Friday, December 29, 2006
You can check out my theological library, my devotional library, my biblical studies library, and my ministry library (there's obviously some overlap).
All four libraries are together in a group called dan's book list. Feel free to browse, borrow, suggest, etc....
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
A Godward Life, vol.1, by John Piper. This book by Piper contains 120 short devotional readings that include reflections on life, culture, theology and of course the Bible.
A Godward Life, vol.2 by John Piper. This is a second volume by Piper that also contains approx 120 short devotional readings.
For the Love of God, by DA Carson. Many may not know DA Carson but he's brilliant, and loves God passionately. This book contains a Bible reading plan that will take you through the whole Bible in one year. The devotional readings are in step with the reading plan.
For the Love of God, vol.2, by DA Carson.Same author as volume 1, and same design. Did I mention he was one of my NT profs at Trinity and my advisor (a little name dropping never hurt anyone)!
Devotional Classics, by Richard Foster. This devotional draws upon some of the great devotional writers in the history of the church, offering contemporary reflection on these writings as well.
Valley of Vision, Arthur Bennet, ed. This isn't technically a devotional, but a collection of Puritan Prayers. I love my copy and use it devotionally quite often.
Face to Face, Praying Scripture for Intimate Worship, by Ken Boa. Again, this isn't exactly a devotional, but a book that will help you learn how to pray through Scripture. It has been an invaluable aid to my prayer life.
Face to Face, Praying Scripture for Spiritual Growth, by Ken Boa. This is similar to the other volume, the the emphasis is slightly different.
I hope that helps. Merry Christmas.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
This may be shocking, and feel free to post your comments, but I wish Walmart and Macy's would stick with "Holiday".
Why? Because I hate it when Jesus is a marketing ploy. I hate that his name is being used to baptize a holiday we have turned into a consumeristic circus, a materialistic mad dash to accumulate crap we don't need. I hate it because too many Christians will think this is a victory and will say to themselves, "We've taken back Christmas". Oh really.
Don't get me wrong - I'll be buying toys for my kids (and they'll be buying toys for me). I don't want to be the grinch that steals your Christmas, but does it make us feel better to have the clerk smile and say "Merry Christmas" after we've spent an obscene amount of money on junk.
I find it incredibly ironic, sadly ironic, that we become and teach our kids (ok, most of you dont' have them yet, but you will) to be the most self-centered at a time of the year that beckons to be the most others-centered. We make our Christmas lists, if only in our heads. We spend the money we know we'll be getting from Aunt Susie before it ever arrives. We think, "I better get so and so a gift, they got me one last year".
So what do we do about it?
Saturday, November 25, 2006
I just discovered a new website with a host of article by and about Cornelius Van Til. Van Til was one of the most influential, and one of the original prof's at Westminster Theological Seminary. His approach to apologetics, usually called presuppositional apologetics, has impressed me greatly. Check it out at VanTil.info.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Remember, in v. 5-6 it says that Jesus loved Mary and Martha and Lazarus, SO he waited two days before he went to visit, knowing Lazarus was ill and that Lazarus was going to die. That seems callous, harsh and not very loving. After all, Jesus has the power to alleviate Lazarus’ sickness and prevent Mary and Martha’s grief. Why wouldn’t he do it, if he loved them?
Honestly, he loved them and so he didn’t prevent the death or the grief so that he could give them an even better gift than a healing. Jesus loved Mary and Martha and Lazarus (and the disciples) so much, that he allowed Lazarus to die so that he might show them the glory of God! Jesus tell his disciples as much in v. 4 and says to Martha in v. 40 “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”. There it is. That’s the best gift, that’s the reason Jesus let Lazarus die - so that he would have the occasion to display the glory of God, knowing this is the best gift he could give the Bethany family (even better than a healing).
As Piper says repeatedly in his books, the best gifts God can give his people is himself. That is the highest good in the gospel. “Justification is good news because it makes us stand accepted by the one whose glory we want to see and savor above all things. Forgiveness is good news because it cancels all the sins that keeps me from seeing and enjoying the glory of Christ who is the image of God. Removal of wrath and salvation from hell are good news because now in my escape from eternal misery I find eternal pleasure beholding the glory of God in the face of Christ. Eternal life is good news because this is eternal life, Jesus said, that they know me and him who sent me. And freedom from pain and sickness and conflict are good news because, in my freedom from pain, I am no longer distracted from the fullest enjoyment of the glory of Christ who is the image of God”
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
In John 3:17 Jesus says, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (ESV). Or again, look at what Jesus says in John 12:47, “If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.” How do we reconcile these verses with the words of Jesus in John 9:39 or John 5:22: “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son” (see also 5:27, 5:30ff)?
To understand these two strands, I think we need to understand that neither the redemption of mankind nor the judgment of mankind is Jesus’ ultimate priority. His first priority is to glorify the Father. That is priority number one – every other purpose, every other goal, is subservient to that.
Now certainly the primary way in which Jesus glorifies the Father is by obediently going to the cross to redeem a God’s people. But this redemption is double edged. Jesus comes to die for his sheep and bring salvation to those who believe. This means, on the flipside, that it brings judgment and condemnation to those who do not believe. Here what Bultman says, “This is the paradox of the revelation, that in order to bring grace, it must also give offence, and so can turn to judgment. In order to be grace it must uncover sin; he who resists this binds himself to his sin, and so through the revelation sin for the first time becomes definitive”.
And I want to affirm that Jesus accomplishes his goal of glorifying the Father, both in the redemption of man and in the judgment of man. In man’s redemption, God is glorified as the merciful, gracious, kind, forgiving Savior. In sinful man’s condemnation, God is glorified as a God who keeps his promises (to punish those who do not love him), as a holy God (who cannot suffer to let sin go unpunished), as a just God, even as a wrathful God.
Soli Deo Gloria (To God Alone be the Glory)!
Friday, September 01, 2006
I am so proud of my boys. Caleb and Jacob have been really great with their littlest brother Luke.
They love holding him and both are being so gentle with him (we're a little suprised cause Jacob is a rough and tumble boy).
We are truly grateful, first to God for these blessings, but also to everyone who has been praying for us. Thank you.
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Mom and baby are doing great. The hospital staff and doctors took great care of mom and baby. He really does have a full head of hair, like our other two, but slightly lighter.
These pictures don't capture it, but he is a tank already - Chubby cheeks, chubby legs and arms. Mom and the baby are resting well while I am at home with the boys. They were thrilled to have another brother, and glad we named him Luke. They were very sad to leave them in the hospital tonight, but hopefully we'll have the whole family home tomorrow!
Monday, June 19, 2006
After their last game the all got trophies. Caleb was thilled - it was his "first trophy ever". The team had a party at ATA Karate - their sponsor. It included a free leason and pizza - he ate them both up. Jacob was ready to get out there and see what he could do against the punching bags. He enjoyed the pizza too.
Wedenesday I took the day off and went up to Indianapolis Children's Museum with the family. Thanks Tom and Linda. It was a blast. There was so much to see and do, the boys were in a constant frenzy. We had been to the Pittsburgh Childrens Museum, but this blows Pitts away.
Yesterday was Fathers Day, and my family made it incredible. Gifts, then church, naps, and a great dinner! Perfect day. Great week.
Monday, June 12, 2006
Friday, June 09, 2006
The good news is, it prompted me to update my links section of the blog. Now I use it as my home page and have all my favorite link right here! Hope you enjoy.
Friday, June 02, 2006
Thursday was, however, a very odd day. I returned to the office on Thursday morning after a weeks vacation and found all of the files I had worked on the previous week were gone. That meant the message notes, the bulletin and some other documents were no where to be found. So, I had to start from scratch. No big deal - I had the whole day to get ready. Then AJ called me from Bloomington Hospital. Paul Helms, our faithful worship leader, was in a bike accident and broke his collarbone. This was very inconvenient for me, and I am sure very painful and extremely incovenient for Paul. Thankfully, Danae was willing to step up and lead worship, and Paul actually showed up and sang with her. With a lot of help from Heather, Danea and others, everything ended up coming together. In fact, all in all, I think the first Connexion of the summer went very well, especially considering the day!
I had hoped to post the message mp3 along with the discussion questions online. However, that is a detail from last night that didnt' work out. I took a guess on how one the recording process works, and I was wrong. Oh well, here's the gist of it all:
The book of 1 John is a book about being certain - about knowing. John is writing this book so that we can be certain of the truth of the message of Jesus Christ and who he is and so that we can be certain that our faith is a genuine, saving faith. When you understand what is at stake here, you want to be certain, after all, it is eternal matters that hang in the balance. So, John offers us a few tests by which to evaluate our faith, and it is these three tests that we'll explore all summer long.
Last night we looked at the first four verses of 1 John. I the opening to this book, John wants us to understand that what he is proclaiming is not some new innovation in religion, it's not some novelty. In fact, the revelation of Jesus Christ in the flesh is the culmination of God's eternal purposes - the high point of God's self revelation. In these short verses he is emphasizing the deity of Christ by pointing us to his eternality, and he is emphasizing the humanity of Christ by reminding us that the Word came was able to be seen, heard and touched. These two themes are extremely important to John (see the Gospel of John, chapter 1).
John's message is an eternal message, and one that he proclaims for two reasons: first, so that we might enjoy fellowship with him and with God. In fact, our fellowship with one another is based on, founded upon, and rooted in our fellowship with God. Second, John proclaims this message so that his "joy may be complete". John finds great joy in proclaiming the message of Jesus Christ, and in his people's well being. He finds joy in the restoration of their fellowship with God and other believers.
Here are some questions to think about as you look at 1 John 1:1-4 on your own:
1. John stresses the deity and humanity of Christ here and throughout his writings. Why are these themes so crucial to us?
2. John writes so restore fellowship and for his joy. How are these two things connected?
3. If our fellowship is rooted in a real fellowship with God and his Son Jesus Christ, what does this mean for unity across various Christian denominations?
If you weren't able to make it last night or would like to continue discussing these questions, join the discussion in the forums.
Sunday, May 21, 2006
Also, keep your eyes open for details about two summer groups, one for the guys, one for the ladies (there's also a the possibility of a book discussion group). Who says summer is for being lazy?
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
1. Monergism Audio Resources - this site has links to all kinds of audio resources, including sermons, lectures, conferences, church classes. All of them are great (at least the ones I've listened to!).
2. Covenant Seminary Worldwide - this site is compliments of Covenant Seminary in St. Loius. It is the seminary of the Presbetyrian Church of America. The seminary is offereing a wide range of courses (usually consisting of twenty or more lectures) for free, though not for credit. Download and listen till your heart is content!
Sunday, May 14, 2006
This 'dad thing' is so much fun. Caleb is playing Tball and it has been a blast. It has kept us busy then we thought it would, but Caleb is great.
He really works hard at learning how to play. You don't realize how complicated the game is until you try to teach it. He's a fireballer with a great arm. We're still working on the hitting thing a little, but hope abounds!
Thursday, May 11, 2006
One of the things that has been brought to light and I have found so profound is that in the midst of the curse, there is hope and promise. Genesis 3:15 sounds like an awful verse on the surface, "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel"(ESV). God begins a war here - he places hatred and hostility between the woman and the serpent (and Satan whom it served as a tool). Yet, this is actually a great blessing. God wouldn't let Eve, or any of his chosen people, be friendly with Satan. In the words of Ligon Duncan, "for God to put enmity between Satan and the woman is to drive a wedge between the woman and the enemy of her soul".
This passage has long been called by theologians the protoevangelium - the first (proto) good news (evangelium, from which we get the word evangelism - the proclamation of the good news). I've known this and seen it in this text, even preached it from this text before, but this week it has taken on new hues of meaning (the gem has been turned!).
Look at the verse again. There are three levels of enmity. First, it is between Satan and Eve personally, individually. Second, it is between Eve's seed (plural) and Satan's seed (plural). Third, this hostility between progeny will culminate in one specific Seed of Eve who will crush the head of Satan, being wounded in the process (Christ). "He (singular) will crush your head (singular) and you (singular again) will strike his heel (singular)." Here is announced the defeat of Satan, and this is good news!
But look at that second level of enmity - the enmity God puts between the seed of Eve and Satan's seed. Let me ask you, do all of Eve's physical descendants have this enmity towards Satan. The answer is: no. Why? Because not all of Eve's children are her seed. There is something going on here that transcends typical physical categories, but one that lays the groundwork for a thoroughly biblical doctrine - the doctrine of election.
What I'm saying is that the principle of God choosing some and not others to be his is already here in the earliest chapters of the Bible. Look at the first two children of Eve, Cain and Abel. Was Cain a physical child of Eve? Yes. Was he an heir to the promise of Genesis 3:15? No. God didn't put enmity between Cain and Satan; in fact, we are told in 1 John that Cain was a "of the evil one" (1 John 3:12), so he became a murderer. Cain was a physical descendant of Eve, but not the seed of Eve, just as Ishmael was the descendant of Abraham but not an heir, just as Esau was the descendant of Isaac but not an heir to the promises, just as there were some of Israel who were not true Jews, etc. In other words, all of Eve's seed are those in whom God puts enmity towards Satan. Satan's seed are those whom God did not put this enmity in. What reason stands behind God's choice to place this enmity in one and not another? Let me borrow a phrase used in Romans in answer to the question as to why God chose Jacob and not Esau to answer this question of why God puts enmity towards Satan in some and not others - "in order that God's purpose of election might continue" (Romans 9:11, ESV)
We can expand this and ask, "why do people reject Christ?" Listen to Jesus response to the unbelief of the Pharisees:
They answered him, "Abraham is our father." Jesus said to them, "If you were Abraham's children, you would be doing what Abraham did, 40 but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. 41 You are doing what your father did." They said to him, "We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father - even God." 42 Jesus said to them, "If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. 43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46 Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? 47 Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God." (John 8:39-47, ESV).
Based on Jesus's words, they do not receivee him or his word because they are of their father the devil (his seed). That enmity is there, but it is not directed towards Satan - they are in league with him because he is their father. Their enmity, hatred, is directed towards Christ, the Seed of Eve. Moreover, you see the principle of a "spiritual seed" emerging again here. The Pharisees were claiming that Abraham was their father, and they are right in the physical sense. However, Jesus says that if they were truly (spiritually) the children of Abraham, they would be doing what he did (having faith). Again, if they were children of God, they would accept him because he is also of God.
They do not accept Jesus because God did not put enmity towards Satan in their heart - they are not the seed of Eve (or of Abraham, or of God). They are, instead, the seed of Satan and are hostile to God and Christ, the Seed of Eve! God would not allow his people, the seed of Eve, to fall into friendship with Satan - the great enemy of God and of their souls. Instead, he places a hostility within his people towards Satan and all his work. How great a blessing is that!
How great is God's grace and purposes. At just the time man needed grace, at just the time man needed God to deliver, God provides! Celebrate his grace, his amazing, electing grace.
Monday, May 08, 2006
One of the few 'breaks' I took from building was to be here at ECC on Sunday morning. As you may or may not know, we are experimenting with a 'blended' worship style, and the last three weeks of this experiment have been incredible. Yesterday, not only was the worship great, we also celebrated the Lord's Supper together and Bob preached a message on stewardship (part two of a three part series).
During Bob's message, he made reference and drew some thoughts from the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-29...
Bob made the point that the master gave the servants the talents, whether it was five, two or one, and the master expected the servants to do something that would bring a return on the investment. Typically, when we look at this parable we immediately jump to applications about how we are to use our money for the kingdom (after all, a talent was a large sum of money probably equal to a year's wages). However, Bob did a phenomenal job yesterday pushing our thinking into other areas where God requires us to be good stewards. He quoted the old Anglican bishop JC Ryle on this topic. Ryle said, "Anything whereby we may glorify God is 'a talent.' Our gifts, our influence, our money, our knowledge, our health, our strength, our time, our senses, our reason, our intellect, our memory, our affections, our privileges as members of Christ's Church, our advantages as possessors of the Bible-all, all are talents."
Here is where my mind went during the sermon and where it dwelt most of the day. The Bible tells us we are stewards of God's grace, stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, and this one really gets me, we are entrusted as stewards with the gospel of Jesus Christ: Galatians 2:7-8, "...when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised..." ESV (see also 1 Cor 9:17, 1 Thess 2:4, 2 Timothy 1:14).
Let me draw out two implications. First, based on the passages I just listed, we are called to guard the deposit with which we have been entrusted. The gospel has always had many enemies and has been in constant threat of corruption from within the church and from without. We are called to stand against any corrupting tendencies with courage and tenacity. Men like RC Sproul, Michael Horton, and old timers like Martyn Lloyd Jones and J Greshan Machen did just that. Over the summer I hope to write little articles like this about some of those corrupting trends - guarding the gospel with which we have been entrusted. I'd like to ask for your help. If there is something you have been seeing, reading or hearing that worries you and you'd like to talk about it, let me know.
The second implication is one the Bob teased out a little bit yesterday. Frankly, as important as guarding the what has been entrusted to you is, it's not enough. The wicked lazy servant guarded what he was given, yet he was still called wicked and lazy and cast out. Why? He gave back the master exactly what he had been given, but no more. There was no return, no investment, no fruit. We could keep the gospel pure and safe, guard it by hiding it, but that would be a lazy and wicked thing to do. We must advance the kingdom by sharing the gospel that was entrusted to us. Nothing short of this will please our master.
Certainly we cannot advance the kingdom if we do not keep the gospel of the kingdom safe and pure, but that's not the point. The point is the advance of Christ's rule in the hearts and lives of people! To this end I am again inviting you to help. You can do this in several ways. First, by sharing the gospel with your friends and family at home over the summer. Second, by helping us know how we can better bring the gospel to the lost on IU's campus. We really desire to be an evangelistic as well as a discipling and training ministry. What ideas do you have in this regard. We'd love to hear them so that together, we can be good stewards of the amazing gospel of grace.
Thursday, April 27, 2006
You may have heard of Baigent - he sued the author of the Davinci Code for plagiarism in British courts and lost. Both Brown and Baigent put forward theories that Jesus was not crucified but lived, got married and had progeny. This fact, according to both authors, has been covered up by the church in the greatest conspiracy ever. In fact, the legendary 'holy grail' is not a literal cup; instead, the holy grail is Christ's bloodline.
I found the discussion to be entertaining, and yet also very frustrating. Obviously Baigent has little or no regard for the historical veracity of the New Testament, particularly the gospels. From what I knew of him I didn't think he would. And I didn't expect OReily to have a high regard for them either. However, I was frustrated that neither gentlemen even engaged the gospels or the historicity of them - they were simply dismissed. The most that was said was when OReily stated, "the best available history comes from the gospels which aren't history..." (loose quote).
Well, frankly, I disagree. The gospels are history. They claim to be historical. They place themselves squarely in the historical. Just read the gospels and see how each author places the events within the historical setting of the time - they mention governors and emperors, kings and chief priests, they record genealogies. They were certainly inspired by the Spirit to write what they wrote, but they also did research (particularly Luke). They relied on eye witness accounts - there own or others. Certainly they were recording the history of a specific man in a specific area at a specific time to make a specific point.
It is this last statement, that they were writing to make a point or for a purpose that I guess gives people the idea that what they were writing wasn't historical. The idea is the historical writing must be done in a disinterested way - the facts and nothing but the facts, no interpretation of fact, no comment on the facts, no real purpose in writing other than leaving a historical record of what happened. Well, the authors of the gospels certainly did not record the history of Jesus in that fashion. They had opinions about what transpired, they interpreted the facts, they commented and they had a purpose (see John 20:30-31). However, they are not unlike any other historian in this.
I think it is naive to think that one can be entirely objective, entirely without bias, entirely without opinion when recording history. Nor do we need to be. Everyone writes with a perspective, with opinions and to make a point. This does not, however, undermine the historicity of the gospels. The writers witnessed the most important event in human history - the inbreaking of the kingdom of God in the person of Jesus Christ - God incarnate. Of course they had opinions, but of course they were careful in reporting the events accurately as they knew their import.
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
What I didn't have time to emphasize enough is the "Why". We spent most of our time talking about the "What" and the "How", so I thought I would used the website to push into that a little bit more. Why strive for a life of simplicity?
I can see two very compelling reasons to pursue a life of simplicity: First, it allows the world to see with clarity what our treasure it. Have you ever seen those old Where's Waldo pages. It was a page full of optical busyness. Within the scene there was a man named Waldo, wearing his trademarked red and white stripped shirt and glasses (if you've never seen it, check it out to see how hard it can be). It is very hard to find Waldo in these pictures because there is so many things that distract the eye.
Unfortunately, I think that is the problem the world has when the look at us who call ourselves followers of Christ. We claim that Jesus is the treasure of our hearts, but frankly, he's hard to see because our lives are so cluttered and busy. Pursuing a life of inner and outer simplicity strips those distractions away and puts Christ as our Treasure on full display. That is what our witness needs - lives that back up what we claim. That is the first reason I see to pursue simplicity.
The second reasons is...(check back tomorrow)
Thursday, March 23, 2006
* The Cross Centered Life or Living the Cross Centered Life, both by CJ Mahaney (short, easy, yet deep and shaping)
* The Gospel for Real Life: Turn to the Liberating Power of the Cross Everyday, by Jerry Bridges (practical, very good)
* The Passion of Jesus Christ, by John Piper (answers the question why Jesus died on the cross)
* The Atonement or The Cross of Jesus by Leon Morris (in depth examination of the doctrine of the atonement)
* Spurgeon's Sermons on the Cross of Christ, Charles Haddon Spurgeon (he is deep theologically and a master of using language)
* The Cross and Salvation, by Bruce Demarest (honestly, i haven't read this one yet)
* The Cross of Christ, by John Stott (ok, not this one either)
* The Heart of the Cross, by Philip Graham Ryken and James Montgomery Boice (short devotionals centered on the cross)
* The Cross from a Distance: Atonement in Marks Gospel, by Peter Bolt (I'm reading this one now)
Monday, March 20, 2006
"I have now to ask, whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world; whether you can consent to her departure, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of missionary life; whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean, to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death. Can you consent to all this, for the sake of him who left is heavily home, and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing, immortal souls; for the sake of Zion, and the glory of God? Can you consent to all this, in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with the crown of righteous, brightened with the acclamations of praise which shall redound to her Savior from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair?"
Unbelievably, Ann's father left the decision up to her, and she agreed to marry him and go. Praise God for a father who held is daughter loosely, and for a godly woman who held her own life loosely!
If you want to read more of this story, I would recommend reading from John Pipers bio of him. You find it at http://www.desiringgod.org/library/biographies/03judson.html.
Monday, March 13, 2006
however, i was getting really annoyed as i watched (typical when i watch tv. ask my wife how many times i yell 'shut up, just shut up' at the tv on any given night). the source of my frustration was how the designers were talking about the obviously strong faith of the family. the kept saying things like, 'it's not about being a certain religion, it's about finding what works for you'. in other words, they were making faith seem like it was an aspirin for the pains of life - something will just help you cope (or, as a more articulate philosopher put it, an 'opiate for the masses').
is that how we should treat faith and religion. find whatever works for you, whatever helps you cope or make sense out of life and go with that. or, should we plead with people to find what is true. thinking that i am a millionaire might help feel good, but in the end, this wrong thinking will catch up with me when the bill collectors come knocking to reposes things i thought i had the money to pay for. finding a religion that 'works for you' is the same. if 'what works for you' isn't true, if it doesn't correspond to reality, it will catch up with you.
God doesn't present him or his Son as a great pain killing aspirin, but as the truth, as the one cosmic truth that defines all other truths. He gives meaning to life. any other meaning is contrived and false. the only thing that will truly 'work for you' or anyone else is submitting to, following, trusting and loving this one and only God.
hadn't ranted in while. felt good!
Thursday, March 09, 2006
Today I read John 3:36 and was struck by something once again. John the Baptist testifies about Jesus and says, "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him".
Sometimes we begin to think of wrath as something that is coming in the future - you know, the book of revelation and stuff like that. But several places in Scripture make it perfectly clear that wrath is already being expressed. In the future, things will be more fully expressed. Saints get full joy in heaven when the more fully experience God and his love. But that doesn't mean we don't experience joy or God or his love now. We do, thank God! The same is true of those who are under God's wrath. In the future, those who do not believe in the Son will experience God's wrath in the fullest. However, this does not mean they aren't under and experiencing wrath now.
John the Baptist makes this clear. "Whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him". Paul also emphasizes this truth in Ephesians 2:1-3, "And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience - among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.".
We were under wrath, and had God not done something, we would have remained there. In fact, Paul goes on to say in the next verse, "But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ Ã by grace you have been saved..."
Even in the context of John 3 it is clear that it is God who decisively acts to bring us out from under wrath and grant us life. In talking with Nicodemus, Jesus says "unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God". We must be born of the Spirit before we can enter the kingdom (which happens at our conversion). In other words, God's sovereign act of regeneration precedes our exercise of faith and repentance. They are the fruits of being made spiritually alive. They, faith and repentance, are gifts from God. All this is from God so that no one may boast in his presence.
Thanks be to God for what he has done to move us out from under his wrath and into his love.
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
anyway, that's a long way of getting to what i wanted to say (a typical problem for me). one of the issues i mentioned but didn't talk enough about is our petitionary prayers - the times in prayer where we are asking God to answer specific requests. along these lines i would like to challenge you to think about the requests you are making.
first, are they God centered requests? are they requests that a God who is passionate for his glory will be quick to answer? notice in the psalms how many times David appeals to God's passion for his glory and asks him to do something. for example, psalm 25 david asks God to pardon his guilt for "his names sake". or consider psalms 79:8-10 "do not remember against us our former iniquities; let your compassion come speedily to meet us,for we are brought very low. help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name; deliver us, and atone for our sins, for your name's sake! why should the nations say, "where is their God?" let the avenging of the outpoured blood of your servants be known among the nations before our eyes!" (esv). notice david is appealing to God's passion for his glory, and to God's desire for his fame and reputation to grow among the nations. (look also at psalm 109:21, 143:11, jeremiah 14:7-21).
now please, don't think i'm encouraging you to try and coerce or manipulate God into action. but i do think that when our passion is for God's glory, that is our main concern and that all our problems are seen in light of this. it is clear that Jesus, when he taught his disciples to pray in a God centered way. the first three requests he made were for God's name to to regarded as holy, for His kingdom to come, and for His will to be done (on earth as it is in heaven). God centered!
second, are your prayers big, God sized prayers? again, think about the kind of requests Jesus taught his disciples to make. these are huge, God sized requests: God's name being hallowed among people who spurn it, a kingdom coming, God's will to be done among rebels... huge! most of my requests are pathetically small (ie. help the missions team to work out the logistics of getting to boston), or big and vague (ie. be with the missionaries). what about huge specific requests? what about, "God, be so near and dear to the missionaries serving in dangerous places that they speak with a holy boldness. be so near the center of their affections that no sin can compete with the pleasure of knowing you and no suffering can shake them either. God, change the religious landscape of (fill in the blank) through the efforts of (again, fill in the blank)"
i have a friend who used to talk about bhag - big, hairy, audacious goals. i would like to recommend to you bhap - big, hairy, audacious prayers. not big vague prayers. but big specific prayers - prayers so big that God will get the glory cause everyone watching will see clearly that the fruit couldn't be the result of human effort - God did it. and one more thing, let's ask God to do big things, for his glory, not just in the missionaries, but also in our ministry to the iu campus.
finally, about the specific daily requests we make for our needs: Jesus did not shy away from instructing his disciples to pray for their needs. in fact, we are commanded to do so. but notice in the Lord's prayer what it is that Jesus tells us to pray for - daily bread, forgiveness, deliverance from evil. they aren't for steak and caviar, or new suvs or other luxuries, but for daily necessities. they display an absolute dependence upon God as the provider of these essential things.
again, think about your prayer requests. do they reflect a dependence upon God? do we ask him to meet our needs or do we suppose that we can do that on our own? i was talking with someone yesterday about the challenge in our modern non-agrarian society of seeing that our provisions come from God when we can go to the store and buy some chicken wrapped in plastic that says purdue. i think it is harder today to see that God is the ultimate provider, but it is still true. it's just that this truth has been obscured by supermarkets, mass production, etc. still though, it doesn't take much mental effort to see what would happen if God withheld the rain that he sends to the crops, or the sunshine that is essential for photosynthesis, or, or, or...
as you pray, consciously think through some of these things. remember how dependent you are upon God for life and breath and everything. remember that in him we live and move and have our being. and make requests in this attitude of dependence. then you'll experience the joy of thankfulness, the joy of seeing God provide. moreover, God will get the glory as the provider, the forgiver, the deliverer.
Saturday, February 25, 2006
It was always about you.
When through sinful eyes I see
You on the old twisted tree
I see you making much of me.
But it’s you, displaying you!
Righteousness to be upheld,
For sin’s judgment was withheld.
Your Justice to be maintained,
Till the cross’ wood was stained
By Your Son dying on earth,
To display Your glory’s worth.
And it’s you, displaying you!
The bright center of the cross
Is the shining forth of you.
Wrath now is satisfied.
The door of mercy swings wide.
God haters now become sons
Of the Most High and Holy One.
And now we sing of your grace
As we look upon your face.
And it’s you, displaying you!
Let me ask you, do you think she would be honored by such a response. Would you? No. No one is honored by being assumed. Granted, we do assume some very important things, like oxygen. But oxygen, or our wives, our parents, our friends, are not honored by us assuming them. In fact, quite the opposite.
It is so much more the case with God than our wives. he mind. He is not honored by being assumed, and he does not like it very much at all. Why? Because it runs contrary to his eternal purposes. God wants to be, and deserves to be recognized. Throughout Scripture we see that God acts as he does so that people will know he is God and give him the glory due his name... You see this very clearly in the book of Exodus:
"Say therefore to the people of Israel, 'I am the LORD... and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment... and you shall know that I am the LORD your God." (Ex. 6:6-7)
"I will lay my hand upon Egypt and bring forth my ... people ... out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD." (Ex. 7:4-5)
"[Tomorrow] the frogs will be destroyed from you and your houses ... that you may know that there is no one like the LORD our God." (Exodus 10:1-2)
"By now I could have put forth my hand . . . and you would have been cut off from the earth: but for this purpose have I let you live, to show you my power, so that my name may be declared throughout all the earth." (Exodus 9:15-16)
"As soon as I [Moses] have gone out of the city, I will stretch out my hands to the LORD; the thunder will cease, and there will be no more hail, that you may know that the earth is the LORD's." (Exodus 9:29)
"Go in to Pharaoh; for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, in order that I may show these signs of mine among them, and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your son's son how I have made sport of the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them; that you may know that I am the LORD." (Exodus 10:1-2)
"In the time to come, when your son asks you, "What does this [Passover] mean?" you shall say to him, "By strength of hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, from the house of bondage."" (Exodus 13:14)
"Not a dog will growl against any of the people of Israel, either man or beast; that you may know that the LORD makes a distinction between the Egyptians and Israel" (Exodus 11: 7).
Let me encourage you not to make God the foundation of your life - foundations are hidden and no one takes notice or praises the beauty of a foundation. Make God your everything. Make him your express purpose, make him your portion, the center of your conversations, your goal, your boast, your waking and lying down thought. When you talk about the warmth of the day, praise God for it. When you think about your health, thank God for it. Don't assume God. In the words of John Piper, "God does not like to be taken for granted. God wills to be central and supreme and celebrated in all of life, including the life of the mind."
Friday, February 17, 2006
This passage has long been one of my favorite doxologies. Paul says "to him be the glory". All glory is God's because he alone is worthy and created all things for his glory. There is no part of creation, no corner of the cosmos that does not sing of God’s glory – no part of it is not his, for he created every aspect, every electron and proton of suns and galaxies far away, and he created it all for his glory
But there is a special arena of God's glory - the church. Many people get glory for their accomplishments. To Jerome Bettis and Hines Ward be the glory on the football field. To Tom Hanks be the glory in the Academy of Motion Pictures. But to God, to God be the glory in the church! It is his special sphere of glory where he is willingly worshipped by his people.
But Paul doesn't stop there. He goes on, "to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus...". This is an important statement because it reminds us of a couple of important things. First, Christ is what makes the church what it is. He is the head, we are the body. He is the cornerstone, we are the building. He is the shepherd, we are the sheep. We are a people for God's glory because Jesus is for God's glory. That was the goal of his life, his ministry, and his death - to glorify God his Father.
The next phrase is truly incredible. "To God be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations." How long will you remember who won the Superbowl? Maybe a couple of years. How long will the hottest bands still be hot? Maybe a decade. Two if they are incredibly lucky and versatile. Most will wind up on VH1's "One Hit Wonders" or "Where are They Now" shows. How long will actors and actresses be celebrated for their work? Only as long as their beauty doesn't fade, which it will. Only God's glory is throughout all generations. Think about that for a minute. In every generation of people that have ever lived there have been faithful God worshippers - there has been a church. The number was incredibly small in some generations (i.e. Noah was the only one from his generation), but the truth holds - "TO GOD BE THE GLORY IN THE CHURCH AND IN CHRIST JESUS THROUGHOUT ALL GENERATIONS FOREVER AND EVER. AMEN".
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Bob did have a daunting task - to talk about the oldest, most influential, institution in the world - the only institution that is, in his words, both temporal and eternal. The approach he took was absolutely perfect - at least, its' what I needed to hear. It fueled my love affair. But any message on a huge topic like 'the church' will obviously speak to some things and not to others. One issue Bob didn't talk about is the issue of what constitutes a legimate local church. I think this is a crucial issue in our day and age and deserving of some thought...
I say that this is a crucial issue for our times because there is an increasing trend to think of spirituality and Christianity apart from the 'institutional church'. George Barna has published a book recently called Revolution, in which he details and praises the movement of many who profess to be fully devoted followers of Jesus away from a local body of believers. Barna argues, and too many agree, that it is possible to be a devoted disciple, a Bible believing Christian, someone passionately in love with God and have no connection to a local church. I couldn't disagree more.
Some may object and say, "I love the Church (the church universal) but don't care for the church (the local)". To me, that's like saying "I love humanity, it's people I don't like". I am going to do something dangerous and assume you agree that it is incredibly important to be attached to a local body of believers. But that raises a question - what turns a group of believers into a 'church'. Does me meeting with a group of friends at Starbucks to discuss some point of theology constitute a church? Are there minimum requirements for a group to be legitimate biblical church? Yes, I think there is.
In what follows I am drawing heavily on an article by Sam Storms in response to Barna's book. You can read it on his website (enjoyinggodministries.org) in the book review section.
First, I think for a gathering to be considered a church there must be godly leadership by those who are biblically qualified to lead. These leaders don't necessarily need to be paid, and they don't have to be called elders, but there must be some governing structure as per the Bible (Acts 20:28; Ephesians 4:11-13; Phil. 1:1; 1 Thess. 5:12-13; 1 Timothy 3:1-13; 5:17-21; Titus 1:5-16; Hebrews 13:17; James 5:14; 1 Peter 5:1-4).
Second, right and faithful proclomation of the Word of God.
Third, right administration of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper.
Fourth, "Commitment to both individual and corporate worship, praise, and celebration of the centrality and supremacy of Jesus Christ".
Fifth, a committment to Christian ministry for God's glory (ie. evangelizing the lost, winning the nations, etc.)
I'd love to know what you think of the idea of "minimum requirements to be a legitimate biblical church" and/or the list offered here. I'll be posting more soon.
Friday, February 10, 2006
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!
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
Right up front, let me tell you that I do not believe that Jesus literally descended into hell after his death. Nor do I believe the Bible supports this view.
The actual phrase "descended into hell" did not appear in any form of the creed until 390AD, and then only in a copy made by Rufinus (and not the one he preserved as official). Even then, Rufinus did not believe that Jesus descended into hell like we use the phrase, but into the grave (the word Hades can mean hell or grave). It did not again appear in a copy of the creed until 650AD.
Most Protestant Christians have rejected the idea that Jesus descended literally into hell. Most have chosen to interpret this dubious phrase in one of two ways. Some follow Rufinus and believe it to mean that he was placed in the grave, emphasizing that he was truly dead. Others follow Calvin and believe that it refers to the period of time when Jesus suffered God's wrath and separation from Him on the cross. This is the view of Calvin, the view expressed in the Heidelberg Catechism, the Westminster Larger Catechism and other reformed doctrinal confessions.
I know some where wondering where I stood on this, and I tend to follow Calvin (surprise, surprise) - believing that it refers to that period when Jesus was suffering not just physically, but suffering spiritual separation from the love of God as he was made sin for us. Hope this helps.
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If you missed Saturday night, it was a great time of worship and fellowship. We continued to think about sex as a gift from God, this week focusing on how to protect the beauty of that gift. Unfortunately, the wireless microphone had some technical issues, so the message wasn't recorded. I have, however, turned my notes into a full manuscript of what we discussed Saturday night. You can download it here (Sex and the City of God). I would encourage you to do so if you weren't here - not because I think my handling of the topic was so profound, but because the topic itself is of vital importance.
Friday, February 03, 2006
Psalm 105:1 "Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name;
make known his deeds among the peoples!
2 Sing to him, sing praises to him;
tell of all his wondrous works!
3 Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!
4 Seek the Lord and his strength;
seek his presence continually!
5 Remember the wondrous works that he has done,
his miracles, and the judgments he uttered,
6 O offspring of Abraham, his servant,
children of Jacob, his chosen ones!" ESV
First, we must "give thanks" (v. 1a). An ungrateful heart is most clearly a sin (Romans 1:21) and dishonoring to God. We must come into worship understanding that all we have is from God, all physical and spiritual gifts come from him, all that is good in our lives and in the universe find their source in God, the fount of all blessings. We must come to God with grateful, thankful hearts.
Second, we are to "call upon his name". In large part, our worship is again and again calling upon the name of the Lord. We continually come as recipient, and never giver. What we have, we have been given. What we give is a gifted response. Do you want to give more? Then call upon his name, asking that he would give you more to give back!
Third, we "make known his deeds among the peoples". This is a somewhat new concept for me, but what this psalm makes clear is that there is an evangelistic component to our worship. This is not the goal (God's glory is the goal), but it is certainly a byproduct of genuine, passionate, God centered worship. In our worship, we are telling of the mighty deeds of God on behalf of his people, and we tell them not just to each other, but to the peoples.
Fourth, we are called to "sing to him, sing praise to him". Have you ever just sat or stood there, not participating in the worship? Do you realize that is disobedience?! We are commanded to sing. Singing not your thing? It is now! We cannot be spectators in worship, but are called to lift our voices and sing praises to our great God.
Fifth, again we are called to "tell of all his wondrous works". We are to worship God for who he AND what He has done.
Sixth, we are to "Glory in his name". "His name" is another way of saying "who he is". In the Bible, someone's name was more than just a way of identifying them - it was a summary of who they were. This is particularly true of God. We are told to glory, or exult and rejoice in his name. Our boasting is about who God is!
Seventh, we are commanded to let our hearts rejoice! Consider this - there is no such thing as unhappy praise. It is an oxymoron, a contradiction. You can not sit back and glumly sing God's praises. If you do, it is hypocrisy, not worship. You can not stand and sing "you're altogether lovely, altogether worthy, altogether wonderful to me" if you don't mean it and aren't consumed by joy at the thought of it!
Eighth, (this is getting kinda long, huh), we are told to "Seek the Lord". This is so essential in worship. If we go through all the motions but God isn't present, if we do not experience him anew, what is the point. In fact, our worship springs from joy in the revelation of God. To worship, we must know God. So to go deeper into worship, we must seek to know him more (not just about him, but to know him in relationship). Now there will be times where God seems distant, but we cannot allow ourselves to be content with this anymore than we would allow ourselves to be content with a distant relationship with our wives. We must continually seek a deeper relationship with God.
Finally, we must remember. How much joy do we forfeit simply because we do not take time to remember all that God has done for us? Remembering is a major theme in the Bible. The Israelites set up altars to remember. God told the people to pass on to their children all that God had done for them so that his deeds would be remembered. We celebrate the Lord's Supper to remember what God has done on the cross (it is shocking that we would ever forget this, but God knows how fickle and short of memory we are). Remember.
Hope this is helpful as we strive to be a deep worshipping community.
Tuesday, January 31, 2006
I have a friend who got married a few years ago. When he came back from his honeymoon, he was telling me during those beautiful times of intimacy (uh, I mean, during sex), he was actually thinking to himself - this is glorifying to God...
My friend is actually a little bizarre, I have to admit. I don't think I've ever thought those thoughts while in the throws of passion. However, the thought is very true. The apostle Paul says that whatever we do - eating, drinking, working, studying and even sex - should be done for the glory of God.
If you heard John Mangrum's message on Sunday night, he affirmed this incredible truth. Many early church fathers missed this, viewing sex as something base and ignoble. However, the biblical picture is quite different. Sex is somethign beautiful, something noble, something that is glorifying to God. In that sense, sex is an act of worship.
When a man and a woman engage each other in loving sex, the Bible says that they become one flesh. The two become one, and in so doing reflect something of the Godhead. In the Trinity, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are united in perfect oneness. There is diversity, but unity - Unity in diversity. So, in marriage and specifically in sex, there is diversity (two individuals), and yet also unity (they become one). Our understanding of God would be greatly diminished, I believe, had God not given us this beautiful picture of his internal relationship with himself.
Sex is an awesome gift, and as with every gift God has given us, we are called to trace the gift back to the giver and give him thanks and honor.
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
How did I make the decision to ask Lynn to marry me? Well, at first, I thought she was attractive (that is a grand understatement). I knew she was a believer and committed to Christ (probably more so than myself at that point). She seemed fun and I thought I would like to get to know her more. I wasn't thinking marriage to Lynn at that point, but I was thinking marriage was a possibility in the next few years. I was looking for a wife, not a date, not a kissing buddy.
We went out on our first date, and despite the fact that my ex-girlfriend was our waitress, the date went well. We liked each other. We continued to date and at no point was there anything I saw that would keep me from marrying her, if she would have me.
We continued to date and get to know each other for two years. After graduation, there was a lot of life to sort out - where was I going to seminary, what direction of ministry was I going to pursue, and where was my relationship with Lynn going.
At this point, I prayed a lot. I didn't pray "God show me", but "God, give me wisdom. Open my eyes to things that my affections might be blinding me to." I really don't know what we expect when we pray "God, show me". Do we want lightning or a what? I'm not trying to mock anyone, except myself, cause I've prayed that many times.
As I was praying for wisdom and clear eyes to see with, I also was trying to envision my life with Lynn in it and my life without her in it. It was abundantly clear to me that I much preferred my life with Lynn. I wanted to get married to her, so I asked. She said yes because she wanted to get married to me.
I don't want to make it sound cold and calculated. A large part of why I wanted to marry Lynn and she wanted to marry me was because God had given us a deep love for one another. Our hearts were bound to each other. This played an enormous, though not all important, role in the decision making process. (It is possible for you heart to latch onto something that is unhealthy or sinful, hence the biblical warning to "guard you heart").
So, that was how I met and dated and married Lynn. It was fun. Glad I ain't there any more! Sorry.
Well, to begin with, are you single? If so, then for now, you are called to be single. Actually, you are called to live faithfully as a single person. How do you know if this is a lifelong calling? Frankly, you don't.
Often we want to know what the future holds - whether we will remain single, who we will marry, where we will settle, etc. God has not promised to tell us the future and and does not make a habit out of it. Things will unfold according to his will, but there are aspects of his will that he has revealed in his word (referred to as his prescribed will), and aspects that we do not know until we look back at them in hindsight (referred to often as his secret or sovereign will, see Deut 29:29).
To push further into this and offer some practical thought, let me say that if you desire to be married and are finding the single a life a struggle, singleness probably isn't for you. To be content in a state of chastity requires a gift from God. If you dont' have that gift, it would probably mean that you should stay open to marraige. Notice I said stay open to it. Getting married isn't the goal of your life when you are single - serving and glorifying God is! Don't make changing you status the goal, make spreading the kingdom and living for God the goal. I think that is one of the main points of 1 Corinthians 7.
Also, realize that we may need to grow into the gift of singleness. I mean that it might not be easy at first; in fact, as you release your dreams of the wife/husband and kids and all that entails, it may be a struggle at first. That's natural. Someone gifted at teaching still finds the first time they teach difficult. They grow into the gift.
Notice also that it was not a matter of right vs. wrong if you decide to marry or stay single. It is an issue of Christian liberty and making wise choices. If you desire to get married, go ahead says Paul. If you burn with passion, it's probably wise - go ahead and get married. If no opportunities for marriage avail themselves, then live single, live faithfully, and serve the Lord with all your might, not being burdened by the anxieties family life brings with it.
There are benefits and drawbacks to singleness and to marriage. God has given us the freedom to choose which state we will live in, but also calls us to choose wisely.
I really don't have an issue if someone wants to court, or even if someone want to make the case that courting is a wiser method of finding a future spouse than is dating. However, I do get all riled up when someone tries to argue that courting is the biblical model. What distrurbed me about the article I shared last night, and several others like it, wasn't their conclusion, but how they arrived there. (The article is called "What Does a Biblical Relationship Look Like". Even the title implies that if you aren't courting, you're not biblical.)
I believe that the author of the article, Scott Croft, sets up a false dichotomy. Actually, he sets up several: dating is selfish while courting is selfless. Dating is done under no authority while courting is done under the authority of the girls parent or church. Modern dating is all about finding the one for me while courting is about being the one for her and God. Wow, put like that, who would ever date. But it doesn't need to be like that! Dating can be done for the glory of God, it can be done under authority, and it can be as selfless as courting or marriage. Watch out for false dichotomies - they are misleading.
Also, I found the use and misuse of Scripture rather annoying in this article. To argue for courting from Number 30:3-16 is exegetically dishonest. To say that we should follow the example of Solomon as recorded in the Song of Solomon confuses two categories of Scriptural material - descriptive vs. prescriptive. Certainly we must obey the commands of Scripture. When God says, "love the Lord your God" and "love your neighbor", these are prescriptive commands. However, the Bible also contains a lot of narrative material which simply describes the times, events, places, etc. Actually, they don't just tell us about any old things or any old place - they tell us about the activity of God in his creation and among his people. There is a lot to be gleaned from these sections of Scripture; however, we must be careful not to fall into a "monkey-see-monkey-do" mode of reading our Bibles. There is a lot we are not suppose to imitate because it was blatantly sinful (i.e. taking seven hundred wives, as Solomon did). In addition, there is a lot of narrative material on which the Biblical authors don't make any kind of moral comment, they simply describe. In the words of Gordon Fee, "Unless Scripture explicitely tells us we must do something, what is merely narrated or described can never function in a normative way".
The final thing that I mentioned but didn't say much about is just some downright misleading and poorly thought through comments that have been made. In another online article Nathan Bailey writes, "They [biblical parents] did not arrange the marriage without the childrens' consent although they were certainly involved in the arrangments". This is awful. Off the top of my head I can think of two cases where spouses were picked for children completely without the children's input. Abraham sends his servant to go find a wife for Isaac. The servant returns with Rebekah and they are married immediately (Gen 24). Caleb offers his daughter in marriage to whomever would capture the city of Kiriath-sepher (Joshua 15:16). Oops!
I don't mean to beat up on those who have chosen courtship over dating. That is a valid option. So is dating. I don't want to come down hard on courtship, but on the idea that it is the only valid option for someone trying to be biblical. That seems to be very legalistic and diminishes the freedom we have in Christ.
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
Several years ago I sat in a church and heard the pastor give the usual "if this isn't your home church, don't feel any obligation to participate in the given of tithes and offerings". Certainly those who go to other churches shouldn't feel compelled to give when visiting somewhere else; however, what about those who don't go anwhere? It got me thinking, "Is the person's money who doesn't go to church their's, or is God's? Does God relieve people of the obligation to obey him because they don't go to church (or even because they dont' believe in him). Are they relieved of the obligation to be good stewards of their money, or the obligation to be appreciative of the gifts he has given them" Obviously, I answered those questions with a resounding, if someone perplexed, "No".
When it comes to how we respond to sinful attitudes and behaviors in our non Christian friends, I have two thought: First, God has not relieved people of their obligations to obey. We are not holding people to our standards. Ever. That would be Pharisaical. However, God's standard is what we are bound to, and what binds all people - whether believer or not. Eventually, everyone will be called to give an account of how they lived up to God's standard.
My second thought is that holding people to the same standard God holds us to is actually an act of love. By holding people to that standard I mean calling sin what it is and confronting it - in believing brothers and sisters and nonbelieving friends as well. The goal is not to judge or condemn, but to restore to fellowship with God. Out of love we confront sin in our brothers and sisters because it dishonors God and because it hinders them from enjoying their best treausre, their greatest satisfaction and joy to the fullest. The same is true of our nonbelieving friends. Until they understand the weight and seriousness of their sin, they will not be inclined to seek or accept grace. And without grace, they will never experience the relationship with God that will bring them joy and satisfaction. All the sinful pleasures they pursue are just shadows of the true pleasure they crave. So out of love, we do hold our friends to God's standard and call them out on their sin - gently, and tearfully of course. We do so because love seeks the greatest good for the loved, and their greatest good is a relationship with God
Every once in a while, I find myself arguing a position I don't necessary like at the gut level. This is one of those times. I'm interested in your thoughts.
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
The "Great Cloud of Witnesses" includes men like Abel, Abraham, Moses, David and others, who lived by faith. These men encourage us to lay aside every hinderance and sin and run with perseverance the race that God has made.
One of the witnesses, Moses, is particularly encouraging in light of what we were talking about Sunday night - the radical life transforming change that comes from beholding the beauty of God in Christ. It is a transformation that frees us from sin, conforms us to the image of Christ, and enables us to persevere to the end.
Look at Hebrews 11:24-27, "By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible." (ESV).
I didn't see this until late last week, but the connections are amazing. Moses grew up in the household of Pharaoh. Yet, when he was grown up he left behind the wealth of Egypt and all the sensual pleasures that accompanied being a prince and chose to be mistreated with the people of God. Notice that it refers to the fleeting pleasure of sin. The author of Hebrews isn't naive - he knows there is a certain pleasure in sin. Yet, he also sees the greater truth that this pleasure is fleeting. It only lasts for a moment (even if you enjoy it for a lifetime, what is that compared to eternity).
He goes on to say that all the treasures of Egypt don't stack up to the "reproach of Christ". Again, doesn't this seem ridiculous. To choose the abuse of Christ (not that he is the one abusing, but we suffer the same abuse he did) over the wealth and ease and comfort of life in the palace is foolishness to the nth degree in the minds of this materialistic world. How did Moses suffer the abuse of Christ when Christ didn't appear on the stage of world history for thousands of years? Well, that's another blog for another day, but let me say that it seems the Bible portrays all the sufferings of God's people throughout the ages as somehow being a part of Christ's sufferings.
Why did Moses choose the abuse of Christ, the scorn of beign one of God's people over the wealth of Egypt? Because, as the author points out, he was "looking to the reward". One commentator makes the point that this verb is a very active and deliberate verb meaning to look away from one thing and to another. Moses chose not to look at the wealth of Egypt but rather to look to the rewards offered for being counted as one of God's people. What are these rewards? One could say it was Promised Land, but Moses never actually entered it. I think it is more likely that the author of Hebrews has in mind the spiritual rewards - rewards that are more enduring rather than fleeting.
There is one more connection - one crucial and beautiful one. Remember, Moses was "looking to the reward". Now look back at v. 27. He endured the anger of the kind "as seeing him who is invisible". There is a kind of paradox in this - Moses was seeing the one who was invisible. But, that is the nature of faith according to v. 1. The connection between these two verses is what I want you to see. He was "looking to the reward" in v. 26 and then in v. 27 it says that he was "seeing him who is invisible". He was looking unto God, the one who is invisible, as his reward! Seeing this enabled him to chose God and even the reproach of God's people and the abuse of Christ over the fleeting pleasures of sin. Seeing this enabled him to endure the hardship and the wrath of the king. He knew his treasure. He beheld it by faith and it changed him, turning him into a fool for Christ.
Oh how important is beholding the beauty of Christ, the glory of God in the face of Christ, to the Christian life.