Mean to One Who Was Dead?

I'm just returning from a one week vacation for Christmas. We had a fabulous time with friends and family. Being an emergent at heart... :) I gave my wife a ring with the Chai symbol on it. This holds special significance for our family to remind us of the grace of God. Along with the ring I gave her a plaque with this written on it to explain the significance of the ring.

Eph. 2:5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),

Chai (hai) is Hebrew for life. What does life mean to one who’s dead? To stand before the casket and to ask such a question would be a foolish query. For he will offer no response, as he desires nothing and nothing tickles his senses. Indeed the weight of death is on all who stand near. The finality and futility of his position offers a chill reminder of the finitude of life. He cannot taste the sweetness of the pleasures of the living. He cannot see the vibrant colors of vitality of or feel the breath of companionship. No glorious note can strike his ear. One who is dead before God, shares a similar state. He has no claim in the land of the living, no means to comprehend the grace that strikes his eyes. The sun to him is heat to burn, and light to blind. The wind is destruction and the rain a flood. He carries the awful heaviness of the guilt of condemnation and separation which is upon every man who is apart from Christ. But one who is alive truly shares dual citizenship, lives in two worlds. His Spirit, lifted with wings not his own, lives in a world where complexities and contradictions have their resolution. He sees the dim reflection of God in the tiny drop of dew. The rocks and hills become shafts of glory as they strike his sensibilities. But far above these signs of glory is the satisfying well of water which satiates his deepest thirst…to know Him. For to the one who’s living, to live is Christ and to die is gain. Tribulation, famine, sword, or peril cannot quell the joy that is found in Christ. It was He who first passed through the fire of the realm of the prince of this air. As the scriptures tell “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” He who made himself low to become a servant, he resisted the alluring laurels of pride. “Who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” This man is worthy of commendation and praise. It was He who ransomed us out of our enslavened state with his scandalous death. It is only He who can offer reconciliation and justification to those who believe. Who can comprehend that this man has bestowed on us, undeserving as we were, the spiritual treasuries of heaven. No greater gift has ever been given. We have both here and forever life of sublime joy, faithful companionship, and perfect peace. So you ask what does “life” mean to one who was dead? It is taste and sight and breath and warmth. It is hope which will never leave us ashamed, the blessings of Christ. The day will come when we with hearts full of faith and hope will stand before the King of kings and he will say with outstretched arms, “enter into the joy of your master.” So I say to you, “O taste and see that the LORD is good” for He has made us alive.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Friday is for Photos

What a powerful testimony to the inexpressible majesty of our God. Truly his power makes me feel frightfully small.

Which by his strength setteth fast the mountains; being girded with power:
Psalm 65:6



These photos must not be used for commercial purposes.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

"Anytime a Catholic converts to a fundamentalist Evangelical denomination, 'Even the altar cries,' and so should we."

The paper is trying to deal with this sentiment: “When we need a labor union we go to our parish priest; when we need the word of God we go to the Protestant pastor,”



Interesting to note thier understanding of the Church's mission:
Thus, Evangelii Nuntiandi expresses a truth about the Church and her purpose, which is not new, but rather exists since the evangelistic mission of Christ himself and it is the continuing mission of the Church, which he established through the apostles, and the power of the Holy Spirit...The question becomes then, what exactly does the Church mean by “evangelization?” While the term is multivalent in terms of meaning and interpretation, the Church is clear in what it principally means:
During the Synod, the bishops very frequently referred to this truth: Jesus Himself, the Good News of God, was the very first and the greatest evangelizer; He was so through and through: to perfection and to the point of the sacrifice of His earthly life. To evangelize: what meaning did this imperative have for Christ? It is certainly not easy to express in a complete synthesis the meaning, the content and the modes of evangelization as Jesus conceived it and put it into practice. In any case the attempt to make such a synthesis will never end. Let it suffice for us to recall a few essential aspects. As an evangelizer, Christ first of all proclaims a kingdom, the kingdom of God; and this is so important that, by comparison, everything else becomes “the rest,” which is given in addition. Only the kingdom therefore is absolute and it makes everything else relative. The Lord will delight in describing in many ways the happiness of belonging to this kingdom (a paradoxical happiness which is made up of things that the world rejects), the demands of the kingdom and its Magna Charta, the heralds of the kingdom, its mysteries, its children, the vigilance and fidelity demanded of whoever awaits its definitive coming. (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 7 & 8)
Read the whole article

Mark 9: Biblical Understanding of Leadership


9 Marks of a Healthy Church, by Mark Dever

It's really difficult for me to put a quotation up with regard to Mark Dever's 9th Mark without context. I will say, the chapter is written to a mixed audience with regard to church polity and he argues for the Baptistic positions of two offices and congregational authority. But he argues that a church should have a multiplicity of elders. He does not see the necessity that all elders be supported full time by the church, but likes the idea of "having them be people rooted in the congregation." He does say this regarding the distinction between "elder" and "deacon:"
Many modern churches have tended to confuse elders with either the church staff or the deacons. Deacons, too, fill a New Testament office, one rooted in Acts 6. While any absolute distinction between the two offices is difficult, the concerns of the deacons are the practical details of the church life: administration, maintenance, and the care of church members with physical needs. In many churches today, deacons have taken some spiritual role; but much has simply been left to the pastor. It would be to the benefit of the church to again distinguish the role of elder from that of deacon.

Eldership is the biblical office I hold as a pastor: I am the main preaching elder. But all the elders should work together for the edification of the church, meeting regularly to pray and to discuss, or to form recommendations for the deacons or the church. Clearly, this is a biblical idea that has practical value. If implemented in our churches, it could help pastors immensely by removing weight from their shoulders and even their own petty tyrannies from their churches. Indeed, the practice of recognizing godly discerning, trusted laymen as elders is another mark of a healthy church.

I would encourage you to visit his website for more information. What are your thoughts?

(As a post script, I asked Dr. John Hartog what he thought of the idea and he stated simply that he doesn't see the case for "lay eldership." He cited, 1 Timothy 5:8 "For the Scripture says, 'YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING,' and 'The laborer is worthy of his wages.'")

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Brian McLaren and the Clarity of Scripture (Part 2)

Brian McLaren and the Clarity of Scripture (Part 2)

(By John MacArthur)

This article is adapted from the Fall issue of The Master’s Seminary Journal. The full text of this article can be read by obtaining a copy of the journal.

2. McLaren and Interpretive Complexity

Second, McLaren sees such incredible degrees of complexity, with even the most straightforward biblical teachings, that he hopelessly obscures what the Bible makes simple. One example, of many possible, would be his vacillation with regard to homosexuality. Though the issue is clear cut in Scripture (Gen. 19; Lev. 18:22; Rom. 1:26–27; 1 Cor. 6:9–11; cf. Gal. 5:19–21; Eph. 5:3–5; 1 Tim. 1:9, 10; Jude 7), McLaren remains unsure. He writes,

Frankly, many of us don’t know what we should think about homosexuality. We’ve heard all sides but no position has yet won our confidence so that we can say “it seems good to the Holy Spirit and us.” That alienates us from both the liberals and conservatives who seem to know exactly what we should think. Even if we are convinced that all homosexual behavior is always sinful, we still want to treat gay and lesbian people with more dignity, gentleness, and respect than our colleagues do. If we think that there may actually be a legitimate context for some homosexual relationships, we know that the biblical arguments are nuanced and multilayered, and the pastoral ramifications are staggeringly complex. We aren’t sure if or where lines are to be drawn, nor do we know how to enforce with fairness whatever lines are drawn. (Online Source)
Read On

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Brian McLaren and the Clarity of Scripture (Part 1)

Brian McLaren and the Clarity of Scripture (Part 1)
(By John MacArthur)

The doctrine of the clarity (or perspicuity) of Scripture (that the central message of the Bible is clear and understandable, and that the Bible itself can be properly interpreted in a normal, literal sense) has been a cornerstone of evangelical belief ever since the Reformation.

The dominant Roman Catholic idea had been that the Bible was obscure and difficult to understand. But the Reformers disagreed, arguing instead that anyone who could read could understand biblical teaching. Rather than limiting biblical interpretation to the clergy or the Magisterium, the Reformers encouraged lay Christians to study and interpret God’s Word on their own. All of this was premised on the Reformed belief that the Bible itself was inherently clear, and that God had been able to communicate His message to men in an understandable fashion. As Luther explained to Erasmus:

But, if many things still remain abstruse to many, this does not arise from obscurity in the Scriptures, but from [our] own blindness or want [i.e. lack] of understanding, who do not go the way to see the all-perfect clearness of truth…. Let, therefore, wretched men cease to impute, with blasphemous perverseness, the darkness and obscurity of their own heart to the all-clear scriptures of God…. If you speak of the internal clearness, no man sees one iota in the Scriptures but he that hath the Spirit of God…. If you speak of the external clearness, nothing whatever is left obscure or ambiguous; but all things that are in the Scriptures, are by the Word brought forth into the clearest light, and proclaimed to the whole world. (Bondage of the Will, 25-29)
Read On

Mark 8: A Concern for Promoting Christian Discipleship and Growth


Quotes from 9 Marks of a Healthy Church, by Mark Dever
Another distinguishing mark of a healthy church is a pervasive concern with church growth--not simply with growing numbers, but with growing members. Some today think that one can be a "baby Christian" for a whole life-time. Growth is seen to be an optional extra for particularly zealous disciples. But growth is a sign of life. Growing trees are living trees, and growing animals are living animals. Growth involves increase and advance. In many areas of our experience, when something stops growing it dies.

Paul hoped the Corinthians would grow in the Christian faith (2 Corinthians 10:15). The Ephesians, he hoped, would "grow up into him who is the Head, that is Christ" (Ephesians 4:15; cr. Colossians 1:10; 2 Thessalonians 1:3). Peter exhorted some early Christians to, "like newborn babes, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation" (1 Peter 2:2). It is tempting for pastors to reduce their churches to manageable statistics of attendance, baptisms, giving and membership, where growth is tangible; however, such statistics fall far short of true growth which Paul describes and God desires.

Link to 9marks.org

Monday, December 18, 2006

House-Keeping Notes

The other users on this blog will be asked to switch their accounts to Beta accounts in order to post on this blog. It’s a very simple process. Also I wanted to highlight the Weekly Links sidebar because I do update it, and I’m not sure if anyone pays attention…


***The Beta Update is very cool indeed. The coolest feature is the "Tag Cloud" I've inserted at the bottom of the page. The tags will make it so that we can review things we've addressed before. Aside from that a lot of the upgrades are more technical. But also nice is the new archive. It has collapsible months that show the post titles.***

Mark 7: Biblical Understanding of Church Discipline

It comes as a surprise to many today to learn that God intends others to judge as well. The state is given responsibility to judge (see Romans 13). We are told to judge ourselves (see 1 Corinthians 11:28; Hebrews 4; 2 Peter 1:5). We are also told to judge one another in the church (though not in the final way God judges). Jesus' words in Matthew 18, Paul's in 1 Corinthians 5-6, and many other passages clearly show that the church is to exercise judgment within itself and that this judgment is for redemptive, not revengeful purposes (Romans 12:19). In the case of the adulterous man in Corinth, and of the false teachers in Ephesus, Paul said that they should be excluded from the church and handed over to Satan so that they might be taught better and so that their souls might be saved (1 Corinthians 5; 1 Timothy 1).

...
One church growth writer has recently summed up his advice on helping a church to grow: "Open the front door and close the back door." By this, he means that we should work to make the church more accessible to people and to do a better job of follow-up. Both of these goals are good. Yet, most pastors today already aspire to have churches with such front doors open and back doors closed. Instead, attempting to follow a biblical model should lead us to this strategy: "Close the front door and open the back door." In other words, make it difficult to join on the one hand, and easier to be excluded on the other. Such actions will help the church to recover its divinely intended, winsome distinction from the world.

This discipline should be first reflected in the way we as churches take in new members. Do we ask that those becoming members be known to us to be living Christ-honoring lives? Do we understand the seriousness of the commitment that we are making to them and that they are making to us? If we are more careful about how we recognize and receive new members, we will have less occasion to practice corrective church discipline later.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Fox News: "Primary Problem"

So Molly and I made Fox News this week.

Check out the link. Click on "Primary Problem."


So What Are You Reading?

You know mine; they're on the sidebar.

Green Letters (very slowly)
Thus Spoke Zarathustra
Silmarilian
Living Proof

How about you?

Introducing the ECM (Part 8): Does the ECM have anything right?

(ht: Ben Wright)
They are right to point out that millions of American evangelicals live lives of gross hypocrisy and narcissism, ignoring the needs of the poor while indulging themselves with entertainments and luxuries while the church struggles, and many pastors live barely above the poverty level (if that), and our Christian brothers and sisters struggle in many parts of the world because they don’t even have clean water or basic medical care. We have the resources, and yet we are too prone to spend them on ourselves. I often think American evangelicals will have a lot to answer for when we are called to give account for our stewardship.


Read on

"Vulgarity"

There are some interesting conversations going on over at SharperIron concerning "vulgarity." They revolve around John MacArthur's article posted here.

The discussion starts here.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

David Alan Black on the EC

Some time ago we briefly hacked through Scot McKnight's famous lecture on the emerging church. David Alan Black (Using New Testament Greek in Ministry, etc.) added his own thoughts regarding the emerging church. It's brief but beneficial.

You can read it here.

Dever with Thabiti Anyabwile

Mark Dever recently interviewed former member of Capital Hill Baptist, Thabiti Anyabwile. I haven't listened to this yet, but I know this is going to be good.












Click to listen

Friday, December 08, 2006

A Noble Lie

Ravi Zacharias quoted an article by George Cornell who wrote for the Houston Post July 27, 1991 an article called "Philosopher Says the World Desperately Needs a Nobel Lie." In this article Cornell cites Loyal D. Rue a professor from Luther College. Ravi reads the following Cornell citing of Rue speaking to The American Association of the Advancement of Science:
"It remains for the artists, the poets, the novelists, the musicians, the filmmakers, the trickster, the masters of illusion to winch us toward our salvation by seducing us to embrace a noble lie," he told the scientific meeting. "Perhaps" he said in an interview, "it is possible to rework, transpose the Judeo Christian tradition to make it plausible again. In any case the illusion must be so compelling and so imaginative that it can't be resisted, so beautiful and satisfying that all will feel they have to accept it" he told the meeting. "What I mean by the noble lie is one that deceives us, tricks us, compels us beyond self interest, beyond ego, beyond family, nation, or race, that will deceive us into the view that our moral discourse must serve the interest not only of ourselves and each other but of those of the earth as well."

Read the Oxford Book Review

Listen to Ravi's Message

What could possibly be more beautiful and compelling than the truth? That's the incredible irony of it all. The gospel is such that the problems of meaning and evil are ultimately answered with sheer finality in God himself. Christ's death and resurrection are the apex of all humanity and the inexpressible hope of all who believe. Unlike other world religions which preserve the sovereignty of man in that men must do something to be acceptable to God, Christianity alone gives all the glory to a being outside of ourselves. Furthermore, we find infinite satisfaction in giving him our praise and devotion.

2 Corinthians 5:21 - He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

http://www.rzim.org/

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Mark 6: A Biblical Understanding of Church Membership

Uninvolved members confuse both real members and non-Christians about what it means to be a Christian. And "active" members do the voluntarily "inactive" members no service when they allow them to remain members of the church; for membership is the church's corporate endorsement of a person's salvation. Again, this must be clearly understood: membership in a church is that church's corporate testimony to the individual member's salvation. Yet how can a congregation honestly testify that someone invisible to it is faithfully running the race? If members have left our company and have not gone to any other Bible-believing church, what evidence do we give that they were ever part of us? We do not necessarily know that such uninvolved people are not Christians; we may simply be unable to affirm that they are. We don't have to tell them that we know they're going to Hell, only that we can't tell them that we know they are going to Heaven.
A recovered practice of careful church membership will have many benefits. It will make our witness to non-Christians more clear. It will make it more difficult for weaker sheep to go straying from the fold, while still considering themselves sheep. It will help to give shape and focus to the discipleship of more mature Christians. It will aid our church leaders in knowing exactly who they are responsible for. In all of this, God will be glorified.

Pray that church membership may come to mean something more than it currently does, so that we can better know those for whom we're responsible, so that we can pray for them, encourage them and challenge them. We should not allow people to keep their membership in our churches for sentimental reasons. Considered biblically, such membership is no membership at all.

In the "Questions for Reflection" is this further explanation:
Church membership, the author writes, is a church's corporate testimony to an individual member's salvation. Read Hebrews 13:17. The Bible teaches that church leaders will be required to "give an account" for those under their care. Do you think this "account" will simply be a statement that a person once made a decision for Christ, or is it a knowledgeable testimony that a person is faithfully bearing fruit in the gospel? How does this affect our understanding of who should be on our membership rolls?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Mark 5: A Biblical Understanding of Evangelism

From Nine Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever
If conversion is understood as merely a sincere commitment made once, then we need to get everyone to that point of verbal confession and commitment any way we can. Biblically, though, while we are to care, to plead, and to persuade, our first duty is to be faithful to the obligation we have from God, which is to present the same Good News that He's given to us. God will bring conversions from our presenting the Good News (see John 1:13; Acts 18:9-10).

It is heartening how new Christians often seem innately aware of the gracious nature of their salvation. Probably you have heard testimonies, even in the last few weeks or months, which remind you that conversion is the work of God. "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not of yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9).

If a church's membership is markedly larger than its attendance, the question should be asked: does that church have a biblical understanding of conversion? Furthermore, we should ask what kind of evangelism has been practiced that would result in such a large number of people who are uninvolved in the life of the church, and yet consider their membership in good standing an evidence of their own salvation? Has the church objected in any way, or has it seemed to condone this situation by silence? Biblical church discipline is part of the church's evangelism.

Can There Be Two Quotes of the Day?


(ht: Pyromaniacs)
When the Spirit of God goes away from a Church it is a fine thing for oratory, because then it is much more assiduously cultivated. When the Spirit of God is gone, then all the ministers become exceedingly learned, for not having the Spirit they need to supply the emptiness his absence has made, and then the old-fashioned Bible is not quite good enough; they must touch it up a bit and improve upon it, and the old doctrines which used to rejoice their grandmothers at the fire-side are too stale for them; they must have an improved and a new theology, and young gentlemen now-a-days show their profound erudition by denying everything that is the ground, and prop, and pillar of our hope, and starting some new will-o'-the-wisp which they set their people staring at."

Spurgeon

Quote of the Day

Out of this apparently innocent idea comes the disease that will certainly end our species (and, in my view, damn our souls) if it is not crushed; the fatal superstition that man can create values; that a community can choose its ideology as men choose their clothes. Everyone is indignant when he hears the German define justice as that which is to the interest of the Third Reich. But it is not always remembered that this indignation is perfectly groundless if we ourselves regard morality as a subjective sentiment to be altered at will…unless we return to the crude and nursery-like belief in objective truth, we perish.”
- C.S. Lewis

(ht: Boar's Head)

Piper on Piper


John Piper addresses the common objections to his teaching.
  1. Does the Bible really teach that?
  2. What about Self Denial?
  3. Doesn't that put to much emphasis on emotions?
  4. What about the nobel concept of duty and serving God?
  5. Doesn't that make you the center of the universe and not God?


By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: http://www.desiringgod.org/. Email: mail@desiringGod.org. Toll Free: 1.888.346.4700.

Monday, December 04, 2006

The Importance of Biblical Theology in Preaching

Just a quick link: Eucatastrophe

I do like this blog. I'm excited to hear that he is going to post more when the semester is over.

Graeme Goldsworthy writes:
1. Congregations will not understand the unity of the Bible or the progressive nature of revelation. They will fall prey to those proclaiming the disunity of the biblical message; and a fragmented Bible cannot be recognized as the inspired word of God.

2. Congregations will not understand the centrality of Christ for interpreting Scripture and the meaning of life in our world. Recourse to people and events—particularly those of the Old Testament—will be valued mainly for their exemplary lessons, and not for their typological contribution to understanding the person and work of Christ. They will not see that Christ in his gospel is the interpreting principle for Scripture and, indeed, for all reality.

3. Grace will be eroded by legalism. Preaching that principally points to the examples of Bible characters leads almost inevitably to legalism since the connection with the gospel of grace will be clouded or even completely lost.
Read on

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Pauline Gospel in a Postmodern World

#1 Dali, #2 Rodin












#3 Kiefer, #4 Basquiat












# 5 Woods

#6 Techno Buddha, #7 Derrida












Dr. Paul on The Pauline Gospel in a Postmodern World
This is excellent. I think I am matching the pictures to his powerpoint slides. Let me know if you were there and I am wrong. There is much here to chew on. Click on the thumbnails to enlage.

In Our Own Boozy Way

Quote of the day

***This was quoted by Dr. Paul Hartog in a message that will come tomorrow. You'll want to hear it.***

Debates with Christians who embrace pop culture are frequently hamstrung by the tenacity with which they insist on discussing the audible sound only, and never the actual meaning of the word. Modern evangelicals have a clear eye this way; they have a true imitative genius. They can copy anything the world produces, down to slightest flourish or embellishment. Whether trafficking in guitar licks or designer logos, they can always ape the real thing with exactitude. The only thing they don’t know is what it all means. Modern evangelicals are like a drunk Japanese businessman in a kareoke bar singing along with the Stones. In his own boozy way, he knows everything about the song except what it is about.

Although I do not espouse a high culture view of aesthetics, I grow increasingly concerned that Christians, when liberally embracing anything and everything do not fully comprehend the worldviews they embrace. Too often those who exploit the spirit of the age are exploited by it. So back to blogging...