Wednesday, January 30, 2008

evidences of god's grace

C.J. Mahaney to small group leaders:
Most people are more aware of the absence of God than the presence of God. Most people are more aware of the presence of sin than evidences of grace. What a privilege and joy it is in pastoral ministry and small-group ministry to turn one’s attention to ways in which God is at work, because so often people are unaware of God’s work. And much of God’s work in our lives is quiet; it’s not “spectacular.” It’s rarely obvious to the individual, and normally it’s incremental and takes place over a lengthy period of time.

So, informed by Paul’s leadership I want to interact with everybody by identifying an evidence of grace, because if they are Christian I know God is at work in their lives. What a joy it is to discern where and how God is at work, draw people’s attention to it, and celebrate God’s grace in their lives! The fact that we get to do this—how cool is this?

And I also know this is critical preparation for any correction that genuinely needs to take place in their lives. Because identifying God’s work in their lives gives them faith for the correction they might be in need of, and they can consider that correction without collapsing under that correction being unaware that God is at work in their life.

See, Paul’s correction of the Corinthian church is effective because he has faith for this church. When we correct people, they can tell whether we have affection for them and faith for them. I sadly know what it’s like to correct somebody where I neither had affection for nor faith for—as if the correction alone was sufficient and most important. That is not true. This is not an expression of the character of God and that is not biblical leadership.


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who am i?

Now I don't know what to think of myself. I always thought of my friend Randy No-Blog as an enigma. In fact, years ago I documented the following about him ...

On the enigma we know as Randy No-Blog

Things you would expect him to say
  • (When talking fashion) “It doesn’t have to be vertical stripes, just a regular pattern - like solid.”
  • “I don’t agree with everything he says but…”
  • “Good news Rick, you’ve just been upgraded from a cult to simply misguided.”
  • “If it were up to me, we wouldn’t celebrate any holidays!”
  • (When talking music in church) “Drums, two guitars, keyboard, and a flute - it’s gettin’ scary.”
  • “I don’t normally do this, but in this case, I’ll make a generalization….”
  • (When talking printers) “Nope, I don’t do color.”
  • “Nope - don’t like cards….don’t send ‘em, don’t want ‘em.”
  • “Nope - don’t dance….never have, never will…can’t make me.”
  • “As a matter of fact, in my opinion….”
  • “Golf courses and grave yards - don’t like ‘em, poor use of land.”
  • “Ninety percent of the people that teach error are sincere in their error.”
  • “People can have emotions, they just shouldn’t base anything on them.”
  • When asked to read an opening scripture at a wedding, his first choice is “Jesus wept” - because it’s short.
  • “Palm pilots? Nope, don’t own one, don’t need one…have my mind don’t I?”
  • “I normally don’t like fluffy things.”
Things you would not expect him say
  • “It’s not a lie, it’s just not the truth.”
  • “They’re just too legalistic for me.”
  • “You can’t expect them to teach only the facts.”
  • “Well, it’s not that serious of a crime.”
  • “That’s not Biblical, it’s Old Testament.”
  • “I only own one movie…Chevy Chase’s Christmas Vacation…it’s a classic.”
  • On March 7th in the year of our Lord 1999, Randy No-Blog handled a snake at Church. In that same service, he openly displayed emotion.
  • (While discussing Biblical interpretation) “well it only means that in English”.
  • “Hey - the Scriptures are additive.”
  • On March 30th in the year of our Lord 1999, Randy No-Blog sent an e-mail containing a grammatical error.
  • When questioned about said error (above), Randy replied, “Hey, it was the computer’s fault.”
  • “Rick, I want to get your opinion.”
  • “I have to admit I was wrong on that.”
  • “I’d have to say I agree with him on that.”
  • “Yeah, I owned a ’68 Mustang - British racing green, 390 cc - when you started it you could feel the ground shake!”
  • “The Simpsons was good this week.”
I thought it was just him. But a few months ago I posted Just The Black Notes which has taken my blog hits from 1-2000 per month to just at 60000 this month. In that post some dear lady commented after making a positive comment about the video:

What drew me was your photo which did not match the video content. Not that I'm judging you, but...big cigar...lots of facial hair...not what I expected at all.

I thought hmmm, am I that odd? Then Rick Henry Frueh wrote today:

You happen to be the most intriging/confusing/incongruous theological mongrel of them all. A emergent leaning, charismatic, Calvinist.

Perhaps Randy is not the only enigma and perhaps that is not as bad of a thing as I thought ...

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more on the "L" word

How about that Limited Atonement? Here's some information.

There's a little us versus them stuff in this that I would have preferred was left out. But otherwise I generally agree. But many of you won't. Feel free to bicker or offer your thoughts here - just do not expect a rationale response from me.

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It took 47 church splits but a church in Centerville, Ga has finally reached doctrinal purity. The story is here.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

response to piper re: muslims and christians

I love John Piper's thoughts regarding the response from Christians to A Common Word. What a love more is his spirit through conflict. Desiring God blog just posted a "rebuttal" to Piper by Rick Love, one of the 300 cosigners of the Christian response.

Love makes a well reasoned and loving reply to key points made by Piper. After hearing him I have to say he also makes some sense.

But get this, look at the way this dialog takes place. It is an example of true humility while standing firm for what is represented. I do not see compromise - I see respect and dignity and I believe God is honored. This kind of exchange is a testimony of God's grace and it witnesses to the world that His plan works.

This stands in stark contrast to so many other blogs and books I have read. This approach encourages dialog, understanding, and hopefully results in change. The more common approach typically results in sin on both sides. That is why I have been so adamant that those involved in this latter type of exchange are deceived by Satan. Even if they are correct in the facts, they are in error in the spirit.

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Sunday, January 27, 2008


A disciple is one who is growing in the rhythms of grace.

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biblical evangelism

I am currently processing some small group material I was given by my church. We are beginning a series call "Consumed" in which we will analyze the many things that tend to consume us rather than our passion for Christ. The concept sounds great but the content (created by one of larger churches here in Cincinnati) is weak at best - and I think I am being kind with that. Of the three lesson plans I read, only one referenced any Scripture and that did not discuss the Scripture but rather used it as a backdrop to ask a couple of simple questions regarding our perception of the events of our week.

Anyway, in contrast I read Mike Ratliff's post on The Keys to Biblical Evangelism - wonderful. Through what Ratliff wrote I am reminded that we have access to the power of God and His Holy Word - and then I wonder why do we stoop to something less?

As a side note - my only issue with Ratliff's post is his perception that the seeker-sensitive form of evangelism is totally numbers or results based, and, therefore, uses methodologies to boost perceived effectiveness by increased numbers of “decisions for Christ.” That is not 100% consistent with my experience which is that they simply want to eliminate all stumbling blocks other than the cross of Christ. But I suppose as with any "movement" there are a range of expressions and he could be correct in his assessment of the majority.

As a side side note - I find it interesting that many so-called evangelicals (I am not speaking of Ratliff) will cite "signs and wonders" or traditional Charismatic behavior is distracting, etc. and then criticize those that are seeker-sensitive. Hmmm ...

But now back to the topic ... we really need to stop dumbing down the Gospel. God doesn't want or need our help in that way. More than coincidental, I also read Michael Patton's THE ENTERTAINMENT DRIVEN CHURCH this morning in which he describes his experiences exploring other churches in his area. I read his summary of the ugly with interest.
The sad fact is that there was no educational program for people to grow deep in the faith. There were plenty of opportunities for service, outreach to the community, and fellowship, but nothing that helped these people understand the why of what they are doing. I don’t necessarily expect these type of churches to do church the exact way that I would tell them, but at least have as one of the involvement suggestions a program of theological discipleship or doctrine to encourage people to know the God they are serving.

These people had no connection to the past whatsoever. They would have no idea about the history of the church outside of the history of their local gathering. What are they connected to? What makes them think that they are qualified to bring in all these visitors? Don’t they feel the least bit of a need to have a heritage? Are they not accountable to anyone past or present?

The biggest fear that I have is that this is representative of so many well meaning people who start churches. I imagine the person who started this particular church grew up in a very boring church and set it as his primary goal to someday have a church that was fun. That is nice, but, more often than not, totally destructive. The pews are filled with people who are weak and totally unestablished in the faith. Most really don’t know what the Christian message is outside of “Jesus loves you and wants you to have a wonderful life.” Many claim Jesus, serve Him, and lift up their hands in praise, but what happens when someone or something challenges their faith? Where are they going to turn? To the shallowness of the entertaining commercials or out of context self-help lessons? Where will they go when the foundations are destroyed?

It is this type of context that gives unfortunate illustrations to books like Ruth Tucker’s Walking Away From the Faith. “I was a Christian who used to go to church every week, served on the welcoming team for years, lifted my hands in worship, went to other countries and built churches, but I came to find out that it was all false.” Really? What I want to know is did you ever find out that it was really true in the first place.

I could go on but this experience has confirmed to me the desperate shape that the modern church is in and the need that we have for theological renewal. When things get tough (and they will), who will people turn to when the entrainment, laughter, and fun will serve no purpose. May God grant us a mindset to give people their true needs, not their felt needs.

Truth first, mission second, fellowship third, and if there is any room, throw in some entertainment.

This "ugly" can be found in any movement. Shallowness as we replace the Gospel with programs. We have a wrong-headed idea of evangelism, fellowship, etc. and it leads us to a place that denies that power of God and ultimately leads people to destruction. I frankly think that our intention as we do this sort of thing is good but the fact is that in our own lives we lack the power of God and therefore we grasp anything we can as we try to go about His work in our own power - and I do not think any of us are immune. It's a trap we should all be wary of.

Have a good Sunday.

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fourteen years ago ...

It's hard two believe that it has been roughly fourteen years ago that Randy Clark sat down with a handful of us to describe with amazement the power of God that flowed from what he expected to be only a few meetings at the Toronto Airport Vineyard.

A lot has happened to me, in me, and through me over these years and it was good to take some time this morning to reflect on how God has been at work in my personal history.

This was thankfully prompted by Adrian Warnock's repost of his historical account of "THE TORONTO BLESSING - WHEN THE CHURCH SEEMED TO BE GOING MAD". I think his summary is accurate and I really like his closing remarks to how we can choose to react. These responses can be reapplied as we think about any church movement (or conversation). Here is Warnock's healthy advice:
The Pharisee Response
After a minimal investigation, possibly largely by hearsay, some vigorously oppose what is going on. As one Baptist pastor who had never attended a meeting pronounced, "This movement is not of God." The extreme denunciation of any movement is out of place without a careful investigation. In the case of the Pharisees, their opposition to this young upstart, Jesus of Nazareth, was largely based on jealousy. To oppose from a distance is dangerous since, unless one throws aside the history of revivals, one has to conclude that these phenomena could be the work of God. How sad to fall into the same trap as those biblical men who opposed every revival in history.

The Gamaliel Approach (Acts 5)
Leave it alone since, if it is of God, it will continue; otherwise, it will fail. At first sight, Gamaliel's "stand back and see what happens" advice seems good. It is certainly an improvement on the first position. We should not forget, however, that these were the words of an unbeliever. The biblical view of the Church is that, like it or not, we are all part of one another. When a widespread movement is affecting so large a part of the Church, if you feel you have wisdom and maturity, you have a responsibility to investigate. If this is a work of God, don't miss out! If this is a deceptive endeavor, rescue your brothers and sisters!

A Blind Acceptance of Everything
There are those who become so enraptured by experiences that nothing else matters. There was apparently at least one church which had not had a sermon for nine weeks solid. This is a road fraught with danger. Power is dangerous. Heresy, error, and sin may result. We need to be more responsible than this.

Recognize Carefully the Work of God and Seek His Blessing
Careful investigation with discernment is called for. We should actively promote this movement if it is of God. It is a fearful thing to oppose God. At the same time, we need to be wise, as excesses can happen. We need to ensure that decency is always maintained. For example, sometimes young women wear clothing that can become revealing as they fall. This needs to be managed to prevent improper exposure. We need to care for those prayed for, and particularly those who feel left out. Any appearance of manipulation ought to be rooted out.

Which do you most often employ?

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Friday, January 25, 2008

predestined and proud

Yes I know many of you don't agree with the Reformed Doctrine of Election (street name - Calvinism) and some of you even see it as heresy. Well, I be one and I'm proud of it. Go ahead, feel free to take your shots.

With that said, I like this piece by Mark Driscoll.
When most people think of the doctrine of predestination, they tend to think of a revision of the children’s game Duck, Duck, Goose. Instead, it’s Duck, Duck, Damned where God picks some people to favor and others to fry while Calvinists dance around yelling Romans 9:20 to anyone who protests. Yet the Bible’s teaching on the issue is very important, difficult, and encompasses nearly every other area of primary theology.

The rest.

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and at the same time ...

So while we should avoid becoming "censoriousness people", we need to remain aware that there are there are false prophets and teachers among us. I like Mike Ratliff's blog because he does a fine job of honestly and firmly confronting error as he sees it without developing a wrong spirit within himself.

He just posted on his observation that "there appears to be a clarifying work of God going on in within the Visible Church." Read more here.

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a critical spirit

I love this article by George Watson posted at CounterCulture.
Censoriousness - What It Is

Censoriousness is composed of self-conceit and severity; a self-conceit that we are superior to others, and are entitled to some sort of lordship over them; and then a severity of judging others by the outward letter of righteousness instead of by the Spirit. There are other people who are censorious besides Christians, but it does not look so conspicuous in their lives, for it is the very nature of religion to make a streak of badness look more ugly.

Censoriousness has a special facility of fastening itself on a religious person, and on persons professing a great deal of religion, and its very intensity is in the proportion to the intensity of religious zeal, and seems to find its greenest pastures in those who profess the perfection of love.

It is a parasite which, like the mistletoe, fastens itself on the tree of religion, and seeks to spread itself until it claims to be the tree, and, in fact, if not killed off, will succeed in killing the tree, which, indeed, it often does.

There seem to be certain weaknesses, and ugly, disagreeable infirmities, latent in the soul that nothing even develops till he becomes religious, and sometimes the more intense the religion the more glaring are these infirmities. There is nothing disagreeable in handling a piece of dry wood, but if you undertake to make the wood pass into a live coal of fire then will develop the unpleasant concomitant of smoke, and soot, and ashes, which would never have been known but for the process of burning, and there is something like this in the soul’s transition from a state of nature to that of the pure, burning love of God, and though all souls do not manifest the same disagreeable things, yet, as God’s grace is burning us through, it seems inevitable that there will be a smoke in the shape of some religious infirmity.

Censoriousness is not grace, but is assumes the profession of grace, and oftentimes of great sanctity, and it seems to develop in some characters only when they are really under the operations of grace, as an iceberg throws off a heavy fog when it comes near the Gulf stream. One thing is certain, that many professors of very high grace are very censorious, and they were never very censorious until some time after their declaration of entire yielding to God. Perhaps we can never understand the metaphysics of it, but we know it is a delusion of Satan to get religious people to mistake censoriousness for sanctity. One of the remedies against it is a clear understanding of what it is.

Watson goes on to describe the following characteristics of a censorious person.
  • A Wrong Standard
  • A Fake Calling
  • An Unfruitful Life
  • An Unhappy Life
It's worth reading the full post.


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loving your enemies

Mk 3.20-21 - His family ... came to take charge of him, saying 'He is out of his mind.'

Is your life requiring others around you to react? If not, is that ok? If so, how do you then react to them? John Michael Talbot asks the following in this thought provoking post.
How do we relate to those who do not understand us? Do we love them or hate them? Even if they are our enemies, Jesus said, "Love your enemies." (Mt 5:44.) Do we really "love" our family members who do not understand us? Can we still love them when they claim to be "Christian" and clearly aren’t following Christ? The one who can love us all the best is Jesus. If we love him more than anyone, we will come to really love everyone, especially family members.

more contextualization

Contextualization - everyone is getting in on it ... and some are getting it right. Here's Mark Driscoll's take on preaching/teaching Scripture.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

remember - you are going to die

"You can be so interested in great theological and intellectual and philosophical problems that you tend to forget that you are going to die." ~ Martin Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers, p. 193.


missing sheep

Jon Birch accurately captures what appears to often be the state of Christendom today.


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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

oh noooo ... not a mormon ...

2215544586 52110A2A03

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i wanna be your president song

The cats are cool - they got my vote for president.

Thanks Matt!

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missional church formation

From Leadership Network:
Missional living is about spirituality before it is about strategy or congregational structure. So, the first big issue is the reclamation of authentic discipleship. Churches must rediscover spiritual formation for missional living and develop systems for encouragement and accountability of a living faith.

Becoming a missional church is about being–being conformed to the image of God, bearing His heart–before it is about doing. Therefore, leaders must connect their congregations with His heart via the Scriptures.


piper on muslims and christians

Wow! I like this guy. Here John Piper discusses the recent "A Common Word Between Us and You” by Muslim leaders to Christians and the response to it from 300 Christian scholars.

I not only agree with Piper on the specifics that he addresses, but I really love how he communicates this with passion and conviction yet models humility and grace.


frustrated about elections

A New Word: Electile Dysfunction

The inability to become aroused over any of the choices for president put forth by either party in the 2008 election year.

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Contextualization - a big word that causes contention.

“Contextualization is not giving people what they want. It is giving God’s answers (which they probably do not want) to the questions they are asking and in forms they can comprehend.” ~ Tim Keller

DA Carson spoke of when to contextualize. Ed Stetzer also had some to say. And here are some thoughts about what the word means.
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.

Here I will restate Robert Banks on Paul's attitude.

In [Paul's] first letter to the Christians at Corinth. "I have become all things to all men," he says, "that I might by all means save some" (1 Cor 9:22, RSV). This does not mean that Paul compromises his beliefs and practices by simply conforming them to those he happens to be addressing at any particular time. It means that he is always taking such beliefs and practices into account and making them the starting point for his own message and behavior. Wherever he can do so, he acknowledges the validity of other approaches and incorporates them into his own (Acts 17:22–34). Where he cannot, he asserts the superiority of his approach over others and argues that it fulfills the aspirations that have been misguidedly invested in the other approaches (Col 2:8–23). Either way the things he is saying and doing cannot be properly appreciated without reference to the context in which he is speaking and acting.

Another reason Paul should be studied in the context of his culture is his frequently expressed concern with the social attitudes and structures of his day. On some occasions he calls these into question and contradicts them by his own statements or behavior (1 Cor 6:1–6); on others he insists they be carefully noted and followed (11:14–15). Where accepted conventions come into conflict with a basic implication of the gospel message, there is no doubt in his mind as to which has to give way (10:14–22). Where less central implications of the gospel are concerned and where there is the likelihood of causing offense among those outside the Christian group, there should be a willing avoidance of practices that, all things being equal, are quite legitimate in themselves (8:7–13; 10:23–30).

what's the deal with mormonism

I've noticed recently a lot of writing in the blogsphere about Mormonism. Perhaps it's because of Mitt Romney. I don't know. But I see some ignorance on the topic and then some wrong pronouncements built on that ignorance so I thought I would join in.

Pulpit Magazine provides us this excerpt of an interview between Joel Osteen and Chris Wallace.
WALLACE: And what about Mitt Romney? And I’ve got to ask you the question, because it is a question whether it should be or not in this campaign, is a Mormon a true Christian?

OSTEEN: Well, in my mind they are. Mitt Romney has said that he believes in Christ as his savior, and that’s what I believe, so, you know, I’m not the one to judge the little details of it. So I believe they are.

And so, you know, Mitt Romney seems like a man of character and integrity to me, and I don’t think he would — anything would stop me from voting for him if that’s what I felt like.

WALLACE: So, for instance, when people start talking about Joseph Smith, the founder of the church, and the golden tablets in upstate New York, and God assumes the shape of a man, do you not get hung up in those theological issues?

OSTEEN: I probably don’t get hung up in them because I haven’t really studied them or thought about them. And you know, I just try to let God be the judge of that. I mean, I don’t know.

I certainly can’t say that I agree with everything that I’ve heard about it, but from what I’ve heard from Mitt, when he says that Christ is his savior, to me that’s a common bond.

Ouch - not well done on the part of Osteen. The full transcript is here or can be seen on YouTube here.

I am not making any statement here regarding Romney's candidacy. I simply think it inconsistent to be both a faithful, practicing Mormon and a faithful, practicing Christian. If this is something you wish to investigate, Pulpit Magazine references this and this useful link. I like this piece by World Religions Index in contrast with Biblical Christianity.

Bottom line, either Romney doesn't know what he means when he says as a Mormon the words that he "believes in Christ as his savior" or he is really not a Mormon or he knows what he means, he is a Mormom, and he is deceiving folks like Osteen.

As for Osteen himself, it is disappointing that he couldn't take a small number of minutes from his busy schedule to find out that Mormanism believes the following about Jesus:
  • By obedience and devotion He attained to the pinnacle of intelligence which ranked him as a God, even in his preexistent state (McConkie, MD, p. 192)
  • Jesus Christ was the executive in the work of creation, aided by Michael (or Adam), Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Peter, James, John, Joseph Smith, and others (McConkie, MD, p. 169)
  • He was born of the virgin Mary. Elohim is literally the Father of the Spirit and of Jesus Christ, and also of the body (Talmage, DC, p. 466).
  • He is essentially greater than all others, by reason of His unique status in the flesh as the offspring of a mortal mother and an immortal, or resurrected and glorified Father.He died on the cross, rose again, and is coming again in power and glory to set up his kingdom on earth (Talmage, DC, p. 472)
Then Osteen could make a statement about his faith in Christ in contrast to that. He is at best seemingly intentionally ignorant or worse, deceptive. I cannot say which but it's not positive either way.

tetragrammaton cleric

Marc Heinrich is back and here is his latest You Supply the Caption.


I like Jacob's contribution ... "No one messes with a Tetragrammaton Cleric"

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Monday, January 21, 2008

calvin the evangelist

For what it's worth (not much), some would say John Calvin was quite the evangelist.

Calvin didn't just plant small fledgling churches; he planted mega-churches that in turn planted more churches. It is difficult to fathom the extraordinary success of these Genevan sponsored missionaries. Even in our modern era, such statistics are unheard of.

Now some of you will say, "so what". Some will say, "see, that's another problem with Calvinism." Etc.

I don't care, I thought it was interesting and so I share it anyway.

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total depravity

Warning - The Following is Not Approved For Arminians.

So the word total in "total depravity" refers to the extent of our sinfulness, not the degree to which we manifest it. It means evil has contaminated every aspect of our being—our wills, our intellect, our emotions, our conscience, our personality, and our desires.

This is from Phil Johnson's recent post In What Sense Is Depravity Total? I agree with his analysis. The difficulty I have is the extent Johnson goes through to clarify the phrase total depravity rather. I prefer RC Sproul's approach (in Chosen by God) which is to say radical corruption. If you don't want to read Sproul, David Wayne provides a good summary.

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

what's important

Today we looked at what is important to Jesus using John 17.20-26.

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

Here Jesus is speaking to those that believe in Him as opposed to those that know about Him. When He speaks of knowing Him (as in verse 3), He is speaking of an intimate knowing, a one-flesh kind of knowing, a husband knowing his wife kind of knowing. This is life in Christ. Being joined with Him in His life and His death. It is both now and forever. It is eternal life.

And Jesus is speaking of real visible oneness, a practicing oneness, a practical oneness across all lines, among all true Christians. Here we have two tasks; that is to practice both God’s holiness and God’s love. To practice love without holiness can lead to compromise. To practice holiness without love can lead to legalism. How strongly must we demonstrate love? As strongly as Christ loved us. How strongly must we live holy? As strongly as Christ is holy.

He also clearly indicates a reason for this oneness, i.e., so that the world might know God. He does not say the world would know God by our ability to expose error in each other, nor by our ability to articulate the difference between supralapsarianism versus infralapsarianism, etc.. He said they would know us by our love. And notice, He does indeed love us. In fact, God the Father loves us as much as He loves Jesus. So we also need to stop beating up on our brothers that express their perspective that it was for His love of us that Jesus came, died and rose again - they are not altogether wrong and we only demonstrate our lack of understanding of Him by acting in that contrary way.

I do not think this passage gives us license to ignore error but I should point out that God cares quite a bit about those that bring division and place yokes around His people.

getting off track

While I do not regret my recent posts about confrontation, I would like to now return to the more important business of the Gospel. I love this friendly albeit sarcastic reminder posted by The Corner.
I recently heard someone say that the motto of Christianity nowadays is

“And now these three things remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is truth.”

HT:GM (welcome back man)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

challies on discernment

Tim Challies in an interview with Michael Spencer.
Discernment cannot be understood as a practice that stands on its own. Neither is it something we do for its own sake—we are not discerning for the sake of discernment but rather for the sake of purity in doctrine and in practice. A person who wishes to be discerning must also be willing to take into account the Bible’s other teachings about loving one another, about speaking the truth in love, and so on. Many of these “discernment ministries” and “discernment blogs” seem to understand the importance of separating truth from error, even while falling into error in their responses. The Bible does not account for a lone wolf Christian making it his business to critique every author or teacher or ministry who happens to stumble into his crosshairs. In the book I suggest that the local church is the best and most natural context for the practice of discernment and I’ll stand by that!

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critique of critique

I've been asked to reply to a specific post by Ken Silva. I claim Silva is under the influence of Satan in his attack on other believers and I was asked to support that since my statement appears to be the same type of general accusation as I say Silva does. I will not make this an on-going debate but thought it best to reply via a stand alone post. I considered a personal email but think some others may get a better glimpse into my mind/heart if I do it this way. I do this at risk of turning this into a battle. If the fallout from readers in general gets ugly, I will likely just not reply further.

My friend Daniel writes:
I am still not so sure about your continual attack on people like Pastor Ken. If they are wrong, can't you point out specifically where they are wrong, instead of just blanket condemnation? FOr example, let's take this as an example. Do you have any problems with it? If so, what are they?

First, I am no defender of Doug Pagitt. I think that if he literally believes some of the words he is using, then he is in trouble. If he doesn't, then he should learn to do better. But as my friend Randy no-blog said, "Once you decide you hate your wife, nothing she does is right." So for this analysis, let's put aside preconceived ideas of Silva and Pagitt and the other players.

Second, I do not see my general remarks as continual. I think the weight of Silva's remarks qualify as continual and I do not see my blog and comments as having the frequency or emotion that his carry. I blog from time to time addressing concerns but I try to be very specific and I try to ensure that does not become my focus (although I failed at that during the Pyromaniac PoMotivator era).

With those general remarks behind, now to the specific post by Ken Silva. I think Doug Pagitt made a poor showing in the interview referenced by MacArthur and I commented on that here. Bottom line for me, Pagitt failed to answer a direct question. At the same time, I was not impressed with Todd Friel, the interviewer. I found his question to be poorly framed and it took a lot before he relinquished and posed it better. His persistence indicates he may be holding on to some typical yet incomplete theology held by many Christians. Pagitt was right to press that point. In the end however Friel got there and I do not think Pagitt responded in kind. In his effort to make his point, Pagitt missed an opportunity to clarify the important concept he was being asked about because "it wasn't interesting to him." I think that was foolish ... but I don't think it qualifies him as a heretic worthy of disdain.

In Ken Silva's post, MacArthur is quoted as saying Pagitt is a Universalist which I understand is a person who believes that all humankind will eventually be saved. Is this what Pagitt is? MacArthur said that "What he [Pagitt] was saying is real simple. ... we’re all going to end up in this wonderful, warm and fuzzy relationship with God." Listen again and tell me if that is what Pagitt said. I did not hear that the first times I listened to the interview nor now. I think Pagitt said that in the final analysis we each are going to have to deal with God on His terms rather than our religious affiliation. He did not say it was going to be all good, he simply resisted the conversation about literal locations called heaven and hell. But MacArthur would have you think Pagitt means everyone will be ok and that is what Silva represented as truth. The problem is that this is not what Pagitt said and none of us can know what he meant because he was focused on a different point.

Silva then quotes DeWaay's disparaging remark about Pagitt. While the sentiment may be true from DeWaay's perspective, does it mean Pagitt has committed some error as Silva would have you believe? What is the issue? Where is the heresy? We do not know from Silva's writing, we are just influenced to think negatively toward Pagitt. This is not Christ-like.

Now we get to some actual quotes. Silva writes:

Ingrid Schlueter: So what you’re saying is that the question of whether the Gospel exists in other religions is a thrilling question that we should be asking.
Doug Pagitt: I think it’s the biblical question. Yes, I think it’s the right biblical question. I think, I find that you couldn’t read the New Testament without that question being raised and without the answers to it being the answers that we should be paying to; which is there is no culture or religion which holds God in complete isolation or purity. (15:25-15:56)

That doesn't sound good for Pagitt but Silva left off that Pagitt went on to say:
There is always the act of the Spirit outside of our religious systems. That's true of ... all religions. There is nobody who should be able to say that what we believe is the end of the story and that there is nothing else that God can contribute through people in the world. Or that there is nothing else that God is ever going to do in the world. That is a serious overstatement. There is no Christian expression which is not also a cultural expression. We do not have a culturally neutral Christianity. So what we have in any system of belief ... we are now engaged in a culturally invented Christianity which has its limitations.

As in the other interview I critiqued, I struggle with how Pagitt comes at this. He is challenging some good paradigms, i.e., God is at work throughout the world not simply in the boxes we build for Him. If God shows up to do something wonderful in the Hindu (or whatever community) wouldn't we want to be available to those people? Wouldn't we want to be open to His leading to go to them?

And, because there is a false religion, does that mean that everything about the people and the culture in those religions are all bad? Is the sinner next door to you all bad? In once sense yes and in another sense no. I recommend that at least in the context of the way you interact with your neighbor, no. You should not adapt or celebrate his faith, it is false. But not all the he does is evil.

Secondly, isn't Pagitt correct that we package our Christianity based on our culture? As one who travels the world, I get to see first hand that Christians everywhere are not alike in all that one may easily consider part of the Christian tradition. It isn't really Christian at all, it is culture creeping into our tradition. There is that which we must agree is fundamental but quite a bit that we do in Christendom is simple baggage we carry in and we ought not delude ourselves into thinking that our personal box is pure Scripture.

I struggle to know what Pagitt is saying but it is clear that these people have evaluated him on the preconceived notion that they have of him. And then Silva has only disclosed the portions of conversation to support his claim and not the whole conversation which at least reveals this isn't simple black and white.

The next excerpt from the interview is equally misleading.

Ingrid Schlueter: So we could interpret what you’re saying as how is God at work; how is the Gospel present within Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism—all of the different religions of the world.
Doug Pagitt: Yeah, for sure because—I mean—Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, those are not—I me—they are the right way to say ‘em. They are “isms,”right; so they are a school of thought, and they are also embedded in a particular cultural setting. And so I think someone could say, “yes, I can see how God—how God is expressed, talked about, understood, through these schools of thought.” Which I find to be quite helpful and they’re not all in contrast with my Christianity. (17:05-17:47)

Again, Silva leaves off this important next statement by Pagitt.

And I could find other parts of those same systems that I think I could say I don't think that is at all the way God operates in the world. But I find that very same thing inside the Christian context.

Within Christendom there are some folks that are diametrically opposed and might it be possible that God is at work in both camps (or neither)? Continuationists versus Cessationists? Calvinists versus Arminians? How can we pretend that simply because we wear the badge Christian that all we speak is truth? Pagitt is simply challenging our way of thinking.

Is Pagitt saying as you are led to believe? He acknowledges clearly that there is false teaching in these other systems. He just isn't willing to say every word that flows from someone in another culture is false. Is he wrong? Is he a heretic? I do not think so based on this. But I do think he has been misrepresented.
So unless Pagitt means what he didn't say, where is the heresy? It is only there by intentional inference on the part of MacArthur, Schlueter, Silva, et al. If that is a true statement, who is promoting error? Silva or Pagitt? On this basis I think Silva is a deceiver and a divider.

Bottom line - my friend reached back several months and picked an article that I had to work hark at. In spite of what I said above, I also struggle with Doug Pagitt. But he is not the topic so let's look at some other more recent examples of Silva's deception.

Two days ago, An ecumenical fairytale by Silva ... doesn't say anything except to draw your attention to another piece written by Silva named the same An ecumenical fairytale ... simple mockery with no reference to some real person saying some real anything that can be argued either way. I only see general slander motivated by a heart set on deception and division.
But it is linked to another piece written also by written by Silva but almost 2 years ago. Was there no new information to critique since then? Regardless, let's see what he says then.

First a general observation, as with the majority of Silva's work, the references are all to other things written by Silva himself. I couldn't read the whole thing. It just don't have time for such venom. It goes on and on with accusation but at least as far as I read it did not cite a specific from someone that Silva then points out the error.

Well, except one where Silva says that Rick Warren is under the influence of Norman Vincent Peale and Robert Schuller. What is the evidence? Rick Warren says, "I've only met Robert Schuller twice, I believe. I've never had a one-on-one conversation with him. Not once. So how do I even know him?" He added that he's never even read a book by Peale.

Or here's another by Silva from three days ago, Rob Bell Your Liberalism Is Showing. Here Silva quotes Bob DeWaay again disparaging the emerging church but again not providing any information for that accusation. He then quotes Rob Bell but falsely claims a number of other people could have said what Bell said. How is that responsible and Christ-like?

What did Bell say?

Jesus was killed because of how He confronted a particular socioeconomic religious system. He’s a first-century Galilean revolutionary who proclaimed a Kingdom other than the kingdom of Herod,

Silva is correct. But again, he attacks someone, here Bell, for something that is taken out of context. Rob Bell was speaking specifically about why Mars Hill strives to be nonpartisan. Not because Bell doesn't understand that it was God's will as Silva would lead you to think.

Here is all that Bell said.

We refer to ourselves [at Mars Hill] as aggressively nonpartisan, so we don’t engage in partisan politics in terms of “Here’s whom you should vote for; here’s whom you should support.” We do acknowledge that the Gospel has deeply political edges to it, but that should not surprise anyone. Jesus was killed because of how He confronted a particular socioeconomic religious system. He’s a first-century Galilean revolutionary who proclaimed a Kingdom other than the kingdom of Herod, so the Gospel does have political edges.

The interest is in giving voice to people who have no voice and using all of our abundance and wealth and resources on behalf of those who have a shortage. Some of our pastors had a meeting with the mayor of [Grand Rapids], which was simply for the purpose of asking who the most forgotten and the most hurting in our city are. They mayor had several very specific answers, and so we’ve actually reorganized a whole area of our church, putting the majority of our efforts around trying to take care of the worst problems in our city. I don’t know if you would say that’s political or not, even though it involved meeting with the mayor, but if Jesus comes to town and things don’t get better, then we have to ask some hard questions.

Here is more that he said.

I would say that we have a historic opportunity in that all truth belongs to God. It is not owned by the Republicans. It is not owned by the Democrats. It is not owned by the liberals. It is not owned by the conservatives. All truth belongs to God. And God has set us free in Christ.

Our culture worships at the altar of duality. Everything that comes to people - ‘Is it this, or is it this? Is it conservative or is it liberal? It it modern or post-modern? Is it emergent or is it non-emerging?’ And the Kingdom of God - “how God wants things” - transcends whatever divisions our culture has created.

We, as a church, will remain aggressively non-partisan. The gospel has political edges to it. So when a person says ‘oh, no, Jesus just came for the personal’ - [I say] ‘then why did they kill him’? There were deep political edges that had implications.

The environment and our care of the earth is not a Democratic party issue. It is a Genesis 1 issue. If I met a woman today who is pregnant and thinking about terminating that pregnancy, I would introduce her to about ten women in our congregation who would tell her their stories, and I say ‘we are desperate for you to not make that choice.’ That is not a Republican issue. That is an issue of ’we want to affirm life, and we believe mistakes and redemption become opportunities for grace’. So - any side that wants to say ‘we own this issue’ - if it’s true you only own that because you borrowed that from God.

I’ve had people say - ‘well, if you’re saying that, you must be against the President’, or ‘if you’re saying that, you must be for him’. I’m trying to articulate the way of Jesus, and I don’t really care who is for it or against it - I just want to get the word out so that everyone can do it. If you take the gospel seriously, it will always feel lik you are flirting with various political parties, because it is not surprising that different groups would grasp different dimensions of God’s truth. ’Well, if you’re advocating for the poor, that seems to be a Democratic thing’, or ‘if you’re advocating micro-finance that seems capitalistic - is that a Republican thing?’ As far as we know, it’s true and it doesn’t belong to anybody, because it belongs to God.

Can we be a church that transcends all of the ways our culture tries to divide us? What we are trying to do here at Mars Hill is to say that there is a truth that is not the swinging of the pendulum. It is the kingdom of God and it transcends all of the ways we try to divide ourselves. The beautiful thing here is that truth and love seem to be winning. I would beg this community to consider that when Jesus is fully on display, it won’t fit ANY of your boxes, so just toss your boxes out now. I am only trying to come from one perspective: Jesus. NOBODY will co-opt this stage or this community or hijack the agenda, which is that jesus would be put on display for the whole world to see.

I would beg this community to consider that what we are doing here is inviting ourselves to be a part of something our culture has not seen: ‘OK, it’s nice that you have that disagreement, and it’s nice that you have that ‘thing’, but let’s take communion together and then let us break ourselves open and pour ourselves out for the world. So, I would beg our community to have no fear. There is nothing to fear - Jesus can be trusted, so let’s go…

So regarding who killed Jesus why, there are a number of answers depending on the context of the question. But that is not what is important to Silva.

Let's do one more since it's easy and I am making a serious accusation. Go back just another day and we find, Cultural Architect: Why Churches are Declining in America. The target this time is Erwin McManus who said;

A cutting-edge church leader known for his innovative ideas on reaching a post-modern generation for Christ contends the reason why churches are declining in America is because they are self-centered.

“My primary assessment would be because American Christians tend to be incredibly self-indulgent so they see the church as a place there for them to meet their needs and to express faith in a way that is meaningful for them,” said cultural architect Erwin McManus, lead pastor at Mosaic Church in Los Angeles, to The Christian Post Monday.

“There is almost no genuine compassion or urgency about serving and reaching people who don’t know Christ,” he added.

Silva's critique:

Right; as if man-centered seeker sensitive emerging churches with lead pastors billing themselves as cultural architects are not exactly like this themselves.

Wait! Isn't what McManus saying true? Isn't the self-indulgence in American churches an issue? Isn't that one of the things Silva also takes issue with? So what is McManus saying that is wrong. Based on Silva's remark it seems it is only that it is McManus saying it and therefore McManus must be a hypocrite.

Or, perhaps McManus is fine and Silva is simply bent on deception and division - the work of the devil.

Ok - that's enough. This is way too long and not that important. I simply want to be clear, it is not in a casual frivolous way that I make the charge that I make. It is clear that certain writers have nothing in mind other than to disparage, divide, and deceive and this is not from God.

Friday, January 18, 2008

proper way to argue

The internet has exposed me to those that label themselves Christian more diverse than I previously thought existed. I would like to say that this has opened my eyes to a broader range of expressions of love toward Christ. Sadly, it revealed more of a love to argue with each other - or more precisely, gossip about sin, theological error, etc. to everyone other than the offending party. Worse, this is done under the guise of some biblical mandate to defend truth. I've said it before and I'll say it again, if this is your bent, you are under the influence of Satan.

No - I am turning a blind eye toward sin and false-teaching. But if exposing this is the crux of your 'ministry' - there is a tremendous gap between your understanding and mine regarding the call of the Christian.

I am more convinced than ever that this 'governance' role some have placed themselves in is the work of the evil one. Take an honest look at what many of those are saying. One would be hard pressed to find the accuser providing a fair representation of the accused. One would be hard pressed to find the real Biblical error of the accused. Etc.

Adrain Warnock has been recapping his most read posts of 2007. In today's post he quotes Kim Riddlebarger's response as one in a group accused by one of the more heralded accusers of the brethren. In that Riddlebarger is defending a charge directed toward Reformed amillennialists but has properly identified a tactic used by many accusers.
Along with countless others, I am very grateful for [X]'s bold and vocal defense of the Gospel. I am also grateful for his years of faithful service and willingness to tackle controversy in the evangelical church. But how I wish that Dr. [X] had chosen not to pick this fight. Sadly, he did.

This is hard to say, but in his lecture Dr. [X] set up and repeatedly attacked a straw man. His was a pyrrhic victory over a phantom foe.

If you are a dispensationalist, my plea is that you don't repeat the arguments Dr. [X] used in this lecture. Disagree as you will, you do have the responsibility to accurately represent the Reformed amillennial position. Dr. [X] did not.

My suggestion is to read the books listed here ... and then after doing so, make up your own mind. Interact with amillennial writers, weigh our arguments in light of Scripture, and see if we are truly guilty of the charges leveled at us by Dr. [X].

While you may not be convinced of Reformed amillennialism (hopefully, you will!), at least you'll be better informed and realize that Reformed amillenarians are not anti-Semites who don't take the Bible literally or seriously.

It's curious that this response almost completely parallels the response of others who have been accused by this same person for other 'error' as far back as 30 years ago. I wonder why it is that people continue to credit this accuser as a great defender of the faith when his pattern (and that of his disciples) is the pattern of the enemy?

If found this similar occurrence with a great blogger Mike Ratliff. If you are not reading Mike's blog, you are wrong. While you may not agree with all of his theology, Mike clearly has a passion for Christ, is serious about Scripture, etc.. But with that said, Mike is able accredit the writing of paster Y as "devotional". The greater portion of paster Y's writing is bent on the confronting of others. His facts are often wrong - seemingly purposefully misrepresented. The 'biblical error' he finds is often simply disagreement with his thoughts rather than Scripture and certainly not to the same standard he holds himself and his heros to. Etc.

Anyway, enough of that, it's just that this morning as I read through my blog reader, I wondered how it is that Satan has such a foothold in the body of believers. How is it that we so consistently support those that so consistently focus on supporting Satan and his effort to tear apart the body of Christ? Just wondering ...

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

high for god

Oh no ... how far we can fall ... marijuana ministers, cannabis clergy, ...


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"i'm a continuationist" or "life in the spirit"

Peter Cockrell continues to find great stuff out there on the internet. I'm not ashamed to repost it here. This was written by Mark Lauterbach.
I am a continuationist. That means I believe from Scripture that the age in which we live is marked by the continuing active presence of God, by the Spirit. While I think his work may be more pronounced at one time or other, I do not believe what the Spirit of God is doing in the world has changed. There is no cessation of any particular aspect of his work.

Acts 2 is the record of the inauguration of this day, and it reminds me that the pouring out of the Spirit at Pentecost is not an event that ended at sunset of that day. No, it is like a wedding – it brought about a whole new state of being. It is like an inauguration, it resulted in a new regime.

Acts 2 says that the regime of the “last days” (in which we live) is marked by the effusive, abundant working of the Spirit of God in all of his people. No one person has a special corner on the work of the Spirit. He is given abundantly to all his people. The result is powerful works of God – healing and conviction of sin, signs and conversions. The result is also great fruitfulness. When the Spirit of God comes, the barren ground bears a great harvest. 3000 are converted in one day, and the fruitfulness abounds so much that Luke no longer records conversions, he records multiplication of churches.

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violence in the kingdom

George Ladd wrote of R. Schnackenburg's take on Mt 11.11-13 that "the kingdom of heaven has been coming violently. God's rule makes its way with great force and keen enthusiasts lay hold on it, i.e., want to share in it. The mission of Jesus has set up a powerful movement. The power of God is at work mightily among human beings. It requires an equally powerful reaction. This set Jesus' teaching apart from rabbinic teaching. The rabbis taught that people should take on them the yoke of the Kingdom and accept the Law as the norm of God's will. Jesus taught that this was not enough. On the contrary, God was acting mightily in his own mission; and because the dynamic power of the Kingdom has invaded the world, people are to respond with a radical reaction. Jesus sometimes described this reaction with violent acts (Mk 9.43, 47; Lk 14.26; Mt 10.34). The presence of the Kingdom demands a radical reaction."

This is how Luke can write, "... the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it."

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Having been through the full range of thoughts regarding church membership, I'm always interested in what others think. Personally, I'm all for 'membership' as a means to an end. The community I'm currently involved in does not have it but that's ok.

Not Everything is Black and McWhite is the beginning of what promises to be an interesting dialog on the topic.

The questions they will address are:

1. What is the current process at your church for membership?
2. What do you think the best process for membership would be?
3. Do you have a membership covenant to be signed?
4. What do you require of your members?
5. What should be required of members?
6. What should be done if someone ‘applies’ for membership at your church who is currently a member at another church?
7. What should be done if someone who is a member at your church decides to start attending another church in the same town?
8. How should a church handle someone who refuses in principle to becoming a member?
9. Should there be some be privileges of being a member (voting, ability to lead a small group, etc.)?
10. Do you grandfather in the grown children of parents who have become members? Or do you encourage them to be members when they become 18?
11. What are the minimum requirements for church membership?
12. In what situations would you not allow someone to be a member who has applied?

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spiritual enlightenment

"Surely God has that to say to the pure in heart which He cannot say to the man of sinful life. But what He has to say is not theological, it is spiritual; and right there lies the weight of my argument. Spiritual truths cannot be received in the ordinary way of nature. "The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor. 2:14). So wrote the apostle Paul to the believers at Corinth. Our Lord referred to this kind of Spirit-enlightened knowledge many times. To Him it was the fruit of a divine illumination, not contrary to but altogether beyond mere intellectual light. The fourth Gospel is full of this idea; indeed the idea is so important to the understanding of John's Gospel that anyone who denies it might as well give up trying to grasp our Lord's teachings as given by the apostle John. And the same idea is found in John's first epistle, making that epistle extremely difficult to understand but also making it one of the most beautiful and rewarding of all the epistles of the New Testament when its teachings are spiritually discerned. The necessity for spiritual illumination before we can grasp spiritual truths is taught throughout the entire New Testament and is altogether in accord with the teachings of the Psalms, the Proverbs and the Prophets. The Old Testament Apocrypha agrees with the Scriptures here, and while the Apocryphal books are not to be received as divinely inspired, they are useful as showing how the best minds of ancient Israel thought about this matter of divine truth and how it is received into the human heart." - A.W. Tozer


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

truth in listening

“If I have only an hour with someone, I will spend the first fifty-five minutes asking questions and finding out what is troubling their heart and mind, and then in the last five minutes I will share something of the truth.” - Francis Schaeffer

what's wrong with this?

I cannot even begin to imagine how this is ok or why these folks would do this?

What am I overlooking?


jesus loves you

My friend Jonathan Brink recently posted this quote:
Friend1: The amazing thing about Jesus is that he never talked to a prostitute.

Friend2: Oh yeah he did. And I started whipping my Bible open.

Friend1: No Jesus never talked to a prostitute because he never saw a prostitute. He saw a child who he was madly in love with.

I can imagine some number of reasons why a person would state this. Some of the reasons I like and some I reject. On the positive, we too often forget to see others as God sees them. Sadly we then interact with each other out of our short-sighted perspectives.

Just as bad, we also often forget to see ourselves as God sees us.

“Not to abide in Jesus’ love would mean that we stop believing that we are loved by Jesus. We look at our circumstances - perhaps persecution or disease or abandonment - and we conclude that we are not loved by Jesus anymore. That’s the opposite of abiding in the love of Jesus. So abiding in his love means continuing to believe, moment by moment, that we are loved.”

- John Piper, What Jesus Demands from the World (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2006), 64-65.


Monday, January 14, 2008

tension in the community

I'm feeling tense because NSV sponsored some folks to go the long trip to IHOP in Kansas City and now we have had guests related to them speak the past two Sundays. At the same time, just around the corner in Louisville, New Attitude is planning their 2008 conference and we haven't heard it mentioned.

I don't know, something about hearing John Piper, Joshua Harris, Al Mohler, Mark Dever, Eric Simmons, C.J. Mahaney. The conference theme is rediscovering the well-worn pages of our Bibles - considering the certainty, sufficiency, and relevance of God’s word – that it may become to us a joy and our delight. Sounds great to me. And in all of that - I expect God to speak as well.

Here's the NA promo video ...

You can see the IHOP promo video here. Some of it's good, some of it I don't get, and some I don't like ... clearly I am biased.

lewis on jesus

In small group last week we looked at Jn 1.1-18. As an introduction, I opened with the popular challenge by C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity.
I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic–on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg–or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

The challenge being that Jesus could only be one of these three:
  • Lunatic: Jesus was not God, but he mistakenly believed that he was.
  • Liar: Jesus was not God, and he knew it, but he said so anyway.
  • Lord: Jesus is God.

new wine versus old

I love John Michael Talbot's application of Mk 2.18-22;
There is often tension about how to fit a new movement raised up by the Spirit into the church. Too much conformity of the new to the old will destroy the uniqueness of the new. Too much rigidity on the part of the new towards the old will cause it to degenerate into self-righteousness.


The context is that Jesus and the apostles were being compared to the practice of another "renewal" group: John the Baptist and his disciples. They were also being compared to the established renewal group in Israel: the Pharisees. The apparent issue was the practice of fasting. Jesus' answer, however, applies to all customs and practices of religion. He said we cannot sew a patch of unshrunken cloth on an old cloak or put new wine into an old wineskin. To try to do so would destroy both.

Jesus does not go so far as to say that old wine or old wineskins are bad. Neither does he say that the old cloak is bad. Quite the contrary! Old wine is sought after as the best. Likewise, there is nothing quite so comfortable as an old cloak. It is just a bad thing to try to artificially force a new movement into old categories. The new movement may not initially appear to be as good but may end up better than the old, given time.


Whatever new communities and movements the Spirit raises up through various founders must be given freedom by the church to develop their own "wineskins," without being forced into the old. Likewise, the new movement must respectfully recognize that they can learn much from the older movements.

Do we stifle the Spirit by trying to put new wine into old wineskins? Do we sin through pride by not recognizing that old wine is in many ways
better than new? Do we sin through pride by not admitting that the new may someday be better than the old? These are the questions we must answer for a new movement to be consistent with the words of Jesus.

evangelism programs

I stole this from Kamp Krusty ...

Cartoon Thing 3

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another definition for the kingdom

Randy no-blog asked a very good question in the comments a couple of posts ago. It caused me to think a little more on exactly how I would define the Kingdom of God. While I haven't sorted through a concise and precise definition, I'll offer some words by George E. Ladd on this.
The Kingdom of God is the dynamic rule of God active in Jesus; it is also a present realm of blessing into which those enter who receive Jesus' word.

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good simple reminder

I was reading something that referenced the Heidelberg Catechism. I thought I would reread the Catechism just for fun and concluded it was worth posting a piece of it here ... just as a healthy reminder.

Introduction (Q. 1-2)
Lord’s Day 1

1. What is your only comfort in life and in death?
That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death,[1] am not my own,[2] but belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ,[3] who with His precious blood[4] has fully satisfied for all my sins,[5] and redeemed me from all the power of the devil;[6] and so preserves me[7] that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head;[8] indeed, that all things must work together for my salvation.[9] Wherefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life,[10] and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live unto Him.[11]

[1] Rom 14:7-9; [2] 1 Cor 6:19-20; [3] 1 Cor 3:23; Tit 2:14; [4] 1 Pt 1:18-19; [5] 1 Jn 1:7; 2:2; [6] Jn 8:34-36; Heb 2:14-15; 1 Jn 3:8; [7] Jn 6:39-40, 10:27-30; 2 Thes 3:3; 1 Pt 1:5; [8] Mt 10:29-31; Lk 21:16-18; [9] Rom 8:28; [10] Rom 8:15-16; 2 Cor 1:21-22, 5:5; Eph 1:13-14; [11] Rom 8:14

2. How many things are necessary for you to know, that in this comfort you may live and die happily?
Three things:[1] First, the greatness of my sin and misery.[2] Second, how I am redeemed from all my sins and misery.[3] Third, how I am to be thankful to God for such redemption.[4]

[1] Lk 24:46-47; Rom 7:24-25; 1 Cor 6:11; Tit 3:3-7; [2] Jn 9:41, 15:22; Rom 3:9-10; 1 Jn 1:10; [3] Jn 17:3; Acts 4:12, 10:43; Gal 3:13; [4] Mt 5:16; Rom 6:13; Eph 5:8-11; Col 3:17; 1 Pt 2:9-12

on required righteousness

The righteousness required by God is the righteousness his righteousness requires - huh?

“The whole initiative in reconciliation rests with God. It is an expression of His love: ‘God was reconciling the world to himself.’ But God’s love is not itself reconciliation. Between love and reconciliation there lies the great transaction referred to in 2 Corinthians 5:21: ‘[God] made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.’ There is a staggering amount of theology crammed into these few words. There is the sinlessness of Christ; there is the fact that whatever it was He suffered, God was the ultimate cause of it; and there is the fact that His suffering itself amounted to His being made sin. He bore it. He identified with it. He was treated as it deserved to be treated – bruised for it (Isaiah 53:10), accursed for it (Galatians 3:13) and rejected for it (Mark 15:34).

But how did Christ contract such sin? How did He become vulnerable to its retribution? What right did God have to bruise Him? Because He was for us. That made His condemnation – His expulsion to the Far Country – righteous. But then, beside the for, there is another preposition, in. The for made Him guilty. The in makes us righteous: ‘We are the righteousness of God in Him.’ That is why God is reconciled to us – because we are righteous. That is why God justifies us – declares us righteous: because we are righteous. We have in Christ all the righteousness God can require. We are righteous as Christ himself. Indeed, we are God’s own righteousness – we have kept the covenant as faithfully as God Himself.”

- Donald Macleod, Behold Your God (Fearn, UK: Christian Focus, 1995), 105-106.


Saturday, January 12, 2008

general thoughts on the kingdom

Here are some general thoughts I recently read on the Kingdom of God outlined by George E. Ladd.
  • The Kingdom can draw near to people (Mt 3.2; 4.17; Mk 1.15); it can come (Mt 6.10; Lk 17.20), arrive (Mt 12.28), appear (Lk 19.11), be active (Mt 11.12)
  • God can give the Kingdom to people (Mt 21.43; Lk 12.32), but people do not give the Kingdom to one another
  • God can take the Kingdom away from people (Mt 21.43), but people do not take it away from one another - although they can prevent others from entering it
  • Men and women can enter the Kingdom (Mt 5.20; 7.21; Mk 9.47; 10.23) but they are never said to erect it or to build it
  • People can receive the Kingdom (Mk 10.15; Lk 18.17), inherit it (Mt 25.34), and possess it (Mt 5.4), but they are never to establish it
  • They can reject the Kingdom (Lk 23.51), pray for its coming (Mt 6.10), and seek it (Mt 6.33; Lk 12.31), but the cannot bring it
  • People may be in the Kingdom (Mt 5.19; 8.11; Lk 13.29), but we are not told that the Kingdom grows
  • People can do things for the sake of the Kingdom (Mt 19.12; Lk 18.29), but they are not said to act upon the Kingdom itself
  • People can preach the Kingdom (Mt 10.7; Lk 10.9), but only God can give it to men and women (Lk 12.32)
Jesus answered, “My kingship is not of this world. If my kingship were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingship is not from the world. - Jn 18.36

Ladd states:

The source and the character of Jesus' Kingdom are of a higher order than this world; it comes from God and not from this world. The Kingdom is the outworking of the divine will; it is the act of God Himself. It is related to human beings and can work in and through them; but it never becomes subject to them. It remains God's Kingdom. It is significant that although people must receive the Kingdom, this individual human act of reception is not described as a coming of the Kingdom. The Kingdom does not come as men and women receive it. The ground of the demand that they receive the Kingdom rests in the fact that in Jesus the Kingdom has come into history. God has done a new thing. He has visited His people in Jesus' mission, bringing to them the messianic salvation. The divine act requires a human response even though it remains a divine act.

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imminence and delay

And he [Jesus] said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.” - Mk 9.1

"The tension between imminence and delay in the expectation of the end is characteristic of the entire biblical eschatology." - A. Oepke

"The stress on imminence is needed in order to create a response of watchfulness in Christians’ lives. The delay is needed for God to work His program, to train His people for the coming Kingdom of God, and to show mercy upon mankind. The prophets (both Old and New Testament) spoke to people in their historical situation and called upon them to serve God without reservation as they awaited His salvation. In doing this, prophecy took on a time-shortened perspective, allowing for both imminence and delay of future events. [George Eldon] Ladd sets forth the grand result: 'it is the nature of biblical prophecy to make it possible for every generation to live in expectancy of the end.'” - Eugene Kimble

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Friday, January 11, 2008

holy spirit holiness

Michael Haykin on the Spirit of Holiness:
One does not have to read far in Romans—the most systematic of all of Paul’s letters—to encounter a reference to the Spirit’s sanctifying work. In Romans 1:4 Paul describes the Spirit with a phrase that is unique in the New Testament—he is the “Spirit of holiness.” What exactly does the Apostle mean by describing the Spirit thus? Why does he not use the more common term “Holy Spirit”? For some writers the terms “Holy Spirit” and “Spirit of holiness” are simply synonymous and they would understand the term “Spirit of holiness” to mean something like “the Spirit whose character is holiness.” There is another way, though, to understand this phrase and that is to see it as a description of the Spirit’s work: he is the giver of holiness, the One who supplies holiness to all who call upon the name of Jesus. Given the Old Testament form of the phrase “Spirit of holiness,” the latter interpretation is probably the better of the two. It highlights the fact that central among the activities of the Spirit is the sanctification of the people of God. In fact, for Paul as for the other New Testament authors, the Holy Spirit is indispensable for living a life that pleases God.

Read the rest.

HT:PC again ...

worship too loud?

Greg Brewton reviews Rick Muchow's The Worship Answer Book. To the question when is worship too loud?
  • The music is too loud when the volume distracts from worship.
  • The music is too loud when it is no longer musical.
  • The music is too loud when it causes hearing loss.
I don't know ... when I ran the sound board we adhered to the adage, "Turn it to 10 and let God do the rest." Which reminds me of my favorite sound guy anecdote.

After training a new guy to run the mixing board, the last thing I tell him is, "Now let me teach you about the most important knob on the board."

I would tell them that invariably someone will come to him at some point in every meeting (we weren't big enough to have an isolated booth) to tell him the volume is too loud (and conversely, someone will also tell him it is too low). "When that happens, I want you to make direct eye contact, smile, and say, 'thank you, I didn't realize.' Then while they are watching - and ensure they are watching, if you have to say, 'here, let me get that.' - reach over and turn this [me pointing at the board] knob. Then, when you are sure they have seen you making the adjustment, ask, 'did that help?' Smile the whole time and thank them for their concern. They will leave happy."

The new sound guy would always seem satisfied with that but then thinking back to his earlier training would sooner or later ask "but wait, that knob doesn't do anything."

To which I reply, "exactly."

Is that wrong to do?

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