Monday, February 27, 2006

A Man of No Reputation

All of us, to some degree desire to be known. Some of us want to be "great" in reputation or importance. Others just simply want to be noticed. I was struck by a verse today from Philippians 2, "Philippians 2:5-8 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, 8 he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." (v. 5-8). The NKJ beautifully translates v. 7, "he made himself of no reputation..."

We are faced with a very practical question, "Do we seek to be people of no reputation, who are nothing, emptied.....?" Any attempt to gain glory or fame inevitably begins to compete with God, for His glory. I have to ask myself, "Where in my life do I seek to be a man of no reputation?"

Rich Mullins' last CD, sung by his band after his death, has a song, "Man of No Reputation". I recommend it on the Jesus CD. Rich could never finish the song, his band said, because he would always start crying. Are we likewise awed by his humiliation? Are we drawn to it or repulsed by it?

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Some thoughts on Election

By "election", I'm referring to the doctrine that God sovereignly and gracious chooses those who will be saved. That is, it's not people who ultimately choose God, but God who elects His people.

I recently talked with a dear brother about this wonderful doctrine, though it is reviled by so many in our day. Some call it "Calvinism". Whatever the term and connotations fortunately or unfortunately attached to it, we find it littered in Scripture (Romans 9; 1 Corinthians 1; Ephesians 1, etc.) Anyway, I find it one of the most refreshing and joy-inspiring doctrines in Scripture, even if it is hard to sometimes grasp intellectually or emotionally at times.

I wanted to simply offer a few thoughts that sometimes prevent good thinking and openness of this doctrine of grace (after all, that's what it is).

We typically make a very unfortunate dichotomy between God's love and his justice. We only look at one and ignore completely the other, even despising it sometimes. For example often yell about the love of God and whisper about the justice of God. We are in love with ourselves and are pretty clueless about the depth of our sin. As a result, we just expect that God would save everyone and are suprised to hear that God would condemn people. When you read the Bible, however, we see a very different perspective. They are so very aware of their sin and the wrath that ought to be justly poured out on them. They are surprised by the grace of God, not the wrath of God.

This makes all the difference, especially when understanding election; after all, since we're all sinners, we would expect a just God to condemn all. It should be surprising and a shocking act of grace if God saved ONE person; yet we "demand" he save all.

while there are infinitely more things that could be said on this topic and the questions we have about it, I'll stop at this point, urging us to consider the depths of our sin and the WHOLE nature of God. We need to read all the Bible in balance, such as verses like Romans 3:25-26, which explains that Christ came not simply (or even primarily) to save humans, but to display His justice! After all, how could he save people in love without some just demonstration of His wrath against sin. God cam to vindicate Himself, that He is a just God. He sent Christ for His OWN glory.

Is Being a Christian a Burden?

I've been studying 1 John 5:2-3 a lot recently in preparation for some teaching I'll be doing soon. It says, "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. [3] For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome."

If we're honest, a lot of us want to be like Thomas Jefferson, who cut and paste what parts of the Bible he thought were inspired and not; after all, most people I know have no idea what John was talking about here in v.3. Being a Christian feels like a huge burden sometimes. Why?

Well, this is not a unique thought in Scripture, Psalm 112:1 says, "Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in his commandments!" Do you see the theme?

As we read Psalm 112 and the following verses after I John 5:2-3, we find that genuine knowledge of God, expressed as faith in Christ, naturally produces joy because we see how great our God is, both in his power and grace; as a result, we are freed from the anxieties to preserve our own interests. After all, it is God who works all things out for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). We are freed to live lives of mercy, justice, and concern for the poor (see Psalm 112). A person has a new ultimate loyalty and love amounting to an inexpressible joy that makes obedience itself joyful. It ceasing to be a duty--in the burdensome sense-- and becomes a delight. Is it a burden to please the ones we love? Of course not.

How much more is this true with God, the apex of joy and beauty. If we find ourselves burdened and anxious, perhaps our view of God, our faith in Christ, is too small? Who wouldn't be anxious when feeling like we're al alone in this dangerous world? Therefore, our duty and delight each day is to open wide the lenses of my mind and heart to grasp more of what I can of the vastly infinite love and power of Christ. That is the goal of each time we study, pray, converse, and serve--to seek out, believe, apply, and demonstrate the supremacy of God in Christ. By contrast, we to often seek out moral principles and neat intellectual tidbits, which work either to pacify our consciences for time or at least distract us with mental musings.

Our souls want nothing more than this.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Spurgeon on drawing people to Christ

I read a good blog tonight that qouted the following from Charles Spurgoen:

“And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” John 12:32

Come, ye workers, be encouraged. You fear that you cannot draw a congregation. Try the preaching of a crucified, risen, and ascended Saviour; for this is the greatest “draw” that was ever yet manifested among men. What drew you to Christ but Christ? What draws you to Him now but His own blessed self? If you have been drawn to religion by anything else, you will soon be drawn away from it; but Jesus has held you, and will hold you even to the end. Why, then, doubt His power to draw others? Go with the name of Jesus to those who have hitherto been stubborn, and see if it does not draw them.

No sort of man is beyond this drawing power. Old and young, rich and poor, ignorant and learned, depraved or amiable — all men shall feel the attractive force. Jesus is the one magnet. Let us not think of any other. Music will not draw to Jesus, neither will eloquence, logic, ceremonial, or noise. Jesus Himself must draw men to Himself; and Jesus is quite equal to the work in every case. Be not tempted by the quackeries of the day; but as workers for the Lord work in His own way, and draw with the Lord’s own cords. Draw to Christ, and draw by Christ, for then Christ will draw by you.

Discerning God's Will

Honestly, do I really expect to clarify this topic for us all in one posting? I think not. But I will offer some things I've been learning.

I think we overthink God's plan for our lives sometimes, as if God will only bless one thing in the whole world. Louie Giglio once mocked our attempts to find the center of God's will, then the micro-center of God's will, then the micro-micro-center of God's will.....

I think there are a few considerations though to guide our thoughts. First, we should certainly consider our giftings. This element is strongly emphasized in the modern church, with tests, etc. But I think we stop there too much. The next thing we should do is consider the need. Moreover, we need to consider what we would like to do. Yes, what would we like to do? We minimize that too much. In contemporary American Christianity, we too often think about where we would be miserable and then assume that's God's will. We think about what we'd like to do and assume that there's no way God would want that for us. He wants us to enjoy life (Ecc. 9:9a).

Finally, there's one element that I find never talked about. How does this or that option affect our character..drawing out Christlikeness in us or brutally exciting sin. Let's face it...we all have weaknesses wherein we would easily stumble in some capacities. Other situations draw the best from us. We should consider this last factor more. God is vitally concerned with our sanctification, our character formation. For as much as we talk about evangelism, we forget and ignore the maturing that God ultimately aims for. God wants ULTIMATELY to conform us to Christ. Let's consider that when seek to discern the Lord's will.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Ode Without Vision

A church with no vision becomes its own.
planting seeds not far from home.

So let us pray lest we soon perish,
crying, "Run and hide! Save our parish!"

Evangelism: Good News?

Mark Driscoll once likened modern evangelism methods to holding a gun to someone's mouth and saying, "Want to marry this guy? He's great. If not, he'll shoot you." Marriage by gun point.

We've lost our ability to woo. We have lost the sense of process, subtlety, patience, enjoyment, engagement, journey, art, and stillness. We have lost faith.

A book I'm reading right now implicitly posed this question to me, "Are you willing to be the good news before you begin to speak the good news?"

Both are essential aspects, so why do we so often only chose one? Why to we divide Matthew 25 from Matthew 28:18-20?

Don't Waste Your Cancer

As many of you know, John Piper just came out of surgery for prostate cancer yesterday. His the article he's written about cancer Don't Waste Your Cancer. He gives 10 ways to "waste your cancer".

1. You will waste your cancer if you do not believe it is designed for you by God.
2. You will waste your cancer if you believe it is a curse and not a gift.
3. You will waste your cancer if you seek comfort from your odds rather than from God.
4. You will waste your cancer if you refuse to think about death.
5. You will waste your cancer if you think that “beating” cancer means staying alive rather than cherishing Christ.
6. You will waste your cancer if you spend too much time reading about cancer and not enough time reading about God.
7. You will waste your cancer if you let it drive you into solitude instead of deepen your relationships with manifest affection.
8. You will waste your cancer if you grieve as those who have no hope.
9. You will waste your cancer if you treat sin as casually as before.
10. You will waste your cancer if you fail to use it as a means of witness to the truth and glory of Christ.

1 Timothy Stuff

I'm trying to memorize 1 Timothy over the coming few months. Key word: "trying". By the way, that's a confession because I'm terrible at memorizing Scripture, which shouldn't be suprising because it's a disciple Satan hates, so it's going to be tough.

Anyway, I'm reminded about how much the Pastoral letters are about securing, protecting, and teaching rigth doctrine. That "theme" gets frowns today. We think of academics or irrelevant, fundamentalist preachers. But we've got it all wrong. Over and over again, Paul connects doctrine and life. What happens today is that we seepeople who are so intellectual in their doctrinal grasp that they have no practice or can't understand how anything works in the world. We see that's a problems, but we then make the mistake of throwing out rigorous, sweat-inducing yet joyful theology for fear of sacrificing "application".

What a load of crud (this is a family site :)

Paul says tat if you don't have thorough, Christological doctrine, you don't have Christian've got religion and moralism at best, hypocrisy and hell at worst. After all, anyone can put forward "practical" advice...preachers do it every week while never or rarely using the Bible.

Every day, Christians dismiss the knowledge of God with "oh, that's just theology". That's right. We're all theologians, with our ideas of God and meaning, but too often, we're just not very good theologians. To the comment "oh, that's just theology", we should reply, "Yes, and that's Paul and Jesus and David and Moses...."
Do we actually expect the God of the univese to be so simple and compact for our little minds, that we wouldn't have to labor in prayer and study to understand Him better? (which, by the way, is the source of actual joy)

The American church divided theology from praxis most strikingly in the earlier 20th century, when conservative rejected and feared their intellectual, yet liberal conterparts. now we've retreated so far that we've become anti-intellectual at best, and more to the point, anti-theological. As a result, we have dead churches dead faith, and dead practice. Only the gospel--found in a thorough life long submission to and journey with the Bible, which is all about Jesus---produces any sort of "application" worthy to be called godly.

Shall we settle for anything less?

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Your comments on the Blog

I realized I had accidently prohibited replies on the blog. I've since fixed it so you can reply to any blog conversations, is you so choose.

that's all for now.

Monday, February 13, 2006

My Biblical Reflections

On this BLOG, I'll often offer some of my Biblical meditations and commentary.

You can search out scriptures by "searching" by the Biblical book title (i.e Hebrews, Ecclesiastes,...) in the search option at the top of the pace.

Ecclesiastes 9:9

"Enjoy life..."

How often do I and we disobey God on this point? The Lord tell us to always rejoice (1 Thessalonians 5:16) and to serve the Lord with gladness (Psalm 100:3).

How often I don't being caught up in all the "important" things in life. I realize it is our duty to maximize our pleasure in Him and His graciousness. It's amazing how ludicrous sin is.

My Four Year Old Feminist

The other day my daughter ad I were listeing to the radio. I turned on a song I liked and then I asked her if she liked it too. She objected that she didn't like it. I asked her why and she said that it wasn't a pretty song. "Why is it not a pretty song?" I asked. She then informed me that she only like pretty songs, not handsome songs (meaning, by men).

So for the past week, every time we get into our car, we have been facing the ongoing debate about whether she likes the same "handsome" songs we do. Where do they learn this stuff?

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Poetry of Predestination

Can't sleep, but I read a great entry on Predestination from Justin Taylor's Blog. I'll quote it in full:

"On Predestination

The following poem appeared in The Continental Journal on March 11, 1779. It was entitled “On Predestination.”

If all things succeed as already agreed,

And immutable impulses rule us;

To preach and to pray, is but time thrown away,

And our teachers do nothing but fool us.

If we’re driven by fate, either this way or that,

As the carman whips up his horses,

Then no man can stray --- all go the right way,

As the stars that are fix’d in their courses.

But if by free will, we can go or stand still,

As best suits the present occasion;

Then fill up the glass, and confirm him an ass

That depends upon Predestination.

Two weeks the same newspaper published an answer by another writer:

If an all perfect mind rules over mankind,

With infinite wisdom and power;

Sure he may decree, and yet the will be free,

The deeds and events of each hour.

If scripture affirms in the plainest of terms,

The doctrine of Predestination;

We ought to believe it, and humbly receive it,

As a truth of divine revelation.

If all things advance with the force of mere chance,

Or by human free will are directed;

To preach and to pray, will be time thrown away,

Our teachers may be well rejected.

If men are deprav’d, and to vice so enslav’d,

That the heart chuses nothing but evil;

Then who goes on still by his own corrupt will,

Is driving post haste to the devil.

Then let human pride and vain cavil subside,

It is plain to a full demonstration,

That he’s a wild ass, who over his glass,

Dares ridicule Predestination.

[Cited by Charles W. Akers, “Calvinism and the American Revolution,” in The Heritage of John Calvin: Lectures, ed. John H. Bratt (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1973), pp. 170-171. Thanks to this lecture by Sam Storms for the reference.]"

The Children's Catechism

After writing the last entry, it made me think of some great resources that have helped us in particular with our oldest daughter. She's four and is learning about the Jesus and the Bible.

A catechism written by Christ Schlet (adapted from historical catechisms) for children can be found under The Children's Catechism.

Note that on this link there is a "Catechism for Young Children" but its much longer than we've used so-far. We've simply been using the introductory, 50 question version. It's been great. We've only had to adapt a few phrases, as we hope to introduce some of the theological jargon that she'll eventually face.

Jesus. Jesus. Jesus.

Our son Malachi was reading his Bible some time ago and was getting its meaning clearly. Let me be sure to add that, at the time, he was a few months shy of two years old. Nevertheless, he really was understanding the Bible. I know I have skeptics out there readingthis saying, "hey bro, two year olds aren't theologians yet." Ahh, you must not have kids yet.

As he was flipping through his Bible (granted a mostly picture-Bible), he would look at a page and say "Jesus", then flip a page and say "Jesus", another page, "Jesus"...flip agin..."Jesus...Jesus..." all the way through the whole Bible with each page.

He gets it. He may not know words like "propitiation", "expiation", "paedobaptism", and "postlapsarian", but he gets "Jesus"...that all God's word is about Jesus.

"Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise" (ESV, Mt. 21:16 quoting Ps. 8:2)

Pictures of Charis!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

A Meditation of Psalm 104

Psalm 104 is a meditation on Genesis 1. It is blatantly obvious as you can see how the psalm is broken up into seven units that parallel the seven creation days in Genesis 1.

Psalm 1 makes manifest the purpose of Genesis 1--to provoke praise to God! It (Gen. 1) is not intended to be a rigorously detailed scientific document. Gen 1 is meant to inspire awe in his creatures. We are to learn of His power and ongoing providence over nature. It is actually Hebrew poetry to be savored (Even in the English, notice the poetic parallels between Day 1 & 4, 2 & 5, 3 & 6.) Indeed, the universe declares His glory (Ps. 19.1, making manifest His nature (Rom. 1:19-20).

"May my meditation be pleasing to him as I rejoice in the Lord," (Ps. 104:34).
My joy pleases God. Said another way, if I seek to please Him in every way (Col. 1:10; 2 Cor. 5:9), then I must vehemently seek my own joy. God wants no sullen Christians. This is not mere petty happiness, which ebbs and flows based on circumstances, rather it is "in the Lord". We are to be like God in our joy. He too savored the beauty of His work, his creation, the demonstration of His glory (104:31): "It is good," (Gen 1), and then ceased His work in contentment. We have not reached our Sabbath rest yet (Heb. 4:9); but we can look at our lives, the work given to us in the Lord, and rejoice, saying "it is good."

I need to spend more time in meditation and observation of nature, that I too may say sincerely, "it is good", and more so, "He is good." As a church, we need to struggle more vigorously to enjoy Jesus, not fretting over small details and worries or the possibility that we may easily anger Him. To be sure, He has awful anger towards evil, but He is patient and gives grace to those in Christ. We need not fear. Fear kills joy.

Scripture Memorization

Joshua Harris has a great link giving advice for memorizing Scripture, a discipline I've neglect too much.

Check it out here: Dr. Andrew Davis from FBC Durham

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Family, Sex, Other...

Lauren Winner: Real Sex
John Piper: Sex and The Supremacy of God

Before You Say I Do Workbook

Worship and the Arts
Sally Morgenthaler: Worship Evangelism: Inviting Unbelievers into the Presence of God
Robert Webber: Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail : Why Evangelicals Are Attracted to the Liturgical Church


Shepherding a Child’s Heart
Standing on the Promises
Various books in the “Babywise” series

Friday, February 03, 2006

Charis has arrived

I'm sitting here watching my new daughter hiccup and pass gas, while loving it. She was born yesterday, and wow are we all tired. I got hit with a bad cold/sinus thing after the birth so I've been just wiped.

Everyone is healthy. The specs are 7 lbs 14 oz 21 inches.

People have been so gracious to us; we had dinner provided for us tonight and tommorrow. Pray for our rfreshment as you think of it.

(Her name means "Grace" in Biblical Greek)

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Homosexuality: A Biological Sin?

I'll pose some thoughts for your consideration. Recent debates among so-called "emergent" leaders, Mark Driscoll and Brian McLaren, compel me to write.

I had a Christian professor, pastor, and counslor once articulate what I see as a common view among evangelicals and Christians at large. The idea is this: while homosexual actions are sin, the desire or homosexual attraction (or as some call it, "orientation" or "disposition") is not sin. Therefore, so it's said, one can want to have pervert sex, but that's not a sin, because the homosexual is naturally or biologically wired for it.

I don't buy it. Here's why--First, let's assume this line of thinking were right, that people could be created biologically to desire perversion. If this is so, we must say either one of two things. (1) we are asserting that the perverted desire is not sin, or (2) that God actually makes people physically unable not to sin.

(The latter inability is different than saying that we are born with a sin nature, inclined in our will to love and choose sin. This distinction has been well recognized and address in history. See Jonathan. Edwards' Freedom of the Will or a summary of it. After all, the moral inability is heneious, just as a child abuser is reprehensible because he loves wickedness and thus in morally unable to do righteous, again, because he chooses evil deeds. If we had a physical inability, then we don't say someone is morally accoutnable, for example, if I were tied up while my children were in a burning building. The distinction between moral inability and physical inability is crucial!)

Having said that, what do we say about the two implications of the assumed premise, which I say is wrong?

First, let me remind us that the issue being debated is whether we can say people are created homosexual. Let's not beg the question by rebutting what I say with that brute assertion, which is the point debated here.

Implication #1: Can we really say that God thinks it ok that I want something perverted, to do something sinful, and that's not wrong or of darkness. How about when Jesus said that we're adulterous if we lust in our hearts? or when he talked about how having unholy anger was equivelant to murder? (see Mt. 5-7 for Jesus' line of thought) At the heart of sin is our affections for holiness or for wickedness.

Implication #2: This idea says that God makes it physically impossible for homosexuals not to sin. Thus, sin is no longer a matter of choice or affections, but biology and chemicals! Along this line of thinking, it's theoretically possible that having arms or being hungry is sin...even though those are physically endowed to us at creation.

The fact that biology is involved in this sin is not matter; after all we're holistic, mind and body, creatures. When the spirit works, so does the body. We ought to gaurd against atheistic reductionism that makes the all actions a matter of the body and not the spirit. Even the person with a so-called "disposition" towards being an alcoholic still must make the decisive decisions to live down to that potential. What about "crack babies"? They are born with addictions, which do result from the sin of their mothers, but let us again not call something sin that does not arise from the heart, one's affections, one's mind and will.

In truth, I "naturally" sin because I have not come to love the Lord as I ought. I should be careful not to pass the blame on God's making me with a physical consitution that makes me sin without any choice or affection in my spirit, but which actually amount to my existance being a sin.

Jack Bauer, warrior for Jesus?

Ok, everytime I watch 24, I get motivated to serve Jesus even more. Is that a sick perversion of ministry or something? A guy threatens to poke some bad guys eye out until he spills his guts (perhaps literally?) and then I get excited about Jesus!

I admit I'm easily exciteable, but honestly think about it. Jack is our society's quintessential hero-type. He is sold out to the good of his country, tries to maintain his family or love life (not counting his prior infidelitites), and is willing to offer the ultimate sacrifice--even be tortured--to save the whole country or world. He's like, "I'm not with CTU. I'll go get Cummings!" and we all scream and yell.

I think it makes me think of Jesus and Paul and every other sold out missionary to the world--willing to die to self for the life of others, willing to not simply hate evil, but destroy it. The Israelites were called to literally exterminate the Canaanite pagans (despite our modern distaste for those accounts). The New Testament fulfillment-parallel is the command to "put to death" the the works of flesh (Rom. 8:13; Col. 3:5).

When we see the passionate commitment of Bauer, we want a hero who will likewise die for us, to save us, even if we can't witness it personally. There's also a part of us who wants to also ravage evil.

Doesn't this sound like Jesus? Doesn't this sound like the call to be missionaries in a evil world order, where we are sheep among wolves? We need pastors who will serve like Jack Bauer, or better and Jesus.

Kids and Jesus

We had a great conversation with Selah the other night. We were talking about being a Christian over dinner. She was convinced that you had to speak English in order to be a Christian. Whoever spoke Chinese or Spanish was out of the mix. We tried to explain that our Chinese friends whom we knew in China were Christians. "But they spoke English!" she replied. Indeed they did. Hmmm?

She walso wanted to know about heaven and how you get there. She said, "Do you get there in a rocking chair?"

These are the conversation you pray for but how do you even begin to answer some questions? You don't. You just love on 'em until they're able to see.
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