Friday, November 30, 2007

god's pay scale

Human reckoning is: a day's work is a day's pay; God's reckoning is: an hour's work, a day's pay. The former is merit and reward; the latter is grace. - George Eldon Ladd based on Mt 20.1ff.

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bad vicar

Hey, if you are sensitive about language, don't watch ... but otherwise, this was funny.

HT:JB (like Jonathan, I liked the "At least leave a quid for the upkeep")

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

blog comments unscriptural

I really like Adrian Warnock's stuff. He has recently decided to turn-off the comment feature of his blog. I like his rationale but so far my blog doesn't get enough comments to be a distraction. I find it sad that so many out there are so focussed on differences (in an unhealthy way) that we cannot engage in simple conversation.

Anyway, I still allow comments ... feel free to use (or abuse) but remember Adrian's point ...

So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. (1 Timothy 2:22-26)

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

president of iran is a calvinist

Calvin+InsigniaThis just in from TBNN ...
Ahmadinejad Declares, "I'm a Calvinist"

TEHRAN, IRAN - President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stunned both the Islamic and Christian worlds yesterday by announcing that he is a 5-point Calvinist.

The rest of the story ...

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Monday, November 26, 2007

overcommitted to scripture?

Can one be overcommitted to Scripture? That is, can one hold Scripture up in a place that it was not intended? I say yes. Here are thoughts on the matter by Jesse Phillips and Ted Olsen.

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This is how some people see us Evangelicals ...


Courtesy Jon Birch.

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better calvinists

I love this from Abraham Piper.
Paying attention to those who disagree with us and taking them seriously, even if we're pretty sure we'll still disagree, is part of what it means to be in the body of Christ. It's humbling; it sanctifies. It will make us better husbands and wives. It will make us better Christians, and maybe even better Calvinists.

Kinder, gentler Calvinists? I was with him up until that point [uh, that's was sarcasm].

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children in the kingdom

Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven. - Mt 19.14

The childlike will receive the present possession of the Kingdom. This is not a virtue the merits the gift of the Kingdom but simply speaks to the receptive nature of a child. Those that ask shall receive and those that seek shall find (Mt 7.7). The thing sought after is the Kingdom of God which is the satisfaction of all needs (Lk 12.31).

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another review of the god's aren't angry

Here's yet another review of Rob Bell's The God's Aren't Angry tour, this one by Chad Hall. I like it and the more I listen to what people say that Bell actually said, the more I like Bell. Many angry people have become angrier because of what Bell didn't say but (1) they were already angry and (2) everyone fails to meet their standard.

As Hall, I and some of other reviewers have some questions for Bell but we don't think the absence of these answers in this presentation makes him a heretic. Hall writes:
I chalk up my questions and concerns to the fact that no sermon – even a 90-minute one delivered with incredible veracity – can cover everything.

Personally, I haven't read a book (outside of the Bible) or heard a message that covered everything. Too many are quick to condemn for what is absent rather than learn from what is present.

Here's the gist of Hall's take:

Using various sayings from Psalms, Micah, Jesus, Paul’s letters and Hebrews, [Bell] drew an alternate picture of the divine: a God who is not dependent on what we do, but who freely loves and pours blessing on us.

The problem, according to Bell, is not that God is angry with us, but that we think God is angry with us. Thus, Jesus’ purpose wasn’t to change God’s mind about us, but to change our mind about God: to notify us of God’s lack of anger and to free us from the prison of our misconceptions so that we can truly live well. The place of church and religious ritual is to remind us of our standing with God and freedom to live lives of sacrifice and service.

Now I have to say, that is Good News! Of course one must understand that they are in rebellion and that rebellion is an enmity to God. But that is NOT the Good News. The Good News is that Jesus has come to set us free from darkness. Bell is in fact teaching the Good News. Those that oppose him are preaching the message of the enemy. The only question is does Bell understand the base on which the Good News rests. I suspect yes but I do not know and I would like him to say but it's not clear to me why in the absence of him making that statement some feel compelled to preach a message of hate.

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the hidden kingdom

I went to the gym this morning wondering why it is so many completely miss the Kingdom of God and even teach against it. While there I listened to John 12 ...

When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them. Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

“Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”

Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said,

“He has blinded their eyes
and hardened their heart,
lest they see with their eyes,
and understand with their heart, and turn,
and I would heal them.”

Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him. Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.

And Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. 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. The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.”

It's interesting how these people find examples of emergent error, charismatic craziness, etc. throughout Scripture but fail to see themselves in God's story. I think it demonstrates how blind blindness can be.

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preacher hero

If you loved Guitar Hero but as a Christian concerned about the stuff you feed your kids - well then fear no more! Preacher Hero is on shelves now.

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Sunday, November 25, 2007


He [God] wants men to be concerned with what they will do; our [demons] business is to keep them thinking about what will happen to them. - Screwtape

jesus' ministry

I've posted this before but I love it and it always seems timely ... from John Wimber ...
To continue Jesus’ ministry requires that we adopt His lifestyle. Unfortunately, Christians in the West would rather implement programs. We are blind to our mechanistic assumptions when we reduce ministry to reproducible components and try to apply them indiscriminately. There is nothing wrong, for instance, with a tool for witnessing like The Four Spiritual Laws. It helps believers communicate biblical truth. But should we use it every time? No. We must ask what is appropriate in each situation and learn the art of listening, even as Jesus modeled (see John 5:19, 30).

More from Wimber on the general topic of why we do what we do.

The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work (1 Jn 3.8). So we, in doing the Father's will, are to bring the Kingdom to people. When we take care of the poor, pray for the sick and clothe the naked, we will be sensitive to Father's leading in the midst of these precious people and in His time we will see sight restored to the blind, the lame walk, and the lepers cleansed.

But remember, these "signs" of the Kingdom are not for the purpose of showing that the Kingdom is here. They point to the fact that our compassionate King is here! Our Lord is the one who heals and delivers out of compassion. It is not a P.R. program to establish Jesus as King. He is King, and our King is full of compassion! He fed 5,000 not to provide a sign, but because they were hungry. He healed the sick not to provide a sign, but to relieve their suffering. God's Kingdom comes to the lost and the broken because He is full of mercy and compassion.

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forgiveness of sins

Central to the concept of the Kingdom of God is the forgiveness of sins.

Mt 18.23-35 - "Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

Divine forgiveness precedes and conditions human forgiveness. While there is an element of eschatology here, even that judgement is based on a prior experience of the gift of God's forgiveness. Jesus isn't bringing new doctrine, He is bringing new experience.

Human forgiveness and divine forgiveness are inseparable. Unconditional and unmerited forgiveness is from God. If one who claims to have received this then denies to forgive another, then they in fact deny their profession of divine forgiveness and contradict the life and character of the Kingdom. As the Church of Christ, it is our obligation to display love and mercy in the same measure in which we freely received it.

Furthermore, when Jesus proclaimed forgiveness He didn't just explain that God was forgiving. He didn't discuss some future salvation or reaching of a place called heaven after death. Instead Jesus brought salvation into the present. He did what He proclaimed. Again, He didn't bring new teaching, He brought new activity. People experienced in the presence of Jesus the power of the Kingdom of God. Jesus brought the reality of the future into the present.

Two thousand years later Bible scholars still do not see it. Amazing is the blindness among those that call themselves the Church.

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rewards of the kingdom

Mt 18.1-4; At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

This passage is consistent with many of Jesus' teachings which seem to indicate that the blessings of the Kingdom of God are a reward. Jesus' words seem to fit nicely into the Jewish concept of merit based rewards. But, while Jesus appeals to reward, He does not use the ethic of merit. Jesus is clear that His reward system is based on grace rather than merit.

Large faith isn't the key. The reward is the same to all who are faithful regardless of the outcome of their labor. The reward, i.e. the Kingdom of Heaven, is given to all for whom it was prepared. Simply being able to serve in the Kingdom is a divine gift. The reward then is free, unmerited grace and is far greater than any service one could ever perform. This is about God's free act of vindication. This, not a person's faithfulness or religious conduct, is what acquits us.

Bottom line - rewards yes! But not merit based as we so easily confuse.

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pharisees in the church

Aren't you tired of church being a Mask Ball? Some people attack everything because they are afraid of control - of losing it! People who have been hurt by Pharisees in the past will take off their masks very slowly when they feel they are in a safe, secure environment of grace. But if a Pharisee comes in and rubbishes the prophecy they brought or the step of faith they made then that mask will go back on for a very VERY long time. DON'T LET THE PHARISEES RAPE YOUR PEOPLE. Don't be nice to the Pharisees! Jesus wasn't! - Rob Rufus

My opinion - we've been too easy on some evangelical thought leaders. I'm not where many seem to be in that they want to throw out evangelicalism but clearly many of our leaders are married to their doctrine as opposed to Christ. I have blogged in the past about some of these guys being instruments of Satan. I still hold to that opinion. Of course in the manner that I expressed it I was also being an instrument of Satan. I have repented and I hope my behavior matches that. Theirs does not seem any better ... yet.

More Rufus:
Resurrection is more than a doctrine - but victory of life!

If you lose heart you will set out to lower the Word of God to your experience but God wants us to raise our expectations to the promise of His Spirit.

We have no gifts of the Spirit - not one -but the One inside us has all gifts - miracles, healings, utterance gifts - tongues and prophecy. A river of life streaming from within us! You can have all nine fruits of the Spirit so why not all nine gifts of the Spirit? The fruit of the Spirit are not your fruit just as the gifts of the Spirit are not your gifts!

Jesus did not come to make immoral people moral but dead people live.

You can know the whole Bible but if you don't have divine encounters then you are nothing but a walking Pharisee.


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gone churchin'

From Naked Pastor ... this is far too true for far too many of us ...

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

they still think the kingdom is future

Gary Gilley has written regarding the Kingdom of God (again). Parts 1 & 2 are on-line and while I have not seen part 3 on-line yet my friend Randy No-Blog was kind enough to send me a pdf version of the Kingdom of Emergent Theology - Part III.

Although it was the central theme of Jesus' proclamation and demonstration, many, as Jesus foretold, still do not see the Kingdom of God. In Acts 1 Luke records that Jesus presented himself alive to them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God. The disciples however revert to thinking about the eschatology restoration of Israel as they had in the past.

Gilley teaches that the exchange between the disciples and Jesus in Acts 1 reveals that "the kingdom was still coming" and that it "had not yet come". Gilley rightly sees this questioning by the disciples as being about the restoration of Israel but he then proffers that since Jesus doesn't confront this as he would, it is evidence that the Kingdom is not already.

"If the kingdom was on earth at that moment, whether in their hearts or in another form, they would not have asked such a question. The only thing they did not know was the timing." writes Gilley. I think that is not what it proves, it only demonstrates their level of understanding at the time - which coincidentally matches Gilleys.

Gilley claims the disciples were on target because Jesus doesn't deny the kingdom is coming. He quotes John MacArthur “If they are mistaken about this, Jesus’ failure to correct them is mystifying and deceptive.” The disciples had the present rejection and future salvation of Israel in mind. The fact that Jesus didn't respond as MacArthur or Gilley might doesn't prove what they claim. Jesus is unlike MacArthur and Gilley in that the trademark of His life wasn't to seek out and confront others doctrinally.

The eschatological fulfillment of Israel will be real (Ro 9-11) but it is future and that's exactly why Jesus didn't confront them. Gilley is correct there but Jesus' response is (as it is so many times) much deeper than the question being asked. He points to the more real Kingdom of God in the present. Jesus takes political significance out of the dialogue and inserts the power and working of the Holy Spirit. They are thinking political while He is thinking spiritual. How will we be His witnesses in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria? By the power of the Holy Spirit. In that power will be demonstration and proclamation of the Kingdom of God.

The Kingdom of God, contrary to Gilley's implication, is in fact here when we discuss it in the sense of the Gospel (Acts 8.12; 19.8; 20.24; 28.23, 31) and not in the sense of a restored Israel.

Gilley makes the same mistake that Jesus' disciples and the Jews made, that is he thinks "The kingdom would take form as promised. Through-out the Gospels it was obvious that the Jewish people were expecting the Messianic kingdom as foretold in the Old Testament prophecies. Jesus never contradicted their basic understanding of that kingdom."

He later exposes his cessationist worldview by repeating the mantra ... "The Kingdom [or gifts or whatever] is prominent in the Gospels but begins to fade in the Acts and the epistles. The word “kingdom” is found only five more times in Acts. Each of these passages references the kingdom but none gives us any more details about the kingdom than we already processed from the Old Testament and the Gospels. Of the 18 references to a kingdom in the epistles, most are referring to a future kingdom."

Somehow Gilley is able to read all of those teachings by Jesus of the Kingdom of God and of all of His demonstration of the Kingdom and is able to only see a political restoration. All I can say is let him who has ears hear.

I had to laugh at myself when I read these words by Gilley:
The emergent church has badly misunderstood the biblical teaching on the kingdom of God. Actually, it has chosen to ignore what the Scriptures teach and has chosen to impose its own understanding of the kingdom in order to set forth its own agenda for the church and the world. One is reminded of Jesus’ warning to the Pharisees in Matthew 15:3, 6, “Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” Then he said, “By this you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your traditions.” Without question the emergent church is doing something very similar today.

I wanted to use those exact words but about Gilley.

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

thank god for perfect doctrine

TBNN has the exclusive. The SBC has received perfect doctrine. Based on that and assuming 100% of SBC members are saved, here's where the other denominations fall out on the 'salvation' scale.

Denominational Likelihood of Salvation Scale:
Southern Baptist 100%

Independent Baptist 83%
Free Will Baptist 77%
American Baptist 62%

Presbyterian (PCA) 57%
Presbyterian (PC-USA) 41%

Lutheran 55%

United Methodist 52%
Free Methodist 48%
Wesleyan 47%

Disciples of Christ 43%

Church of God 39%
Assemblies of God 39%
Pentecostal 39%

African-Methodist-Episcopal 36%

Episcopal 21%

Greek Orthodox 11%
Russian Orthodox 11%

Roman Catholic 9%

7th Day Adventist 2%
Unitarian-Universalist 1.5%
Mormon 1%
Moonies 0.5 %
Jehovah’s Witness 0%

Read the whole article here.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

fred phelps interview

As a Calvinist, I got a chuckle out of this and then I thought "how sad". TBNN interviews the Reverend Fred Phelps.

Topeka, Kansas - We here at TBNN had the great privilege of sitting down recently with the controversial Rev. Fred Phelps, pastor of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka. Phelps and his congregation have recently been thrust in the public eye for protesting the funerals of fallen United States soldiers, equating the defense of America with a defense of homosexuality. During the interview TBNN was able to get to the real issues that are important to Phelps.

TBNN: "Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to grant this interview, Reverend. May I call you Fred?"

Phelps: "You can call me whatever you want."

TBNN: "Great! Thanks Freddie. Let me get straight to the point here, you're obviously not concerned with whether or not people like you, so what is your ultimate goal in holding these protests and pickets."

Phelps: "Our goal?"

TBNN: "Yes, what is your aim?"

Phelps: "Our aim is to tell these rotten horse droppings that they're going to hell and that there's nothing they can do about it."

TBNN: "So, you tell them that they're going to hell, and you stop right there?"

Phelps: "Of course, braino! What else are we supposed to say?"

TBNN: "So when you tell someone that they're going to hell, do you consider that to be 'preaching the gospel'?"

Phelps: [laughs] "Look, I can see where this is going. You're just like everyone else who thinks God loves everyone, and that all we have to do is tell everyone how much God loves them and they'll just accept him. But the gospel is telling people that God hates them and they can't do anything about it and that they're going to hell when they die!"

TBNN: "Well, actually as a Calvinist myself I don't believe exactly as you say, but that aside, doesn't the word 'gospel' mean 'good news?'"

Phelps: "What are you getting at braino?"

TBNN: "Well, Phelpsy, Scripture seems to indicate that 'preaching the gospel' involves both a presentation of one's sin and his standing before God and also the hope that may be found in Jesus Christ. Come to think of it, I've rarely ever head you mention Jesus in any of your 'sermons'. Isn't the gospel supposed to be the 'good news of Jesus Christ?'"

Phelps: [laughs] "You sound just like one of those namby-pamby kissy-poo preachers always talking about mercy, grace, salvation and Jesus. When we tell someone that they're going to hell and that there's nothing they can do to stop it, it is good news, good news to us! You just don't get it do you? Have you ever read Jonathan Edward's Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God braino?"

TBNN: "Actually I have Fredrika. I like it and agree with it. Have you ever read his sermon Pardon for the Greatest of Sinners?"

Phelps: [laughs] "You imbecile, he didn't write any other sermons!"

TBNN: "Um, actually he did. He preached hundreds of sermons. Now he believed in being blunt with people about sin and the need for repentance, but he also told people about Christ. And he was a Calvinist too."

Phelps: "You're a lying son of Belial!"

TBNN: "It's true, look it up."

Phelps: "What church do you go to?"

TBNN: "Me, well I'm a member of a Presbyterian church, PCA."

Phelps: "You bunch of paedo-baptists, you're all going to hell!"

TBNN: "So you're saying a paedo-baptist cannot be saved Freddy man?"

Phelps: "Absolutely! There's no place in heaven for anyone who believes any point of doctrine other than what we believe here at Westboro Baptist Church."

TBNN: "Well that presents a problem then because Jonathan Edwards was a paedo-baptist, and another preacher whom you often quote, Spurgeon, actually believed that Arminian brothers and sisters in Christ would go to heaven."


Thus my interview with the Rev. Phelps came to a close. Unfortunately I never got to ask him about Ezekiel 33:11.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

merle haggard for hillary

Hillary for President ... "let's put a woman in charge" - Merle Haggard

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the whole counsel

I like this summary by Justin Taylor of DA Carson's writing on declaring the whole counsel of God in Preach the Word.
When Paul attests that this is what he proclaimed to the believers in Ephesus, the Ephesian elders to whom he makes this bold asseveration know full well that he had managed this remarkable feat in only two and a half years. In other words, whatever else Paul did, he certainly did not manage to go through every verse of the Old Testament, line by line, with full-bore explanation. He simply did not have time.

What he must mean is that he taught the burden of the whole of God's revelation, the balance of things, leaving nothing out that was of primary importance, never ducking the hard bits, helping believers to grasp the whole counsel of God that they themselves would become better equipped to read their Bibles intelligently, comprehensively. It embraced

* God's purposes in the history of redemption (truths to be believed and a God to be worshiped),
* an unpacking of human origin, fall, redemption, and destiny (a worldview that shapes all human understanding and a Savior without whom there is no hope),
* the conduct expected of God's people (commandments to be obeyed and wisdom to be pursued, both in our individual existence and in the community of the people of God), and
* the pledges of transforming power both in this life and in the life to come (promises to be trusted and hope to be anticipated).

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naked teacher

Ok - this news caught my eye (figuratively speaking).
Macon, GA (WMAZ) - A substitute teacher was kicked out of a Macon area school Wednesday morning for partially undressing in front of students.

The teacher undressed in a fourth-grade classroom. Assistant school superintendent Sylvia McGee said the woman disrobed below the waist.

The principal, Dr. Ramon Johnson, says the substitute teacher was non-responsive to direct questions and was removed immediately from the campus.

In a letter sent home to parents, Johnson wrote, during the incident, the school was placed in a code-red lockdown.

Students and teachers were required to go to the nearest room, lock the doors, and cover the windows.

In the letter, Johnson assured parents that the woman will never substitute in any Bibb County School again. He also said it's possible the incident may have been caused a medical problem.

A crisis team is available to help students who were in the class during the incident.

Assistant school superintendent Sylvia McGee said, "We think it was an isolated incident, and the school and the staff acted very quickly to deal with it. The school did an exemplary job in dealing with this unforeseen circumstance."

Without more detail, it sounds like something medically or psychologically went wrong fast with this teacher and I hope she is ok but the rest is just a little weird for me. The school went into lock-down and kids got psychological counseling? There were no pictures but come on, could it have been that horrific???

I hope naked pastor's flock doesn't get wind of this.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

what is god saying now?

I find it interesting how some topics come at me in waves. Earlier this week was the Rob Bell spoof bullwhip guy depicting Jesus' anger at the temple money changers. Then a friend of mine from Singapore, Daniel Chew, posted on his impressions of the kind of books popularized by Christians and found in "Christian" bookstores. Now I came across this cartoon from Jon Birch.


And finally this great post by John Michael Talbot on Luke 19:45-48. In verse 46, Luke writes, "My house is meant for a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves."
The Jews had externalized and commercialized even their place of prayer, so they had come to externalize and politicize God’s peace. They had missed the internal, so God would never give them the external.


Ironically, God will give external graces if we first seek the internal ones. "Seek first his kingship over you, his way of holiness, and all these things will be given you besides." But we must also have a detachment from the external before we can find the internal. "You cannot give yourself to God and to money. What man thinks is important, God holds in con­tempt." Or, "If anyone comes to me without turning his back on his father and mother, his wife and his children, his brothers and sisters, indeed his very self, he cannot be my follower." Yet he goes on to say there is no one who has given these things up "who will not receive in this present age a hundred times as much - and persecution besides - and in the age to come, everlasting life."

Without internal prayer we can never have lasting peace. We cannot have real prayer with such a gross commercialization of spirituality.


And what about today? Never before has there been such an overflowing torrent of Jesus "junk." Today we must return to a reverential use of our houses of prayer. It is fine to have books available as a ministry and service to the people of God, but commercialization in God’s name will surely bring down God’s wrath!

Is our present abundance God’s gracing of externals because we have sought only the internal? Are we truly detached and poor in spirit? Or have we simply set up an abundance of money changers’ tables in the house of the Lord? We cannot have peace until we pray, and we cannot pray without overturning these money changers' tables within our own hearts and souls, as well as within our local house of prayer.

I know - since it's not all Scripture, some of you would say He is not saying anything.


calvinist and proud of it

Go ahead - say something negative about him now ... John Calvin - bigger and badder than ever!

2047265507 2622745Ba9

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chuck norris on mike huckabee

This settles this for me.

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I like this from Jesse Phillips.
The reality is that we are all subjective. We may try to live our lives according to the objective standard of scripture, but all of us have subjective sense that can never be silenced and should never be silenced. In fact, without this subjective sense, we would have no desire to abide by the objective word, without some sense that it is right to abide by the Word, a sense given by none other than the Holy Spirit, who illuminates our subjective senses to the reality of the objective Word.

I think we deceive ourselves when we throw up the "it must be according to objective Scripture" flag. While Scripture is certainly less subjective than perhaps the dream I had last night, both are in fact interpreted and understood subjectively.

I try to use language that helps the person I am communicating with to know the level of my understanding. I remind my family routinely that it is helpful when they tell me something if they could distinguish between what they know versus what they think. For example, don't tell me the store is open until 9:30 if you only think that. If you know that, I may drive out there or not based on that. If you think it, I might choose to be safe and go a little earlier or call in advance or ...

Anyway, I intend to reserve saying "Scripture says" or "God said" for when I am quoting or carefully paraphrasing the Bible. Outside of that I would like to say that "I understand" or "I sense" or "I think God is saying" ... even when I'm pretty sure God spoke directly to me, I still say "this is what I think He said ..."

I've also had some experience where the prophet unknowingly interpreted what they saw/heard or added to or subtracted from this. I don't believe that God guards what He says to people today as He did with Scripture, i.e., from His inspiration down through the pages of the Bible. Therefore, even when I strongly think it is God speaking, I think it is prudent to convey, "I felt ...".

confrontational grace

What!?!?!? He tried to represent the other guy accurately!?!?!? Can he do that? Is that allowed? From the blogsphere in general one would think that attack comes before understanding (if the latter ever comes at all).

Adrian Warnock brings us this quote from NT Wright on his thoughts regarding John Piper's book about him.
Piper is in a different category. He graciously sent me an advance manuscript of his book which is critiquing me and invited my comments on it. I sent him a lengthy set of comments. I’ve only just got on email about two days ago the book in the revised form and I haven’t had a chance to look at it yet. So I cannot say whether he’s being fair or not at this stage.

But I do know that he has done his darndest to be fair and I honor that and I respect that. People have asked me if I’m going to write a response, and the answer is that I don’t know. I’m kind of busy right now. But I maybe should, sooner or later.

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

massey on the X

Matt Massey has been speaking on the Ten Commandments these past few weeks. He offers some pretty good perspective.
  • The commandments let us know we cannot do it on our own. We need God.
  • The commandments have not been given as a condition of God's love/acceptance but rather as a confirmation of this.
  • The commandments have not been given to hinder us or to make us good but they have been given to set us free.

wimber remembered

Ok - I don't want to be a creepy John Wimber worshipper but since we got our dog only weeks before Wimber's death and 'coincidentally' named the dog after him, I was reminded that yesterday was the tenth anniversary of Wimber's passing. Reading Sam Storms' thoughts on Wimber brought back some wonderful memories and a tear to my eye.

These are some of the comments Storms made the resonate with me.
His life and ministry were not governed by results but by what he believed he was commanded to do in the Bible.

John may well have been the most overly analyzed and criticized man in America during the 80's and early 90's. But he refused to retaliate in kind. He was gentle, but strong, kind, yet forceful when needed, always humble and self-effacing but not afraid to express his opinions or wield his authority when he believed it important to do so.

He was there to serve, and we are the richer for it.

And the famous "doin' the stuff" story where John and his wife Carol visited a church early in their spiritual journey ...

Following the service, John approached the pastor and asked him:

"So, when do we do the stuff?"

"The ‘stuff'," said the pastor. "What's the ‘stuff'?"

"You know," John replied, "the stuff in the Bible, like healing the sick and casting out demons. The stuff!"

"Oh," replied the pastor. "We don't do the stuff. We believe they did it back in biblical days, but we don't do it today."

With a rather confused look on his face, John could only say: "And I gave up drugs for this?"

robert's rules

Roberts 1915 Leather Binding2I love this one from TBNN. Church Splits Over Robert's Rules 10th Edition ... I can relate. I was an elder in a church that had business meetings and I always found them bazaar. We used Robert's Rules of Order as our guide but I'd have to say I have never met anyone that knew (let alone understood) them.

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more tension

I like blogging due to the dialogue it creates. Comment sections rarely allow for decent on-going exchange. My last post, The Tension of the Cross, has generated some good conversation that includes two guys that have really helped me think, Jonathan Brink and Matt Adair. So to do justice to the exchange, I bring it to a separate post.

Brink challenges with "man doesn't need any help realizing his own brokenness." Adair's response matched my thinking which is that "the Scriptures and life help us see that the cross is necessary to understand why everything is broken and why Jesus is our only hope." He then noted that the weight of the messages he has heard from Bell seem skewed toward the love of God as opposed to our desperate need for the redemption found in that love.

Brink sees that we have historically focused on the criticism and left the love in absence. He senses that we have little faith in the love of God to transform?

I disagree. A number of years ago a friend of mine noted that historically we have leaned toward the wrath of God and the sinfulness of man but that recently the Church has leaned in the opposite direction, i.e., toward the love of God and the wonderful life He provides in His Kingdom. So if Brink means historically as in 2000 years, yes. But experience from my lifetime is the opposite.

Both are sides are true and this conversation is about "leanings" and in these days, I see us not centered but leaning more on God's love rather than our need.

Now back to Rob Bell. I liked Jonothan Buzzard's ending to his original post. Too many of us take snapshots of someone else and then focus on what is missing from that. We evaluate far a person far too quickly and a snapshot rarely represents all of what a person is saying or thinks.
Here are Buzzard's words:

I wish I'd had an opportunity to speak with Rob after the message. Like I said above, I think I'd really enjoy hanging out with the guy. If I had gotten a chance to talk with Rob I would've asked him three questions/said three things to him:

1. Rob, I felt that your message mostly ignored what the Bible has to say about the reality and extent and depth of sin. Could you share with me what you believe the Bible teaches about sin?

2. Rob, what you had to say about Jesus and the cross seemed to suggest that you don't hold to the traditional, penal substitutionary understanding of Christ's death on the cross. Could you share with me what exactly you believe about the atonement, about why Christ died on the cross and what he accomplished there?

3. Rob, I felt like your message, especially for the non-Christians in the audience, left a wide open door to universalism. I would imagine with was unintentional. Could you tell me what you believe about salvation, heaven, and hell?

This seems quite fair.

If Brink is warning that we can err by focusing on man's sin, I agree. But to say "man doesn't need any help realizing his own brokenness." is the opposite error.

The Law was so that we could realize our brokenness. God took time to ensure we knew of our need for Him as much as His provision for us.

Ro 3.21-27 - But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Then what becomes of
our boasting? ...

I love this phrase from the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament.

Only he who knows the greatness of wrath will be mastered by the greatness of mercy. The converse is also true: Only he who has experienced the greatness of mercy can measure how great wrath must be.
That is not to say our focus is on our fallenness but to exclude it robs us from understanding God's mercy.

1 Pet 1.7 - Since you call on a Father who judges each man's work impartially, live your reverent fear.

In addition to teaching God's love, the Bible reveals a living God who hates evil, is disgusted and angered by it, and refuses ever to come to terms with it. Understanding this and our inability is the only way to ensure we do not confuse God's love and true salvation with a false (and futile) attempt earn His favor.

Emil Brunner wrote:

Where the idea of the wrath of God is ignored, there will also be no understanding of the central conception of the Gospel: the uniqueness of the revelation of the Mediator.
John Stott wrote:

If we bring God down to our level and raise ourselves to His, then of course we see no need for a radical salvation, let alone for a radical atonement to secure it. When, on the other hand, we have glimpsed the blinding glory of the holiness of God, and have been so convicted of our sin by the Holy Spirit that we tremble before God and acknowledge what we are, namely 'hell-deserving sinners', then and only then does the necessity of the cross appear so obvious that we are astonished we never saw it before."

Conclusion - I meant no confrontation with Bell. I do not know the whole of his teaching. There seems to be a leaning toward one side of the Gospel message and a leaning in either direction takes away from the whole of the glory of the Gospel.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

the tension of the cross

Matt Adair led me to this great post by Justin Buzzard. In it Buzzard succinctly captured the tension found in the cross of Christ as well as his reaction to the message he recently heard from Rob Bell.
The cross of Christ is simultaneously the greatest criticism and the greatest affirmation you could ever receive.

The great criticism of the cross is that you are so sinful that God had to sacrifice his Son on the cross for your sins. The great affirmation of the cross is that you are so loved that God sacrificed his Son on the cross for your sins.

The cross criticizes you, it reveals the extent of your sin. The cross simultaneously affirms you, it reveals the extent of God's sacrificial love for you through Jesus.

The cross that I heard Rob Bell speak of on Monday night was a cross full of affirmation, but void of criticism. My conviction is that you don't have a true cross unless you hold together the paradox of the cross--that what Jesus did on the cross is simultaneously a radical criticism of your sinfulness and a radical affirmation of your value to God. Rob's message left me with a lot of affirmation, but no criticism. His message left me with a big vision of myself and a small vision of God.

But when I survey the wondrous cross of the Bible I'm simultaneously criticized and affirmed, giving me a big vision of a very big, very good God and small vision of myself, a sinner saved by amazing grace. I experience joy, I give glory to God, and I am of help to my neighbor and my city when I have such a perspective.

I love to quote the famous words of John Newton, the former slave trader who wrote the hymn Amazing Grace, "I'm a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior." I don't think those 10 words came to mind for many people listening to Rob Bell on Monday night in San Francisco.

bullwhip guy

I like the little bit I know about Rob Bell. I've heard and read a lot of people that are very anti-Bell. I don't know. What I've seen from Bell I've liked and most of what I have seen against him I didn't align to ... and frankly are from people that seem unhappy with just about everyone that isn't like them. BUT - this parody on Bell's Bullhorn guy is well done and gave me pause (a fancy way of saying it made me stop to think).

the cost of the kingdom

Mt 13.44-46 - The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.

One thought regarding these sayings is that the Kingdom is of inestimable value and should be sought above all else. But if the cost of the Kingdom is all that one possesses, then the price is small compared to the value for gaining it. Jesus is not saying anything new to the Jew who has been eagerly anticipating the Kingdom for generations.

The real "mystery" here is the manner in which the Kingdom has come. It isn't gained by taking on the yoke of the Pharisees in devotion to the law to thereby gain prestige. It isn't gained by leading a rebellion against Rome thereby gaining political clout. In contrast, to follow Jesus meant to associate with tax collectors and sinners. Participation in the Kingdom means discipleship to Jesus which is contrary to all superficial human evaluation. Present in Jesus Himself was the Kingdom of God itself and to follow Him is worth all.

To live His life with those He is called to means one must abandon all that one possesses and ironically, on the surface, appear to have gained nothing.

As one surveys "the church" today, many can be found who do not appear to have paid any price. Some can be found who have payed a price but have gained what many would evaluate as spiritual greatness - but they would be wrong. What was gained is a false kingdom (e.g., buildings, programs, books, fame, etc.). Only a few have abandoned all and found the Kingdom life such as that found in the person and work of Jesus.

Have you been able to abandon your gain? If so, have you really abandoned it for Christ or for some other treasure that falls short of the treasure offered by our King?

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Friday, November 16, 2007

our biggest threat

I haven't read it and have no plans to read it but some say that in his Everything Must Change, Brian McLaren states that the biggest threats facing the globe at present are war, poverty, global warming, ... I agree that these things are important but I have to say I align with Richard Mouw on this.
These are important issues to address. Working to promote justice and peace is a high priority for followers of Christ. But as urgent as these issues are for the health of the societies in which we live, we need to be clear about the fact that they are symptoms of a deeper problem–the unbelief that is in turn an expression of a rebellious spirit that permeates all of our lives, including the systemic dimensions of human interaction.

prophecy is not preaching

Cessationists today typically see prophecy and preaching as one-in-the-same thing. Jesse Phillips offers several counters to that faulty thinking.

In his first post on the topic he hits three points:
Romans 12:6-7 : "If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach;" Here, when Paul mentions prophecy, I don't think he means preaching-teaching, because he mentions teaching separately from prophecy. If prophesying were the same as preaching-teaching, this would be redundant. Also, the phrase, "in proportion to his faith" seems to imply some level of risk with respect to the validity of the prophetic utterance, something we would hardly tolerate in preaching the known truth of the gospel. In this passage the prophetic utterance contains unknown projections upon the future, requiring risk and faith, contrasted with the teaching gift that contains utterances about the past and known events surrounding Christ and his accomplishment on the cross.

Luke 1 (Zechariah): Luke records that Zechariah prophesied over Jesus. But this was not preaching or teaching, it was a prophetic song about the life of Christ. It certainly references Old Testament prophecies about Christ, but does not seem to be an example of the preaching-teaching gift, which would prohibit us from equating prophecy with preaching-teaching based on this passage. In fact, in this instance, prophecy seemed to involve divine revelation that was beyond scripture, not derived from it. Obviously, scripture promised a coming Messiah. But it was not until Zechariah received the additional revelation that this particular child of Mary was in fact the Messiah that he prophesied based on this new revelation. He wasn't expounding on scripture and preaching, he received instant inspiration and revelation, and "filled with the Holy Spirit" began this spontaneous prophecy, quite different than the preaching-teaching gift to which prophecy is at times equated.

Agabus, the prophet: One of the most well known prophets, and best examples of a New Testament prophet was Agabus. There are two occasions in which he prophesied. If these two examples of Agabus prophesying involved him preaching and teaching God's word, then we would have an example supporting the cessationists desire to equate the two gifts. But, Agabus did not preach or teach God's word when he prophesied. Rather he:

a) predicted a famine (Acts 11:27-30), and
b) predicted Paul's arrest (Acts 21:10-11)

This hardly sounds like a pastor-teacher fulfilling his mandate to preach and teach by "prophesying." It sounds more like a prophet predicting things that God shows him will happen. So in Agabus we find evidence that a prophet partakes in different activities than a pastor-teacher, implying that the two gifts are not synonymous.

In his second post he offers five more examples.

Prophecies made about Timothy: In 1 Timothy 1:18 Paul charges his young friend to persevere and remain faithful, "in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you." We learn from the second half of verse 18 that someone had prophesied that Timothy would wage good warfare and hold faith and a good conscience. Was Timothy's experience with prophecy akin to preaching? It doesn't seem so. The content of the prophecy in this instance was not scripture, as it would be in preaching. The subject of the revelation was some previously undisclosed details about Timothy's future. As Paul says, the prophetic revelation was "about you [Timothy]." So Paul's experience with prophets in this instance consisted not of preachers proclaiming God's word, but some prophet receiving information about Timothy's future and reporting that extra-Biblical revelation to Paul and Timothy for his edification.

Ephesians 4 Gifts: In Ephesians 4 Paul mentions that God has given certain gifts to the church. In this list he mentions apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. This verse is similar to Romans 12 (see previous post) in that it differentiates prophets from teachers, implying a difference in the gifts of prophecy and preaching/teaching. Is prophecy the same as preaching and teaching? Then why are do prophets and teachers constitute two different offices, if they are precisely the same gift?

Women preachers in Joel 2? In Joel 2:28-29 there is a prediction of what will happen when the Holy Spirit comes at the day of Pentecost. One of the things that will happen is that "sons and daughters will prophecy." Paul was very careful to articulate that he did not "permit a woman to teach" but to "remain quiet" (1 Timothy 2:12) in the assembly. Yet it is very clear that women were permitted to prophesy. Joel predicted that sons and daughters, male and female servants all prophesying would be one of the indicators that the Spirit had come at Pentecost. Was Paul, by forbidding women to prophesy, trying to reverse or contain the scope of the Pentecost outpouring? Or, on the other hand, is it possible that a woman could actually prophecy but not teach, given that these two gifts are different in terms of functionality and authority? The latter is more likely, especially given the fact that Paul acknowledges without correction that women are prophesying in Corinth (1 Cor 11:5 [see Footnote 1] ) and tells all believers, men and women, to earnestly desire to prophesy (1 Cor 14:1).

Philip's daughters: Sticking with the theme of women prophets, we see in Acts that Philip the evangelist "had four unmarried daughters, who prophesied" (Acts 21:9). These four women had a notable prophetic ministry, given the fact that it warranted a mention in Scripture. Luke obviously saw their ministry as substantial and made a brief comment on it. It would seem far fetched that these four unmarried daughters had profound teaching and preaching ministries. Yet, this is what the cessationist understanding of prophecy would force us to conclude.

Church at Antioch: When the Antioch church was formed in the persecution after Stephen's death, there was a certain order with which Jerusalem sent aid, which proves to be instructive to our discussion here (see Acts 11).

1. Jerusalem sent the apostle
2. The apostle recruited the teacher
3. Jerusalem sends the prophets

In step one, upon hearing of the "great number" (Acts 21:11) of new converts in Antioch, Jerusalem sent Barnabas to establish this church (21:22) and provide apostolic oversight. Second in the order of events was the establishment of sound doctrine through the teaching and preaching gift of Paul (21:25). Thirdly, after the apostolic and teaching gifts had been established, Jerusalem sent prophets, including Agabus, to perform prophetic ministry for the church (21:27), saving the church from the effects of an impending famine.

What is the point here? If prophecy and preaching are the same thing, why would Jerusalem have considered it necessary to send prophets to minister even after Paul's teaching had been established "for a whole year" (21:25). If Paul had been prophesying (i.e. preaching) for a whole year, why send prophets?

Of course the prophets came to fulfill some task that was missing in the excellent teaching of Paul. What was missing? Agabus predicted a famine. What was missing was some divinely revealed, yet extra-Biblical knowledge that never could have been arrived at from studying scripture, as diligently as Paul was doing that.

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why don't you look into jesus

SolidrocklogoA Larry Norman classic.

Sipping whiskey from a paper cup,
You drown your sorrows till you can't get up,
Take a look at what you've done to yourself,
Why don't you put the bottle back on the shelf,
Yellow fingers from your cigarettes,
Your hands are shaking while your body sweats,
You work all night, you sleep all day.
You take your money and throw it all away.
Why don't you look into Jesus, he's got the answer.
Gonorrhea on Valentines Day,
And you're still looking for the perfect lay,
You think rock and roll will set you free,
Honey - You'll be deaf before you're thirty three,
Shooting junk till you're half insane,
Broken needle in your purple vein,
You say you're gonna be a superstar,
but you never hung around enough to find out who you really are.
Why don't you look into Jesus, he's got the answer.
Thinking back when you were a child.
Your soul was free and you heart ran wild.
Things have changed, you're older now.
If you're unhappy and you don't know how.
Why don't you look into Jesus, he's got the answer.

Why Don't You Look Into Jesus by Holy Soldier

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faith v. doubt

Jon Birch on walking hand in hand with faith and doubt.


Jonathan Brink refines that a bit. Rather than faith versus doubt, Brink sees it as certainty versus doubt. Both Birch and Brink have done a good job getting me to think (never easy).

My thoughts ... first in regard to certainty. I don't think certainty (or conviction) in and of itself is wrong, in fact I think it is required (He 11.1). But the drive for attaining it can lead to perversion. Brink writes:
Certainty drives us to an unattainable state to an extent. The endless search for certainty is always focused on what is not there, or the problem. It’s religion. When we spend all of our time removing doubt, we’re always looking for the missing piece rather than living in faith and enjoying what we already have, the love of God. And I’m not suggesting abandoning the journey. I’m just saying that the search for truth for the sake of certainty is not the point.

The perversion of certainty aside, we need to be very careful with this. Some have taught (I suspect mostly as a reaction to abuses of certainty) that we cannot or need not be certain. They may even celebrate or encourage doubt.

As I think of it this seems wrong. We need to be honest in that we have doubt. We need to sure that we don't create false certainty or hold in contempt those that are working through their doubt. But as teachers, we must proclaim truth as knowable and we must do so with confidence and boldness.

Brink states, "the problem is that the Gospel doesn’t call me to certainty. It calls me to faith." I think he does a good job explaining what he means by that but I do not agree. Faith is built on confidence or certainty. He quotes Keith Green.

You know I can’t really explain to you really how he does it. But he proved himself to me in such a holy way, such a complete way, that I would die for that faith.

The emphasis is on the idea that it was proved to us rather than we proved it to ourselves. As with Brink, I really like that but notice the thing was proven none-the-less. I'm nervous about what I reason as truth and hold that in tension. The one thing I know is that all that I used to know is no longer what I now know (did you follow that?). But all that the Father has revealed - that's different. I hold that in absolute certainty.

the iBible

Get it now ... the iBible ...


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Friday, November 09, 2007

creation stewards

I very much identified with this paragraph writen by Chris L.
Being a good steward of God’s creation is part of the mission we, as a people, were given in Genesis. While I will be one of the first to stand up and declare my skepticism toward the belief that global warming exists and that man is a primary cause of it (I’ve seen much of the data, and - more importantly - the science behind it, and like John at VerumSerum, I find it a race to reach a foregone conclusion for political gain), I also believe that there are a number of basic “sustainable” ways of living which demonstrate our love for God in caring for His creation, and - in this society - would serve to hold Him to to show that He is the One True God.

I don't understand (yet) all of the data that is sending some of my Christian bothers and sisters into action regarding ecology but I know that my other brothers and sisters in Christ that refer to the former group as liberal nut jobs are flat wrong. We are stewards of God's creation. Caring for it glorifies our Creator ... it doesn't make us whacky - we have other ways to demonstrate that.


Thursday, November 08, 2007

the church matrix

Jon Birchis just too good. Many christian communities are like The Matrix ... which reality will you choose?


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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

mancow and christians

City Church is getting some attention lately. Here Mancow does some "on the street interviews" for City Church. I'm always fascinated by the man-on-the-street stuff.

jesse and frank on the gifts

I love this dialog between Jesse (pro) Phillips and Frank (con) Turk regarding the necessity of the Gifts of the Spirit. The set-up from Turk is as follows.
Paul's first letter to the Corinthians refutes the notion that "sign" gifts are necessary for the on-going life of the church.

I will take the affirmative; Jesse will take the other side. After the string of non-starters here at D-Blog, I hope this one will prove informative and useful for the larger charismatic/cessationist discussion in the blogosphere.

Phillips begins by summarizing the Apostle Paul's point in the first letter to the Corinthians.

in chapters 12-14, he is addressing the issue of spirituality as related to spiritual gifts. His point is that tongues are not the defining mark of true spirituality. Why? According to his argument:

A) Because God gives a “variety of gifts” (12:4), not just tongues
B) Other gifts are also spiritual because they come from the same Spirit, the “same God who empowers them all in everyone” (12:6)
C) The gifts were given as part of God’s assembly of the church body (12:30-12:31) and therefore are meant for “building up the church” (14:12), not puffing up the individual.

He notes that Paul's correction is:

A. Corinthians are proud and use gifts selfishly to puff themselves up
B. Paul says that these gifts should be used instead to build the church up

Therefore, if we deny that the gifts are at all necessary means of sustenance for the ongoing life of the church, we steal the thunder from Paul’s argument, which is: “Foolish Corinthians! Don’t use your gifts selfishly, use them to build up the church!” Paul’s correction assumes that the gifts do serve an ongoing function, and that part of the insidiousness of the Corinthian abuse is that it fails this goal, and seeks only self-edification.

Turk then clarifies his position.

My position is that 1 Cor refutes the necessity of the sign gifts, not the presence of the sign gifts. It in fact leverages the alleged presence of the sign gifts to demonstrate that they are not the main object of church life. I think the perpetual presence of the sign gifts gets refuted in the Pastorals and in the letters from James and Peter ...

Paul's purpose in writing this letter is to demonstrate to the church at Corinth what is necessary for their church to manifest that they are "to be saints together with all those who in every place ... enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge ... so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift" (1 Cor 1:2, 5-7). And in doing that, when he gets to what we are calling there the "sign gifts", Paul makes it plain that there is something greater than supernatural spectacles which is necessary for the church, contrasted against those things which may be present but are unnecessary for the church.

And the asks Phillips:

1 Cor 13 is a place where many Charismatic folk make a stand and say that Paul's view on the end of signs is escatological -- that is, that Paul is here saying that when Christ comes again, that's when the signs will cease because that's when we'll be perfected.

Do you agree with this view? Why or why not?

Phillips replies:

Yes, I do believe that Paul is speaking of the second coming (not with the completion of the canon, for instance).

Why do I believe this? Because the alternative interpretation has some difficulties to it, among other reasons. As I understand it, cessationist hermeneutic holds that prophecy is rooted in divine revelation and it is authoritative. Therefore, "when the perfect comes" refers to the perfect completion of scripture, prophecies and tongues and knowledge "will pass away".

After citing four reasons for this position, he asks:

I would like to know if you think the gift of healing continues today. I think we all acknowledge that with God all things are possible, and he can alter someone's physical state by a work of his providence. How would you build a biblical case for the cessation of the gift of healing and the continuation of God's providential "healings"? If I misunderstand your position, please provide the appropriate nuances my question lacks.

Turk replies brilliantly with confusion that often occurs in the continualist camp.

[A] The sign gifts are miracles
[B] Miracles still happen today
[C] the sign gifts still happen today

He adds his position:

God is active; God works. God is not a far away God who is sort of observing out plight. But the question at hand is whether or not the church has the power to command healing as a necessary function of its existence -- and I deny that this is a necessary aspect of the mission of the church.

Let’s be clear that we are not talking about the miraculous in general in this question of the necessity of sign gifts for the church: we are talking about particular giftings which a person is given which they actually have some ability to dispense. You and I would agree that someone gifted with administration, for example, doesn’t have a gift that sort of comes and goes -- God doesn’t periodically releases a budget or an insurance strategy for a church through that person from time to time. We would say instead that God gifts the person, and the person actively, obediently uses that gift.

Turk does not see that "God answering prayer sovereignly is not the same as a sign gift." and that "what ... does not happen today at any time is something resembling Acts 3:1-10 or Acts 9:32-35 -- that is, for the sake of establishing the apostolic nature of one's ministry, one is given the power to command healing, and that command is fulfilled immediately."

He then challenges Phillips' earlier response.

I appreciate your answer #1 -- though as you can imagine, I disagree with it. My objection would be wholly grammatical.

In your view, as I understand you, the sign gifts are a given which Paul says will last for all time and end in the eschaton, but not love -- love is eternal. However, the grammar in this passage, particularly v. 8 and the use of the conjunction "εἴτε", indicates possible but not necessary circumstances – meaning "if they are present, they will end". That's the way the NASB and KJV translate this verse, btw – "if" or "whether".

In that, Paul's point is that love is necessary for the church but these gifts are not. These gifts are possible but not essential – love is essential.

How would you respond to this objection?

Phillips replies and it is excellent so I'll copy it in its entirety.

There are at least two possible inferences you can draw from the statement, "If the gifts are present they will end."

1: Therefore they are unnecessary
2: Therefore let love (which won't pass), not pride, motivate you to exercise them

So, which interpretation is right? Let's consider A) the grammatical-historical context, and B) the literary context:

A) Historical context: The Corinthians were definitely experiencing these things. Paul was talking to a church that was very charismatic, and saying, "If prophecies are present..." But there was never any question of their presence at Corinth. This is where we must bridge the gap between ourselves and the original hearers.

The Corinthians didn't doubt whether or not prophecy, tongues and the other sign gifts were present or necessary. So, let me demonstrate what I believe the "charis-maniac" Corinthians would have understood Paul to say, versus your inference:

Corinthians: "If the gifts exist they will pass, but love remains" --> "Well, the gifts do exist, and you're saying they'll pass, so explain what you mean about love?" (Paul goes on to do this in 1 Cor 14, see point B below)

Cessationist: "If the gifts exist they will pass" --> "Okay, so they are unnecessary"

And our hermeneutic must interpret the actual meaning of a text as its original intent by the author to the original hearers. Therefore, I think the cessationist inference is premature, given the literary context of 1 Cor 14, to which we turn:

B. Literary Context: Chapter 13 falls directly in between chapters 12 and 14 (obviously!), two chapters which happen to be two of the most in-depth teaching on the gifts and encouragement to exercise the gifts in all of scripture. In my original answer post I mentioned eight different verses that specifically encourage the exercise of these gifts by all the Corinthians (12:7, 8-11, 14:1, 5a,b, 12, 13, 18, 25, 39).

What Paul does is he answers the question I posed above: "What's the big deal about love with respect to these gifts?" Well, love should motivate us to do all that we do. And it should be our love for the church (not pride or a desire to make ourselves appear more spiritual or 'in touch' with God), that motivates us to take advantage of the great potential the gifts have to edify, exhort, encourage and build up the church (12:7, 14:3, 4, 5, 7, 17, 26).

Summary: So, I agree with your interpretation of 13:8, which says "If the gifts are present, they shall pass." I think Paul uses that to say, "But love remains. Therefore lovingly and earnestly desire (14:1) to use the gifts while they remain to edify this great body."

Phillips then queries Turk.

Suppose someone came to you and said, "Paul tells me to earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially prophecy."

My question has two parts:

1. What would be your initial reaction to that person?
2. How would you interpret 1 Corinthians 14:1 and apply it to this person (suppose they brought it up in your conversation)?

Turk's response is to challenge that person with what they think Paul is really saying in the context of what he said. Turk contends:

What Paul actually says is, "Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy." This statement is a bridge from Paul's exaltation of Love as the higher gift to the application that Love plus Truth edifies the church and wins people with the Gospel, not merely a raw command. And in that respect, Paul is correcting the false notion that the demonstration of gifts is some kind of personal blessing from God to you.

Turk believes Paul to be saying that "unless a gift is demonstrating love, which in this case is manifested in "building up the church", he'd rather not see it at all." That is that "it is possible that there are all kinds of sign gifts in any given church. They are not necessary." Turk believes that the prophecy referenced here is "something akin to preaching and teaching, both of which require Scripture as the foundation for their message."

Turk's next question to Phillips is as follows.

One of the interpretations you gave for what Paul says is “since the gifts will pass away, they are unnecessary”. Problematically, my point was that Paul makes the gifts a possible state by saying “if they are present”, not “because they will pass away”.

Let me hone in on that. Your view is that the gifts are necessary for the church, but I’ll bet you don’t think every believer has every gift.

Must every believer manifest every sign-gift, given Paul’s teaching in 1 Cor 12-14, or does Paul presuppose that not every believer will manifest every sign-gift? How do we know this from the text?


My short answer is no.

In his explanation he also offers clarification of what he understands prophecy to be.

I see that you understand prophecy to be almost the same as, or very closely related to preaching and teaching. The biggest issue I have with this understanding is that there are many references in scripture in the New Testament, that seem to understand prophecy as forthtelling and distinct from teaching and preaching, often based on non-scriptural revelation.

To Turk he then asks.

You called prophesying "akin" to preaching and teaching. Do you mean that prophecy is the same thing as teaching/preaching, or that it is similar but different than teaching and preaching.

Depending on your answer: If you think it's exactly the same, how would you object to my view that it is different, in particular the passages I cited in my last answer?

If you think it's similar but different, how would you nuance the differences?

Turk's reply is as follows (and while I disagree with his conclusion - I like his passion and this is a side of Frank Turk that I haven't seen before and I like).

... the Greek verb represented here as "prophesy" has about 7 distinct meanings ...

... Paul is contrasting the "sign" gifts with the "teaching" gifts ...

His point is that the sign gifts -- particularly "tongues" -- is frankly a gift prone to confuse men but that the church should seek to dispel confusion and edify both believers and non-believers.

In that, when Paul is affirming that one should seek to "prophesy", he places that kind of talk in the same company as teaching.

... the sign gifts only build one's self up while the prophecy/teaching gift edifies the whole church ...

Paul makes it clear that it is possible for a person to possess the sign gifts, but it is necessary for the sake of the church to have those who can, impromptu, teach and encourage others with truth. It's the same kind of contrast he makes earlier in this same letter when he admonishes that all things are "lawful" but not all things are "helpful".

Paul's call to them is to seek love and truth, not signs and wonders.

My plea to any charismatic enthusiast is exactly the same: you are forgetting the Gospel for the sake of an alleged experience, to attain a status in your own eyes, or others' eyes, or perhaps you may think it is in God's eyes. Pursue love, and seek to speak the truth as a gift to the whole church. This is what is necessary for the church.

Turk's question for Phillips then.

Paul makes a pretty radical affirmation in 1 Cor 14:28 . This is about a gift you are saying is necessary for the church, yet Paul says explicitly that this gift in the presence of the church needs either to be interpreted in order to be used publicly, or else it must be kept private -- frankly, for the sake of order and edification.

How is it that a gift necessary for the church must be kept private for the sake of order? That is, how can this gift, which not everyone will manifest, be an open source of confusion for the church when it is manifested in the church if it is necessary for church life?

The reply in its entirety:

I disagree that Paul's discouragement of the use of uninterpreted public tongues means that tongues is absolutely unnecessary. Part of the value and necessity of tongues is that when they cooperate with the gift of interpretation, they have immense potency to edify. Interpretation harnesses the power of the tongue and converts it to useful edification for the gathered body, like a solar panel would take the power of the sun and convert it to useful energy for a house.

"Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up" (1 Cor 14:5).

What's the implication of the conditional phrase "unless someone interprets"? The one who prophecies is NOT greater than the tongues-speaker provided there's an interpretation.

In other words, Paul is correcting the regular use of uninterpreted public tongues. But, if there's an interpretation, if that power of tongues is harnessed in the proper way, there is tremendous potency for tongues to edify the whole body. Therefore, tongues is necessary if we want the church to be edified in this way.

So, I don't think that only prophecy edifies the whole church, while the others only edify individual believers, as you say. All the gifts, used properly, edify the whole church, including tongues and interpretation.

"What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret" (1 Cor 14:26-27).

He then asks Turk:

You said: "Paul is making it clear that the sign gifts only build one's self up while the prophecy/teaching gift edifies the whole church", and you used 1 Cor 14:4 to justify this point.

Yet, I raised the point that in the very next verse Paul provides an exception, "unless someone interprets, so that the church may be edified" (14:5). This would make it clear to me that a tongue does have power to edify, provided that it is properly used in conjunction with interpretation, so that the content of the tongue is understandable. Sign gifts, therefore, when used improperly perhaps only edify the individual, but when used properly do edify the church.

How do you respond to this objection?


Pursue love, 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, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.

The underlined parts are words which emphasize a point – “especially”, “even more”, “is greater than”. And what gets emphasized? The upbuilding, encouragement and consolation of people by speaking to them.

This is why it’s just critical not to disconnect this passage, in spite of the artificial chapter breaks, from the one which comes before it in Paul’s discourse on love as a “higher way”. Love is the motive and the context in which we take action, and the kind of action we choose speaks to whether we are doing “love” or not.

Here’s the syllogism:

[A] Gifts which are necessary for the life of the church can stand alone in their use.
[B] Tongues must not stand alone in their use.
[C] Tongues are not necessary for the life of the church.

And his final question for Phillips.

My view of the activity of the church in the last 2000 years is that, overwhelmingly, the vast majority of churches did not display the sign gifts -- healing, prophecy in the "thus saith the lord" sense, tongues (both angelic and human languages), and interpretation (both angelic and human languages).

If the sign gifts are a necessary part of the ongoing life of the church, what should we make of all these churches which have never displayed the sign gifts once?

Before answering the question, Phillips responds to Turk's assertion that tongues are unnecessary because they can't edify alone.

Your logic is as follows: Thing A (tongues) cannot accomplish Effect C (edification) without help of Thing B (interpretation). Therefore, tongues is unnecessary for edification. Does this always work? Let's apply it to something else, like procreation: A woman (thing A) cannot accomplish procreation (effect C) without the help of a man (thing B). Therefore, a woman is unnecessary for procreation.

Clearly this doesn't always work. It only works if Thing B (man/interpretation) can accomplish the effect (procreation/edification) alone. Can an interpretation edify alone, without any tongue? No, because it would not be an interpretation if there was no foreign tongue to interpret.

He the addresses the question with a series of examples of Spiritual gifts through the ages.

Finally Phillips provides a summary of the exchange - it brought me to tears ... well done.

I think both sides would agree that the primary concern for Christians is to edify the church, not build up themselves, put themselves on some inside-track of super-spirituality based on some gnostic, hidden knowledge reserved for an elite few. No, the goal is love, and love motivates us to edify, build up and encourage others. On this we agree.

We disagree in that I believe all the gifts when properly used can edify the church, whereas some would think that only certain gifts edify the church, whereas some simply edify the individual. So, it is on this conclusion, that all the gifts edify the church that I make this final summary of my thinking and plea to pursue this edification:

Are the gifts necessary? Only if we desire the church to be edified in every way possible, in each way that God has told us it could be so. If we don’t desire a church to be edified in every way possible, if we are content that the church can be edified in the safe ways, while avoiding those means of edification that are fraught with potential abuse, then I admit the gifts are not necessary for the life of a church.

But if we desire the church to be edified in the full variety of ways God has given for it to be built up, the spiritual gifts are necessary. Why? Because Christians need to feel good about their super-spirituality? No, because God has invested into the gifts the inherent power to accomplish this essential task of encouragement. A church that does not pursue the gifts cannot be fully edified, or it would mean nothing for God to offer gifts that edify. Can we answer the wisdom of God who offers gifts to edify by saying, “No thanks, Lord! You offer something dangerous. We’ll content ourselves with the safe ways of edifying your bride.”

What irony, that we would neglect a God-ordained means of edification of His bride, out of the pretense that we are trying to protect it. Protect it from what? Protect it from abuse and excess. Carry on nutritionist; keep telling the church that she may not eat this dish lest she become a glutton. By implementing a diet of strict abstinence, for fear that eating from this portion of God’s table will lead to gluttony, you have shown great practical wisdom, even greater caution than Paul, who never once told the Corinthians they should not pursue the gifts. That apostle, for all he did well, surely missed an opportunity to reprimand those Corinthians for being zealous for the gifts, and could have saved himself a lot of trouble, if only God had given him such advice, and told them to get on to better things like love and abstain from these sin-fraught gifts that lead to so much trouble.

But Paul never did this. He recognized that even gluttons must eat. Even people who have abused gifts must still pursue them. Even people who have seen the gifts used for all manner of evil must still view them as necessary.

Why? Because the church must be edified. The gifts must be pursued. We who are earnest for the church to be edified must leave no stone unturned. The church must be edified through the preaching of the word. The church must be edified through the fellowship of the saints. The church must be edified through the sacraments. The church must be edified through fasting and prayer and the spiritual disciplines. The church must be edified through singing and through evangelism. And yes, the church must be edified through the charismata.

Be vigilant! Let the building up of the church consume you. Do not pursue all means of edification except one. Do not cease at the last point, though it may be the hardest and most dangerous. Press on. Rooted in love, earnestly desire the spiritual gifts that the church may be edified in every way possible, that the bridegroom may avail to the bride the full measure of divine nourishment.

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