Friday, August 31, 2007

carnival games

Carnival-Ladder This is a great link - How to Beat Carnival Games. I cannot wait for the next carnival to come to town so that I can win my woman a cheap stuffed animal. Sweeeeet.

the god of calvinism

Dr. Roger Olson writes, "The God of Calvinism scares me; I'm not sure how to distinguish him from the devil. If you've come under the influence of Calvinism, think about its ramifications for the character of God."

I'm sure this is a sentiment shared by many Armenians. As he suggests, I, a confessing Calvinist, have thought about it. The key ramification is that this God I serve, the Creator of the universe, some how sees to create a being named Lucifer who will ultimately lead many others to destruction and leave now option but for God to sacrifice His own son just to set the elect free - and all this so that He would be glorified. As I noted in previous posts, this is what I think it boils down too and although it feels hard, I can live with that.

Or said another way, I see it fitting with Scripture (which trumps my thinking and feelings). All other options have failed both the whole of Scripture test and they don't even make sense to me.

For example, Olson asks, "What if God is in charge but not in control? What if God wishes that things could be otherwise and someday will make all things perfect?" Sorry, I cannot track with that. In charge but not in control? I'll need more definition of those words because the definitions I apply either make the sentence nonsensical or leave me in a place that in non-Scriptural and frankly, quite a bit more scary than the Calvinistic conclusion.

Olson seems most concerned that the Calvinist position really demands that God is the author of evil. "Coincidently", Mathis is on part 3 of a 4 part series. So far he has covered God authoring sin, causing sin, and permitting sin. His conclusions seem sound to me and I can continue to rest easy in my Calvinism (Deo Volente).

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keeping the main thing the main thing

I thank Peter Cockrell for bringing my attention to this video of CJ Mahaney on the Gospel. The Pyromaniacs have been effective at helping me (and many others) take their eyes off the Gospel. This video was timely to encourage me to refocus on the cross of Christ.

And speaking of the main things, I had a cool lunch experience. I met with a couple of guys from Grace Chapel and a friend of mine from Northstar Vineyard. We discussed the potential of our church communities partnering (always cool stuff) and becoming more intentional with our efforts regarding the homeless in Cincinnati. We volunteer once a month to staff a drop-in center run by City Gospel Mission and our discussion was about how we can help educate our volunteers to be more Christ centered in our conversations with the homeless, how we need to pray more before and after the events, etc..

Anyway, it filled my heart with hope and re-centered my thinking on Christ and the furtherance of His Kingdom.

I shared with the guys that when people do this kind of work, not only are they positively affecting those we touch in a practical way, but God is glorified through us and our lives are changed in the process as well.

I thank God I can be involved in His Kingdom work.

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love for all and all for love

There are some days when Nakedpastor's cartoons really strike a chord with me.
Commanded 3

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trouble is rich

Do dogs go to heaven? Well, Trouble, the dog of the late Leona Helmsley just took a step closer [sarcasm for those that cannot tell].

The $12 Million Maltese
Deceased billionaire Leona Helmsley left $12 million for what appears to be the care of her dog Trouble, according to documents (PDF) released Tuesday. Meanwhile, the Queen of Mean left her brother $15 million and two of her grandkids $10 million, but she cut two other grandkids out from the inheritance "for reasons which are known to them." How do you contest a will?

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what's wrong with us

I was critical of Paul Mayers for his post revealing some openness to the potential that a person could be both Muslim and Christian, etc.. But today he posts this excellent cartoon which I think just about summarizes so much of what I've been frustrated with lately.


The cartoon is from JonBirch.

I think I'm Evangelical but have tendencies to either side.. Where do you think you fit?

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when you thought it couldn't get worse

Just when one thinks that the trap of sin couldn't get worse, Pyromaniacs oblige. Here is Frank Turk:
Emerging Church: bad as Gutless Grace Girliemen? Worse than Wrongheaded Wrightophiles? Sillier than Leaky Canoneers?
— OR —
Emerging/Emergent Errors; Puerile Pomo Prattle; Abominable Antinomian Aberrations; Novel New-Perspective Nonsense; Crazy Charismaniac Charlatanism; Sanctimonious Sacramentalist Superstitions; Cynical, Condescending Catholicity; Private Prophetic Phantasms; and Seeker-Sensitive Silliness: What Do They All Have in Common?

The primary point of this post is to really bring all the people we have had consistent adversarial interaction with out of the woodwork to see if we can't make a comment thread go past the 1,000 mark—because after all, we get thousands of readers every day. Everyone should have something to say for himself.

(There's a possible counter-bonus to being so open about our aims. All our friends among the jolly-raunchers and tongue-waggers and shape-shifters and gutless-gracers might read our goal, and think "Well, I'll be [EC verbiage deleted] if I'm going to oblige those judgmental pinheaded legalistic dead-lettered haters!", and stay away. Net result? We get to whack away to our hearts' content, unopposed. See? Win/win!)

It's amazing! Turk goes on to say he is justified in this because:

after our concurrent 3-ish years of blogging, we have come to realize that blogging cannot be serious business. Investing a lot of time in posts which say things like God's provision is usually exactly what we need, or that the sufficiency of God's word far exceeds any experience we could hope to encounter, or that we often discount what God has already done never seems to work out for us. People don't remember them. They're not what people come here to see.

Which is ironic because I have commented a number of times about the specific disagreements with some of their posts as well as the sinful nature of their recent attacks. But each time they replied that I was whining and being judgmental about their being judgmental. Every time I pointed to a specific, they failed to reply in-kind but instead mocked me - and worse, went back to saying, "see, no one wants to engage."

Turk exemplifies the dead end that comes from thinking that the purpose of Scripture is to use as a pick list to beat up those unlike yourself.

And what if we lump together all those bustling, bristling groups that have found (invented) such wonderful ways of packing churches—by substituting arts and crafts, skits and dances, jokes and stories, gimmicks and gewgaws, rather than the red-hot, passionate, truth-full, straight-up, eternal-God- talking-to-you-today (Hebrews 3:7-13) preaching of the Word?

I knight him king of the God-is-dead crowd and sadly, while there used to be some value in their writings, I now realize that Pyromaniacs no longer have anything Biblical left to write.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

how fast christians can fall

Each time I think the downfall of TeamPyro into sin couldn't possibly get worse, they post yet another article demonstrating their hardness of heart and how pervasive the deception of Satan can be.

Pray for them.

christian and muslim???

The story of Ann Holmes Redding being a Christian and a Mulsim has caused some to ask the question, can you be both? Redding says, I am both Muslim and Christian, just like I'm both an American of African descent and a woman. I'm 100 percent both." And amazingly, some seem to agree with her!

First, Muslim and Christian are faith with tenants, they are not the color of your skin, your gender, or your cultural or national ancestry. Redding's logic is flawed from the beginning.

I can carry two passports but I cannot say mutually exclusive claims are both true.

According to World Religions compiled by Steven Cory, among several other key points:
Allah means "the God"--indicating the radical monotheism of Islam. "We shall not serve anyone but God, and we shall associate none with Him" (Koran 3.64). Any division of God is rejected, including the Christian doctrines of the Trinity and the divinity of Christ.
The majesty and might of Allah is often portrayed in the Koran, and it is emphasized that his purposes are always serious. Justice is Allah's most important feature for Muslims.

Allah is also merciful and compassionate, but that mercy is shown mainly in his sending messengers who proclaim the truth of man's responsibility to live according to Allah's dictates.

This is apparently not clear to the Dutch bishop happy to refer to God as 'Allah'.

This is in stark contrast to the Christian position.
But the Lord is the true God--He is the living God and the everlasting King (Jeremiah 10:10).

And there is no other God besides Me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none except Me (Isaiah 45:22).

There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy (James 4:12).

For even if there are so called gods whether in heaven or on earth as indeed there are many gods and lords, yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him. However not all men have this knowledge (I Corinthians 8:5-7).

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse (Romans 1:20).

God is love (I John 4:8-9).

Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow (James 1:17).

A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows, is God in His holy habitation. God makes a home for the lonely; He leads prisoners into prosperity, only the rebellious dwell in a parched land (Psalm 68:5-6).

The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth (Psalm 145:18).

The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin--yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished (Exodus 34:6-7).

Thine eyes are too pure to approve evil, and Thou canst not look on wickedness with favor (Habakkuk 1:13). all things after the counsel of His will (Ephesians 1:3, 11).

You will say to me then, "Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?" On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? (Romans 9:19-20).

Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowiedge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! (Romans 11:33)

He< NOBR> the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords; who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light; whom no man has seen or can see (I Tirnothy 6:15-16).

No man has seen God at any time--the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father He has explained Him (John 1:18).

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son (Hebrews 1:1-2).

Every word of God is tested--He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Do not add to His words lest He reprove you and you be proved a liar (Proverbs 30:5-6).

I, the Lord, do not change (Malachi 3:6).

Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever (I Timothy 1:17).

The differences are mutually exclusive and exist not only in the nature of God but in many other foundational aspects of our faith. The idea that a person can be both Christian and Muslim is heresy.

spirit-filled preaching

"There is one thing that gives a preacher authority, and that is he must be 'filled with the Holy Spirit'". ~ Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones, "Knowing the Times" - Banner of Truth (1989) - (p160).

"Oh there is preaching and preaching! What is the test of preaching? I will tell you; it is power!". ~ Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones cited in Tony Sargent - "The Sacred Anointing" - Hodders (1994) - (p294).

"Oh there is preaching and preaching! What is the test of preaching? I will tell you; it is power!". ~ Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones cited in Tony Sargent - "The Sacred Anointing" - Hodders (1994) - (p294).

"To fail to learn from the pulpit of the past is to impoverish that of the present". ~ Tony Sargent - "The Sacred Anointing" - Hodders (1994) - (p260).


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serving others

Last night was wonderful. I had the opportunity to go down to our free store where we give out food and household items to folks living in the low income housing there.

It's cool. The residents are alloted 20 "points" which they use to pick what they need from a "shopping list". We fill the orders and while that is going on we attempt to establish relationships with them. Last night we served just under 100 families and had opportunity to pray with a few of them for various needs. That's always good stuff but last night a couple of other things impressed me.

The first was that in the area I was working, 75% of the volunteers were actually people from the low income housing areas themselves. It occurred to me that these people had caught the vision of preferring others ahead of themselves and more than that, I was able to engage some of them in some spiritual conversation. So not only are we providing some practical help for people but the "spirit" of the the thing is contagious.

My second observation was regarding the room we were in. It had not occurred to me before but the space we were using to store and distribute these items from was given to us by the managers of this government housing area. So not only are the residents positively affected by these efforts but "outsiders" are seeing the church not as a group taking away but as giving and they want to come alongside that. I pray that in doing so they also meet the God behind it all.

Anyway, it was great and certainly a good distraction from the theological (or lower) debating that seems to be pre-occupying much of my time these days.

perverting the gospel

I had an issue with a comment made by Don Sands on a post at Pyromaniacs but I went to his blog and although I did not read it thoroughly, I found some good stuff. I especially like his most recent post. In his post, Don notes that we are to be true to the Gospel.

"Where righteousness of the law rules, the righteousness of grace cannot rule; one of them must give place to the other. If you cannot believe that God will forgive your sins for Christ's sake, how then will you believe that He will forgive you your sins for the works of the law, which you could never perform?
The doctrine of grace can by no means stand with the doctrine of law." - Luther

To quote Sands:
The Gospel needs to be preached in it's purity. It's difficult to do for us. We want to throw a little works in to help it along, and then faith can take over, and grace can then have it's way.

To preach grace alone through faith alone is quite hated by the religious crowd, and mocked by the non-religious crowd, and always shall be. Those who are even the slightest bit religious will hate it because it makes void all their good works. Those who are secular will say how stupid this Gospel is. They may say, it's good for you, but not for me. But we need to say, "It's the only good for every soul that is born into this dark and sinful age.

There's nothing more important for people in this world, than to hear the Gospel preached in it's purity. And then after hearing the Gospel, which is the power of God that saves a soul, to bow the knee, and cry to Christ for mercy. And when this happens, all of heaven rejoices with great joy! There's no greater joy, and no greater glory for God then when he glorifies Himself in His grace saving a sinner.


This post by Peter Cockrell was too "glorious" to not copy in its entirety (sorry Peter).

“I was thinking this morning about the gloriousness of the gospel”. Says Adam Hoagland in this ‘glorious’ post:
  • The glorious truth of God’s goodness towards those who don’t deserve anything but His wrath.
  • The glorious truth of God sending His son to die and bear the wrath for those who reject Him.
  • The glorious truth of Christ conquering death, by rising from the dead.
  • The glorious truth that our standing with God is only based on the work of Christ and not on us.
  • The glorious truth that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.
  • The glorious truth that we will see and be with Christ.
  • The glorious truth that God chooses us to take the gospel to the nations.
"Let me never forget the gloriousness of the gospel. May every thought, word, and action be saturated with gospel truths!”

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

i'm karl barth

Oh no ... I'm Karl Barth ... I'm not sure but I don't think I feel good about that.

You scored as Karl Barth, The daddy of 20th Century theology. You perceive liberal theology to be a disaster and so you insist that the revelation of Christ, not human experience, should be the starting point for all theology.

Karl Barth


John Calvin


Friedrich Schleiermacher




Martin Luther


Charles Finney


Jürgen Moltmann


Paul Tillich


Jonathan Edwards




Which theologian are you?
created with

omazing grace

John Wimber taught that we should value all expressions of love toward God. I'm not there yet.

prince in faith

"A faith that does not result in activity of any kind is a dead faith; it is empty, worthless, insincere".

Derek Prince - "Foundational Truths for Christian Living" - Charisma Publications (2006) - (p478).


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piper on postmodernism

Here John Piper offers some basic definitions of postmodernism and modernism and his concern that there is "way too much adaption going on and not enough winsome confrontation going on."


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airost announced

Just in from Tominthebox ...

Your Best Flight Now! Fly AIROST

Houston, Tx - Lakewood Church announced today the launch of their new airline company AIROST. Beginning October 1 the airline company, officially owned and operated by the 29,000 plus member church, will primarily begin servicing "church members" who live across the United States enabling them to fly into Houston each weekend for services.

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Martin Downes brings us this excellent reminder from William Cunningham. Scripture is the right means of attaining correct knowledge!
We have seen, in considering Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, that even in the second century there was, besides much very inaccurate interpretation of particular passages of Scripture, some tendency manifested to deviate from the simplicity of scriptural doctrine as taught by the apostles, though not yet carried out to any considerable extent.

Since there is as much of this tendency manifested by Irenaeus, who was no philosopher, as by Justin, who was well acquainted with the literature and philosophy of paganism, we cannot trace the incipient corruption of doctrine wholly at least to the influence of philosophical speculation, or indeed to any one specific cause, except what is in some sense the proximate cause of all error and heresy,--viz., the want of due subjection to the authority of God's word, and of due diligence and impartiality in the use of the right means of attaining to a correct knowledge of its meaning.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

christocentric v. theology

In response to a friend being rejected for a church staff role based on a theological point, Jim Meredith writes to his fellow "trekkers" the following.

Christocentrism has been my theme for over fifty years. What does it mean? Put simply, it is this: The Christian faith is all about Jesus the Christ, first, last, and always, in every situation, every decision and every relationship. The goal of life is Jesus … to get to know Him more, to love Him more, and to serve and speak of Him more in all of life. Trekker, make no mistake, this the top of the mountain of life! There is no other peak in life worthy of our time and energy than to be for, like and all about Jesus, only!

Take Christ seriously in one’s life and you will divide the world. Jesus said it well: “You are for me, or against me.” Neutrality or nonchalance concerning
the person of Jesus Christ is not an option. As I write, the news highlighted recently some pundit suggesting if we all used the ‘Allah’ phrase for God, all
would be solved. What a crock! Islam and Christianity are incompatible faiths primarily for one reason - Jesus Christ. Is He front and center, the essence of
faith, or just another prophet? He alone is “God with us”. The uniqueness of Christianity is His birth, death, and resurrection. This is spelled out by the Apostle Paul in his writing to the early Christians in Corinth, Greece. (I Cor 15.)

Down through the ages, God as creator has been recognized, whether the name is God or Allah. But God as Jesus, Lord and Savior, is a stumbling block. How could a man be God, or be given a name which is above every name, so that one day every tongue shall confess and every knee shall bow to Him? The
equality of God and Christ the world cannot understand and so readily disavows and denies. Peter demanded of the Jews at Pentecost (Acts 2) that Jesus be recognized as Lord, the promised Messiah, and the Church’s true message must zero in on this truth in every generation. The Lord also zeroed in on this before His death, repeatedly asking the disciples, “Who do you really think I am?”

In practice, what certain elements of the Church have propagated in the name of doctrine, dogma or theological truisms often have received more allegiance and have become more important than Christ. Oh, this would be vehemently denied, but what happened to my friend because he wasn’t ‘dispensational’ enough in his thinking, happens daily throughout the Church. And it is a litmus test developed by man! We are too good at constructing relational barriers within the Church, whereas all followers of Christ should be ‘bridge engineers’ of the highest order. Bridges not barriers should be our heart throb… bridges to Jesus. John 17:20-23 outlines this for us in the Lord’s prayer. By our focus on Jesus as one with and sent by the Father, we will realize unity. This unity
and love for Christ alone and each other is the greatest ‘good news’ the earth has ever heard or will see. Lived out, it will convince the skeptic.

Christocentrism, or Christocentric thinking, focuses all thought and action contained in the Scriptures, both the Old and New Testament, on Jesus the Christ. “He alone has revealed Him!” (John 1:18) Unfortunately, when man enters the picture, assessing after the fact what God has done, some theological constructs often tell us more about man than God. The self-orientation of man creeps into his belief system. Man-made grids and templates color and too often taint so much of Christian thought in every age. (This is a reason one of my dearest friends refuses to use Christian as an adjective! Think about that!)

The world does not need yet more prophetic thought, or man-made schools of ‘new’ revelation. The world needs Jesus Christ alone! All else which passes for ‘solutions’ are mere band aids for the human predicament. Fallen mankind needs the Christ who is the Living Truth (John 14:6). Thus, all reasoning about God must be Christocentric! I make no apology for being adamant and passionate for this Truth. It is pre-eminent for this Trekker and I hope for you.

For sure, theological agreement should never be a ‘test of fellowship’ among people in Christ. If it is, we may revere our theology more than Christ. We must
remember, God forgives us all our theology! Systemization of supposed truth throughout Church history has so often led to new ‘isms’ which capture our imagination and act as a lens (we now see through a glass darkly) through which we view our relationship to Christ. How sad when any ‘ism’ becomes an idolatrous object of reverence or a test of faith. Trekker, never let beliefs about God become ‘a god’ to you. If so, you will defend only the dust of the ground! God has spoken; no one need speak for God, in reality. Heb 1:1-4 resounds, “… in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son…” Read the entire passage.

Christocentric! You betcha! Jesus Christ alone is the Word of God (John 1:1-2). Trekker, allow Him alone to be the center of your love, your thought and your every action. If so, you will climb every mountain and achieve every dream. For Christ in you is the hope and glory of every true trekker.

Jim is not anti-theology, he is anti-anti-Christocentric. We too often put our doctrine above Christ. Jim - thank you for your words and I need to reread this more frequently - certainly earlier today would have been good.

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unassailable - a rebuttal

I won't spend too much time on these posters anymore but since TeamPyro thinks it's important to continue ...

TeamPyro and their fans think that those that the posters represent refuse to engage (which of course is Pyrospeak for they don't accept the response). This particular poster is interesting because it represents how they respond when someone does in fact engage. Comments or posters come out that effectively say, "stop whining and accept our criticism." And they claim that this is Christ-like, helpful, etc..

Here's the poster and here's the article.


The poster implies that TeamPyro (and other critics) are by definition correct. Any ECM'er that questions the charge made has to defend it even if they also don't believe what they are accused of believing. If they try to deny it, they are charged with whining and refusal to deal with the criticism being leveled. This is a lose-lose situation.

TeamPyro doesn't care if you agree with what they say you think. They do not believe in the mystical yet they somehow know your thoughts better than you do.

I find it interesting that this pattern of misrepresenting others has been around from this same group for many years. I became exposed to it in the late 80's and it peaked for me in 1993 when John MacArthur wrote Charismatic Chaos. I find it more interesting that these guys continue to think that the problem is denial by others. I wonder if they ever took a moment to look at the common thread between them and the many varied groups of believers that they have chosen to attack over the years?

Their response is always the same. That is that they know what others are thinking and any resistance to that simply provides them ammunition to say the other guy isn't listening.

TeamPyro - time to wake up.

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more differences

An influential Evangelical teacher writes that training in righteousness "begins when we hear Scripture preached during the worship service or taught in a Sunday school class or Bible study. That's when we store doctrinal and biblical truth in our hearts and minds."

While I think it is true that we can learn truth through these methods, I don't see this as limited to these methods. Moreover, I think this statement belies the Biblical view. It is from this kind of thinking that some in the Evangelical camp conclude that those that follow other methodology or simply question these traditional methods cannot possibly be seeking the truth. Ask yourself where God in Scripture prescribed the method for imparting His truth as limited to the traditions we have built up in our Church communities.

Unlike the 'new' thinkers, I'm not aligned to tossing out our traditions yet I see that traditional thinkers have shifted from upholding Biblical truth to upholding their tradition. They talk about truth but as you penetrate the concern you find it is more about the tradition.

What about you? Are you seeking the Truth? Or are you focused on your tradition? It is easy to confuse the two. I have even found non-tradition to be a tradition. It's amazing how fast we can get caught up in our methodology and our liturgy and lose sight of Who we really intended to pursue.

The writer compounds his shortcoming with this.
The next practical phase of our training in righteousness comes in our daily lives as we interact with people and ideas of the world and occasionally need to confront error.

He continues but his focus is confronting others.

This speaks volumes about the group it represents. The purpose and/or next step of growing in truth is to confront error? Interesting because that fits exactly their behavior and I don't think matches the record of Scripture. I would have suggested that equally or more than this would be to know the Giver of Truth or perhaps to demonstrate His heart toward the poor and spiritually poor of the world or any number of things along this line.

So while I would say that a necessary part of our spiritual growth comes through the testing of our faith and part of that will be against challenges of the truth, I would not have called that out as primary or at least without mentioning the many other expressions required to develop that truth within oneself.

Reading these few phrases helped me better understand the well dressed yet incorrect teaching that drives so many of our brethren as they passionately fight for their version of truth. The bottom line is that they have a different view of Scripture and its purpose. I don't think it is completely wrong but it certainly is incomplete - and it's logical conclusion is ugly.

Again, what about you? Are you able to find God's Truth wherever He may appear or have you limited where and how He can show up? When you find truth, do you find it for the purpose of knowing Him better or do you find it to have a better weapon against those that do not conform to your patterns?

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the prosperity movement

I have some very dear friends that some would consider leaders in the 'prosperity movement'. I love these guys and I believe they love Christ; yet I've made it clear to them that I think they are in serious error regarding their thinking on the 'prosperity gospel'. It's from that background that I relay some quotes I found through Peter Cockrell at Already Not Yet.

The first is from John Calvin, Sermons on the Beatitudes (Banner of Truth), pp. 77-80 and I quote in its entirety (including the British spelling).
Someone might ask whether it is right for God’s children to be rich, to employ the good things which God so generously gives and to derive pleasure from them. After all, our text says “Woe to you who laugh. Woe to you rich. Woe to you when men speak well of you.” “What’s this?” you say. “Is it wrong to lead a good and virtuous life and to be well spoken of? Doesn’t St. Paul urge us to do good in the sight of all? Don’t we read somewhere else that every mouth should be stopped and that men should glorify God when they see us walking in his fear?” We might, then, think it harsh and puzzling that the rich, the comfortably off, and the happy should be condemned.

Now that is not what our Lord is saying here. What he is condemning is the attitude of those who, intent on living well in this world, as so stupid and senseless as to forget there is a heavenly kingdom. This will be clearer if we think of how believers behave when times are good. If God sends them peace and prosperity, they will give him the praise; they will use his gifts soberly, endeavouring always to live an upright life. They will not want to squander such gifts, but they will recognize them as blessings from God. Or again, if someone possesses a rare gift of God’s Spirit, he will not pretend he doesn’t have it, for that would be mere hypocrisy. So whether believers are rich, or in robust health, or wonderfully endowed with the Spirit’s gifts, they acknowledge that God’s favour is its only source. Their joy is real, and so is their thanksgiving. That is how they will use the good things of this present life.

Nevertheless, while life for believers may be easy today, they will be ready tomorrow to endure whatever afflictions God may send them. He may, perhaps, take from them the goods he has given. They are prepared to surrender them, since they know they received them on one condition–that they should hand them back whenever God should choose. The believer reasons this way: “Rich today, poor tomorrow. If God should change my circumstances so that ease gives way to suffering and laughter to tears, it is enough to know that I am still his child. He has promised to acknowledge me always as his, and in that I rest content.

That, I repeat, is how believers will behave. They will live soberly, tightening their belts if that is necessary; they will be self-controlled, telling themselves that though they may rise to eminent rank and enjoy untold pleasure, they must set their sights on higher things. The good things given by God are but a path to lead us to him, a ladder to ascend on high, not a tomb in which to bury ourselves. We should not cling to happiness or greet its passing with a hollow laugh, for it is fleeting. Nor should we exult when men applaud us, as if we had already attained our reward for a virtuous life on earth. No, we are determined to press on through good report and bad. Such is the measured and moderate path pursued by the believer. We do not get drowsy, still less intoxicated, when times are good. And we are always willing to abandon everything if God requires. This is not how it is with unbelievers. Prosperity goes immediately to their heads, fills them to bursting; they are so befuddled that not once do they spare a thought for God or the spiritual life. In time they grow hard, and when misfortune comes they grind their teeth and blaspheme against God.

This is how we are to interpret the woes spoken against the rich, the satisfied, those who laugh and are glad. Remember Job, who amidst his suffering proclaimed: “If we have received good things from God’s hand, why should we not also receive the bad?” There is no doubt that this was something which Job had thought hard about–a treasure, so to speak, to be disclosed at the right time and place. We see then that although God may spare us and give us reason to rejoice, we should expect to receive both good and bad from his hand. Not reluctantly or because we are compelled, but meekly and cheerfully, obedient to his will. For he must rule us, not according to our own likes but according to what he knows is best and most expedient for us. We are confident that all things will work for our salvation: that is our motive for rejoicing.

That is the sense of Jesus’ teaching in this passage. To be rich, to be glad, to be satisfied is to be drunk on prosperity and to live the life of senseless beasts. If we are comfortably off, it is not so that we may cover ourselves with gold and silver, or boast of owning fields and meadows, like those whose goal in life is to have everything they want. Those kinds of people are as good as dead: they bury themselves in their perishable possessions and are incapable of seeing heaven above. As for us, we must take heed to ourselves lest the Son of God condemn us with his own lips: only by looking to him for continual blessing can we escape the misfortune promised here. We are taught, then, to pass through this world as strangers, convinced, as St. Paul says, that those who have should be as those who have not. No one would deny that those who have plenty to live on meet many more temptations and run more risk of falling. They need, therefore, to turn constantly to God, and to learn that his gifts are meant to draw them closer to him, to quicken their love and to encourage their obedience. The good things they receive must never bewitch them to the point that they become captives to the world.

In the midst of plenty we must guard against greedy excess, lest we choke ourselves and bring this curse upon us: Woe to you who are filled. If we are to be filled, it is in a different way–by contemplating God’s face, as we read in Psalm 16. We should regard material possessions simply as props to help us, until we see the Father face to face. He is our bliss and happiness. By all means let us laugh, but in the manner of those who are ready to weep should that be God’s will. Our joy should be joined with sadness, and with compassion for those who suffer. No one should live apart from others, and all should rejoice whenever God’s name is honored. Yes, rejoice, even when we have reason to feel sad and gloomy. Conversely, it may be that we are fine, in the best of spirits. But supposing there is some dire trouble in the church, or God’s name is blasphemed, held up to shame or ridicule–that should give us cause for grief, grief deeper even than the joy we felt. At such a time we ought to moderate the happiness which earthly blessings bring. We ought, as the proverb says, to mix water with our wine.

Cockrell then provides a number of excellent Scripture references and a link to John Piper's strong but appropriate message to those taken in by this deception. Piper begins:

When I read about prosperity-preaching churches, my response is: “If I were not on the inside of Christianity, I wouldn’t want in.” In other words, if this is the message of Jesus, no thank you.

Luring people to Christ to get rich is both deceitful and deadly. It’s deceitful because when Jesus himself called us, he said things like: “Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). And it’s deadly because the desire to be rich plunges “people into ruin and destruction” (1 Timothy 6:9). So here is my plea to preachers of the gospel.

These are the summary points:
  • Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that makes it harder for people to get into heaven.
  • Do not develop a philosophy of ministry that kindles suicidal desires in people.
  • Do not develop a philosophy of ministry that encourages vulnerability to moth and rust.
  • Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that makes hard work a means of amassing wealth.
  • Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that promotes less faith in the promises of God to be for us what money can’t be.
  • Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that contributes to your people being choked to death.
  • Don’t develop a philosophy of ministry that takes the seasoning out of the salt and puts the light under a basket.
I can only add "Amen".

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iggy on doublespeak

I think Iggy gets it exactly right, the TeamPyro posters don't communicate anything except distain for the church outside of the private group that propagate them. With the poster Iggy is addressing, one is not clear where TeamPyro stands. Their zeal to mock others seems to mock a position they themselves hold to.

Again, the issue here is that we need to return to some sound Bible based confrontation. I align with some (not most) of the criticisms offered by TeamPyro but the posters are no way to proffer those opinions.

As Rick Frueh comments:
Ten men stand on stage in an auditorium. They are asked about what are the necessary fruits that substantiate a person’s conversion. All ten men answer differently. The moderator asks each man how he came to his conclusion. This time each man answers the exact same way:

“I got my answer from the Bible!”

His point isn't that the Bible is wrong or open for multiple interpretations. It is that we need to treat those making an honest effort to understand it with the respect and dignity that comes with being part of the body of Christ. These posters do not do that nor do that engage in Biblical discourse.

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Monday, August 27, 2007

blog rating

Oh no - I don't want to be ECM but since I've taken up wrestling with TeamPyro over their posters against ECM, my blog rating has become "R" from a "G" back in July ... well, they warned me.

hell (7x) death (4x) dangerous (3x) hurt (2x) missionary (1x)

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spiritual fathers

Each verse of 1 Jn 2.13-14 states that spiritual fathers "know Him who has been from the beginning." John MacArthur, in The Pillars of Christian Character, adds the following.
The apostle is saying that the most mature believers will begin to have a deeper knowledge of God. This is not some kind of mystical experience, but an understanding of Scripture that becomes deeper and richer as they progress from knowing facts and principles to knowing the God who revealed Himself through the words of Scripture. Knowing the Father more intimately involves such things as experiencing enough answered prayers that there's no doubt He does hear and answer, and experiencing enough of life's sufferings and trials to realize that God is always there to sustain and comfort.

As written I agree but there are several words/phrases that deserve some unpacking.

First, "mystical experience". I'm not sure what MacArthur defines as that. He is clearly promoting experience later in this paragraph so I'm not sure where he defines the boundary between Christian experience and non-Christian experience. I have seen this often applied to Christian equal to Evangelical and non-Christian equal to something such as Charismatic. If mystical in MacArthur's statement is equivalent to the experience of the Charismatic and that is what is not part of the "knowing of the Father", then I disagree with MacArthur. If he means some experience totally devoid of Scriptural explanation, then I am aligned.

Next is the phrase, "knowing the God who revealed Himself through the words of Scripture." I understand this "knowing" as an intimate, personal, relational knowing. MacArthur rightly says this is a progression from simply knowing facts and principles and he says that we will know God and that this God is the same God (the only God) revealed in Scripture. He did not say that the only way we can know this God is by what is in Scripture. If this is his intent, I agree. And I would add the only way we can know if the God we are knowing is the God of Scripture is to know Scripture. Without such, we run the risk of being misled.

The reason for the excessive clarity here is that I think some have argued that the only way to know God is through Scripture which is different than knowing the God of Scripture and I think they are incorrect.

I think it is key to note that MacArthur (again rightly) states that God hears and answers prayers. Some of his students seem to contradict that.

And finally, I would add to MacArthur's phrase "experiencing enough of life's sufferings and trials to realize that God is always there to sustain and comfort." I would want to say that it is not the suffering alone that brings the maturity. It is either the Father's deliverance from the suffering or the comforting in the suffering that brings the maturity.

MacArthur continues developing the concept of spiritual maturity with the following.

The key to reaching that ultimate level of maturity is to recognize and remember the crucial role obedience plays. The various levels of maturity are not absolute guarantees; they are linked to obedience. At any stage of our spiritual development we can either be obey God or the flesh. That means that whether we're spiritual infant, spiritual youth, or spiritual fathers, we can either be progressing in spiritual maturity or regressing. We cannot and must not rest in our perceived level of growth, thinking we're automatically mature when in reality our maturity is based on whether or not we're obeying God. Spiritual maturity, then, is the process that moves believers from being spiritual infants to spiritual youth to spiritual fathers during, and only during, those experiences in their lives when they walk in the Spirit and obey God's Word.

I like that - that is something we can and should live by. There is no time to relax. These are serious times. We are in battle with the enemy of the cross. We must live every day, moment by moment as ambassadors of the King.

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an emerging primer

As the Evangelical side ramps up it's generalized not-concerned-with-accuracy mocking, I thought it might be a good time to brush the dust off a well written piece from a year ago.

Justin Taylor wrote An Emerging Church Primer. In this, Taylor models sound Christian thinking as well as behavior. The concerns Taylor outlines are fair and specific; they are in the areas of the Bible, the Cross, Truth and Knowledge, and Sexual Ethics (perhaps we could add more as time has evolved). I love the alternatives proposed by Taylor.
A Call for Humble Orthodoxy

Humility has to do with rightly viewing the greatness of God such that you see yourself in the proper light.

In other words, humility does not mean hating yourself and believing that everything you do is wrong. And it doesn't mean remaining continually uncertain. Rather, humility means being confident in - and looking to - God and his grandeur and greatness. It means submitting yourself to his word and his ways.

Orthodoxy refers to having right beliefs, which involves affirming the historic truths of the Christian faith - believing what the church has always believed and confessed. It's not about trying to come up with a new kind of Christianity for your present community. It's about standing in the historic stream with the communion of saints and confessing what the church has always confessed.

As indicated earlier in this article, we must commit to a stance of humble orthodoxy, understanding that true humility should lead us deeper into orthodoxy, that orthodoxy should have a humbling effect on our souls, and that we must speak the truth (orthodoxy) in love (humbly).

A Call for Contextualized Confessionalism

Appropriate contextualization means "adapting my communication of the gospel without changing its essential character." In short, we must retain the essentials and adapt the non-essentials.

Paul discussed the relationship between unchanging truth and changing culture in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23:

For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Now this I do for the gospel's sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.

Tom Ascol recently offered a good summary of Paul's intentions here: "I would make a sharp distinction between compromising what God has revealed in His Word and accommodating others where we can for the sake of gaining a hearing for the Gospel."

We must never compromise - but we must accommodate. What are those things in our lives, in our ministries, in our churches that have more to do with cultural Christianity than they do with eternal, unchanging truth? Our great danger in the Western church comes when we refuse to accommodate the non-essentials in the name of not compromising.

Contextualization has become a buzz word. The flip side of the coin is that we must not only be contextual, but also confessional. By confessional I mean that we should affirm and confess the historic teachings recovered during the Reformation.

Walter Henegar recently wrote: "Emergent writers may correctly diagnose postmodern sensibilities, but their prescriptions tend to conform rather than transform." For transforming prescriptions, we often have to turn outside of our own narrow window of time. Part of being a confessional Christian is reading church history - and reading writers from church history. We all know the statement: "those who are ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it." We would be naïve to think that all of the issues being raised are "new" and that variants on them have not been dealt with in the past.

One of the things I appreciate about Tim Keller's approach to these issues is his insistence that Reformational Christianity already has within it the resources needed to minister to post-everythings.
  • Post-everything folks love narrative and story - and Christ-centered biblical theologians like Geerhardus Vos can teach us how to avoid moralisms and to show that every story points to Christ.
  • Post-everythings are experientially oriented - and Jonathan Edwards' affectional theology can serve as our guide.
  • Post-everythings rebel against moralisms and self-righteousness - and who better than Martin Luther to teach us about the meaning of true freedom found in Christ alone?
  • Post-everythings are concerned about social justice - something powerfully addressed by Herman Ridderbos' exposition of the coming and presence of the Kingdom of God.
  • Post-everythings love art because they love the material world - a perspective shared by Abraham Kuyper, who declared: "there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, 'Mine!'"
  • Post-everythings tend not to be moved by evidences and proofs—and this is where Cornelius Van Til and company may offer help in explaining the issues of faith, authority, and uninterpreted facts.
A Call to Speak the Truth in Love

We need to remember that we are bound by the Word of God to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). Some of us are so wired to "speak the truth" that we fail to do it in love. (And of course, the converse is true as well. There are those who are so concerned about speaking in love that they never get around to speaking truth.) I know that, for myself, I am often far too impressed with my own cleverness and far too desirous of "scoring points." Yet the biblical imperatives call us to a higher ground: truth and love. It's not an either/or, but a both/and.

Perhaps the most helpful phrase is one coined by John Piper: "brokenhearted boldness." We must seek to soak our critiques with meekness and humility.

Listen to the wise counsel of John Newton—the vile slave trader turned redeemed author of the hymn "Amazing Grace":

As to your opponent, I wish, that, before you set pen to paper against him, and during the whole time you are preparing your answer, you may commend him by earnest prayer to the Lord's teaching and blessing. This practice will have a direct tendency to conciliate your heart to love and pity him; and such a disposition will have a good influence upon every page you write. . . . [If he is a believer,] in a little while you will meet in heaven; he will then be dearer to you than the nearest friend you have upon earth is to you now. Anticipate that period in your thoughts. . . . [If he is an unconverted person,] he is a more proper object of your compassion than your anger. Alas! 'He knows not what he does.' But you know who has made you to differ [1 Cor. 4:7]."

He then closes with these wonderful quotes.

Walter Henegar says,
There's an old story attributed to Dwight L. Moody, who was once criticized for his methods of evangelism. He responded, 'I like my way of doing it better than your way of not doing it.' Reformed Christians may be right about how to reach new generations, but are we doing it? Are we seeking to rescue other professing Christians from the jaws of error? Are we willing to submit our own thinking to the scrutiny, correction, and ridicule that inevitably come from publicly joining the conversation?

Most important, are we building friendships with postmodern non-Christians, the type who bristle at the sight of steeple and pew? Do we even know such people? Are we bringing the gospel to them in dialogue, listening for their responses so we at least know they understand? And if they place their faith in Christ, are our churches prepared to embrace them without requiring a second conversion into a church culture that may have less to do with the gospel than we're willing to admit?
And Tim Keller, calls both the emerging church and the evangelical church to a better way:
I see people who are desperately trying to reach the post-everythings who in their desperation are trying to throw out essential elements such as the substitutionary atonement, forensic justification, imputed righteousness, the Sovereignty of God, or the inerrancy of Scripture. Many of them are probably over-adapting to the post-everything situation. But while they do not have our theological resources, often we do not have their level of engagement with the people of the emerging society. To correct this, let us confess that we really have failure across all our parties to reach the coming society, and let us resolve to use the premier resources of Reformed theology. If we can make these changes, then we may really start to see renewal and outreach, and we might actually be a resource for the broader body of Christ in this culture.

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velvet elvis

I haven't read Rob Bell's Velvet Elvis. People I have deep respect for have warned about some serious pitfalls and some people that I think are a little too free in their thinking have bragged strongly about it. Net, I decided that was one I didn't need to read.

I like the Rob Bell Nooma series. I stopped buying them at the 10th in the series simply because of financial reasons but until that point, while not steeped in doctrine, I found them to be good conversation starter, consistent with Scripture, and pointing toward godliness.

Other than that, I don't know much about Rob Bell. So why am I writing? Because if you are interested in what seems like a honest and sensitive analysis of Bell's Velvet Elvis, here's a link to Greg Gilbert's critique. Here's the summary.
On its surface, Bell’s first book, Velvet Elvis, might seem rather innocuous. His stated goal is to rethink the Christian faith in terms that will "strip it down to the bare bones" and get it back to "the most basic elements." For the most part, he pursues that goal in a style that is reasonable and to-the-point. He talks about humility, about asking questions, about wrestling with the biblical text—phrases that many evangelicals use daily.

But I am convinced that when Bell brings all these things together, the result is something far more revolutionary than what appears on the surface. In fact, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that Bell actually ends up throwing the entire Christian gospel up for grabs. God is made so mysterious, doctrine is deemed so questionable, and biblical interpretations are so relativized that in the end, Bell leaves us wondering if anything can be known for sure, or if any understanding of the Christian faith and gospel is any better than any other.

Gilbert's article is worth the read in that he cites specific examples and models specific and gentle criticism.


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christians misrepresenting christians

It has become a plague. Apparently it is now vogue to make summary statements about other believers without a lot of background effort or specifics and then punctuate with negative comments about the person(s).

A blog I respect has recently posted:
You got to give Rick Warren one thing, he is consistent if nothing else, even though his spiritual drivel is leading millions to a false sense of salvation and/or leading them away from the truth.

In this post at Christian, Warren published a story entitled Five Tools Saddleback Uses to Develop Spiritual Maturity, and in this self-serving diatribe, Warren begins by boasting of the grand success of Saddleback. He then proceeds to let all of us know just what we need to do to become spiritually mature. You need to read it for yourself, but here are the five things, tools, Warren says will help you grow as a Christian:

1. Commitment cards
2. Classes based on the purposes
3. Covenants
4. Small groups
5. Campaigns

What's strangely missing from Warren’s steps is the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, the Word of God, the Gospel, denial of self, sacrifice, repentance and on and on. In other words, what's missing here is any mention what God’s Word says about maturing as a Christian. Sadly what you can find is Rick Warren’s self-serving, man-pleasing purpose driven lie.

I don’t know what is more heartbreaking, the fact that this stuff is produced to begin with or that so many people are deceived by it.

This is in reference to Five Tools Saddleback Uses to Develop Spiritual Maturity. Notice Warren's article has the "tools" in that. As soon as you do that, your on tough ground. If you do such a thing, some could infer that you think God needs help. Others, as this pundit writes could assume you are replacing the core values with tools. Etc.. It's a path that is wrought with pitfalls given the ever critical state of fellow believers.

Had Warren written that he uses the "Father, Son and the Holy Spirit ..." as tools, imagine the outcry. I think the antagonist here should have given more thought to Warren's audience and intended message. I for one completely agree with the critique in the sense that the "missing" elements must be included but I do not have any evidence that it was Warren's intent to substitute these tools for those or to suggest the tools are primary over that. In fact, the nature of Warren's tools seem to be that they are pragmatic things we might do while allowing those "missing elements" to work.

For example, commitment cards. Warren writes, "commitment cards help our people respond to what we’re teaching in the weekend message." His point is that people need opportunity to respond. If the Word of God is preached, this is very appropriate. I'm not sure I like commitment cards but the intent here is not an evil deception as implied by the critique states.

Next, classes based on purposes. These classes focus on membership, maturity, ministry, and missions. I don't see the evil there. In fact, Warren rightly states, "people will start to learn how to actually live out the biblical purposes in their lives." Isn't that our goal, to live out what we find in the Bible? Now we can argue the accuracy of the "biblical purposes" as identified by Warren. And many would critique his motive. I am not qualified for the latter and the former is a separate argument but it is false to represent this as not valuing the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the Word of God, etc..

Warren's third point is covenants. I don't like this one but his motives are clearly stated and they are not wrong. It is true as Warren states that "we become whatever we are committed to."

The fourth point is one I am a big supporter of, small groups. Warren writes:
Your church members can’t grow spiritually on their own. We all need other people to help us grow. At Saddleback we use small groups, built around the same core New Testament purposes that our church is, to help our members develop the kind of relationships they need to grow. In these groups they can practice all of the “one anothers” of Scripture (pray for one another, love one another, etc.). It’s a central part of our church’s spiritual growth plan. And by making sure that these groups center on the biblical purposes, we help our members worship more fully, build meaningful relationships, develop the character of Christ, discover their shape for ministry, and share their faith with lost friends.

Perhaps not complete. I'm sure Warren could have written more but the scope of the article constrains. To take this and see Warren as omitting the values noted and is promoting spiritual drivel is misrepresentative.

Finally campaigns. I hate them. I think these easily lead to a wrong focus but in and of themselves I find the innocuous. The issue is that the energy required to make them work is the exact energy that should be focussed elsewhere. But again, I'm not sure how they are inherently evil and I don't see anything in Warren's writing that suggests they replace the values offered in the critique. In fact, based on the titles, Warrens intent is to focus on the values the accusers states is missing.

Net - I simply do not get this on-going "attack" that many seem to be swept away with.

image resizing

If you are a photoshop fan like I am, this is fascinating and I hope will come in a future version. If you are not a photoshop type, don't bother watching.

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

tozer on spirituality

A.W. Tozer wrote in That Incredible Christian:
A Christian is spiritual when he sees everything from God's viewpoint. The ability to weigh all things in the divine scale and place the same value upon them as God does is the mark of a Spirit-filled life.

God looks at and through at the same time. His gaze does not rest on the surface but penetrates to the true meaning of things. The carnal Christian looks at an object or a situation, but because he does not see through it he is elated or cast down by what he sees. The spiritual man is able to look through things as God looks and think of them as God thinks. He insists on seeing all things as God sees them even if it humbles him and exposes his ignorance to the point of real pain.

jesus is speaking ...

Col 1.15-20

We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen. We look at this Son and see God’s original purpose in everything created. For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels—everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment. And when it comes to the church, he organizes and holds it together, like a head does a body.

He was supreme in the beginning and—leading the resurrection parade—he is supreme in the end. From beginning to end he’s there, towering far above everything, everyone. So spacious is he, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross.

Heb 4.14-16

Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.

Mat 11.28-30

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.

Yes my friends, Jesus, the Truth, has something to say. Commune with Him and He will set you free.

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hearing god

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
For the Lord is a great God,
and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth;
the heights of the mountains are his also.
5 The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.

Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand.
Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts
, as at Meribah,
as on the day at Massah in the wilderness ...

Psalm 95:1-8

So what are we to do? The writer of Hebrews provides the answers in chapters 3&4.

Chapter 3, verse 1, "Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in ra heavenly calling, consider Jesus, sthe apostle and high priest of our confession." Fix our eyes on Jesus. He is the Truth. Part of this of course is reading the Word but that is not the whole of it. As Iggy is routinely reminding us, only in Jesus will we find the whole truth because only He is the Truth.

The writer of Hebrews quotes Psalm 95 four times in chapters 3&4. He repeats in verse 7 the phrase, "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts." In verse 10 he writes, "Therefore I [God] was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.'" Today, few people really know God. Of those, many work to know His will (i.e., study Scripture), some work to know His ways (i.e., experience Him), far too far wrestle for both.

What are we to do? He 3.12ff, "Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said, “ Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that mthey were unable to enter because of unbelief."

It is "today". God wants you to hear Him and to not fall into unbelief. Many today are working hard to teach you that He has nothing to say. Hear Him and obey all that He commands. The promise of entering into His rest still stands (He 4.1). We must combine the message of the Gospel with faith and approach the throne of grace with confidence. There we receive mercy and find grace. There we will experience the sweet communion of our Lord.

Listen, the word of God is living and active.

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experiencing god

"I want to experience You in the same way I seem to know about You" ~ Matt Massey praying to God

We desire more than information about God, we want sweet communion with Him. Lord come!

all praise to god

"All praise to Him who paid my debt
and raised this life up from the dead"

The Saints at NSV this morning

tomlin on prayer

"When we talk to God, we're praying. When God talks to us, we're schizophrenic." ~ Jane Wagner, In Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, 1985, performed by Lily Tomlin

I don't see Wagner or Tomlin as theologians but that accurately captured the inaccurate thinking of many Christians.

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

spiritual youth

In The Pillars of Christian Character, John MacArthur writes:
Overcoming Satan ... is not the same thing as getting rid of sin. Satan may prod us and, through his world-centered system, place many temptations in our paths, but he is not directly making us commit wicked deeds. Instead, the devil is much more involved in the development of deceptive, ungodly, anti-biblical ideologies. He was a liar from the beginning (Jn 8.44; cf. Ge 3.4) and is busy developing all kinds of lies - various ideologies, philosophies, religions, and all sorts of deceptive schemes (cf. 2 Cor 10.3-5; 11.14) to blind unregenerate people and render spiritual infants ineffective. Satan can't take away young believer's salvation, but he can certainly keep them in spiritual infancy and prevent them from having any positive impact for the kingdom of God.

The only way to overcome Satan is to be strong in the knowledge of Scripture: "I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one." (1 Jn 2.14). If you reach this level of maturity, you will still have sin and temptation in your life, but you will also know sound doctrine well enough to recognize error, resist its enticements, and fight it vigorously when it confronts you or others.

As Christians mature, they are able to understand and correctly interpret the Word of God. As a result, their theology starts to take shape as they acquire discernment by asking the right questions. With their increased doctrinal knowledge comes a desire to discuss Scripture and theology with more learned believers so they can be more active in refuting the cults and all forms of doctrinal error.

Growing into effective spiritual young men and women is simply a matter of knowing the truth.

Now I like that and it is accurate for the point MacArthur was making. For my purpose, I'd like to build on it a little.

The first part is a great reminder that we wrestle not with flesh and blood. I have recently wrestled with several individuals, in that I have experience all manner of anger, frustration, etc.. I lost sight of the real battle. I suspect these people are not bad people. I think they have fallen into a trap set by the enemy. I think he has built up ideologies and deceptive schemes. As I fight with them, I make the trap all the more successful. As a mature believer, one must step back and realize the true source of the problem and battle against that. In doing this and demonstrating true love toward others do we demolish the work of the enemy and demonstrate the power of the Kingdom.

The next thing I'd like to add to MacArthur's statement is that this blinding by Satan is not only for the young or infant believer. Many mature men of God have experienced moral failure or have gotten caught up in the success of their ministry or any number of other traps set by the enemy. I was speaking with a friend recently about the Pharisees. I don't imagine that this group of guys woke up one day and thought, "let's leave our love and develop a bunch of laws and trappings that take us away from God." I suppose that at one time these were zealous believers and as they tried to figure things out and live out their faith, they got caught up in the trap of Satan. This occurred over time until eventually one could not see anything other than blind guides bringing others into bondage.

I see this same thing happening around me. In an effort to guard truth, we have missed lifting up the Truth and instead lifted up conformity and our tradition.

The next point is around the comment, "If you reach this level of maturity ... you will also know sound doctrine well enough to recognize error, resist its enticements, and fight it vigorously when it confronts you or others." I don't disagree but I think there is much more to it. Listening and knowing the word can still leave one in a place of deception. We must do what it says. We want to look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, in that we will be blessed in our doing (Ja 1.22-25).

MacArthur rightly states that with "increased doctrinal knowledge comes a desire to discuss Scripture and theology with more learned believers so they can be more active in refuting the cults and all forms of doctrinal error." I agree but that's only a small part. And more important, although refuting cults and doctrinal error is a small part of what should come from a life of increased doctrinal knowledge, it too often becomes the major part of the life of many. There is a more complete picture according to James.

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

Finally, growing effective spiritually according to MacArthur is simply knowing the truth. I agree if knowing means more than obtaining information and truth is the Truth, Jesus Christ. If so, I completely agree. But too many hear and understand phrases such as MacArthur's as much less and therefore they fall far short of the spiritual effectiveness God desires in their lives.

We need to find relationship in the Truth and live live's filled with all that He has revealed to us. Only as we do that will our lives will bear the spiritual fruit He desires.

growing righteously

John R. W. Stott in Basic Christianity writes:
The great privilege of the child of God is relationship; his great responsibility is growth. Everybody loves children, but nobody in his right mind wants them to stay in the nursery. The tragedy, however, is that many Christians, born again in Christ, never grow up. Others even suffer from spiritual infantile regression. Our heavenly Father’s purpose, on the other hand, is that “babes in Christ” should become “mature in Christ.” Our birth must be followed by growth. The crisis of justification (our acceptance before God) must lead to the process of sanctification (our growth in holiness, what Peter terms “growing up to salvation” [1 Peter 2:2].

living righteously

I think this by John Wimber gets at Jul's point to my post of Carson's quote on freedom.
I am convinced that the most common reason for falling into sin is that people do not understand their true identity and purpose as Christians. As children of God we can and should expect the Holy Spirit to make changes in us to such an extent that our struggle is lessened. A transformation occurs in what we desire - righteousness - and in what we do - obeying God. It is not that the Christian life becomes easy, but we learn to live from our center - the Holy Spirit's life in us manifests a life of righteousness.

If the old self is dead, how does sin still live in our bodies? Our flesh still awaits redemption. Our problem is that our new nature is tied to a body of flesh. The flesh (in Greek, sarx) is the "sin principle" at work in our lives. It is no longer our real identity as redeemed men and women; however, this "sin principle" tries to affect our whole being and needs to be progressively overcome. There is a struggle to integrate our bodies with the reality of our new nature.

Wimber then outlines some simple acts of faith intended to help with this struggle.
  • Confronting sin
  • Confessing sin
  • Performing appropriate actions of repentance
  • Receiving God's forgiveness
  • Forgiving others as God forgives

Friday, August 24, 2007

alien gospel

Dieter Zander was referenced as a trigger for some to accuse Emergents of preferring myths to ease our minds rather than deal with truth. I later learned through Frank Turk that a more horrible article, Abducted By and Alien Gospel, by Zander existed. To quote Cent, "Notice how he is trying to talk about the work of Christ and the value of what Christ has done."

Let's take a look at it, I found it informative and something I could relate to. Zander starts by relating how he was caught in a lie when he was 11 years old. In that he was told that lying was sin and if your sins aren't forgiven, you go to hell. From fear of hell, Zander prayed for forgiveness and salvation. Since then he has grown in sanctification and now, thirty years later, he is asking how really effective was this step taken at age 11 and the methodology that got him to that point.

Good question!

He's grown a lot since that 11 year boy so he summarizes that familiar experience with these versus:
  • The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost. (Luke 19:10)
  • For God so loved that world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
  • Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved. (Acts 16:31)
and traditional definitions:
  • Lost — someone who is going to hell because he has not believed in Jesus for the payment of his sins.
  • Saved — someone who has eternal life because she has believed in Jesus and asked him to forgive her sins.
  • Believe — to agree with the proposition that Jesus, God's Son, paid for our sins, thereby giving us eternal life. Generally we show that we "believe" in Jesus by praying a prayer asking him to forgive our sins and come into our lives.
  • Eternal life — life in heaven with Jesus when I die. As millions of evangelicals have been taught to ask: "If you were to die tonight, are you sure you would go to heaven?"
I think he rightly states:
This understanding of the gospel is essentially concerned only with how to deal with sin and death, with wrongdoing and its effects. We've got the past covered — past sins are forgiven. We've got the future covered — heaven when we die. But what about the present? Life, our actual daily existence, is strangely absent from this version of the good news.

This presentation of the Gospel is not the Good News. It is a part of the Good News but it is lacking. Zander later writes that he came to understand that "repent" in Mk 1.15 didn't just mean be very sorry. As I've written before, it means to "to turn around from the way you are going." We are to turn from our way living to live His way of living. I recently quoted John MacArthur as saying, "If I could change modern evangelism in one way, this is it: that we would stop reasoning people to a commitment or decision, and we would start calling people to deny their life, and follow Christ."

Zander also realizes that the Kingdom of God does not equate to arrival into heaven after our demise. He rightly suggests that the Good News of the Kingdom is "to be nearly the whole substance of Jesus' proclamation — the arrival of a different kind of life, under the reign of a present and powerful God who, according to another version of Jesus' good news in Luke 4, was intent upon restoring, healing, redeeming, and reconciling all of creation."

Because of this he offers us more complete definitions:

Lost — to be out of place, as Jesus makes clear in his series of stories in Luke 15. The sheep is not in the fold with the shepherd. The coin has rolled under the couch. The Jewish son is living with pigs rather than at home with his father.

I'm discovering that people around me actually do feel lost. They don't know who they are, they don't know what they're supposed to do, and they don't know what is going to happen to them. Jesus' gospel is good news for these people because it addresses the present in which they live, not just an afterlife that only occupies the realm of occasional consideration.

Saved — if a person is lost, then being saved means being found: brought back to a place of belonging. This happened to the sheep, the coin, and the son. In each parable, that which was out of place (lost) was brought back into the right place (found) — a return worth celebrating. So "being saved" isn't primarily about some eternal disposition - it's about accepting an invitation to return to the right place, as a subject of the kingdom of God.

Believe — to trust or depend on someone or something. This is different than professing to believe something. I can say I believe the chair will hold me up when I sit in it, but that is merely professing to believe something. To place myself in the chair, to put my full weight on the seat, is to believe.

So when we ask people to repent and believe the good news, we are not primarily asking them to intellectually assent to something; we are inviting them to place their full confidence in Jesus for their whole life. In fact, this is how many people responded to Jesus in the New Testament. Matthew left a lucrative business to follow Jesus. The sick and disfigured journeyed to be near Jesus and risked public ridicule, confident Jesus could heal them. After meeting Jesus, Zaccheus gave away half his wealth and repaid those he had cheated, completely reorienting his life.

Naturally, this kind of trust involves acknowledging the ways we have lived without trust. Jesus' death paid for our sins — our daily choices to trust self and to mistrust God — and forgiveness is available. But forgiveness from our sins is just the precursor to the real drama of salvation. Salvation is not just from death, it is for life — a life lived with Jesus in the kingdom of God.

Eternal life — Jesus himself defined this one. "Now this is eternal life: that they [my disciples] may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent" (John 17:3). Eternal life, a life in intimacy with God, starts now and continues as we move from this life to the next. Eternal life is not just a promise related to our future destiny; it is news about what God is offering us in the present.

Sorry Cent, this seems like solid stuff and even if you manage to find a point of disagreement, I miss the basis to begin mockery and causing others to have a false understanding through you misrepresentation.

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spurgeon on glorious disorder

"God, send us a season of glorious disorder. Oh, for a sweep of wind that will set the seas in motion and make our ironclad brothers now lying so quietly at to roll from stem to stern. As for us, who are as the little ships, we will fly before the gale if it will but speed us to our desired haven. Oh, for fire to fall again—fire which will affect the most stolid! This is a sure remedy for indifference. When fire falls into a man’s bosom, he knows it, and when the Word of God comes home to a man’s soul, he knows it, too. Oh, that such fire might first sit upon the disciples and then fall on all around!

For, to close, there was then a daily increase of the church: ‘The Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved’ (Acts 2:47). Conversion was going on perpetually. Additions to the church were not events which happened once a year, but they were everyday matters. ‘So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed’ (Acts 19:20).

Oh, Spirit of God, You are ready to work with us today even as You did then! Stay not, we beseech You, but work at once. Break down every barrier that hinders the incoming of Your might. Overturn, overturn, sacred wind! Consume all obstacles, heavenly fire, and give us now both hearts of flame and tongues of fire to preach Your reconciling word, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.”

Charles Spurgeon Power for You