Tuesday, October 31, 2006

steve camp is still pounding

In honor of Reformation Day, Steve Camp reposted his 107 Theses - A Call for Reformation for Christian Ministry. Very well done and worth a read if you are in ministry. If you are not in ministry, well ...

Here's theses 1 to whet your appetite.

All our works, both musical and written, must produce a high view of God - with our chief aim being to glorify God and worship Him forever. (Job 40:6-41:34; Psalm 29:1-2; Jeremiah 9: 23-24)

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reformation day?

What's up with this? I thought it was simply Halloween ...

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warnock on mlj

Adrian Warnock has written a nice 4 part summary of Martin Lloyd-Jones' view of the differentiation between baptism of the Holy Spirit and the work of the Holy Spirit in conversion [part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4]. Warnock's conclusion;

You may not agree with Martyn Lloyd-Jones' interpretation ... the theological debates about what you should call an experience of the Holy Spirit should not ... remove the absolute necessity that we recognise the reality of two clearly distinct works of the Spirit. ... we should not jump to the conclusion that there is therefore no second experience to seek for.


I remain convinced that the balance of Scripture teaches us that there is a secret act of the Spirit in regenerating us and joining us to Christ of which we may not be aware save for its effects in us. Many a believer feels that the faith he now feels is his own - little does he know that it has been produced in him by the Spirit, that a rebirth has happened. If you want to call that event the baptism with the Spirit, then at least recognise that it is an event that is centred on joining the believer to the body of Christ.

Believers are, however, to desire and expect that we might "drink" of the Spirit or "receive" him. This event is something that we will recognise when it happens. I do not believe it is a once-for-all event. We are to keep coming back for more drink! We are to desire and savour the Spirit and yearn for more conscious awareness of him as a person who is at work in every believer. What is the difference between the Spirit-filled believer and the one who when asked, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” would have a similar answer to the Ephesians in Acts 19:2? Is it that the Spirit is not working in the latter? Absolutely not. The Spirit is at work in every believer. It is simply that the one who is "full" of the Spirit, who has drunk of the Spirit - who has received the Spirit, is one who has a vivid experience of the third person of the Trinity as a reality in their lives.

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Halloween2005 Mrsmilely2

Everyone is blogging about Halloween [here, here, here]. I trust every Christian has wrestled with it. What is it? What is my response to it? Etc..

For me, it's easy - I'm cheap. I hate the idea that we are teaching kids to dress up, come to my door, and because of that, I have to give them candy for free. The whole thing is a big disruption. If I'm trying to do something at home there is the constant doorbell ringing. If I want to go out, my friends are either hiding in the dark of their homes or they are out participating in this somehow.

While I'm at it, the German's have this beat, they have Fasching (or Carnival). Here they teach kids to block the roads and charge you a toll to get past - as if driving in Germany's streets are not frustrating enough (well - except the autobahn, the kids aren't out playing on that).

Anyway, back to Halloween ... I have some neighbors that must have spent at least $250 on outdoor "decorations". What's up with that? Not to mention the set-up and clean-up effort. And frankly, it's ugly. Who here thinks giant spiders or a coffin in your yard is helping the resale value?

So I'm torn. I have to first realize that I am a grumpy, old man and just don't like this stuff. Beyond that, I have to wrestle with the spiritual aspect. So here it is from my humble point of view. Any opportunity I have to connect with the world for the purpose of building redeeming relationships is good. This of course assumes I am not committing a sin in the process.

On that point, I don't see inherent evil in this. We are not celebrating anything. We are seizing a chance to connect. I see opportunity. But that is on the "hosting" side. I'm not clear why I would have my kids dress up and go out collecting candy. My son told me of some kids that were doing that but asking for canned goods to later donate - ok, but that's quite a stretch. I'm not seeing the outreach potential in sending our kids door-to-door dressed up as whatever asking for something.

The bottom line - don't get all worked up about it, look for chances to connect, I doubt there is some inherent evil in this day on the calendar, at the same time don't kid yourself into thinking you are spiritual if you really just like candy, and by all means, don't get grumpy like me.

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Sunday, October 29, 2006

baptisms and tears

During the worship service today we had a half-dozen or so baptisms. The angels rejoiced and I cried ... cool stuff.

I liked the format at NSV. While the rest of us sang songs, families and elders gathered around the water to do the baptisms. With each one there was a great big cheer from the crowd - very cool. I liked the celebratory nature of it. I missed hearing testimonies but it was offset by the sheer joy of the event.

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prophecy and decision making

Scripture is sufficient - nothing is higher, nothing is equal. Yet prophecy continues today.
1 Co 14.37-38
clearly indicates prophets exist in parallel to the teaching of the Apostles yet are subordinate to them. Paul repeats this warning in a specific way regarding the return of our Lord (
2 Thes 2.1-3).

Acts 2 in context with Joel 2 and He 1.2 puts us now in the last days. All who repent and believe have received God's Spirit (Acts 2.38). Upon those there will be an amazingly widespread gift of prophesy (Acts 2.17-18) yet this will not be for all (1 Co 12.29). And, in addition, these prophesies will not be perfect (1 The 5.19-22) and are to be tested against the standard of the Word.

What good are they then? Like teaching, the Word of God is heard through human ears, processed though a human mind, and then spoken through human lips. Does this make teaching of no value? Of course not. In the same way, teaching and prophecy is of value but must always be judged against the standard of the Word.

There's a separate reason however that God wants us to not use prophecy as the normal way to make decisions. More than responding to some special revelation, God wants our hearts and minds transformed (Ro 12.1-2) through the washing of the perfect, infallible Word (2 Tim 3.16).

Thinking and reasoning is risky since our minds have also been effected by the fall yet this is God''s norm. Scripture contains several examples regarding Paul (Phil 2.25; 1 Co 16.4; 1 Co 6.5). Paul doesn't advise hanging out until some special revelation occurs. He advises decision making based on a lifestyle of wisdom.

God desires conformity to His Son (Ro 8.29) and not external compliance with special instruction.

With that then, John MacArthur offers seven excellent points to help in our spiritual decision making.

Will it benefit me spiritually?

All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify. (1 Cor. 10:23) A "profitable" thing is useful, helpful, or to your advantage to do; and the idea behind "edify" is to build up spiritually. So based on this verse, ask yourself, "Will doing this enhance my spiritual life? Will it cultivate godliness? Will it build me up spiritually?" If not, you should seriously question whether that behavior is the best choice.

Will it bring bondage?

All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything. (1 Cor. 6:12) In the second part of this verse, Paul is saying, "I will not be brought under the power of anything." If what you are considering can be habit forming, why pursue it? Don't allow yourself to be in bondage to anything or anyone. You are a bond-servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, and Him alone.

Will it defile God's temple?

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. (1 Cor. 6:19-20) Don't do anything that you know will harm your body or bring shame–it is the only instrument you have to glorify God. Romans 6:13 says, "Present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God." How you choose to use your body should always reflect your concern to honor Jesus Christ.

Will it cause anyone to stumble?

Food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat. But take care lest this liberty of yours somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. (1 Cor. 8:8-9) This is the principle of love. As Romans 13:10 says: "Love does no wrong to a neighbor; love therefore is the fulfillment of the law." If you know that your choice–what you consider "in bounds" and approved–causes another Christian to stumble and sin, love that brother or sister enough to restrict your own freedom. That is not very popular in our self-absorbed society, but it is biblical. To continue to indulge in a legitimate freedom that causes problems for another Christian is a sin. For "by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore," Paul said, "if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, that I might not cause my brother to stumble." (1 Cor. 8:12-13)

Will it further the cause of evangelism?

Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God; just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of the many, that they may be saved (1 Cor. 10:32-33). Whether you are aware of it, what you allow or disallow in your behavior affects your witness for Christ–and the world is watching. It's an issue of testimony–what your life says about God. Your testimony either tells the truth about God, or it tells a lie. The choices you make in the "gray" areas should reflect your concern not to bring offense to God's reputation but to bring Him praise instead.

Will it violate my conscience?

He who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin (Rom. 14:23). First Corinthians 10:25 29 contains three references to abstaining from a certain practice "for conscience sake." Never train yourself to violate your conscience. If your conscience is troubled by what you consider, don't do it. If you aren't sure about it, don't do it. It is hard to overstate the value of a clean conscience, but it is worth keeping your conscience clear so that your relationship to God will not be hindered. If you'll keep yourself in prayer and the study of God's Word, you will inform your conscience so you can "walk as children of light...finding out what is acceptable to the Lord" (Eph. 5:8, 10).

Will it bring glory to God?

Therefore, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). That verse is clearly both the summary and the goal of all the principles I've shared. Isn't our heart's cry to glorify our Lord and Savior with our lives? Think about your decision–Will He be glorified, honored, and praised through it? May we say along with Jesus, "I glorified You on the earth." (John 17:4)

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Saturday, October 28, 2006

tough neighborhood

Our neighborhood is showing some opportunity for witnessing ...

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adrians list of living preachers

Ed7D95D84Eb96C9Be030A8C0E9C80C8B I like Adrian Warnock's list of greatest living preachers (Terry Virgo, C.J. Mahaney, Grag Haslan, Wayne Grudem, and John Piper - although it's tough to find Grudem speaking; he's mostly a book guy).

Vince and Bill think think Tim Keller should be on the list. I've heard Vince speak once - pretty good except he looks like Keith Green (who I also like but didn't have the preacher look I need).

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Friday, October 27, 2006

on judging others

Teddy Roosevelt on judging others ...

It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.
"Citizenship in a Republic,"
Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910

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sex is better than hell

This bit of news from Randy "no blog" predicts that hell.com will sell for only 1/12 the sale price of sex.com ... I'm not sure what to think about this.

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

choose your words carefully

Great admonition by PyroPhil regarding guarding our tongue ... and again, excellent graphics. Dterg

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who to listen to?

There's a real hot post by Phil Johnson at Pyromaniacs about Rob Bell and Mark Driscoll. While I agree directionally with Johnson, I think that he has not sufficiently deconstructed what is said by these guys. However he did good by linking to their stuff to allow the reader to judge for themselves.

For me, as I hear Bell and others, if I presume nothing, their message is "blah" and certainly not what I'd call preaching. If I make just a few assumptions, then I can easily get to where Johnson is because guys like Bell aren't positively saying the right things.

The reason for this post is that I have gone through the gamut. I've listened to Rob Bell, Erwin McManus, Mark Driscoll, Rick Warren, etc.. In the end, I stopped listening to each of them after just a short time. They simply aren't Christ-centered with Holy Scripture as the base in their preaching. Unlike their critics, I think these guys could be Christians [the hesitation is because who am I to judge?] and I have found nuggets of gold in each of them. But in the end, my time here is limited and at best, these guys are just good christian counselors/coaches/speakers.

I've attended church after church with preachers that are similar but lack the communication skills possessed by the aforementioned and some are worse, they aren't even good coaches or counselors or whatever. Talk about leaving church feeling empty.

So where have the good preachers gone?

In contrast, years ago I belonged to the John MacArthur tape club. I even got a high speed cassette player so I could listen to more faster. I don't know how many sermons/lessons that guy put out but it seemed I listened to thousands of them. Why was I able to stick with him and not the others? He was Christ-centered and his focus was Biblical exposition. Sure there was a story here and there but he built on the foundation of Scripture. And, if memory serves, he even told a joke or two but these weren't the basis of what he was about.

Why did I quit him? Well I just couldn't take his frequent railing against Charismatics and some other points like that. I think he made his critique fine but after that he just kept hammering away. Much of that became warnings of what could happen, attacks against straw-men, misrepresentation of views, etc. - and he was vehement about it. And most importantly, when he was off on one of those tangents, he wasn't doing Bible exegesis, he was just ranting. Too bad, he lost me.

So, who am I liking these days? Two guys - John Piper and Richard Nathan. Oh, and I see potential in the senior pastor, Matt Massey, at the community we just connected with, NSV. Fortunately my reading list is longer but I need help. What are your recommendations regarding who to listen to? Someone help me.

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Monday, October 23, 2006

thank you

In his recent sermon about money, Matt Massey referenced Ray Boltz's song Thank You. I know it's sappy. I know that Boltz wore a mullet and wore a fanny-pack. But I still cry every time I hear that song. Am I alone?

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vineyard music trivia

I'm in the process of getting all my "stuff" on new MacBook Pro. In doing so I'm converting all my Vineyard Music CD's to mp3 format. I must have a gazillion songs. I also have my Songbase software up and running in MSWindows inside of Parallels - it's working pretty good. I noticed I have over 4000 songs catalogued.

Anyway, in the process, I came across this fun little trivia page. If you think you know Vineyard music, give it a shot.

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Sunday, October 22, 2006

prophecy has ceased?

1 Corinthians 13:8 - 14:5; "Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect; but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. Make love your aim, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. On the other hand, he who prophesies speaks to men for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, bu the who prophesies edifies the church. Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. He who prophesies is greater than he who speaks in tongues, unless some one interprets, so that the church may be edified."

I won't try to rehash arguments from other passages nor all the logic around it nor the historical record. The point of this post is to look at this passage alone regarding the existence of prophecy today. I perceive this is the most popular passage for supporting the cessation of spiritual gifts. The idea is that that which is perfect, the Canon of Scripture, the objective truth, is now available and therefore we no longer need these subjective "gifts".

I understand this passage as saying just the opposite. Prophecy will pass away because it will be replaced by perfection and completion. Verses 9-10 contrasts "our knowledge is imperfect" and "when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away". Verse 12 parallels that contrast with, "now I know in part" with "then I shall understand fully". Verse 12 is describing the coming of the perfect that is referred to in verse 10.
So what is Paul saying in verse 12 when he says, "Now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face."? The first option is that before the New Testament is written we see in a mirror dimly, but then when the New Testament is written we shall see face to face. The second option is that in this age we see in a mirror dimly, but then when the Lord returns we shall see face to face.
Re 22.4 tells us it is heaven we shall see God's face. 1 Jn 3.2 tells us that when Jesus appears we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is. Therefore I conclude that today we see as in a mirror of old times, that is fuzzy and somewhat distorted. That is the symptom of our age, not only of the time prior to the New Testament Canon.

The second half of verse 12 is similar, "Now I know in part; then I shall be understand fully, even as I have been fully understood." Again, is Paul saying that until the Canon we would know in part but after this all would be fully understood? Or is it more likely that when we are with the Father, freed from all that causes us misunderstand, that we will know in full? The latter seems more likely.

Bottom line - God wants us to eagerly desire His gifts and He continue these imperfect, partial experiences of the fullness of His Kingdom until such a time that we go to join Him or He returns. Until then, enjoy all that He wants for you .

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god's money

"What we do in life echoes in eternity" - Maximus in the movie Gladiator.

Today Matt Massey continued in his sermon series about "MyStuff". He spoke rightly from Lk 16.1-13 about God's expectation that all that we use all the resources He gave us to create relationships for Kingdom purposes. How we handle money is more than the topic of what to do with the 10% or whatever figure you arrive at. God's expectation is that we come to understand that every breadth we take is from Him and all that we have and do is for His glory.

James 5.1-6; "Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned; you have murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you."

Psalm 39.6 "Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro: He bustles about, but only in vain; he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it."

God is interested in us properly investing what He has given us to manage in the short time we are here on earth. That extends beyond the amount we determine to give to Church. In Mt 6.19-24 God tells us to not to lay up for ourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. You can live with a view to accumulating valuable things on earth, or you can live with a view to accumulating valuable things in heaven. You must choose one or the other. Jesus says: the mark of a Christian is that his eyes are on heaven and he measures all his behavior by what effect it will have on heaven – everlasting joy with God.

Laying up treasures in heaven and laying up treasures on earth do not work together. Verse 24: "No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money."

Devoting our lives to accumulating treasure in heaven – that is increasing our joy in God in heaven – is giving rather than accumulating. Laying up treasures in heaven is the opposite of laying up treasures on earth. Laying up treasures in heaven will NOT be laying up treasures on earth but giving them away in ways that magnify God.

In Lk 12.32-33; Jesus explains how you "provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old" and how you "provide yourselves with treasure in the heavens that does not fail," namely, "Sell your possessions and give to the needy." God's provision is not us to accumulate. He provides so that we would distribute in ways that Christ is honored and our joy in heaven is increased. When we give, we show that Christ is our treasure and that we love others more than we love our own security and comfort.

In Luke 14:13-14, Jesus tells us to give to those who can’t pay us back. "You will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just." Giving freely and generously because we trust Jesus to take care of us is laying up treasures in heaven. The reward will be at the resurrection of the just.

1 Tim 6.17-19; "As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life." For us to truly take hold of life, we must completely let go of any imagination that we possess anything. We must take all that God provides for us to manage and use it to sow treasure in heaven.

Lk 16.1-9 tells us how. We use God's provision to invade the lives of those around us. Into those lives comes the Kingdom. Some number of those will be raised by the power of God into the Kingdom of light. When this is done, the "cloud of witnesses" (He 12.1-3) cheering us on as we run the race and ultimately being there with us at the victory party at the end will be all the more greater.

I'm convinced that treasures in heaven is somehow equal to or related to the number of lives God impacts for the Kingdom through our obedience to Him and His Word. Again, wrestling with the whether or not it is 10% misses the greater point which is all we have, all we see, all we can ever imagine. And any little bit He allows us to put our hands to is only for the purpose of us returning it to Him for His glory.

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Saturday, October 21, 2006

angela in park

Here are some top pics of Angela in the park today ...

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wonders of the world

Now you have a chance to vote on the new 7 wonders of the world. I've been to (or at least the site of) 4 of the 7 ancient wonders of the world; Olympia, Ephesus, Rhodes, and Giza. I've missed Halicarnassus, Babylon, and Alexandria.

Here's a page with links to the current 7 ancient wonders and the 21 candidates for the new 7 wonders. Of the proposed 21, I've only seen 9 of them; the Acropolis, the Colosseum, the Eiffel Tower, the Great Wall of China, the Hagia Sophia, the Kremlin, Neuschwanstein Castle, the Pyramids of Giza,and the Statue of Liberty.

The list is cool although I think there are some other places just as cool as some on the proposed list. Here's a pretty comprehensive list of various wonders. I am fortunate to have seen many on those lists as well. Yet in the end, none of these things replace the wonder of some or the things I get to experience every day.

Today I served at our Saturday outreach. I watch a group of people - motivated by nothing other than a desire to glorify God and love for others - change oil in cars for free in a poor housing area. That was wondrous.

Then I came home and my wife of 22 years - girlfriend of 28 - gave me a big hug and told me she loves me. How a man like me could be blessed with a woman who so beautiful in so many ways is a wondrous thing.

I just returned from the park with my daughter. She wanted to spend some time with me and so we went out there to take some pictures of her. I look at her and I see an angel. She is pretty but more than that, she has a deep inner beauty. I'm in awe as I look at her and see the kindness of her heart.

And now my son is downstairs playing his piano - it's heavenly. What a wonder it is that such a kind, tender, and talented man could be my son. God has truly blessed me.

So yes, I've seen a lot of stuff and I'd like to see more, but seeing the touch of God in my life is more wonder than I could ever imagine. I pray I would always have eyes to see Him and His Kingdom at work around me.

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Friday, October 20, 2006

another reason to go to a mega-church

Patti LaBelle, Chrysler team on church tour

Chrysler Group's new luxury SUV, the Aspen, is the opening act for Patti LaBelle's 14-city tour of urban mega-churches.

Chrysler is the title sponsor for "The Gospel According to Patti" tour, which began on Saturday with a concert at the Potter's House church in Dallas and runs through March 31. The tour will be at Detroit's Greater Grace Temple Dec. 1.

Chrysler's upscale brand is sponsoring the tour because affluent, urban African-American customers are one of the target markets for the new SUV. [more]

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Perhaps it's not right but I enjoy the irreverence at Horn+Swoggled. Please drop by the site to read David's stuff in its entirety. Here are some samples from today's headlines.

Athiests Angry at CCM Confusion

An athiest couple from Baltimore is suffering marital difficulties after discovering that "their song" is actually a contemporary Christian ballad. John and Jill Freidrich met in a college lecture on evolution, and subsequently fell in love after a weekend party at which they first heard the Amy Grant/Vince Gill duet, "House of Love."

"Every time that song comes on the radio, I tell our oldest daughter about how her father and I sneaked off and conceived her that night," Jill recalled. "But now I find out it's supposed to be religious. It's creepy."

"If you're going to sing about your so-called 'god,' at least have the decency to come out and say it, so the rest of us can stop listening."

Family Quits Lakewood Over "Shallow" Message

A family from Houston has left Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church over the "shallowness" of the message there. Frank and Rita Kalb, and their two teenage daughters, say the opening jokes in Osteen's sermons have grown increasingly less interesting over time.

"When our friends first invited us to Lakewood," said Frank Kalb, "we were always amazed with the way Joel would begin his sermons with a humorous anecdote. It really lifted our spirits. The man knows how to tell a story.

"But lately, he's been using a lot more throwaway one-liners. He's not working for the laugh. It's like he's on cruise control up there."

Rita Kalb said she wishes Osteen well, but she had to do what's best for her family's spiritual health.

"I don't want my daughters to grow up thinking this is what Christianity is all about," she said. "The Gospel is more than wisecracks and zingers. It's about funny, wholesome stories that make us laugh as we reflect on how much God really loves us."

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Thursday, October 19, 2006


Butter Those guys at Pyromaniacs provoke me in so many ways.

Most of their theology is good and so well articulated that it provokes me toward God. Some of their theology is not so good (or at least open for disagreement) and they seem to attack others that think differently. That provokes me to frustration but then I figure out that regardless of them I should demonstrate the fruit of the spirit, I go to God and so that too is ultimately good.

But now I'm provoked to jealousy over their graphics. We are both using blogger but somehow these guys seem to effortlessly generate cool graphics and post them with ease. I'm not sure where this provocation will end. But right now I'm stuck in jealousy.

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praying for god's absence

This one from Brian Jones really caught my eye ...

This past Sunday as I walked to the podium to preach for our fourth service I prayed a prayer I’ve never prayed before, “I’ll take it from here God. If you wouldn’t mind, I’d like for you not to be involved in this one. I’d like to see what happens when I do this by myself.”

I stood up. I preached. People were visibly moved by my words. People laughed. Afterwards those in attendance shared how much my words meant to them. People made decisions to become followers of Jesus.

The only problem was God wasn’t involved. And it appeared it really didn't make that much difference.
Jones continues by arguing that we can in fact effect change in lives (at least outwardly) through our own human effort. We too often wrongly assume that if lives are changed then God is obviously involved at our church. We need to better determine if transformation is a true by-product of the work of the Holy Spirit rather than the outcome of re-socialization.

I would add that the latter is the trap we get into when our goal is to build ourselves and even when our goal seems good, that is to help others. Real transformation comes when our purpose is to glorify God.

A couple of nights ago I heard a man say that the reason we do spiritual warfare is for others. I know where he was going so I didn't jump on it. He was speaking against those that get spiritually puffed up as they flex their spiritual muscle. I'm ok with speaking out against that but spiritual warfare, or to the point of this post, ultimately, all that we do is for the glory of God ... or it is of no value.

What do you think? Can we be effective without God? Can we be effective and yet not glorifying to the Father?

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praying elders only?

James 5.12-18, "Is any one among you suffering? Let him pray. Is any cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects. Elijah was a man of like nature with ourselves and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought fort its fruit."

Three kinds of prayer:

  • pray for yourself (v. 13)
  • elders pray for you (v. 14-15)
  • pray for each other (v. 16)

Regardless, the example of Elijah used by James indicates that he understood ordinary people at ordinary times can be used by God in extraordinary ways (not limited to OT super guys or Jesus and the Apostles).

On the other hand, this
does not teach that everyone we pray for will get well. It's when the prayer of faith is prayed when healing will occur. And this prayer of faith is a gift, not something we can build up or maintain. It is given as God desires and when done so, His power will be made manifest (Mk 11.23-24; 1 Co 12.9; 13.2) and His will will be done.

Finally, it's important to note that it's the elders, not the "healers" that are called. Again, this reinforces this is the gift of faith and the concept of gifts of healings. When we are wounded, we need our shepherds. The issue may require any number of kinds of prayer requiring spiritual discernment. We should not assume a standard physical healing situation and then presume some person or persons possess such a power. But we can be sure that our God has a plan, that His plan is good, that He is capable of completing His plan, and that He is using use to execute His plan.

Because of this, we should be zealous for spiritual gifts practiced in an environment of love - so that all the world might know that He is King.

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why are dinosaurs extinct?


and from the Far Side by Gary Larson ...


Now you decide, which was it?

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006


If you can't use spiritual gifts in evangelism, then perhaps this approach is more your style.

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some spiritual gift warnings for balance

CJ Mahaney reviews 1 Co 12-14. He considers these chapters as a gift to the church then and now. Specifically, we can benefit from the wisdom contained here so that we do not repeat the mistakes of the Corinthian Church.

There were many things "wrong" with the Church at Corinth but Mahaney focusses in on the idea that even while they were guilty of numerous errors both doctrinally and ethically, they considered themselves mature. And worse, they were arrogant about it. They lacked no spiritual gift and therefore they thought they were special. They also put special emphasis on tongues. This gave them the idea that they were angel-like.

Yet with all of that, Paul refers to them as the seal of his Apostleship. And so he provides them correction and direction. To do that he defines for them what true spirituality is which is

  1. sound doctrine
  2. godly character
Paul's concern is to establish a Christological focus on what it means to be spiritual. When asked who has the Holy Spirit, the answer is not he who has tongues. It is he who calls Jesus Lord.

Gordon Fee - "... the ultimate criteria of the Spirit's activity is the exhalation of Jesus as Lord. Whatever takes away from that, even if they be legitimate expressions of the Spirit, begins to move away from Christ to a more pagan fascination with spiritual activity as an end in itself."

David Prior - "To be truly spiritual drives a person neither to ecstasy nor to individualism nor to other-worldliness, but into the life of service in the local church as an expression of his personal commitment to Jesus as Lord and to His body here on earth."

DA Carson - "the love he is about to discuss [referring to Paul in 1 Co 13] cannot be classed with charismata. It is not one charisma or one gift of many. It is an entire way of life. ...it utterly transcends the claims of this or that charisma."
But let's be clear, Paul is not saying charismata is not important. Instead he is bringing them into focus with sound doctrine and godly character. That is, the way the gifts are to be expressed is more important then the gifts themselves.

Therefore, from Paul's perspective, love is the primary work of the Spirit in the life of the believer. Here Paul is talking about this relative to charismata but we should be reminded that this is true against anything. That is, we can not be charismatic at all and still pride ourselves for our faithfulness, or perhaps our Bible knowledge, or whatever. In the end, if we are people of the Spirit, we live be love and that is the seal that we wish to demonstrate.

Jonathan Edwards - "some confident that they could identify the Spirit's work began to encourage the idea that the greater the outcry [people overwhelmed in conviction of sin, etc.] and the commotion, the more glorious was the evidence of God's power. And once this idea was accepted the door was open to all manner of excess."
The true evidence is doctrine and character. Although the outcry and commotion may have been legitimate, it was not primary. We must take care to not confuse legitimate with primary. This leads to excess. Conversely, because something is not primary, this does not mean it is not legitimate. Let's not be found guilty of discouraging or blocking the full activity of the Spirit.

As a bit of a side note, and I agree with it, Mahaney intimates that 1 Co 14 is evidence that we don't need to create some kind of gathering called a "seeker service". I like that.

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purswell on being charismatic

Jeff Purswell, dean at Pastors College of Sovereign Grace Ministries, has some things to say on Charismatic theology. They seem worth listening to ...

No aspect of the Spirit’s work is more important than His role of applying the salvation purchased by Christ on the cross to our lives ... In addition to effecting regeneration and sanctification, the Holy Spirit also empowers believers for Christian witness and service. While all genuine believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit at conversion, the New Testament indicates the importance of an ongoing, empowering work of the Spirit subsequent to conversion as well. Being indwelt by the Spirit and being filled with the Spirit are theologically distinct experiences. The Holy Spirit desires to fill each believer continually with increased power for Christian life and witness, and imparts his supernatural gifts for the edification of the Body and for various works of ministry in the world. All the gifts of the Holy Spirit at work in the church of the first century are available today, are vital for the mission of the church, and are to be earnestly desired and practiced.
He then notes;

  • The statement does not require one to hold to a baptism in the Spirit distinct from conversion.
  • The statement certainly does not exclude such a distinct baptism in the Spirit.
  • The statement simply declines to specify what a second experience of the Spirit (i.e., an experience apart from conversion) should be called.
Here are the essentials;

  1. The Spirit’s primary work is to reveal the reality and presence of Christ for the glory of Christ (Jn 14.16-18, 23-26; 16:7-15)
  2. The Spirit’s empowering work among believers is broad in its dimensions
  3. The Spirit’s empowering work among believers is intended to be ongoing and continuous
  4. The Spirit’s empowering work among believers has as its focus personal sanctification, spiritual illumination, service for mutual edification, and evangelistic witness. (Sanctification - 2 Co 3.17-18; Gal 5.16-18, 22-25: Illumination - 1 Co 2.12-16; 1 Jn 2.27: Edification - 1 Co 12.4-7; 14.12; Eph 5.18-21: Witness - Acts 1.8)
  5. The Spirit’s empowering work among believers should include a discernibly dynamic dimension (Gal 3.1-6; 1 Co 12.13; Acts 8)
  6. The Spirit’s empowering work among believers includes all the gifts of the Holy Spirit at work in the church of the first century
  7. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are vital for the mission of the church and are to be earnestly desired and practiced
I found this a helpful reminder that while I hold to the presence and power of the Spirit at work today, it's not all about signs and wonders.

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cigar apology

Just great - I got wound-up regarding the Charismatic stuff and used one of Mr. Phillips' comments as an example of derision. Now Dan Phillips has pointed out that he really was asking what I was smoking referring to my blog picture not my remarks. And now of course I must apologize.

So, Dan, I am sorry for reading into your question an untrue motive. I beg your forgiveness.

On the other hand, now that I understand the question properly, I still have to be defensive. Not because of the question but because of my behavior. That is one of Cuba's finest. I grew accustomed to their excellent standard while in Germany. I wish I could say that since I have moved back to the US that I now obey the laws of this great nation but alas, I claim the 5th amendment - which isn't helping me a bit with God.

Is Fidel dead or not and will we ever change that import law?

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The banter regarding the history of spiritual gifts reminded me of some quotes that I want to post for posterity.

  • History is an agreed-upon fable.
  • The winner gets to write history.
  • Three things have killed the past. The first is history itself.
I think of my own life and see the same. As I talk with others regarding intersections of our lives, it's amazing the differences in what we remember as truth. First, each of us saw an event through our own paradigms. Then time and experiences further skewed what we retained, rejected, and perhaps embellished or created. Finally, when I tell a story from the past it is often to make a point so while I wouldn't invent a story, I would tell the elements that make the point I am after. If that is then further repeated as the whole truth, one can see how skewed history could get.

So, while I love story-telling, be very careful - and in the Christian case, stick with Scripture, it's much more reliable.

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the gifts and dan phillips

In the post below I said I would try to address the "facts" that Dan Phillips challenges Charismatics with (found in the comments of Mystery quotation: "The Gifts" [tm]). Actually, I don't have the time nor resources to do that. Rather I invite you to try to weed through the comments of that post yourself. Most of the points I would like to have made are in there.

For those of you that must see the historical record (although that path is fraught with risk), I recommend chapter 6 of John Wimber's, Signs and Wonders and Church Growth course. Unfortunately, I do not have an electronic copy so I cannot post the key points without a lot of effort. If you have one or a link to one, please mail it to me. Also, I'm not a scholar by any means. I tried to check a few of these sources and they seem accurate but if you have data (not negative opinion) otherwise, then I would love to get that from you.

The bottom line for the Phillips discussion is that the words and works of Jesus and the Apostles were unique. Phillips claims that today's gifts "bear no resemblance" to those of the first century. I don't understand what he is thinking. I see them bearing quite a bit of resemblance - but they are not, and I do not expect them to be, identical.

He then thinks that Biblical Christians must do these things throughout history for the Scripture to be true. I reject that. I think the Scripture is true regardless of what we see (or think we see) in history. That aside, Phillips' view of history is different than what you would find in the material I referenced above.

Net - very, very smart, spiritual people have argued this much better than Phillips (who I think is also a very smart, spiritual guy) and did so directly from Scripture. In the end, I see both sides as honest but only one as right. It disappoints me when Phillips use biting phrases like "leaky-Canon", "what are you smoking", etc. and misrepresents the views of the other side when in the end, we simply interpret Scripture differently. I have to believe that he has read Piper, Grudem, Wimber, etc. (oh and now Driscoll and Warnock) and I would think he would address these arguments more directly and with Scripture and at risk of pushing it, as brothers in Christ.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

things charismatics must defend

Here's a quote from Dan Phillips - respected Bible teacher, author, and blogger (at Pyromaniacs and Biblical Christianity).

All Charismatics, to prop up their position, must explain away two facts:

  1. Their distinctive "gifts" bear no resemblance to the Biblical phenomena.
  2. Biblical Christians have not manifested the Biblical phenomena from the second century to the twentieth. (I'd add "-- and still haven't.")
To which I would reply, is it true that these are "facts"? Is it true that these require explanation to support the charismatic position?

He later says ...

... if this quotation [referring to an excerpt from the Book of Mormon arguing for the continuance of the gifts of the spirit], all by itself, makes someone feel defensive and guilty... maybe it's because there's something (s)he should think about more seriously?
I certainly felt defensive but not by the quote "all by itself". The quote itself made me feel nothing. Actually, if I work at it, I guess I felt a little bit of an "amen" inside. But I did feel defensive because this was posted on Pyromaniacs. I've come to not expect treatment from that group that I think is appropriate for fellow beleivers. I've contrasted disagreeing comments coming from folks like Phillips with disagreeing comments coming from someone like Piper. When I disagree with Piper, I feel simply disagreement as well as challenged to find truth. When I disagree with Phillips, I feel defensive.

A small example is found in the same comment section of his challenge above. Phillips refers to Charismatics as holding to a "leaky-Canon". This is like the pro-life, pro-choice terminology. I prefer calling "pro-choicers" "anti-lifers" but if I do so, I still don't properly categorize them and I would certainly alienate them. I guess I could coin the phrase "dead-Canon" for those that think like Phillips but I don't think that would be accurate or helpful.

Anyway, we need to focus on the issues and Phillips choice of words and often his logic causes that to not happen and which provides him more ammunition for accusation.

So, now that I got that out of my system, I have to leave for small group. I'll try to come back within the next couple of days to address the two points Phillips raises. I'll try to address these not because I think it is required to respond to support my position but because I think many are "deceived" by these points. I hope I can do an adequate job.

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are you saved?

Here are 11 tests written by John MacArthur to know you are saved as found in the book of 1 John ...

  1. Have you enjoyed fellowship with Christ and the Father? (1John 1:2-3) Have you experienced the sweet communion of prayer? Have you sensed their presence in your life?
  2. Are you sensitive to Sin? (1John 1:6-10) Is there a spiritual battle taking place within you? Are you willing to foresake your sins as you become aware of them?
  3. Do you obey God's word? (1John 2:3) Do you desire to obey the Word out of gratitude for all Christ has done for you? Do you see an increasing pattern of obedience to God's Word?
  4. Do you reject this evil world? (1John 2:15) Do you reject this world and all its devilish desires, godless living, and vain pursuits?(This doesn't come naturally!) Do you love God, His truth, and all it stands for?
  5. Do you eagerly await Christ's return? (1John 3:2-3) Do you despise the sin in your fallen flesh and long to be like Christ? Do you love Christ so much that you want to see Him face-to-face?
  6. Do you see a decreasing pattern of sin in your life? (1John 3:4-10) Unbroken patterns of sin are characteristic of the unregenerate. No matter what a person claims about being a Christian, if he or she continues in sin, it is only a claim and not a reality. Are you beginning to see victory over sin in your life? If you're not all you ought to be, but certainly not what you used to be then rejoice!
  7. Do you love other Christians? (1John 2:9-11) Do you love your fellow believers? Do you look forward to fellowship with them? Do you have a desire to reach out and meet their needs?
  8. Do you experience answered prayers? (1John 5:13-15) Have you sought God out about a situation in your life and seen Him fulfill it? Have you sought contentment and experienced God's peace in your heart?
  9. Do you experience the ministry of the Holy Spirit? (1John 4:13-14) Do you feel convicted or remorseful when you sin? Do you feel good inside when you worship God? Do you feel compelled to sing with meaning and devotion? Do you feel compelled to listen intently when His word is being spoken, taught or preached?
  10. Can you discern between spiritual truth and error? (1John 4:1-3) Can you tell when someone is presenting false teaching about the person and work of Jesus Christ? Do you have the ability to think Biblically? Do you desire to know more about the Bible so as to prepare yourself for the false teachers to come?
  11. Have you suffered rejection because of your faith? (1John 3:13) Have you experienced animosity, hostility, rejection, bitterness, alienation, ostracism, prejudice, or outright persecution for your faith?
Did you pass?

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Sunday, October 15, 2006

hodges on giving

270332134 23B6F45183 Ben Hodges from Four Corners Community Church spoke today continuing in the series on MyStuff. I really liked his style and most of the message. One of his anecdotes especially helped bring the picture he was painting to life. Hodges described how he likes to take his son Conner to football games. The reason Conner likes to go is not so much for the football or even time with his father, but mostly he likes to get money to go to the concession stand to buy Skittles. When Conner returns with the Skittles, Hodges would ask if he could have a few and of course Conner reply is often "no". At best, Conner might cautiously share a few and feel that he is generous as he does so. Conner obviously forgets who gave him the money for the Skittles. And that his Dad is bigger and could just take the Skittles. Conner doesn't even realize that Hodges could go buy all the remaining Skittles at the concession stand and have enough for himself and Conner. Etc. And so we are with God.

Why would God ask us to give if in fact He "owns" the universe? It's because He knows that He has created us in a way that we are most satisfied when we understand that He is our provider and we bring all things back to Him. And as previously discussed, He is most gloried in us when we are most satisfied in Him.

And note the purposeful use of the word "bring" over "give". Give implies we actually had some kind of ownership to start with. We are actually bringing back to the Father what is already His. Ge 1.26-27 reminds us that we are only "managers" of His goodness.

In his sermon, Hodges repeated the concepts developed by Matt Massey last week. God is the Blessor. We are the Blessed. We are only blessed when living in His power and grace. All good things come from the Giver of Life. We come into the world with empty hands. All that we have comes from God - even the "very breath we take".

Hodges then reminds us that giving is similar to forgiveness. We are forgiven so that we could forgive. We are most satisfied in God when we are forgiven and help others to be most satisfied in God by forgiving them. In that, He is most glorified. I just blogged about this and liked the parallel to giving. God is the Blessor, we are the Blessed, and this is so that we can be a Blessing to others. We get to give. And as we find satisfaction in doing so in Christ, God is most glorified.

Then Hodges' nicely tied our giving to the Old Testament principle of First Fruits (Ex 13.1-2). In setting aside the First Fruits, we consecrate, that is, make holy, the rest. This acknowledges that 100% really belongs to God.

I would have liked to see him go a little further with this. I think it would have been good to show how First Fruits were given before the rest of the harvest was in. This was a statement of saying, "God, I don't know what will come next, but whether feast or famine, I will trust in you and give you the first." I might have also developed the concept of God getting the best. This of course leads me to my only issue with the sermon and that is that I think Hodges mixed several forms of giving. There is the concept of giving to God the very best of the herd. There is also several forms of tithe which Hodges defined as a flat 10% and equated to First Fruits. I see several forms of tithe in the OT and I can see totals coming out of that ranging from 10% to 33 1/3% - and in some of this, I don't find a link to First Fruits.

My disappointment that he didn't expand that more was compounded by his closing remarks regarding those that are not giving. He reminded us of Mal 3.8-12 which links nicely back to the Blessor, Blessed, Blessing concept. Because God blesses, we are blessed, we will bless others, and they will recognize the source of the blessing as from God thereby giving Him the most glory.

The problem is that Hodges encouraged those that struggle to give to start small and "test" God in this. I think this misses the mark. If we are struggling to give, I really wonder if there is any value to giving at all. What do you think? Shouldn't we grasp the principles that Hodges outlined so well and if we do, won't we then want to give? And if so, will 10% versus some other figure ever really come into question? And if not, is our giving pleasing to God or is it in vain?

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why be forgiving

"Forgive one another, as God in Christ forgave you." - Col 3.13

John Piper intimates that our root motive for being a forgiving person is that "God forgave us in such a way that infinite joy in his fellowship becomes ours. God is the goal of forgiveness. He is also the ground and the means of forgiveness. It comes from Him; it was accomplished through His Son; and it leads people back to Him with their sins cast into the deepest sea. Therefore the motive for being a forgiving person is the joy of being freely and joyfully at home with God. At great cost to Himself God gave us what we needed above all things: Himself for our enjoyment forever. God's forgiveness is important for one reason: It gives us God!"

Piper contends that if God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him, then living for the glory of God must mean that we live to gladly make others glad in God.

When we forgive, we must be clear that it is not for our benefit. It is not so we can avoid hell. It is not so God can hear our prayers. It is so that we can attain God, to be satisfied in Him, and thereby glorify Him. And by forgiving others, we afford them this same opportunity, that they might attain God, be satisfied in Him, and to in turn bring Him glory. Our personal benefit is a side issue, it's just one of the cool things He does. To glorify God is all ultimately matters.

Piper again, "To make others glad in God with an everlasting gladness, our lives must show that He is more precious than life ... Psa 63.3 ... To do this we must make sacrificial life choices rooted in the assurance that magnifying Christ through generosity and mercy is more satisfying than selfishness. If we walk away from risk [God directed risk for the glory of the Kingdom] to keep ourselves safe and solvent, we will waste our lives."

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Saturday, October 14, 2006

logos library

Img 2988-6-767356 Adrian Warnock has made a 25% discount available for some Logos Bible Study software. The price tag is huge for this software so the discount is significant.

Many would argue that free stuff available on the net is just as good. Many would argue that the money would be better used for the needy. Many would be right. I managed to get past that. The only issue for me is that this isn't available for Mac yet. Otherwise, it is GREAT!

So if you have deep pockets and are looking for the best integrated Bible software on the market, Logos is the way to go.

Macarthur "Logos Bible Software is a magnificently rich resource for all students of the Bible. How I wish such a library had been available at my fingertips during my Seminary days! Whether you are a pastor preparing sermons, a Bible scholar writing academic treatises, or a housewife doing personal Bible study, you will find these tools invaluable—and wonderfully convenient to use." John MacArthur, Pastor/teacher of Grace Community Church, President of Grace to You

PS - I'm not sure why I had so much fun seeing John MacArthur's (or see Pyromaniacs for more of a reading adrenaline rush) face next to Adrian Warnock's ... it just felt good. I also had to wonder about MacArthur's statement "... I wish such a library had been available ... during my Seminary day!" I wonder if this were true, would MacArthur be a charismatic today? hmmm ... nah, you're right, no way.

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biblical leadership

I have no idea where I got this from but I'm confident that I didn't invent it ... but it's good and I want to post it.

Objectives of a Biblical Leader:

  1. Lead through serving your people well
  2. Multiply your ministry into the life of another
  3. Finish the race with integrity
As Christ followers, they turn from sin in their life (1 Jn 1:9; Ro 6:6), they spend time in God’s Word and in prayer (Col 3:16; 1 Pe 2:2), they thirst to continuously be filled with the Spirit (Ro 7:6; Eph 5:18), they use their gifts in ministry (Ro 12:3-8; 1 Pe 4:10-11), and they learn to perservere in adversity (Ro 5:3-5; Phil 1:29; 1 Pe 4:12-14).

Their character is consistently being transformed into the image of Christ instead of conformed to the world (Ro 8:28-39; 12:1-2; Phil 1:9-10) and developing into one worthy of leadership (1 Thess 1:3; 1 Tim 1:5; 3:1-15; 6:11; Tit 1:5-9).

Leaders have a heart for being caregivers. They see others with compassion, as Christ saw them in Mt 9:36-38 - distressed and downcast, in need of a good shepherd who will protect them and provide nurturing care for them. Deep in their hearts, leaders are convicted about the need to do ministry and use their gifts to shepherd others (Phil 1:8; 1 Thess 2:7-8; 1 Pet 5:1-4).

Leaders set direction, keeping the group focused and guided toward its purpose. Leaders also take the time to develop the skills they need to effectively facilitate a group (Mt 4:19; 9:36-38; Acts 6:1-7).

Leaders lead well because it is part of the way the Holy Spirit has designed them. Their design is compatible with the ministry to which they are called and with people with whom they must work. Teamwork in leadership is essential. Using their spiritual gifts to lead alongside others is the kingdom design for ministry (Acts 6:2; Ro 12:8; He 13:7, 17).

Spirit-led leaders are committed to the vision of the ministry, to Christ, to their calling, and to helping develop the members of their groups. They realize that leadership requires commitment, not convenience. Leaders are committed to seeing people grow in Christ and to reaching new people for Christ as they are able (Mt 28:18-20; Ro 16:3-4; 2 Tim 2:2).

Leadership is serving others and doing whatever it takes to accomplish the ministry. This means having time, energy, and resources at your disposal. Leaders must free themselves from unnecessary commitments and distractions so that they have the capacity (spiritual, emotional, and physical resources) to do what God has called them to do (1 Tim 3:4-5, 12).

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discipleship principles

I've read a lot of church growth stuff and unlike many, I really like what I read. I find it Biblical and helpful. But in the end Jesus left only a single plan for church growth, that is multiplication through disciples making disciples. To be a "missional" people, we need to recapture the adage, "Christians do not go to church, they are the church."

When we add to that a life ground in the Word and filled with the Spirit, we become part of the greatest adventure/purpose of all. Our lives are transformed. All that we do brings others to question and in turn to transform. When the power of God (to semi-quote Piper again) "fills our sails and our keel is deep in the water of the Word", our life becomes memorable and multipliable. People will be compelled to ask why we are different. This will lead to either persecution or disciple making.

As we sail through life, the water around us is stirred. My concern as I listen to many of my friends is that they err too far to one side or the other in this analogy. Some are cessationists and simply speaking, their keel is deep in the Word but the boat isn't moving. The Word is more like mud or cement rather than water to move through. They are often not making an impact and some are making a negative impact in that others see them as static and lifeless and not representative of a life they might be called to live.

On the other hand, my charismatic friends are making a huge splash. With no keel at all, the boat is all over the place and sadly, too often, falls over. This makes waves all over the place but the impact is negative and harmful to the purposes of the Kingdom.

I want to be solidly supported in the Word but moving whenever and wherever the Spirit of God leads. So today, I don't go to the four walls of the church building, I meet with people of God and we are going out to the world. In that activity, I pray we are moved by God and living out His Word. This will make us disciples as well as disciple-makers.

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Friday, October 13, 2006

the myth of safety

Our safety is a myth. As I read the paper, scan the internet, etc., I'm struck by the many varied ways that tragedy appears at our doorstep. In spite of all that, we go through great lengths to build up around ourselves a shield - a hedge of protection. Who are we kidding? At best it gives us peace of mind but how sad that is to be fooled into thinking that something we can create can result in our personal protection.

Job lost his kids, his wealth was destroyed, and his body is covered with boils. Then his wife advises him to curse God. What does he do? He said to her, "You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?" (Job 2.9-10)

We have to understand that in life we will encounter all manner of evil. No matter what we do, trials will come. We need to focus less on how to avoid these and more on how God will be glorified through them. Even more so, understanding that life is risk, we need to direct our steps to take even more risk for the sake of His glory.

John Piper explodes the myth of safety;

We are not God. We do not know about tommorow. Therefore risk is woven into the fabric of our finite lives ... We cannot avoid risk even if we want to. Ignorance and uncertainty about tomorrow is our native air. All of our plans for tomorrow’s activities can be shattered by a thousand unknowns whether we stay at home under the covers or ride the freeways. One of my aims is to explode the myth of safety and to somehow deliver you from the enchantment of security. Because it is a mirage. It doesn’t exist. Every direction you turn there are unknowns and things beyond your control. The tragic hypocrisy is that the enchantment of security lets us take risks every day for ourselves, but paralyzes us from taking risks for others on the Calvary road of love. We are deluded and think that it may jeopardize a security that in fact does not even exist.
In 2 Sam 10.12 Joab and Abishai pledge to help each other against terrible odds in battle. They say, "Be of good courage, and let us be courageous for our people, and for the cities of our God, and may the Lord do what seems good to him." They made a decision for God not knowing what their fate would be. Without regard for their personal safety, they chose to risk all for Him. They knew that there was nothing they could do to protect their lives and that no matter what, their lives would be best if given completely to the Lord.

In Esther 4.16, Esther said to Mordecai in preparation to risk her life for God's people, "Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.” She is going to do what is right in the sight of God knowing that to perish doing that would still be better than to live and not.

Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego to King Nebuchadnezzar when threatened with death reply in Dan 3.16-18; "... we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” "But if not"!!! wow - they know that their life and their death, when "lived" right, will bring glory to God. This is the utmost. They have nothing to protect other than His glory.

And so I'm struck with the idea that my goal in life is not to reduce risk, but to increase it - yet not recklessly without purpose. I need to live and die for His glory and meet all the risk that He brings me with the intent of making my sacrifice enable others to know Him better.

Paul the Apostle, Acts 20.24, "But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God."

"If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world." - CS Lewis

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top books input

Here is CJ Mahaney's list of Top Books posted by Justin Taylor sent to me by Randy "no blog" (I hope I credited all of the right people) ... he thought I'd align and he is correct - except I haven't read the DA Carson reco and probably won't.

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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

more on signs and wonders ...

John Piper asks if we should pray today as it was prayed in Acts 4.29-31; "And now, Lord, look upon their threats, and grant to thy servants to speak thy word with all boldness, while thou stretchest out thy hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of thy holy servant Jesus." And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness."

To answer that, Piper fairly addresses both views on this issue, i.e., are these things for today or not. I love how Piper does this (as he does with so many other issues). He respectively and accurately represents each view. He goes through great effort to show love and honor to each.

Regarding the view that signs and wonders are limited to the age of the apostle, he rightly starts by saying this doesn't mean that those in this camp do not believe miracles happen. He explains that this isn't normative today, that Jesus and the apostles were unique.
  1. Luke seems to go through a lot of effort in Acts to show that signs and wonders were the special ministry of the apostolic group and not a common occurence among Christians in general (Act 2.22; 2.43; 5.12; 14.3; 15.12)
  2. Paul defends his apostleship at Corinth based on signs and wonders he performed (2 Co 12.12)
  3. In He 2.4, it appears that miracles were not every day occurrences which is why the work of the apostles stood out
  4. Not everything Jesus told his disciples to go do can be understood as what we should go do. For example in Mt 10.7-8 Jesus tells the twelve to go heal the sick as they preach the Kingdom of Heaven but in verse 5, he also tells them that they should not go to the gentiles. Clearly we do not extrapolate the latter to apply to us.
  5. History tells us that there has not been anyone who performs wonders to the degree and frequency of Jesus
The other view is that these signs and wonders are for today.
  1. Jesus teaches a continuity between His ministry and that of the church (Jn 20.21). He commands the 12 in Lk 9.2 and then the 70 in Lk 10.9 to do and say as He did relative to the Kingdom. Then in Jn 14.12, He tells us that if we believe in Him, we will do greater works than He.
  2. In Acts, Stephen and Philip, deacons, performed signs and wonders in addition to the apostles (Acts 6.5). Then Stephen, in Acts 6.8, also not an apostle did the same. And then Philip in Acts 8.6.
  3. Paul states in Gal 3.5 that the Spirit is now being supplied to the Galatians and is now working miracles among them - while he is not there
  4. In 1 Cor 12, Paul is teaching that the gifts of healing and miracles are for various believers not just apostles
Piper's conclusion; "... we ought to honor the uniqueness of Jesus and the apostles". There is something unique about that moment in history which gave us the New Testament. Then he adds "... we ought to be open to the real possibility that this too might be a unique moment in history ..." God may well again poor out His Spirit to perform signs and wonders among His people today.

Imagining himself as a ship in the sea, "I want to have my keel deep and stable in the once-for-all Biblical revelation of God, and I want to have my sails unfurled to every movement of God's spirit upon the deeps."

I echo that. I want my "keel deep" in the water of the Word of God yet I want to move with Him. I want to enjoy the dance of life with my heavenly Father. Doctrine should keep me from falling over but I should not be so stuck in it that I cannot move with Him.

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