Thursday, December 29, 2005

My Rant against "The Story"

Last night I was sitting and skimming through the newest issue of Relevant Magazine. Frankly, I consider it a complete waste of time. I could have been doing something more edifying or more entertaining - like watching Deal or No Deal, which isn't at all edifying or all that entertaining. Get the point. Anyway, I came to pg. 31, and that is what set off this rant - an add for the new TNIV (Today's New International Version) edition called The Story...

First, I'm not at all a fan of the TNIV which has adopted gender neutral language. It replaces words like "man" with "human beings" and seeks to elimate male-oriented language like "brother", "father", "his/him", etc. You can read great critiques of this at I particularly recommend an article called "Small Changes in Meaning can Matter: the Unacceptability of the TNIV" by Vern Poythress.

Second, this particular edition of the TNIV "Condensed into thirty accessible, it [The Story] reads more like a novel than your typical religious text". The real issue I have with this, besides condensing the Bible, is the idea that the Bible is a "typical religious text". God's word stands apart from every other "typical religious text". It is living, powerful, inspired and innerant. It is our guide to life and salvation. It reaveals God's glory in the person of Jesus Christ. It doesn't need to be repackaged and sold!

Despite the above evidence to the contrary, those aren't the things that set me off. What really made me mad was the catch phrase at the bottom of the add "This isn't your Grandmother's Bible". Ok, to begin with, it's a bad rip off of an Oldsmobile add campaign a few years ago - "This isn't your grandfather's oldsmobile". Come on. Be a little original.

More importantly, the phrase conveys something very disturbing - that the Bible our grandparents used, or great grandparents used, isn't relevant anymore. It's old and worn out, out of style, out of step with the times, kind like their oldsmobiles. I see something very disturbing among the Emerging Church Movement - disregard, sometimes bordering on disdain, for the faith of those who came before us. My grandparents and great grandparents generation fought battles of the faith (probably more successfully than we are fighting them now), took new ground (at greater cost), brought the gospel to new people groups (with less help from technology), loved God and knew their Bibles (the old out dated ones). I think we should be thankful for their committment to the truths contained in their old worn out Bibles.

Moreover, I can't stand the idea that we need to make the Bible relevant (done of course by adding a new trendy looking cover that you can get in flourescent green or pink, or metal!). The Bible is relevant precisely because it doesn't change with the culture. If it changed to be relevant to our culture today, it wouldn't be relevant to our kids twenty or thirty years from now when the culture shifts yet again. It is relevant because it is timeless truth. These truths are life changing, soul saving, God glorifying, and church edifying truths. They were true for my grandmother, and my great grandmother (who started the church with her husband that my father was brought to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ in, who subsequently shared his love of God and Christ with his family - meaning me). If we hope to have impact on the world, that hope better not hinge on new marketing (or ripped off marketing). It better hinge on God's Spirit doing something new and tremendous through the proclamation of his timeless word!

Let me just say, if it isn't my grandmothers bible, I don't want it. Thank you very much!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Christ in the Carols - Away in a Manger

Ok, well I didn't post nearly as much as I would've liked to. I got busy writing the C-Group study for next semester. However, Christmas Eve the third verse of Away in a Manger stuck out to me. Frankly, Away in a Manger is probably my least favorite Christmas Carol, but that third verse is incredibly meaningful...

Here it is:

Be near me Lord Jesus, I ask thee to stay,
Close by me forerever, and love me, I pray;
Bless all thy dear children in thy tender care,
And fit us for heaven to live with the there.

Have you ever meditated on this life as a fitting for heaven. Scripture tells us repeatedly to take off, or put off, the old self and our sinful natures (Eph 4:22; Col 3:9). In return, we are to put on our new self with it's godly passions (Eph 4:24; Col 3:10). In other places, we are told to put on Christ himself (Rom 13:14; Gal 3:27). The imagery is of shedding old dirty clothes and putting on clean fresh ones. What I find incredible though is that the clothes aren't altered to fit us, we are transformed to fit into the clothes. We are becoming like Christ who we have put on (Rom 8:29). And, as the song reminds us, this is one of the greatest blessings God could bestown upon his children.

Christ in the Carols - Joy to the World

There are a few Christmas songs I wish we could sing all year long, not because I love them so much and want the sentimentality of them all year long, but becasue they're really not about Christmas. One of those songs is Joy to the World. I love the song, but if it's about Christmas, its as much about second advent of Christ - his return...

Here's the words:
Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

Do you see the second advent here? A King reigning, creation singing, the curse of sin undone, blessings flow as far as the curse is found! I love it!

Christ in the Carols - O Come O Come Emmanuel

Hi all. I drove to work in the midst of a little snow squall, which to be honest, wasn't all that fun. It took a long time. But now that I'm in the comfort and extreme warmth of my office looking out, it looks real pretty.

Anyway, last night we had a small group over to our house and we were talking about our favorite Christmas Carols. I got to thinking it might be a cool thing to post some of the lyrics to a few great carols and talk about the imagery that they contain. These old hymns are so rich and full of great theology, and great poetic imagery.

Personally, my favorite Christmas carol is "O Come, O Come Emmanuel". Partly I like the tune, but more so because each verse is so rich in symbolism and biblical imagery...

Here's the words:

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
Who orderest all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory over the grave.

O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.

O come, O come, great Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times once gave the law
In cloud and majesty and awe.

O come, Thou Root of Jesse’s tree,
An ensign of Thy people be;
Before Thee rulers silent fall;
All peoples on Thy mercy call.

O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace.

This song really draws upon the theme of Jesus as the Son of David heavily. The Rod of Jesse (who was David's father), the Root of Jesse's tree, and the Key of David all draw upon this theme. God had covenanted with David that he would establish David's throne forever and ever (2 Samuel 7: 16). This song reminds us that Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise - a king from the line of David who's rule is without end!

Jesus draws upon this theme in Matthew 22:41-46: "Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, 42 saying, "What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?" They said to him, "The son of David." 43 He said to them, "How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying,

"'The Lord said to my Lord,
Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet'?

45 If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?" 46 And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions." ESV

Jesus was certainly the Son of David, but not only the Son of David, also the Son of God. The Son of David would also be David's Lord, because the Son of David, the Messiah, was the Son of God, God in the flesh, Emmanuel - God with us.

Delighting in Jesus

Yesterday afternoon I was listening to a good friend of mine preach a sermon on Isaiah 42. My friends name is John and he shares my heart for God. Actually, I share his heart. He had it first and shared it with me, and I am forever indebted to him for that. He was preaching on a totally different passage, but saying many of the same things I struggeled to say Sunday night. In Isaiah 42:1 God says of his Son "My chosen one in whom my soul delights..." So John asked his congregation, and I pose the same question to you, "Do you delight in Jesus as much as God does?"...

Of course that's a rather unfair question, but as John reminds us, as I stated Sunday night, it is one of our primary tasks as Christians to learn to delight in Jesus like God does.
John asked another very penetrating question: "What gets me more excited than Jesus? What would I rather be doing than worshipping Jesus?" Don't just pass over that. Sit with it and ask the Spirit to work with you through that question. It's important cause it reveals what our hearts and souls actually delight in. Would you rather be at a movie, rather at a ball game, rather be with your girlfriend or boyfriend. What excites you? Does hearing of the beauties of God as revealed in Jesus excite you?

One more quote from John. John says concisely, "In every way you need him, Jesus is God's perfect Savior". I would encourage you to sit and read Jonathan Edwards sermon entitled "Excellecies of Christ" (available at He does an incredible job showing us why Jesus is a perfect friend, a perfect savior, a perfect and delight.

Edwards was more than Hellfire and Brimstone

I did you all a huge disservice by propagating the stereotype of Edwards as being all hellfire and brimstone when I drew so heavily from his imagery in Sinners in the Hands of and Angry God. Edwards talked about much more than wrath and hell, but becasue that is the only sermon most of us have read, that's all we think of when we think of Edwards...

Edwards preached amazing sermons on God's love, heaven, charity, the beauty of Christ. In fact, he preached amazing sermons on all biblical truth, including God's wrath. Did he speak more about God's wrath and hell than we do? Yes. But that is no fault of his, it is a fault in contemporary evangelicalism. Edwards was balanced. We are the ones out of balance, neglecting these vital biblical truths.

What makes Edwards sermons so amazing, partly, is his use of vivid imagery. He paints incredible pictures using words. That makes his sermons on heaven and Christ wonderfully appealing, and it makes his sermons on God's wrath and hell terrifying.

Please read something by Edwards, something other than Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. Here is a link to one of my favorites - The Excellency of Christ (ok, i couldn't get the link button to work, so I'll type it in and you can cut and paste:


Christ and the Kingdom of God

Sunday night I mentioned a concept that I thought I should say more on. I mentioned that with the person of Jesus Christ, the kingdom of God broke into human history. Prior to Jesus' coming, their existed on kingdom on earth - the kingdom of this world, also called in various places, the kingdom of darkness. But since the time of Jesus, the kingdom of God has been present, though not yet consumated. These two kingdoms exist in parallel - the weeds grow with the wheat.

Both Matthew and Luke record an account of John the Baptist sending messengers to Jesus to ask him a very important question - "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?" (Luke 7:19). Think about this for a minute. John was in prison. He was about to loose his head at the hands of Herod. He had proclaimed some time earlier that Jesus was the Lamb who would take away the sins of the world. Why now does he question that Jesus is the "one who was to come"? I think the answer has to do with John's situation. He is in prison, about to die. And that puzzles him a little bit. John must have wondered "how could I be in this situation if Jesus really is the One, the Messiah, the King of the Jews. Certainly, if he was, then he wouldn't let a faithful servant like me suffer like this". I can empathize with the Baptists thoughts here.
What is very important is that we understand Jesus' answer to this question. Let me quote Luke 7:22-23 "...Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. 23 Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me." (NIV).

What does this mean? Why didn't Jesus just say, "yes, I am the one to come"? Jesus, in this passage was quoting from Isaiah 35:5-6 and Isaiah 61:1. What is important about these passages is that they are about the Kingdom of God coming. In chapter 35 Isaiah speaks of Zion being a place Eden like. The blind see, the mute talk, the lame jump, the deaf hear - but more than that, the desert blooms, the glory of God is present, no ferocious beasts are in it, the Way of Holiness runs through it, and everlasting joy replaces morning and weeping. In chapter 61 the prophet speaks of the "year of the Lord's favor". He speaks of the good news being proclaimed to the poor, the binding up of the broken hearted and freedom for captives. In the same context he talks of it as a day of God's vengeance on his enemies, but also of the everlasting joy of the redeemed.

So why would Jesus quote these passages in response to John's question? Because Jesus was showing John that, yes, he was the one that was to be expected and that in his person, the Kingdom of God that Isaiah spoke of had broke in to human history. The age to come was now present, not in its full and consummated form, but really and truly present in the ministry of Jesus and his followers.

Jesus likened the kingdom to a mustard seed. Though small, it grows into a large tree. The kingdom, though it started small has been advancing and growing. We are then, citizens of this kingdom, but alien residence in the world. We live both in this age and in the age to come. But what is tremendous is that we have tasted and experienced the power of the age to come.

I challenge you to think with me about what kingdom power and kingdom living looks like in the 21st century. What should we look for? What should we expect? What should we do? These aren't just theological questions - they are questions about what the Christian life looks like - what our lives are suppose to look like!

Lessons from the Little Drummer Boy

Ok, so it's getting to be that time of the year. I don't know why, but I have been in the Christmas 'spirit' for weeks now. Maybe it has something to do with being in a new home and wanting to celebrate our first Christmas in B-town. Don't know, but I was listening to Christmas music the other day and one of my favorite little tunes came on - the Little Drummer Boy. As I listened something struck me - we all, everyone of us, can identify with the little drummer boy. Here's the text of the song (without all the Pa rum pum pum pum's) The Little Drummer Boy
Come they told me
A new born King to see
Our finest gifts we bring
To lay before the king
So to honor Him
When we come

Little baby
I am a poor boy too
I have no gift to bring
That's fit to give our King
Shall I play for you
On my drum

Mary nodded
The ox and lamb kept time
I played my drum for Him
I played my best for Him
The He smiled at me
Me and my drum

How is it that we are to identify with the little drummer boy? Well, we are all called to give our finest gifts in worship to the king. But, we are poor people with no gifts to bring that are fit to give such a heavenly King. All that we have, we have been given. Our responses in worship, service, love, etc. are done in the power that Christ has given us. The breath we use to sing, the strength we use to serve, even the love we have are all gifts from God (Acts 17:25).

What we offer in worship does not find its source in us. Ultimately, our worship and service and love finds its source in God. Matt Redman captures this truth in one song of his album Facedown. The song is called Gifted Response:

This is a gifted response
Father we cannot come to You by our own merit
We will come in the name of Your son
As He glorifies You
And in the power of Your spirit

We have come to something so mysterious
Too deep for minds to comprehend
Through the open door
Where the angels sing
And the host of heaven are antheming...

And we'll sing the glory of Your name
Celebrate the glories of Your grace
We will worship You, We will worship You
And we'll make Your praise so glorious
Singing songs of everlasting praise
We will worship You, we will worship You

Lets move away from the mindset that we are giving to God something that he needs. We are called to give God glory, but it's not glory he lacks. We simply reflect back to him the glory that is emanating from him. We are called to serve him, but in the power and Spirit he provides. We are called to love him, but with a new heart he places in us. This a humbling situation to be in, but it is a God honoring one. We simply offer back to God what he has blessed us with!

worship - the most theological thing we do

We often think of worship apart from theology. Worship is singing songs that move us emotionally, stir us, inspire us, etc. But worship is the most theological, theocentric thing we ever do!

What do I mean?

When I say that worship is the most theological, theocentric (God-cenetered) thing we do, I mean that it is focused entirely on God. It flows out of an understanding and deep love for who God is. If you don't know much about God, your worship will be shallow. The deeper one's knowledge of God, the more passionate the worship will be. FW Faber, a Catholic theologian, has said well, “Deep theology is the best fuel of devotion; it readily catches fire, and once kindled it burns long”. Every once and a while you can hear someone say, "I don't need that theology, just let me love and sing about Jesus" (maybe they don't say it exactly like that, but that's whet they mean). I can't imagine saying that to my wife. "Honey, I love you, but I don't want to know you any better". That's not love. Love wants to know the object of its affection more fully, more intimately. Worship flows out of this knowledge.

Moreover, I believe worship is the most theological, theocentric thing we do because it has no application, nor is it a means to any end. Preaching has application. Bible study has a goal. Evangelism is a means. But not worship. Worship is the end goal of all these things. There is no application. There is no desired outcome other than God be worshipped. In that way, it is entirely, at least it should be entirely, focused on God. It's not about outreach. It's not about instruction. Its not about ministering to people or inspiring them. Its all about, from beginning to end, God! Other things may happen, indeed, other things will happen. People will be inspired. As we sing great theological hymns, people will be taught. People will see the passion and be drawn to God. No doubt. But these are not the GOAL of worship.

In this way, worship is entirely unique. The missionary or evangelist or teacher can not claim their ministries are an end unto themselves. Think about that for a minute. If evangelism was an end, then when someone asked you why you witnessed, you would have to answer "so that the person who I witness to will accept Christ and then turn into a witnesser who will lead other to accept Christ and become witnessers who will lead others to Christ and to become witnessers, etc, etc...." There is not end point, no terminus if missions/evangelism is the chief end. But its not. Worship is. We lead others to Christ so that God will be worshipped! Period, end. The same could be said of teaching, preaching, fellowship, etc. They are not ends, because knowledge and community are not ends, only means to an end.

All we do is to bring honor and glory to God - that is worship. That is the chief end of man, and of Christ's church.

Saturday, November 12, 2005


Sunday night I mentioned a guy named Rasputin. Take a look. Real pretty hugh. What is worse than his outward appearance is his wicked heart. He was highly controversial and influential monk in St. Petersburg during the early part of the 20th century. He had a small but pivotal role in the fall of the Romanov dyansty and the victory of the Bolsheviks which led to the formation of the Soviet Union.

Ok, so enough of the history lesson. Why bring him up again...

Rasputin taught that one of the keys to holiness was to sin, a lot. He held that, since those who sin the most require the most forgiveness, a sinner who continues to sin with abandon enjoys, each time he repents, more of  God's forgiving grace than an ordinary sinner (FF Bruce). Sounds way out there, doesn't it.

Apparently not though, because Paul anticipated Rasputins heresy long before Rasputin was a blight to Russian history. Paul says in Romans 6:1-4 "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the
dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life" ESV

While we experience God's grace in forgiveness, we may not presume upon it by sinning with such a cavalier attitude. Moreover, Rasputin neglects to understand that living a righteous life can only be done by God's grace. Want to see grace abound? Then abound in good works which God has graciously prepared ahead of time for us to do!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God

When we think of the love of God, we generally don't think of it as a difficult doctrine. Whe we think of God's sovereignty or wrath we do, but not his love. The title of this blog is stolen from an incredible little book by DA Carson. In it, he explores briefly five ways in which the Bible speaks of the love of God...

First, Carson points out that there has been an eternal love within the Godhead. The Father has eternally loved the Son. The Son has eternally loved the Father. I think this is actually essential to understanding the statement "God is love". If God had eternally existed in singularity instead of plurality, then he would have had no object to love, at least not in any kind of reciprical relationship. He would have then needed to create out of some deficiency - he would have needed to create so that he could be in relationship and express his love. This is not, however, the case. He dwelled for an eternity in relationship with himself, in Trinity. And we was fine. He wasn't lonely or needy. So he didn't create out of lack, but out of overflow.

Secondly, Carson reminds us that the Bible speaks of God's providential love to all his creation. Matthew 6 gives us wonderful pictures of a loving Creator caring for his world in wonderful ways - clothing the lilies, feeding the birds, etc.

Third, there is a sense, Carson reminds us, in which God showed his love to the whole world through the gift of his Son, Jesus Christ. John 3:16 says that "God so loved the world, that he gave his only son". This is the most incredible display of love ever made. In fact, as Bob mentioned, we can't fully know what love is apart from knowing this love.
Fourth, there is a strong, chosing, saving love that God shows for his elect. To those whom he has chosen, he has not just made the offer of salvation, but has actually saved them - not because they were great or worthy, but out of his grace and love (Deuteronomy 7:7-8). At this point some may object to the discriminating nature of God's love - he loves whom he wants to. But, let me argue that we should allow God the same freedoms with his love that we expect for ourselves - the freedom to love people in different ways. I certainly love my sister, but I also certainly love her differently than I love my wife (otherwise, it would just be weird and wrong!). God, as we have already said, loves his creation, all of it. Yet, it also true that God loves some people in particularly strong way, and acts on it by saving them.

Finally, the Bible does seem to teach that there is a kind of love that is conditioned upon obedience. Frankly, this one makes me the most uncomfortable, but it shouldn't. Will I ever be out of God's love? In one sense, no. I will never loose my salvation - I have experienced Gods saving loving and that will never be taken away. Yet, I can grow into deeper experiences of God's love as I committ to obey and walk daily with Christ, choosing him over the pleasures of sin. Jesus says in John 15 "if you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed the Father's commands and remain in his love".

So, as you see, the doctrine of the love of God isn't as simple as you might have thought. Yet I think because it isn't so simple, but complex, it is all the more beautiful.

Monday, October 31, 2005

A Small Topic?

Sunday night, Bob joked about me assigning him a small topic - the love of God. A couple of things need to be said. First, in my defense, I laid out the topics and dates, he picked the date. Not my fault Bob! Second, he's absolutely right - God's love is so vast and beyond us the topic is immense, and daunting. Paul speaks of it as being unknowable. Listen to what he says in Ephesians 3...
Ephesians 3:14-19
"For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith — that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." ESV

To me, this is incredible. What gets me is this: look at verses 18-19 again. Paul is asking that out of the riches of God's glory, he would give us strength to comprehend his love, the vastness of it. He is asking that God would give us strength to know the love of Christ "that surpasses knowledge". In other words, on my interpretation, we need an experience of God's love - him strengthening us - to know God's love. Apart from his showing us his love in strengthening us know it, his love in Christ would be unknowable.

I needed to hear Bob's message on Sunday night to be reminded of someing that sounds so simple, and yet is one of the most shocking and perplexing things - God loves me. Not with a warm, fuzzy, sentimental love. But with a fierce, faithful, saving, strong love - a love that will not let me go, a love that surrounds me and hems me in, a love that pursued me, a love that died for me, in fact, a love that sent his Son to die for me.

There is a story about a man named Karl Barth that I love. Dr. Barth was one of the most brilliant and complex intellectuals of the twentieth century. He wrote volume after massive volume on the meaning of life and faith. A reporter once asked Dr. Barth if he could summarize what he had said in all those volumes. Dr. Barth thought for a moment and then said: "Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so."

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Christ's Authority

Today I was reading through Luke 4 and was struck by the pictures we get of Christ's authority. I was tempted to keep reading, but felt that I needed to stop and think more about this. At the end of Matthew he says "all authority has been given to me". But what does it mean to say that Jesus has authority?

When we talk about authority, there are at least two ways we use the word. For example, Dick Vitale is an authority on college basketball. We know what we mean when we say that. We don't mean that he has the power to enforce anything, but that he is recognized as an expert in this field - he has the final word so to speak. But when we speak of police authority, or the authority of the courts, we mean something entirely different. We aren't referring to their expertise, but to their power to enforce their decisions, the law, etc.

What kind of authority does Jesus have? The answer is both. He is the final word on any and every subject and he has the authority to enforce his and his Father's will.

In Luke 4 we see Jesus teaching (v.14-15; 16-27). Jesus takes a scroll of Isaiah and reads in the synagogue and interprets it to refer to himself and his ministry. He does it with authority - he is the final word on it. In fact, in verse 32 Jesus was teaching again and it says the crowds were astonished because he taught with such authority (He said definitively, this is what it means, this is what you ought to do, instead of this is what Rabbi so and so said and this is how so and so applies this).

But Jesus also shows the other kind of authority. Throughout the chapter he command demons to come out of people - AND THEY DO. He commands a fever to leave Peters mother in law, AND IT DOES. He shows authority over disease and sickenss as well. I think the beginning of the chapter is kinda funny in light of this. Satan comes and tempts Jesus saying he will give him authority over the kingdoms of this world if Jesus would just worship him. Kinda funny cause Jesus already had it, and had authority even over Satan himself.

What does this mean for you and me? Well first, it means I am compelled to believe Jesus. What he says is true, definitive, and authoritative. What Jesus says is good, is good. What he says is harmful to me, what he says will lead to misery or destruction - I better believe it. His word is true. But more than that, if I disobey and disbelieve, I am flaunting my sin in the face of someone who has authority to enforce his will and punish those who resist. My mind goes to Philippians 2 where it says that "every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God" (even the phrase here Lord carries the conotation of authority!). Everyone will recognize and bow to the authority of Christ. Better willingly now than by compulsion later.

Reaching the Nations

This past Sunday Larry Lyman challenged us to finish the job begun by giants like Wycliffe and Tyndale - the job of bringing the word of God to every tribe and language on the planet. The job is huge, but so are the promises of God...

For example, this morning I was reading Psalms 86. Read verses 8-9, "There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours. All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name."

Does that do anything in you. It does to me. First, it a reminder that there is no God like our God. That's been the theme of the whole semester! Secondly, it calls to memory all the great things God has done - things as huge as creation, redemption, the building of a global community of faith, and the what he is doing in my life personally (I am his workmanship, as are you). This should raise in us an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Next, it gives us hope, rock solid confidence, that all the endeavors of Christ's church and all the labors of missionaries throughout the ages have not been in vain - All nations shall come and worship and glorify God's name. The scene, a scene repeated in Revelation 7, gives me hope, energy, fuels my prayers, and excites and stirs something deep in my soul.

I admire and am thankful to God for men like Larry Lyman, and I pray that God would raise up more giants even from among our community of faith.

Monday, October 17, 2005

God gets Bigger

I don't know how often you have moved in your life, but my guess is, not many have moved as often as I have. New York, Illinois, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Florida and now Indiana have all been home to me. I was born and spent the first five years of my life in Rochester, NY. We lived in a couple of different homes, but the only one I really remember had a huge hill out back. Actually, the hill was really only a small bump, but when I was a kid, it seemed huge. I would ride my bigwheel down it and play army on it with my cousins. I remember, it was huge. Then I went back six or seven years ago and it's almost flat! It's funny, as you get older, things seem smaller. Hometowns get smaller. Hills get smaller. The world seems to get smaller. But one thing doesn't - God. If anything, the older I get, the bigger God seems.

This was brought home to me the other night as I was reading CS Lewis' classic Prince Caspian, a part of the Narnia Trilogy. Lucy, a little girl who became a queen in Narnia, has been out of Narnia for sometime. Suddenly, she and her siblings find themselves back in the magical land of Narnia. After a few nights of wandering and wondering, Lucy, the youngest, meets Aslan again (in the books, Aslan is the Christ figure). Lucy runs to Aslan and gives him a huge hug.

"Aslan," said Lucy, "you're bigger."

"That is because you are older, little one," answered he.

"Not because you are?"

"I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger."

I love that exchange. As we grow in Christ, he doesn't get smaller and tamer, but bigger and more untamed. The more we grow, the more we realize he doesn't fit into our systems and the more we realize our finite minds cannot fully comprehend his infinitude. The older we get in Christ, the more mature, the more we see mystery. It is just the opposite of how things normally work. We so quickly loose our sense of awe and wonder, our sense of bigness. But when we are growing in Christ, we realize how far we are from knowing him fully, how many untapped thoughts there are to have still, how many questions unsolved. He seems bigger. I look forward to seeing how big he will be next year. 10 years. 40 years from now!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Is this just Fatalism?

Last night I preached a message on the Sovereignty of God. It is a doctrine that I have fallen in love with over the past six or seven years. It is an anchor in the midst of trial, something solid when everything else is shifty. But, is what I said about the foreordination of all things and the absolute certainty of God's plan being fully and completely accomplished, is that just fatalism?

No I don't believe it is. I think the biblical doctrine of God's sovereign
providence (governance of all things) is as far removed from
fatalism as night and day. Fatalism says, "Whatever is, must be".
Que sera, sera, Whatever will be, will be. There is no reason
things happen, no goal they are working towards.

Providence says that things are happening by design. Providence says "whatever God ordains must be". The difference is massive. Fatalism is driven by blind forces, chance, etc. Providence is driven by the wise, masterful, loving plan of God. Fatalism says that things are just happening - no reason for them to that goal. Spurgeon said, "there is all the difference between fate and Providence that because God has a great and noble goal and is working all things towards the completion there is between a man with good eyes and a blind man".

I do not believe in blind fate, but celebrate the God who is working all things according to a master plan!

Why Pray? Why Evangelize?

I know that when I began to think about the sovereignty of God in the terms that I described on Sunday night, I had to wrestle with a lot of questions (and I still do). I am somewhat afraid that I might have communicated that I had it figured out. I don't. I know that God is sovereign and that in some way we are still free. I did my best to explain how those two things are "compatible", yet I know that in some ways this explanation is unsatisfying. It is for me. The tension is still there, but it is a tension I can (must) live with, because I think the Bible creates the tension.

But beyond the theoretical questions, it raises some practical questions also - questions like "why pray?" or "why bother evangelizing?".

Let me again tell you how I have come to think about these things. First, I pray (though admittedly I need to pray more) because God has told me to (1 Thessalonians 5:17, "pray without ceasing", ESV). To neglect prayer would be disobedience.

Moreover, I have come to think about prayer less as trying to get something done and more about aligning my will to God's and keeping the relationship I enjoy with God vibrant.

Finally, I believe God has ordained the means and the ends. What do I mean? If God has ordained that he will heal my dad, it is possible that he has also ordained that he would heal him in response to my prayers - prayers he has also ordained.

In many respects, the same thing goes for evangelism. Why share the gospel? Because it is our mandate. We were told to do so (Mark 16:15, "Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.", ESV)

Also, God has ordained the means and the ends. If my sons are to receive Christ (and I pray they do at a young age), then it is certain they will do so in response to someone explaining/preaching/teaching the good news of Jesus to them (Romans 10:14, "But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?", ESV). If they do, it will be because God has ordained it (Acts 13:48, "and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed", ESV) and because God has ordained that some preach to them. Goals aren't accomplished without means.

Finally, we evangelize because it is our joy to do it. I believe that when we are enthralled with God, we won't be able to help tell people about the joy we have in Christ - it will ooze out of us. It's natural to tell people about the best beach you've been to, the best pizza you've had, the best date you've been on. In fact, part of the joy is telling others about it. To keep it to yourself robs you of a measure of joy. So it is with our relationship with Christ. The more we testify, the more we enjoy, and the more people respond, the more our joy increases as we see Christ being glorified all the more. Pretty cool chain reaction huh!

Monday, October 03, 2005

The Inadequacy of Reason in the Search for God

Women just don't make sense, at least some of the time. For example, my wife Lynn gets angry with me (on a very rare occasion). That's not the part that doesn't make sense - I do plenty of things to make her angry. What doesn't make sense is when she won't tell me why she's angry - even when I ask. Sometimes when I ask what's wrong, I get "if you don't know already, then I'm not going to tell you". Men, look close - this is woman at her most irrational state.

I don't know. If I did, I wouldn't have asked. Her mind and emotional states are so complex, I often have no hope of navigating the raging waters safely! She is, at times, beyond my ability, as a guy, to comprehend.

When I read Romans 11:33-36 I get the same feeling (not the frustration, but the sense of awe and mystery). "Who has known the mind of the Lord" Paul asks. No one. It is unfathomable. He knows himself fully well, and that right there is enough to say that I can't fully know his mind - it comprehends the infinite, I never will be able to do that. It is complex and deep ("Oh the depths!").

This reminds me that reason alone is never enough to bring me to a deep or saving knowledge of God. We need his self-revelation to us. We need a "divine and supernatural light immediately imparted to the soul" (Edwards).

Even then, we must acknowledge that God will always know things that we do not. Spurgeon counseled a young divinity student saying, "We must allow God to know things that we do not".

Paul was writing in Romans 8-11 about the sovereignty of God in the salvation of men and women (predesitination and election) and he concludes this section with a doxology reminding us that God's ways are beyond tracing out. Amen Paul, Amen.

PS. Lest Lynn get angry with me and so I don't have to guess why, lets keep this conversation between us!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

God's Omniscience and Prayer

The doctrine of God's omniscience touches so many practical aspects of our Christian lives. I'm not sure how many of these I will write on, but I really wanted to say something about God's omniscience and our prayer lives...

Some might say that if God already knows what will happen, we don't need to bother praying. Well, that would certainly fly in the face of God's clear commands to pray - ie. "pray without ceasing".

But, understanding the omniscience of God should effect how we pray. Jesus taught that "When you pray do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him" (Matthew 6:7-8). Moreover, I think we can rest confidently that God knows better than we do what we need. After all, he made us and knows the plans he has for us.

So our attitude in prayer isn't coming to tell God what we need - he already knows. Certainly we are to bring our requests and need to God in prayer, but not to inform him of something he doesnt already know. We bring our needs to him as an expression of trust and dependence upon him to meet these needs.

I find that reassuring, because there are so many times when I frankly don't know how to pray. I don't know what I need, what the situation calls for, what would be best. But God knows before I ever utter a word.

Confessionso of a Chocaholic

Ok, so a week or so ago I mentioned that I'm a chocolate junkie. It's bad. Real bad. But a few nights ago I realized how it was affecting my family. My son's are now certified
chocolate fiends as well.
We had some people over and my wife made some chocolate peanut butter brownies. OH YEAH! Anyway, she somehow got a little on her sleeve. It was up around her elbow, so it went unnoticed for a few hours. Then Caleb saw it. He began picking it off. We thought he was going to throw the dried, crusty brownie batter in the garbage. No way. He ate it. And then picked some more off and ate it too. I'm such a proud dad!

Well, the moral of the story. Well, I guess there ain't one. Just thought I'd give you a glimpse into the fun that is my world!

Why God Can't Change (and other thoughts on God)

Last night Bob did an incredible job of conveying the nearly impossible to convey idea of God’s aseity – his eternal, unchanging independence. I believe these truths of God to be incredibly important and not talked about nearly enough.

Why are they important? Well, first, if God isn’t eternal, how did he come to be? Was he created? If so, then whoever created him must be eternal and more powerful. No. If God is God, he has always been God. Isaiah 40:28, “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.” ESV

Also, it is incredibly important to affirm that God does not change. Think about it for just a minute. If God changed, then it would mean that either he wasn’t perfect before the change, or he isn’t perfect after the change. That won’t work.

Bob did mention last night the unbiblical idea that God doesn’t experience any emotion, sometimes called God’s impassibility. I agree - it is unbiblical. But we can fall off the fence another way too. Some have argued that God is growing into his Godhood (an idea called Process Theology). Process theologians assert that God, to be a real being, must change. One process theologian says that God is continually adding to himself all the experiences of the universe. Frankly, it just doesn’t square with Malachi 3:6, “"For I the LORD do not change” or with Psalm 102:25-27, “Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, but you are the same, and your years have no end.”

Finally, asserting God’s independence is essential. We are creatures and draw our life from God. He is Creator, and draws his life from nothing other that himself. He is self existing and, as Bob’s sermon title mentioned, all sufficient. Consider Paul’s words as recorded in Acts 17:24-26, “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.” No, we serve God, not because he needs us, but because it is an absolute privilege to be included in his awesome plan (which is also eternal and unchanging – but that’s another blog for another day)!

My Gluttony

Sovereign Lord, please grant to me
A disciplined will
so to choose what pleases thee.
But more O Lord,
Grant that I might not need it.
Give me a clean heart
with holy desires
right affections
and godly passions,
so that my heart beats with yours
and I desire what you desire
want what you want
pursue what you pursue
love what you love.
Let all my hungers, thirsts,
wants and cravings
be yours,
so that I may indulge
and be a glutton in them
for all eternity.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

On the Beauty of the Trinity

Jonathan Edwards commented on the doctrine in the Trinity, " And God has appeared glorious to me on account of the Trinity. It has made me have exalting thoughts of God, that he subsists in three persons; the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. The sweetest joys and delights I have experienced, have not been those that have arisen from a hope of my own good estate, but in a direct view of the glorious things of the gospel"

I love that, but let me draw your attention to one thing. Edwards connects the doctrine of the Trinity with the "glorious things of the gospel". This doctrine is a sidebar, not theological mumbo jumbo - it is an essential part of the life giving, beautiful gospel.

Is the doctrine of the Trinity relevant? I don't know. Is the gospel?! You better believe it is.

Monday, September 12, 2005

A Clarifying Thought on the Trinity

Sunday night, I talked for a long time on the mystery of the Trinity. I felt like I could have talked a lot longer (but I spared you that). Augustine spent thirty years of his life working on his treatise On the Trinity (it ended up being close to 500 pages). So please, cut me a little slack for going over by 12 minutes! It is truly an amazing thing.

Sunday night I started to explore an aspect of the Trinity but didn't have time to explain it well. I wanted to take a few minutes and come back to the idea that we worship God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity. With the emphasis we place on the distinctiveness and deity of the persons of the Trinity, it is easy to forget about Unity of God. However, to forfeit the Unity of God is disastrous.

Most of us won't come out and say it, but I think we have latent ideas about how redemption worked: God the Father was angry with our sin, God the Son loved us and stepped in to divert his Fathers anger. The Spirit is someone involved, but we don't quite know how - though we appreciate his abiding presence with us now. While this is how many think, and a few actually describe, of salvation, it is truly unbiblical.

Augustine helps us in this I think. Augustine proposed the psychological model of the Trinity - one mind, different aspect (will, imagination, memory). While their are faults, as there are with every model/analogy of the Trinity, there is also some truth. Augustine preserves the essential unity, and this is incredibly important in so many ways.

Back to our discussion of redemption, we must remember that God was of one mind. God hates sin - the Son and the Spirit as much as the Father. Remember, they are all Holy God! Yet, God loved his people - the Father, Son and Spirit. Consequently, they entered into a covenant together to redeem a people to be theirs. They were of one accord on this. And they worked to accomplish it - The Father planned it, the Son accomplished it, the Spirit applies it by bringing us new life!

Let's be careful not to play one member of the Trinity off against the other. They are the same in their perfection and glory! God in Trinity, Trinity in Unity.

Monday, September 05, 2005

The Weightiness of God's Holiness

This past week as I was studying for the message on God's holiness, I was somewhat worried that it was too heavy. Too heavy? I guess I was thinking heavy equals boring.

The more I thought about it though, the more I realized how much we need heavy doctrines. Think about it. Anchors are heavy. They have to be. If they aren't heavy, then the ship will be pushed around by any strong wind. And lets be honest. Life is full of storms. Some are literal - like the one the south just experienced. Some are more figurative - like loosing a close friend in a car accident or the feelings of loneliness and homesickness.

What will steady us in those times. Not light and fluffy theology! Not sentimentality and self-help-you-can-do-it theology! Not health and wealth, reach your destiny doctrines. What will steady us in tempestuous times? Deep thoughts, weighty thoughts, heavy doctrines! They will anchor us firmly.

Thank God that he is heavy. We need his weight.

Monday, August 29, 2005

The Reason I Didn't Mention!

Last night in Connexion I tried to convince you that the study of theology, specifically the doctrine of God is essential for the Christian life. This is true because you cannot be in relationship with someone you don't know anything about, so knowing about God, theology, is necessary for a relationship with God. Moreover, it is not boring, but our joy and the best fuel for genuine, passionate worship. Finally, it is relevant. Knowing God is foundational for all other knowing and for living the Christian life.

However, last night I left out another crucial reason why we must take the task of growing in our knowledge of God seriously. That reason is obedience! Peter says,
"But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen." (2 Peter 3:18, ESV). Notice, this is a command. Moreover, the author of Hebrews chastises his readers because they are still living of "spiritual milk" (the basics) when the should be on to "solid food" (deeper truths about God and the gospel" and should be teachers by now.

So, why study the doctrine of God? Why study theology? Because our great and loving God has commanded it.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

God, the fountain and the ocean

I just finished an incredible book, a classic, by Abraham Kuyper, Lectures on Calvinism. The book forced me to think about Christianity in relation to a number of things I don't typically think about - politics, science, and art. It's not that I don't think about them, but Kuyper makes you think not just about current events or trends, but about how Christianity gave rise to democracy, modern science, and inspires true beauty. Here is an excerpt I found particularly profound.

The starting point of every motive in religion is God and not Man. Man is the instrument and means, God alone is here the goal, the point of departure and the point of arrival, the fountain, from which the waters flow, and at the same time, the ocean into which they finally return. To be irreligious is to forsake the highest aim of our existence, and on the other hand to covet no other existence than for the sake of God, to long for nothing but for the will of God, and to be wholly absorbed in the glory of the name of the Lord, such is the pith and kernel of all true religion. "Hallowed be thy Name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done," is the threefold petition, which gives utterance to all true religion. Our watchword must be, "Seek first the kingdom of God," and after that, think of you own need. First stands the confession of the absolute Sovereignty of the Triune God' for of Him, through Him, and unto Him are all things. And therefore our prayer remains the deepest expression of all religious life. This is the fundamental conception of religion as maintained by Calvinism, and hitherto, no one has ever found a higher conception. For no higher conception can be found. The fundamental thought of Calvinism, at the same time the fundamental thought of the Bible, and of Christianity itself, leads, in the domain of religion, to the realization of the highest ideal.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Caring for our Siblings in Christ

This morning I read Jesus' parable of the sheep and the goats (Matt 25). What a challenging passage of Scripture! Certainly we are called to show love and compassion on all our neighbors, but Jesus seems to expect that this will be more true of our Christian brothers and sisters. In other words, we carry an even greater responsibilty for our Christian family. This is evident in the words Jesus uses at the end of his commendation of the sheep. Jesus said, " you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me" (v. 40). It is clear that Jesus has in mind acts of kindness shown to our spiritual family - our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Another incredible truth that we shouldn't pass over in this verse is Jesus' identifying with his people. In a similar way, Jesus says to Paul (Saul) "why do you persecute me?" Meditate on that for a minute and let that sink deep way down. Jesus identifies with his people. To act in kindness to them is to act in kindness to Jesus. Failing to do so is a failing to be kind to Jesus himself.

There are certainly opportunities to act in kindness to brothers and sisters in Christ who are suffering half a world away (for ideas you can visit Voice of the Martyrs). However, wouldn't it be better to open our eyes and see how we can serve our brothers and sisters in Christ right here. It's not like there aren't hurting Christians on the IU campus - Christians going through incredibly difficult times at home, Christians struggling under the pressure of a living with non-Christian roomates, etc. Keep Jesus' words in mind this week and let's strive to serve the "the least of these", our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

New Link Desitination

I was getting way to frustrated with all the broken links on the reformationink website, so I changed the destination of the Reformed Theology link to the right. The new destination is It's an awesome website! Check it out.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Approaching Scripture Humbly

Today as I was reading I was reminded about how much we desperately need humility as we approach Scripture. The passage I was studying had nothing to do with humility per se. The passage, Matthew 24, is a very difficult eschatalogical passage in the midst of Jesus' Olivet Discourse. As I was reading, I was reminded of my theological drift from a hardcore pretribulational dispensationalist, to a post-tribulation premillennialist (historic premill), to an amillennialist. At each stage there were times when I, in my arrogance, believed people must be insane or heretical or both for disagreeing with me. Real humble, huh?

There are issues where I haven't changed my opinions, and don't anticipate changing them (ie. the deity of Christ, justification by faith alone, the inerrancy of Scripture, etc.). However, I am praying that even on these more essential issues, God would give me a spirit of humility and not of pride. I will still believe that those who deny the inerrancy of Scripture are wrong, dangerously wrong, and yet I must learn to disagree with charity and humility.

Colossians 3:12-14, "Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony" (ESV).

Monday, July 25, 2005

one more thought from psalm 124

As I was thinking more about Psalm 124 and all the graphic imagery, I was struck again by what a deficient view of sin we have. We do not treat sin as though it were the great enemy of our souls, as though it was about to entrap and devour us. We coddle it, stroke it and call it anything but sin (bad habits, shortcomings, personality quirks, etc., but not sin). Anyway, as I was thinking about it, the metaphors of Psalm 124 seem to play a crucial role in our battle against sin. It is an enemy that poses as a seemingly harmless pest, or even a friend, but it is always working to destroy us. To fight against it, we must first realize it hostile intentions and then arm ourselves for the fight with the joy of the Lord (Nehemiah 8:10 "...for the joy of the LORD is your strength", ESV)

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Relating to the Psalms

Last week I have been studying Psalm 124. To be honest, in the beginning I had a difficult time relating to all the talk about being destroyed, swallowed up, chewn alive, swept away by the enemy armies, etc. Clearly David was thinking about military campaigns and national survival.

However, to understand and relate to these psalms, it is helpful to remind ourselves of the continuity between Israel and the Church. God's people, whether in the Old Testament or the New, have always faced pressures. They may look different for national Israel than they do for the church, but God's people have always been under attack. Sometimes the armies have been physical, other times they are unseen.

The point of Psalm 124 is to remind us and call us to give thanks that God has rescued us. In many ways, we have been rescued from dangers far worse then enemy armies who would kill or enslave our bodies. We have been delivered from sin and Satan and death - spiritual enemies that would not only destroy our bodies, but seek to enslave and destroy our souls.

Thanks be to God! "He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him" (Colossians 2:15,ESV).

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

A Personal Update

Hello all. I hope things are going well for you. I thought I would take a minute to update you on what we have been up to recently. With a lot of help, we packed up the moving truck on Thursday night and Friday morning. We watched all our earthly possessions roll away on Thursday afternoon, and camped out in a very empty house Thursday night. We got ourselves on the road Friday morning and had a great trip. We stayed in Indy on Friday night and had a lot of fun in the hotel swimming pool. Saturday we got up early and finished the trip to Bloomington. We were met with a swarm of people to help us unload our moving truck, and we are very grateful. We finished unloading in about 45 minutes. We spent the rest of the day shuffling boxes and getting to know some new friends. Sunday we enjoyed going to our new church and celebrating my 31st birthday (I got a really awesome new coffee pot with great coffee to go in it!). Yesterday, Monday, was my first day in the office and I am so excited, and overwhelmed, by the new ministry opportunities. Tuesday morning I am writing this and am getting ready to dive in to the days work.
Please know how much we appreciate all those who lent us a hand packing, unpacking, watching the boys and so much more. We love you and will be in touch. Thanks.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Join God's Story

A couple of weeks ago, Neal Smith, an elder at First Baptist, sounded a clear reminder that the story isn't about us. It never was and it never will be. Unfortunately, that doesn't usually sit to well with us. We want it to be about us. We want to shine. We want to make Sinatra's song ours - we want to say we did it our way. We want to be the hero, to get the standing ovation, to be glorified. But God will not share his glory with another - not you, not me.

So the key is not trying to fit God into your story, but figuring out how you fit into his. God and his story are far to big to fit into our short four score lifetime. God's story is eternal, and God is the main player in the story.

I know we are used to hearing that there are no dumb questions. Wrong! Here's a dumb question: How do I fit God into my life, my story? That is profoundly wrong. It's backwards. The right question is "how do I fit into God's story?" Learning to ask that, and to be satisfied with small supporting roles instead of the lead role is essential to a glorifying God and enjoying him forever.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

All Screwed Up

I mentioned in my last post that I had a great conversation on Tuesday morning with a couple of guys. We were discussing a chapter in Os Guinnness' book The Call. At the end of the chapter, he makes the observation that "the modern world has scrambeled things so badly that today we worship our work, we work at our play, and we play at our worship" (pg. 152). Saying it like that is certainly provocative, but also very true.

While we could focus on any one of those three couplets, the last one is what gripped me as particularly true of us, and sad. When you go to church on Sunday and leave, how do you evaluate the service. What makes it a good Sunday for you? Is it music you enjoy? A great drama that you thought was funny? A heart touching illustration? If so, what makes church different from a good movie or sit com?

In a recent article that appeared in Business Week, a pastor of a large megachurch is quoted as saying, “[I did] market research with non-churchgoers in the area – and got an earful. 'They said churches were full of hypocrites and were boring,’ he recalls. So he designed [his church] to counter those preconceptions, with lively, multimedia-filled services in a setting that’s something between a rock concert and a coffee shop” (87).

Quotes like that just emphasize how we play at our worship. Let me quote from Sam Storms, "Forgive me for being so cynical, but I don’t think “multimedia-filled services” in any setting are going to help much with the hypocrisy in today’s churches. And if I know human nature at all, people will soon enough find elaborate services with high tech productions as tiresome and predictable as the traditional approach. Nor do I think such flash and sound will do much to sustain the human soul when tragedy or trial or bankruptcy or cancer or teenage rebellion strikes home." (check out his article "The Mega Church and the Mini Gospel).

I like to play. I like playing golf, playing star wars with Caleb. I like fun. Really, I do! But I do not like playing at church. I do not like playing at worship. It's not that I am against fun, but fun must not be the goal! Not at church and certainly not in worship. The goal is God! The result of experiencing God in worship will be joy, not necessarily fun, but deep seated, unshakable joy. That's better than fun any day, and twice as good on Sundays.

I fear that in our pursuit of fun, we have lost the reverence and even the pursuit of God. If Sundays are boring, maybe it's because we aren't focused on God. Who would dare charge the King of the Universe with being boring. This is the God who spun the universe into existence, who sculpted us from dirt, who holds all things in together by his will, who died and rose again to save rebels, who is coming again to wage war against his final enemies. But your right. He's boring (Please note the sarcasm. I don't think it comes across as well in writing as it does in my head).

Lets give up the pursuit of fun and begin a far greater pursuit, the pursuit of God. Being consumed with this pursuit will bring more joy than the pursuit of fun ever will.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Liberty vs. Freedom

Today I was driving from my early morning meeting, pondering some great discussion (I'll let you in on that some time later). As I was driving, I was listening to Mars Hill Audio Journal. The person being interview was talking about early American symbols for freedom and the difference linguistically between freedom and liberty. Liberty comes from the Latin word libertas, meaning autonomy (as opposed to slavery). Freedom is more interesting. It is derived from an Indo-European word pris. It shares its linguistic root with our English word friend. What it interesting, is that this word freedom does not come from a root meaning autonomy, but from one that speaks of being bound to someone, but not in the bonds of slavery, but the bonds of love and friendship.

The connection I was making in my mind as I listened was that the Christian understanding of freedom is not autonomy, it is freedom within the bonds of love - love for others and love for Christ. Hence Paul can speak of being set free to be slaves of God (Galatians 5:1, 13; 1 Peter 2:16). Libertarian freedom (absolute autonomy of self) ends up destroying Christian freedom. We were not created and redeemed to be autonomous, but to be in a loving relationship with God and our brothers and sisters in Christ.

I don't mean to suggest that liberty isn't a Christian concept. It is, and is the reason we believe we will all be held personally and individually responsible for our actions. However, I think we have completely lost the true meaning of freedom in our quest to throw off all bonds of morality. Let's recapture the idea that we have been set free for righteousness, because we are in a friendship with God.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Being Cross Centered

We are Christians, Christ followers. As such, our way is the way of Christ, the way of the cross. Therefore, we must be, if nothing else, Christ-centered, cross-centered people.

The Bible is certainly cross centered. Everything preceeding the cross in some way leads up to the cross, and all that comes after flows out of the cross. The apostle Paul was certainly cross centered. He said "For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified" (1 Corinthians 2:2,ESV), and "But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." (Galatians 6:14,ESV). Also, Paul writes, "For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles" (1 Corinthians 1:22-23,ESV). For Paul, all knowledge was centered on the cross, his hope and joy were centered on the cross, and his message was centered on the cross.

This must also be true of us. If we move past the cross, we have lost our message. Some have the attitude that this would make us shallow. That we should move past the cross, past the gospel, and into meatier, weighteir issues. Let me say this plainly - there is no deeper, weightier or more important or more mysterious and glorious truth than the cross. It is what makes us distinctly Christian.

Everyone talks about God. Everyone. Oprah, Dr.Phil, Muslims, Jews, even pagans. God is frankly quite popular, though I probably should use god with a small g.

We need to set ourselves apart from all this fuzzy God talk and talk in ways that would get us kicked out of synagogues and mosques, and off the talk show circuit. In a pluralistic society, the cross is more offensive than ever. Yet it is still the power of God for the salvation of souls.

I have been profoundly influence by two great books - The Gospel for Real Life by Jerry Bridges and The Cross Centered Life by CJ Mahaney. Both are short, excellent reads.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Blogs Move

This is my new blog which will eventually be replaceing encounter.blogspot, aliverservice.blogspot, and fbcworshiplink.blogspot.

Hope you keep comin back!